Once Ejo asked: "What is meant
by the expression:'Cause and effect are not clouded'?"
This expression is found in the famous Koan known as "The Wild Fox" or "Hyakujo's Fox" and the following is the first part of the story as it appears in the Mumonkan:
When Hyakujo (also known as Pai-Chang Huai-Hai) delivered a certain series of sermons, an old man always followed the monks to the main hall and listened to him. When the monks left the hall, the old man would also leave. One day, however, he remained behind and Hyakujo asked him, "Who are you, standing there before me?" The old man replied, "I am not a human being. In the old days of Kaashyapa buddha, I was a head monk living here on this mountain. One day a student asked me,'Does a man of enlightenment fall under the yoke of causation or not?' I answered,'No, he does not.' Since then I have been doomed to undergo five hundred rebirths as a fox. I beg you now to give the turning word to release me from my life as a fox. Tell me, does a man of Enlightenment fall under the yoke of causation or not?" Hyakujo answered, "He does not ignore [cloud] causation [cause and effect]." No sooner had the old man heard these words than he was Enlightened.
"Causation" in this passage refers to "moral causation." The Buddhist concept of karma acknowledges that good/bad deeds, thoughts, and so forth result in good/bad effects. Thus the import of the question posed by the "fox" is whether or not the enlightened person is subject to Karma. Hyakujo's answer, in effect, affirms that the enlightened person is subject to moral causation. Katsuki Sekida offers a common Zen interpretation of this passage in his comment: "Thus to ignore causation only compounds one's malady. To recognize causation constitutes the remedy for it."
Dogen's employment of this story in the "Daishugyo" chapter of the Shobogenzo implies that, on one level, he thinks Hyakujo's answer indeed provides a "remedy" for the old man's predicament. Yet Dogen was rarely content with merely citing traditional Zen interpretations of passages; typically, he sought to push his students to a further understanding by a creative reinterpretation of a passage. Lest his disciple therefore think this not-ignoring/recognition of causation is de facto a release from it in an ultimate sense, Dogen answers that the passage means "cause and effect are immovable." In other words, moral causation, for Dogen, is an inexorable fact of human existence.
Given this fact, Ejo then asks how we can ever "escape" moral causation. Dogen's response is enigmatic: "Cause and effect arise at the same time." Nowhere in the Shobogenzo Zuimonki does he further clarify this passage. However, the key to understanding this statement can be gleaned from his discussion of causation in the "Shoakumakusa" chapter of the Shobogenzo, wherein he observes that "cause is not before and effect is not after." As Hee-Jin Kim explains, Dogen saw cause and effect as absolutely discontinuous moments that, in any given action, arise simultaneously from "thusness." Therefore,
...no sooner does one choose and act according to a particular course of action than are the results thereof (heavens, hells, or otherwise) realized in it.... Man lives in the midst of causation from which he cannot escape even for a moment; nevertheless, he can live from moment to moment in such a way that these moments are the fulfilled moments of moral and spiritual freedom and purity in thusness.
The above "Ejo-Dogen" comentary is courtesy of: Moral Action and Enlightenment According to Dogen
See also: What The Buddha Said
HYAKUJO'S FOX: Commentaries from the Mumonkan
Summary: A Zen master had been reborn as a fox because he taught that a Buddha is not subject to his Karma. Hyakujo liberated him by correcting that a Buddha was united with it. The disciple Obaku asked what if Zen masters always gave the right answer. Then avoided a slap by giving one.
Whether the Enlightened man is subject to Karma is an important philosophical question. If so, what's the use of Enlightenment? If not, then the law of causation is not universal. The Buddha taught that philosophy is not the way (Tao) since it inevitably leads to such contradictions. Hyakujo's solution was ingenious and correct. It demonstrated that an Enlightened man can perform philosophical manipulation, but it was not Zen. By solving his dilemma philosophically, he encouraged the "fox"'s reliance on such means which will lead him to new contradictions. Thus Obaku's rejection was correct. Nevertheless the "fox" was Enlightened. Hyakujo was lucky. Five hundred times a "fox" had so well prepared the soil that the defects of the seed couldn't prevent the germination. What he should have said was: "The Enlightened man is one with the law of causation."
In the "Daishugyo" fascicle, Dogen finds a number of problems with the fox story. We are not told, for example, what happened to the old man after his liberation from the body of the fox. Dogen also questions the probability of a Zen master being reborn as a fox for such a cryptic answer since traditional Zen koans are replete with such cryptic phrases. Dogen goes so far as to say in one place that he doubts the veracity of the fox story itself and later asserts that Pai-chang was not telling the full story. The crux of the "Daishugyo fascicle is Dogen's argument against fundamental misunderstandings of the fox story:
All of those who have not yet seen and heard the Buddha Dharma say that after the end of his rebirths as a fox the "old master" [or whatever he was] attained Supreme Enlightenment (daigo) and that the fox body was completely absorbed into the ocean nature of original Enlightenment (hongaku no shogai). This meaning implies the erroneous notion of "returning to an original self" (honga ni kaeru). This has never been a Buddhist teaching. Moreover, if we say that the fox had no original nature (honsho), that the fox was not originally Enlightened (hongaku nashi) : this [also] is not the Buddha Dharma.
We see here Dogen's traditional affirmation of Original Nature and Buddha Nature, but a rejection of any substantialist or transcendental interpretation. Dogen continues to argue that it is not the intent of the story to say that "not falling into cause and effect" is to "negate cause and effect" (hatsumu inga). Dogen is here affirming the traditional Buddhist teaching of cause and effect, but calling into question our understanding of cause and effect (Karma) and its relation to liberation.
The position of the "Critical Buddhists" such as Hakamaya and Matsumoto is that in the "Jinshin inga" fascicle and other fascicles of the twelve-fascicle Shobogenzo, Dogen abandons the hongaku position still evident in the "Daishugyo" fascicle, which, as Heine summarizes, is a transformation
... from a metaphysical view that draws unwittingly from animism or naturalism and seeks a single source of reality (dhaatu) beyond causality to a literal, strict karmic determinism that emphasizes a moral imperative based on the fundamental condition that karmic retribution is active in each impermanent moment.
But is Karma for Dogen really a kind of strict determinism, such that if cause "a" occurs then effect "b" must necessarily occur regardless of whatever other factors may come into play? The "Daishugyo" fascicle challenges our preconceived notion of Karma and cause and effect (inga), but the twelve-fascicle Shobogenzo seems to take a more simplistic stance. As Heine has pointed out, in the twelve-fascicle text, Dogen refers to miracles and magical deeds to illustrate the meaning of Karma. Yet, if we read beyond the mythical element of these tales to his conclusions, we find a clear rejection of a deterministic understanding of Karma.
Consider, for example, Dogen's "Hotsu bodaishin," in the twelve-fascicle edition, where he emphasizes the "arising of the "Bodhi-mind" (bodaishin), which entails the vow to save all others before oneself" (ji mitokudo sendota). If causality is nothing other than "if 'a' then necessarily 'b'," then "Hotsu bodaishin" becomes nonsensical, since no other causal agency other than the Self can then have anything to do with salvation. This would clearly imply a kind of personal atomic causality where the Self is isolated from all "external" influences--precisely the kind of position that Dogen is anxious to avoid.
We must remember that positive acts also produce positive Karma, and positive Karma interacts with negative Karma. In Dogen's "Kuyo shobutsu," in the twelve-fascicle edition, we read that "There is great fruit from small causes, and great benefit from small acts." The implication here is that soteriological Karma is more powerful than negative Karma. In "Sanji-go," in the twelve-fascicle edition, we read a story from the Abhidharma-mahaavibhaasaa-`saastra (sec. 69) that tells of a good man (throughout this life), who, upon dying, finds that he is to be reborn in a hell. At first he is resentful, believing himself destined for a heavenly rebirth. But he then realizes that the hellish rebirth was for evil that he had done in a previous life. This realization (wisdom) changed his Karma such that he was in fact reborn in a heavenly realm.
These passages show that Dogen by no means had a simplistic and deterministic view of Karma. For Dogen, Karma is not a static, substantial, linear series of causes and effects. There is always the possibility of change, especially through the attainment of wisdom. Thus Dogen, without denying the causal structure of life and practice, rejects a rigid interpretation of Karma in favor of a fluid, Karmic, interdependent universe that depends upon our actions and understanding as part of its causal structure. As Kagamishima has argued, Dogen was approaching the problem of causality from different standpoints in the "Daishugyo" and the twelve-fascicle texts. I have worked to show that the younger Dogen tended toward the dialectical (koan) mode of expression, whereas the late Dogen tended more toward a didactic and mythic mode. In the twelve-fascicle Shobogenzo, we must look to the larger context of the combined texts of "Kuyo shobutsu," "Jinshin inga," and "Sanji-go," and so on to find the positions already suggested in "Dai- shugyo." For the Dogen of the twelve-fascicle texts, "not falling into [the grip] of causality" was clearly being misinterpreted by many Chinese masters and students and, more importantly, by a significant number of Dogen's own students, to mean "transcending Karma." Although Dogen never suggests such a notion of transcendence in "Daishugyo," he apparently thought that the explicit rejection of such transcendence had by that time become necessary.