Showdown at the Genjo Corral
(Peg Syverson)

Austin Zen Center 2003 Summer Intensive
Cast: Dogen, Billy (the kid), Bartender, Wyatt, Shane

Scene: A West Texas saloon, Showdown at the Genjo Corral

The arrival:
[Wyatt, Shane and Billy, seated at the table with a go game between Wyatt and Shane]
[Bartender is wiping off the bar when the robed stranger, Dogen, enters, carrying a set of oryoki bowls and a fan.]
Bartender: What can I do for ye, stranger?
Dogen: Nothing.
Bartender [sets down a shot glass]: Well, what’ll it be?
Dogen: Nothing.
Bartender rolls his eyes and takes away the glass.
Bartender: I guess you’re not from around these parts. So, then, what do you think of West Texas, pardner?
Dogen: As my great granddaddy said, “Vast emptiness, nothing holy.”

The gamblers:
Wyatt: You got that right, stranger. Say, what’s your handle?
Dogen: Dogen
Shane: Why don’t you come along, little dogie, and set right here by me.
[Dogen moves to the table and takes a seat next to Billy]
Wyatt: We’re just having a friendly game of Go with a little wager on the side. Table stakes, nothing much.
Billy [eagerly]: What are you gonna bet, Dogen?
Dogen: Nothing.

The teachings:

On self:
Wyatt: Well, then, what have you got to say for yourself?
Dogen: To study the Buddha way is to study the self;
Billy [helpfully]: Well, if you want to know the way to Buda, it’s a five day ride due east of here.
Wyatt: Hold on, Billy, let the man say his piece. [turns with interest to Dogen]
Dogen:To study the self is to forget the self.
Shane: well, now, Dogie, would that be the ontological self or the psychological self?
Dogen: To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things.
Wyatt: Hell, talkin’ about myriad things, I got a lot on my plate too. My to-do list is a mile long. But what the Sam Hill are you talking about?
Dogen: When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away.
Billy [excitedly]: You mean, like a lynching?
Dogen: No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly.
Wyatt: What??? Now you’re talking like a crazy man, ain’t he, Shane?

Form and emptiness:
Shane: Wait a minute, Wyatt. I think the man’s actualizing some fundamental point. Lookee here. See that corral? It’s form, and emptiness. Without the fence posts and rails, you got no corral, without the emptiness, you just got you a pile of lumber, and no place to put the herd.
Wyatt (triumphantly) : But supposin’ you was to turn them posts and rails into firewood and burn ‘em up? Then where’s your dadgummed corral, eh?
Dogen: Firewood becomes ash, and it does not become firewood again.
Shane (ruefully): He’s got you there, Wyatt.

The wind
Shane: Wind’s kickin’ up again.
Wyatt [shaking the head]: Like always. And it gets into everything. No point in even fanning yourself.
Dogen: Although you understand that the nature of the wind is permanent, you do not understand the meaning of its reaching everywhere.
Wyatt [annoyed]: Goddamned if I don’t, and I’ve got the sand in my ass to prove it.
Billy: What do you mean, Dogen?
Dogen (fans himself with his fan)

Dogen: It’s possible to illustrate this with more analogies, with birds, and fish, and boats, and so on... but I won’t. The moon is on the dewdrops, farewell, bodhisattvas-mahasattva.
Wyatt [narrowing the eyes]: What did you just call us, son?
Shane: Git along, little Dogie. I’ll enlighten this one.

[Shane and Wyatt return to their go game, murmuring and shaking their heads, Billy looks on, and the bartender wipes down the bar.]
Wyatt: Another sake, Bartender!
Dogen, leaving [thoughtfully]: When buddhas are truly buddhas they do not necessarily notice that they are buddhas.

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