This rich story bundles together three aspects: birth and death, nirvana, and dreams. It is like a multi-layered cake. How can we taste it all at once?
Whenever something is out of reach, we use the language of dream. It is as though nirvana is a holiday island removed from reality, or an escape when things get too difficult here. For sure, some believe it’s a place you go after death. When you cry here you certainly won’t cry there. We cry and lament as though there is ever a real parting from loved ones. In the realm of no beginning and no end there is never separation through birth and death.
Dogen calls crying and laughing the expression of a dream within the dream. A delusion. And so he makes a fundamental point in his Genjokoan: Being deluded about realization is sentient beings. Having no delusions about realization is Buddha. When you wake up from a dream, the dream objects are gone, the dreamer is gone, and so is the dream. You are face to face with Suchness. Just this!
It is Ziyong’s shout that wakes up her student.
*see page 182 of The Hidden Lamp, Stories from 25 Centuries of Awakened Women