This serves to underscore a crucial point that Dogen makes again and again about the unity of practice-enlightenment; all the Buddhist teachings, like the vows, are real dharmas, real expressions of truth. As real dharmas, they are no other than our self. All the Zen warnings about getting tangled up in words and concepts are warnings to avoid reaching hasty conclusions as to what they mean. Any conclusion we achieve prior to experiential realization can only be arrived at via abstract speculation, and thus will inevitably be off the mark. Of course Dogen, like all the great Zen masters, taught that a careful study of the Buddhist scriptures and commentaries was essential for all practitioners, awakened or not:
When students are beginners, whether they have the mind of the Way or not, they should carefully read and study the Sagely Teachings of the sutras and shastras.
Record of Things Heard, Thomas Cleary, Collected Translations Vol. 4, p.796
Also in accord with the classic masters, Dogen urged us to carefully heed the cautions about conceptualization expressed in those very texts and teachings. This is especially crucial during pre-kensho study when the term “true nature” is as impossible for a Zen student to understand as the note b# would be to someone born deaf. This is one reason why awakening is associated with the terms “Dharma-eye,” “Buddha-eye,” “The eye-to-read-scriptures,” etc. This “eye” is also the eye Buddhas and Zen masters use to “see” whether or not a student has actually awakened; and it is the reason Dogen asserts that the authenticity of “Buddha ancestors” can be discerned by their “utterances” or “expressions.” Having experienced true nature, even a glimpse, one will be able to “say something” to verify it. Having actively engaged the “Dharma-eye” in practice-enlightenment for a year, one will be able to say more, ten years even more. Not having awakened to truth, one cannot be express truth.