Dogen’s Fifth Awareness: Unfailing Recollection
Unfailing: without error or fault; reliable or constant
Recollection: action of remembering something
Ah…but what are we to remember without error or fault? Our Social Security number? Our birth date?. Passwords? The last time we had a tetanus shot? All the state capitals? What the air pressure in our car tires should be?
I don’t think this is what Dogen had in mind. Our minds, or at least mine, are filled with memories. And as I get a little older, I notice that I can’t remember some things as well as I used to. Whole segments of experience have disappeared or cannot unfailingly be brought to the surface. I have memories of feelings, disappointments, happy times, sad times. I can remember people I like and people I dislike. I can remember foods I hate and foods I love. I can remember where I was on November 22, 1963.
But these aren’t the things Dogen is asking us to recollect…and not just recollect but unfailingly recollect.
Maybe he means for us to recollect his Eight Awarenesses: Having Few Desires, Being Content, Quietude, Diligence, Unfailing Recollection, Cultivating Meditative Concentration, Cultivating Wisdom, Refraining From Vain Talk. Not just being able to list them, but recollect them in such a way that they become woven into our daily lives. Awarenesses that give us a reliable and constant compass – a direction when we become lost or confused by what comes rushing into our lives.
Maybe Dogen wants us to unfailingly remember we are, not our body we are not our mind.
Maybe Dogen wants us to remember to ask the question: Who am I? and keep asking until we deeply know.
To get on in the world we do need to remember our passwords…AND we also unfailingly recollect that “we are spiritual beings in human bodies” and turn our compass toward the eternal.
Author: Lao di Zhi Shakya
Zen Contemplative Priest of the Order of Hsu Yun
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