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[永平] 道元希玄 [Eihei] Dōgen Kigen (1200–1253)



Végh József:
PDF: Dógen zen mester élete és művei

PDF: Dógen Zen mester magyarul elérhető írásai
Összegyűjtötte: Végh József

Hrabovszky Dóra:
Dōgen Kigen és a Fukan Zazengi

Általános javallatok a zen meditációhoz
Címet fordította: Terebess Gábor;
szövegford. Mák Andrea és Fábián Gábor

PDF: Fukan-zazen-gi Hakuun Yasutani mester magyarázataival
Fordította: Hetényi Ernő

Dógen versei

Dógen holdbanéző önarcképe

A zazen dicsérete
Fordította: Végh József

Az ülő meditáció szabályai (Sóbógenzó zazengi)
Fordította: Végh József

A zazen ösvénye
Fordította: Szigeti György

A szívében a megvilágosodás szellemével élő lény (bódhiszattva) négy irányadó tevékenysége
(Sóbógenzó bodaiszatta sisóbó)
Fordította: Végh József

Életünk kérdése (Gendzsókóan 現成公案)
Fordította: Hadházi Zsolt (2006)

PDF: Az Út Gyakorlásában Követendő pontok
Fordította: Barna Mokurin Gyula

真字正法眼蔵 [Mana/Shinji] Shōbōgenzō

仮字正法眼蔵 [Kana/Kaji] Shōbōgenzō

普勧坐禅儀 Fukan zazengi

学道用心集 Gakudō-yōjinshū Advice on Studying the Way

永平清規 Eihei shingi Eihei Rules of Purity

永平廣錄 Eihei kōroku Dōgen's Extensive Record

宝慶記 Hōkyō-ki Memoirs of the Hōkyō Period

傘松道詠 Sanshō dōei Verses on the Way from Sanshō Peak

DOC: The Zen Poetry of Dogen - Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace
by Steven Heine

孤雲懷奘 Kōun Ejō (1198-1280)
Shōbōgenzō zuimonki

修證 Shushō-gi, compiled in 1890
by Takiya Takushū (滝谷卓洲) of Eihei-ji and Azegami Baisen (畔上楳仙) of Sōji-ji
as an abstract of Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō

Dōgen founded this temple in 1233


Dōgen's Zen Ancestors Chart

PDF: The Life of Dōgen Zenji
Eiheiji published an illustrated version (with 71 full-page woodcuts) of Menzan‘s annotated chronicle,
the Teiho Kenzeiki zue 「訂補建撕記図会」 (preface dated 1806, but actually published 1817).


孤雲懷奘 Kōun Ejō (1198-1280)
Shōbōgenzō zuimonki

English Versions

Shōbōgenzō zuimonki : a collection of occasional notes on Zen Buddhism made by Rev. Koun Ejō when attending his master, Rev. Kigen Dogen,
an English translation by 元開照雄 Genkai Shōyū

Published by Shōyū Kodani, Kurayoshi-shi, Tottori-ken, 1965. 128 p.

Okumura, Shohaku and Tom Wright, Shōbōgenzō-Zuimonki. Sayings of Eihei Dogen Zenji recorded by Koun Ejo,
Japan, Sotoshu Shumucho, 2004

Record of Things Heard from the Treasury of the Eye of the True Teaching: The Shobogenzo-Zuimonki,
Talks of Zen Master Dogen, as Recorded by Zen Master Ejo.
Translated by Thomas Cleary
Prajna Press, Boulder, 1980, 129 p.

Reiho Masunaga, A Primer of Soto Zen: a Translation of Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō Zuimonki,
London and Henley: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972.
Hawaii Univ. Press, 1978

The First Step to Dogen's Zen - Shobogenzo zuimonki
Translated by 横井雄峯
Yokoi Yūhō (1918-)
東京, 山喜房佛書林 Tōkyō: Sankibō Busshorin, 1972, 132 p.



Shobogenzo Zuimonki: Sayings of Eihei Dogen-Zenji (Book 4 to 6)

Translated by Shohaku Okumura (奥村正博, b. 1948)


< (Introduction; Book 1 to 3)

Book 4


One day in a speech, Dogen instructed,

Students of the Way, you should not cling to your own views. Even if you have some understanding, you should practice self-reflection; there must be something lacking to your understanding and there might be a more profound understanding for you. Visit various teachers far and wide and investigate the sayings of our predecessors. Yet do not cling too firmly even to the words of those of former times. Nevertheless, thinking that your views might be mistaken, even though you believe them to be true, if there is something superior you should follow it.


Book 4


Dogen also said,

The National Teacher Echu of Nanyo1 asked the imperial attendant priest2 Rin, “Where did you come from?”

The attendant priest replied, “I came from south of the city.”

The Master said, “What is the color of the grass there?”

The attendant priest replied, “It is yellow.”

The Master inquired of a young boy who was serving as the master's personal attendant, “What is the color of the grass south of the city?”

The boy said, “It is yellow.”

The Master said, “Even this boy can receive the purple robe and talk about the profound truth to the emperor at the court.”

He meant here that the boy could be a teacher of the emperor since he gave the true color [of the grass]. The view of the attendant priest did not go beyond common sense.
Later someone said, “What is wrong with the attendant priest that he did not exceed common sense? The boy also spoke of the true color. This is the real teacher.”

In so saying he did not accept the opinion of the National teacher. From this we understand that we should not necessarily rely on the words of the ancients but we should grasp just true reality. Although having doubt is not good, it is also bad to attach ourselves to what we shouldn't take for granted or to refrain from questioning what we should question.

  1. Nanyo Echu (?–775) a disciple of the Sixth Patriarch.
  2. In China there were some attendant priests who served at the butsuden (Buddha Hall) in the imperial palace.


Book 4


Dogen also instructed,

The primary point you should attend to is detaching yourself from personal views. To detach yourself from personal views means to not cling to your body. Even if you have thoroughly studied the words and stories of the ancient masters and have been practicing zazen continuously and immovably like iron or rock, if you cling to your body and do not detach yourself from it you will be unable to attain the Way of the buddhas and patriarchs in ten thousand aeons or a thousand lifetimes.

Even though you think you may have realized the provisional teachings and the true teachings or the authentic Exoteric and Esoteric scriptures, if you have not detached from the mind which clings to your body, it is like vainly counting another's wealth without possessing even a half-penny of your own. I implore you to sit quietly and seek the beginning and the end of this body on the ground of reality. Your body, hair, and skin, were originally comprised of the two droplets from your father and mother. Once the breath stops, they scatter and finally turn into mud and soil on the mountains and fields. How can you cling to your body? Moreover, looking at your body from the basis of the dharma, which among the gathering and scattering of the eighteen elements1 can you identify as your body? There are differences between the teaching schools and those other than the teaching schools (Zen)2. However, they both show the ungraspability of the body from beginning to end and assert egolessness as the essential point in practicing the Way. If you first realize this reality, the true Buddha-Way will manifest itself clearly.

  1. The six sense-organs are the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, the tactile body, and the mind, while the six objects of the sense-organs are color and shape, sound, odor, taste, tangible objects, objects of the mind. The six consciousnesses correspond to the six sense-organs and their objects, visual consciousness, auditory consciousness, olfactory consciousness, taste consciousness, tactile consciousness, and nonsensuous consciousness.
  2. This refers to the schools based on written teachings such as the Kegon, the Tendai, the Sanron Schools, etc., and the Zen School which insists that Buddha-mind should be shown directly without using verbal teachings.


Book 4


One day Dogen instructed,

An ancient has said, “Associating with a good person is like walking through mist and dew; though you will not become drenched, gradually your robes will become damp.”1 This means that if you become familiar with a good person, you will become good yourself without being aware of it.

In ancient times a boy who attended Mater Gutei (Judi)2, without noticing when he was learning or when he was practicing, realized the Way because he had served as a personal attendant to the master who had been practicing for a long time.

Similarly if you practice zazen for a long time you will suddenly clarify the Great Matter and will know that zazen is the true gate [to the buddha-dharma].

  1. This is a quotation from the Isankyosaku , written by Isan Reiyu (771–853).
  2. Whenever Gutei was asked questions, he did nothing but raise a finger. One day, someone asked his attendant what the master's teaching was, the boy mimicked his master's action and raised a finger. When Gutei heard this, he cut off the boy's finger. The boy ran away crying. Gutei called the boy's name. When the boy turned his head, Gutei raised his finger. The boy suddenly became enlightened.


Book 4


In the second year of Katei (1236A.D.)1, on the evening of the last day of the twelfth month, Master Dogen appointed me [Ejo] to be the shuso 2 (head monk) of Koshoji. After an informal speech3 Dogen asked me as the shuso to take up the whisk4 and give a lecture for the first time. I was the first shuso of Koshoji.

In his short speech Master Dogen brought up the matter of the transmission of the buddha-dharma in this lineage.

“The First Patriarch5 came from the West and stayed at Shorin Temple. He sat facing the wall waiting for someone [to whom he could transmit the dharma] and anticipating the time [when the dharma would spread]. In December of a certain year Shinko came to practice under him. The First Patriarch knew that he was a vessel of the Supreme Vehicle6, so he taught and guided him; both the dharma and the robe were transmitted to him. Their descendants spread throughout the country and the true-dharma has prevailed down to the present day.

“I have appointed a shuso for the first time at this monastery. Today I have asked him to take up the whisk and give a lecture. Do not worry about the small number in this sangha. [To Ejo] Do not mind that you are a beginner. At Funyo7 there were only six or seven people; at Yakusan8 there were less than ten. Nevertheless, all of them practiced the Way of the buddhas and patriarchs. They called this ‘the flourishing of the monasteries'.”

Ponder the fact that someone realized the Way by hearing the sound of bamboo; that another clarified the Mind at the sight of peach blossoms9. How could it be possible to differentiate smart bamboo trees from dull ones, or deluded ones from enlightened ones? How could there be shallow or deep, wise or stupid among flowers? The flowers bloom every year yet not everyone attains enlightenment by viewing them. Stones often strike bamboo yet not everyone who hears the sound clarifies the Way. Only through the virtue of long study and continuous practice, with the assistance of diligent effort in the Way, does one realize the Way or clarify the Mind. This did not occur because the sound of the bamboo was especially wonderful, nor because the color of the peach blossoms was particularly profound. Although the sound of bamboo is marvelous, it does not sound of itself; it cries out with the help of a piece of tile. Although the color of peach blossoms is beautiful, they do not bloom of themselves; they open with the help of the spring breeze.

Practicing the Way is also like this. This Way is inherent in each of us; still our gaining the Way depends upon the help of co-practitioners. Though each person is brilliant, our practicing the Way still needs the power of other people [in the sangha]. Therefore, while unifying your mind and concentrating your aspiration, practice and seek the Way together. A jewel becomes a vessel with polishing; a human being becomes benevolent and wise with refining. What jewel glitters from its inception? Who is brilliant from the outset? You must polish and refine. So do not demean yourselves and do not relax in your practice of the Way.

An ancient said, ‘Do not spend your time in vain.' Now I ask you, does time stop though you hold it dear? Or does it continue even though you lament? You must know that it is not time that passes in vain; it is the person that spends it in vain. This means that human beings, just the same as time, have to devote themselves to the practice of the Way instead of spending their time in vain.

“Thus, put your minds together in studying and practicing. It is not easy to uphold the dharma by myself [so I have asked the new shuso to assist me]. The Way the buddhas and patriarchs have practiced has always been like this. There were many who attained the Way by following the teaching of the Tathagata (Shakyamuni), but there were some who ascertained the Way through Ananda10. Shuso , you must not deprecate yourself saying that you are not a vessel [of the dharma]. Give a lecture to your fellow practitioners on the story of Tozan's three pounds of sesame”11.

Dogen got down from his seat, the drum was struck again, and the shuso [I] took the whisk. This was the first ‘taking the whisk' at Koshoji. I was thirty-nine years old.

  1. In December of 1235, Dogen began to raise donations for building the sodo at Koshoji. Construction was completed in October, 1236. This was the first formal sodo in Japan.
  2. See 3-5, footnote 2.
  3. Shosan literally means ‘small meeting'. Usually Shosan were held in the abbot's quarters where he would give a talk while jodo is called daisan , the big meeting which is held in the hatto , the dharma-hall.
    In the Eihei-koroku Dogen said, “ Shosan is the teaching of the family of the buddhas and patriarchs. In Japan, even the name was unknown. Needless to say, the custom behind the name had never been carried out. Twenty years have passed since I introduced it and began practicing it (in Japan).”
  4. Hinpotsu in Japanese, literally means taking up the whisk. Actually, it refers to a lecture given in place of the abbot by the head monk or other senior monk. It is so called because the person who gives the lecture takes up the whisk of the abbot.
  5. The first patriarch of Chinese Zen, that is, Bodhidharma (?–495, 346–495, ?–528, or ?–536). He transmitted the dharma from India to China. According to legend, Bodhidharma met Butei of Ryo and went to Shorinji where he sat zazen for nine years. During that period, Shinko came and eventually became his disciple. Shinko changed his name to Eka. He became the second patriarch.
  6. Zen monks call Reality the Supreme Vehicle, because it transcends the discrimination between mahayana and hinayana .
  7. Funyo Zensho (947–1024) A Chinese Zen master in the Rinzai School.
  8. Yakusan Igen (751–834) A disciple of Sekito Kisen.
  9. See 2-26, footnote 1.
  10. Ananda was one of the ten great disciples of the Buddha. He was the attendant of the Buddha for more than twenty years and committed all his sermons to memory. After the Buddha's death Ananda recited the sermons he had memorized, which were later compiled into a collection of sutras.
  11. Tozan Shusho. A disciple of Unmon Bunen (?–949).
    A monk asked him, “What is the buddha?”
    Tozan said. “Three pounds of sesame.”


Book 4


One day Dogen instructed,

A lay person said, “Who does not want to have fine clothing? Who does not love rich flavors? However, people who aspire to learn the Way enter the mountains, sleep under the clouds, and endure cold and hunger. Do not think that the ancients did not suffer; they endured suffering in order to abide in the Way. People in later generations hear this and revere the Way, respecting the virtue of our predecessors.”

Even among lay people, the wise are like this.

[People practicing] the Buddha-Way must not fail to have this attitude. Not all the ancients had golden bones; not all the contemporaries of the Buddha were superior vessels [of the dharma]. According to the Precepts texts [Vinaya-pitaka]1, there were various monks. Some had incredibly evil minds. However, it is written that all eventually attained the Way and became Arhats2. Therefore, even though we are low-minded and inferior, we should immediately arouse bodhi-mind, understanding that if we arouse such a mind and practice, we will definitely attain the Way. All the ancients endured pain and cold, still they practiced amidst their distress. Students today, even if you are suffering from physical pain or mental anguish, you should force yourselves to practice the Way.

  1. The collection of precepts. One of the three categories of the Buddhist scriptures. The Precepts texts contain rules of conduct and the rationale or stories regarding why such rules were laid down. The Buddha made rules each time a student did something wrong.
  2. A saint who has completely destroyed evil desires within himself and attained emancipation from the cycle of samsara.


Book 4


Dogen instructed,

Students of the Way, the reason you do not attain enlightenment is because you hold onto your old views. Without knowing who taught you, you think that ‘mind' is the function of your brain – thought and discrimination. When I tell you that ‘mind' is grass and trees1, you do not believe it. When you talk about the Buddha, you think the Buddha must have various physical characteristics and a radiant halo. If I say that the Buddha is broken tiles and pebbles2, you show astonishment. The views you cling to are neither what has been transmitted to you from your father nor what you were taught by your mother. You have believed them for no particular reason; they are the result of having listened for a long time to what people have said. Therefore, since it is the definite word of the buddhas, and patriarchs, when it is said that ‘mind' is grass and trees, you should understand that grass and trees are ‘mind', and if you are told that ‘Buddha' is tiles and pebbles, you should believe that tiles and pebbles are the ‘Buddha'. Thus, if you reform your attachment, you will be able to attain the Way.

An ancient said, “Though the sun and the moon shine brightly, the floating clouds cover them over. Though clusters of orchids are about to bloom, the autumn winds blow causing them to wither.” This is found in the Jogan Seiyo 3, comparing a wise king and his evil ministers. Restating this, “Even if the floating clouds cover the sun and the moon, they will not stay long. Even if the autumn winds wither the flowers, they will bloom again.” If the king is wise enough, he will not be turned around, even if the ministers are evil. It should be the same in maintaining the Buddha-Way. No matter how evil minds arise, if you keep steadfast and maintain (aspiration) and practice for a long time, the floating clouds will disappear and the autumn winds will cease.

  1. In the Zekkan-ron (A Dialogue on the Contemplation of Extinction) translated by Gishin Tokiwa, there is a dialogue about grass and trees.
    Gateway asks, “Does the Way lie only in the spiritual body? Or does it also lie in grass and trees?”
    Attainment says, “There is no place where the Way does not pervade.”
  2. There is a dialogue about broken tiles between Nanyo Echu and a monk. The monk asked, “What is the mind of the ancient buddha?” The master said, “Fences, walls, broken tiles, and pebbles.”
  3. The Jogan-Seiyo. A ten volume collection of discussions on politics among the emperor Taiso of the To dynasty and his ministers. This was studied in Japan too, as a textbook by students belonging to families of the nobility and the samurai class.


Book 4


One day Dogen instructed,

Students of the Way, as beginners, whether you have bodhi-mind or not, you should thoroughly read and study the scriptures, sutras, and śastras1.

I first aroused bodhi-mind because of my realization of impermanence. I visited many places both near and far [to find a true teacher] and eventually left the monastery on Mount Hiei to practice the Way. Finally I settled at Kenninji. During that time, since I hadn't met a true teacher nor any good co-practitioners, I became confused and evil thoughts arouse.

First of all, my teachers taught me that I should study as hard as our predecessors in order to become wise and to be known at the court, and famous all over the country. So when I studied the teachings I thought of becoming equal to the ancient wise people of this country, or to those who received the title of Daishi (Great teacher)2, etc.
When I read the Kosoden , Zoku-kosoden 3 and so on, and learned about the lifestyles of eminent monks and followers of the buddha-dharma in Great China, they were different from what my teachers taught. I also began to understand that such a mind as I had aroused was despised and hated in all the sutras, śastras, and biographies. I finally realized the truth; even if I think of gaining fame, it would be better to feel small [ashamed] before the ancient wise people and sincere people of later generations, than to be well thought of by inferior people of today.

If I wish to be equal to someone, then it would be better to feel ashamed [standing] before the eminent predecessors of India and China, and [work] toward being their equal. So, I wish to become equal to the various heavenly beings, unseen beings, buddhas, and bodhisattvas.

Having realized this truth, I considered those in this country with the title of ‘Great teacher' and so on as dirt or broken tiles. I completely reformed my former frame of mind. Look at the life of the Buddha. He abandoned the throne, and entered the mountains and forests. He begged for food his whole life even after he had completed the Way.

In a Precepts text4, it is said, “Knowing that home is not home, abandon home and become a homeless monk.”

An ancient said, “Do not be arrogant and consider yourself equal to superior wise people. Do not deprecate yourself and think of yourself inferior.”

This means that both are [a kind of] arrogance. Though you may be in a high position, do not forget that you may fall. Though you may be safe now, remember that you may have to face danger. Though you may be alive today, do not think that you will necessarily be alive tomorrow. The danger of death is right at your feet.

  1. Commentaries on the sutras. One of the Tri-Pitaka (three categories of Buddhist scriptures), that is, the sutras, the sastras, and the vinaya (precepts texts).
  2. In China and Japan, Daishi or ‘great teacher' was an honorific title given by the emperors.
  3. See1-1, footnote 1.
  4. The fourteenth chapter of the Makasogiritsu (Precepts of the Mahasangika School).


Book 4


Dogen instructed,

An ignorant person thinks and speaks of senseless things. There is an aged nun working for this temple. It seems that she is now ashamed of her humble situation, so she tends to talk to others about how she used to be a lady of the upper class. Even if people believe her, there is not any merit in it. It is entirely meaningless.

I think everyone tends to hold such sentiments like hers. However, such sentiments clearly show a lack of bodhi-mind. One should reform this kind of mentality and become more compassionate.

Also there is a certain lay monk1 who completely lacks bodhi-mind. Since he is a close friend, I would like to tell him to pray to the buddhas and gods to arouse bodhi-mind. But he will definitely get angry and it may cost us our friendship. However, unless he arouses bodhi-mind, it is useless just to be close friends.

  1. See 2-5, footnote 1.


Book 4


One day Dogen instructed,

There is an old saying, “Reflect three times before speaking.” This means that prior to saying or doing something, you should reflect on it three times. This ancient Confucianist wanted to say that after reflecting three times, if it is considered to be good each time, you should say or do it. When wise people in China say to reflect on things three times, they mean many times. Pondering before speaking, considering before acting; if it is good each time you think about the matter, you should speak or do it.

Zen monks also must be like this. Since there might be something wrong in what you think and what you say [without knowing it], first reflect on whether it is in accordance with the Buddha-Way or not, and ponder over whether it is beneficial to yourself and others. If it is good, do it or say it. Practitioners, if you hold onto this attitude, you will never go against the will of the Buddha your entire lifetime.

When I first entered Kenninji, all the monks in the sangha protected their body, mouth, and mind from evil deeds, according to their capability, and firmly resolved not to say or do anything that was bad for the Buddha-Way or harmful to others. [After Abbot Eisai passed away], while the influence of his virtue remained, the monks were like this. These days, there is no one who maintains such an attitude.

Students today, you must know this, if something is definitely beneficial to yourself and others, as well as to the Buddha-Way, you must forget your own [egotistical] self and say or do it. You should neither say nor do anything meaningless. When elder monks are talking or doing something, younger ones should not interrupt them. This is a regulation set down by the Buddha. Consider this well.

Even lay people have the determination to forget themselves and think of the Way. Long ago, there was a person whose name was Rin-Shojo in the country of Cho1. Although he was of humble birth, because of his wisdom, he was taken into service by the king of Cho to administer the affairs of the country.

Once as envoy of the King, he was sent to take a piece of jade called Choheki2 to the country of Shin. Since the king of Shin had said he would exchange fifteen cities for the jade, Shojo was dispatched to carry it. At that time, the rest of the ministers conspired against him; “If such a precious gem is entrusted to a man of low birth like Shojo, it would look like there is no one capable in this country [to whom it could be entrusted]. It is shameful for us. We will be looked down upon by people of later generations. We should kill him while he is on his way and steal the jade.”

At the time, someone secretly told this to Shojo and advised him to decline the mission in order to save his life.

Shojo said, “I dare not decline. It will be my pleasure to be known by later generations that Shojo, envoy of the king, was killed by evil ministers while on his way to Shin with the jade. Even though I might be killed, my name as a wise man would remain.”
So saying, he left for Shin. When the other ministers heard of his remark, they said, “We cannot kill a person like this.” So, they gave up the plot.

Finally Shojo met the king of Shin and gave him the jade. However, he realized that the king of Shin was not about to give the fifteen cities for it. Shojo thought out a plan and said, “There is a flaw in this jade. I'll show you.”

So saying, he took the jade back, and continued, “From your demeanor, your Majesty, you seem to begrudge the fifteen cities. If so, I will break this jade with my head hitting it against the bronze pillar!”

Glowering at the king with angry eyes, he moved toward the bronze pillar as if he were really going to break the jade. The king of Shin said, “Don't break the jade. I'll give the fifteen cities. Keep the jade while I make the arrangements.”

Afterward, Shojo had one of his men secretly take the jade back to his own country.
Later, the kings of Cho and Shin met at a place named Menchi for a party. The king of Cho was a skillful lute player. When the king of Shin asked him to play, the king of Cho played without consulting Shojo. When Shojo heard, he was angry because his king had obeyed the order of the king of Shin. He said, “I will make the king of Shin play the flute.” He approached the king of Shin and asked, “Your Majesty, you are skilled at playing the flute. The king of Cho would appreciate listening to you very much. Please play.”

The king of Shin refused. A general of Shin reached for his sword and rushed toward Shojo. Shojo glared furiously at the general who became frightened and retreated without drawing his sword. Finally, the king of Shin played the flute.

Later Shojo became the prime minister and administered the affairs of the country. One time, another minister envious of Shojo's higher status, tried to kill him. Shojo fled and hid himself here and there. Appearing to be afraid of the minister, Shojo purposely avoided any encounter with the minister even when he had to go to the court.

One of Shojo's retainers said, ”It is easy to kill that minister. Why do you hide yourself in fear?”

Shojo said, “I'm not afraid of him. With my eyes I have defeated the general of Shin. I also took back the jade from the king himself. Of course I can kill the minister. However, raising an army and gathering troops should be for defending our country against our enemies. As its ministers, we are now in charge of protecting the country. If the two of us quarrel and fight with each other, one of us will die. Then, one half will be lost. If that happens, neighboring countries will take delight and attack us for sure. Therefore, I hope for the two of us to remain unharmed to protect our country together. This is why I don't fight with him.”

Upon hearing this, the minister became ashamed of himself and called on Shojo to express his regret. The two of them then cooperated in the task of governing the country.

Shojo forgot himself and carried out the Way. Now in maintaining the Buddha-Way, we should have the same attitude. It is better to die for the Way than to live without it.

  1. Cho was one of seven strong countries during the Period of the Warring States (465–221B.C.). In 221B.C., China was unified by the Shin dynasty.
  2. Heki is a round flat piece of jade with a hole in the center used for ceremonial purposes in ancient China.


Book 4


Dogen instructed,

It is hard to tell what is good or bad. Worldly people say that it is good to wear silk brocade and embroidery and bad to wear robes made of coarse cloth and abandoned rags. In the buddha-dharma, the latter is good and pure while luxurious garments embroidered with gold and silver are considered bad and defiled. In the same way, everything else is opposite.

In my case too, since I sometimes write poetry or prose some worldly people praise me, saying it is extraordinary. And yet, there are some who criticize me for knowing such things despite being a monk who has left home and is studying the Way. Ultimately, which shall we take as good and abandon as bad?

It is said in a scripture, “Being praised and belonging to pure things is called good; being despised and belonging to impure things is called evil.” It is also written, “Things which bring about suffering are called evil; things which invite joy are called good.”

In this way, we should carefully figure out in detail, and take up what is really good and practice it; see what is really evil and discard it. Since a sangha is born out of (the realm of) purity1, things which do not arouse human desires are considered good and pure.

  1. The realm of being free from the defilement of delusive desires.


Book 4


Dogen instructed,

Many worldly people say, “I desire to practice the Way, but the world is in its last period (which is degenerate)1 and I have only inferior capabilities. I cannot endure the formal practice which accords with the dharma. I want to find an easier way which is suitable for me, make a connection [with the Buddha], and attain enlightenment in the next lifetime.”

This is entirely wrong. Categorizing the three periods of time—the true Dharma, the semblance Dharma, and the last Dharma—is only a temporary expedient. Monks in the time of the Buddha were not necessarily outstanding. There were some who were incredibly despicable and inferior in capacity. Therefore, the Buddha established various kinds of precepts for the sake of evil and inferior people. Without exception, everyone is a vessel of the buddha-dharma. Never think that you are not a vessel. Only if you practice according to the teaching, will you gain realization without fail. Since you have a mind, you are able to distinguish good from evil. You have hands and feet, and therefore lack nothing for practicing gassho or walking. Therefore, in practicing the buddha-dharma, do not be concerned with whether you are capable or not. Living beings in the human world are all vessels (of the buddha-dharma). It would not be possible if you had been born as an animal or something else.

Students of the Way, never expect to practice tomorrow. You should practice following the Buddha only today and this moment.

  1. This is one of the three periods of the dharma; the shobo (the true Dharma), the zobo (the semblance Dharma), and the mappo (the last Dharma). These three signify the three periods following the Buddha's death. In the period of the true dharma, lasting 500 (or 1,000) years, the Buddha's teaching is properly practiced and enlightenment can be attained. In the period of the semblance Dharma, lasting 1,000 (or 500) years, the teaching is practiced but enlightenment is no longer possible. In the period of the last Dharma, lasting 10,000years, only the teaching exists, no practice, no enlightenment exist. In Japan it was believed that the last period began in 1052 A.D.. The idea of mappo heavily influenced the Buddhist movements during the Kamakura Period.


Book 4


Dogen instructed,

It is said in the secular world that a castle falls when people start to whisper words within its walls. It is also said that when there are two opinions in a house, not even a pin can be bought; when there is no conflict of opinions, even gold can be purchased.
Even in the secular world, it is said that unity of mind is necessary for the sake of maintaining a household or protecting a castle. If unity is lacking, the house or the castle will eventually fall. Much more, should monks who have left home to study under a single teacher be harmonious like the mixture of water and milk. There is also the precept of the six ways of harmony1. Do not set up individual rooms, nor practice the Way separately either physically or mentally. [Our life in this monastery is] like crossing the ocean on a single ship. We should have unity of mind, conduct ourselves in the same way, give advice to each other to reform each other's faults, follow the good points of others, and practice the Way singlemindedly. This is the Way people have been practicing since the time of the Buddha.

  1. These are mentioned in the Yorakukyo ; the unity of the three actions— those of body, mouth, and mind, keeping the same precepts having the same insight, and carrying on the same practice.


Book 4


Dogen instructed,

When Zen Master Hoe of Mt. Yogi1 first became the abbot, the temple was dilapidated and the monks were troubled. Therefore, an officer said it should be repaired. The master said, “Even though the building is broken down, it is certainly a better place for practicing zazen than on the ground or under a tree. If one section is broken and leaks, we should move where there are no leaks to practice zazen. If monks could attain enlightenment by building a hall, we should construct one of gold and jewels. Enlightenment does not depend on whether the building is good or bad; it depends only upon our diligence in zazen.”

The next day, in a formal speech he said, “I have now become the abbot of Yogi, and the roof and walls have many cracks and holes. The whole floor is covered with pearls of snow, the monks hunch their shoulders from the cold, and sigh in the darkness.” After a pause he continued, “It reminds me of the ancient sages sitting under the trees.”

Not only in the Buddha-Way, some have this same attitude in (the way of) politics. Emperor Taiso of the To dynasty did not build a new palace.

Ryuge2 said, “To study the Way, first of all, you learn poverty. After having learned poverty and become poor, you will be intimate with the Way.” From the time of Shakyamuni, up to the present day, I have never seen or heard of a true student of the Way who possessed great wealth.

  1. A disciple of Sekiso Soen. He was the founder of the Yogi branch of the Rinzai School. His successors established the koan practice.
  2. Ryuge Koton. A disciple of Tozan Ryokai, the founder of the Soto School in China.


Book 4


One day a visiting monk asked,

“These days, the way of retreating from the world1 is to prepare food and other necessities for oneself beforehand so as not to have to worry about them later. This is a trivial matter, yet it supports the practice of the Way. If it is lacking, our practice will be disturbed. According to what I have heard about how you practice, you make no such preparation and leave everything to fate. If this is really so, you will have trouble later on, won't you? What do you think?”

Dogen replied,

“Everything (I do) has precedents. I don't rely on my personal views. All the buddhas and patriarchs in India and China lived in this way. The blessings of the ‘White Hair'2 will never be exhausted. Why should we take personal plans for our livelihood? Besides, it is impossible to know what will happen tomorrow. This is not my personal opinion but what all the buddhas and patriarchs have carried out. If we run out of food and have nothing to eat, only then should we look for a means (to gain something). We should not think about these things in advance.”

  1. See 2-12, footnote 3.
  2. Skt. Urna . The Buddha's White Hair refers to one of the Buddha's thirty-two marks, the curl of hair on his forehead. It is said that it continually radiated great light. What Dogen meant here is that all offerings from people or nature are nothing but the Buddha's legacy.


Book 4


Dogen instructed,

I heard the following story from someone, though I'm not sure if it is true or not. The late councilor Jimyoin1, who was a lay monk, once had a treasured sword stolen. The perpetrator was among his retainers. The other warriors arrested the man and brought him to the councilor. Jimyoin said, “There's been a mistake. This is not my sword.” He then gave the sword back to the warrior.

Although it was undoubtedly his sword, he returned it because he was considering the shame of the warrior. Although everyone knew it, the situation ended without trouble. Therefore, the councilor's descendants flourished. Even among lay people there are those who have a big heart like this.

How much more should a monk have the same attitude. Since it is a matter of course that a monk have no wealth, he should consider his wisdom and virtue as his treasure. Even when someone has done wrong that goes against bodhi-mind, he should not express his criticism directly and judge the person to be evil. One should search for skillful means and speak in such a way as not to anger people.

It is said that the dharma does not last long if it is expressed violently. Even if you scold a person according to the dharma, if you use rough language, the dharma will not remain long.

A petty person of inferior faculties soon becomes angry and thinks of his disgrace when he is criticized with harsh words. He is unlike a superior and magnanimous person. A magnanimous person, even when he is hit, never thinks of revenge. Now in our country, there are many petty people. We should be very careful.

  1. Ichijo Motoie (1132-1214). Councilor is a translation of Chunagon , a court ranking which is below Dainagon (Vice Minister).


Book 5


One day Dogen instructed,

For the sake of the buddha-dharma, do not withhold your bodily life. Even lay people cast away their lives for the Way without concern for their families; they are loyal and maintain their straightforwardness. People like this are called loyal ministers or wise men.

In ancient times, when Koso of the Kan 1 dynasty went to war with a neighboring country, one of his minister's mother lived in the enemy country. The officials of the Imperial army suspected that the minister might be of two minds. The emperor was also afraid that he might go over to the enemy because of his mother, which would result in losing the war.

At the same time, his mother thought her son might change allegiance because of her, and admonished, “Do not betray your country because of me. If I remain alive, you might be divided in your loyalty.”

She threw herself upon a sword and died. Since her son was never of two minds, it is said that he devoted himself to his duties in the war with loyalty and firm determination. This holds true even more so for a Zen monk aspiring to practice the Buddha-Way. When you are completely without a divided heart, you are truly in accordance with the Buddha-Way.

In practicing the Buddha-Way, there may be some who inherently have compassion and wisdom from the outset. Others who lack such qualities will be able to attain the Way if they study sincerely. They need only cast away both body and mind, dedicate themselves to the great ocean of the buddha-dharma, leave everything to the teachings of the buddha-dharma, and cease from holding onto their personal biased views.

In the reign of the founder of the Kan dynasty, a wise minister remarked, “Remedying the disorder of the political way is like untying a knotted rope. Do not be in a hurry. Loosen it only after having examined the knot closely.”

The Buddha-Way is the same. You should practice it after having deeply understood the principles of the Way. The dharma-gate is understood thoroughly only when you have strong bodhi-mind. No matter how intelligent and brilliant you may be, if you lack bodhi-mind, do not detach from egocentricity, and are unable to abandon fame and profit, you will not be able to become a man of the Way nor be able to understand reality.

  1. Emperor Koso (reigned 206–195 B.C.) was the founder of the Former Kan dynasty (206 B.C.–8 A.D.). This story is about Oryo and his mother.


Book 5


Dogen instructed,

Students of the Way, do not learn the buddha-dharma for the sake of your own egos. Learn the buddha-dharma only for the sake of the buddha-dharma. The most effective way for doing this is to completely throw away your body and mind leaving nothing, and dedicating yourselves to the great ocean of the buddha-dharma.

Then, without being concerned about right and wrong, without clinging to your own views, even if it is difficult to do or to endure, you should do it being forced to by the buddha-dharma. Even if you really want to do something, you should give it up if it is not in accordance with the buddha-dharma. Never expect to obtain some reward for practicing the Buddha-Way. Once you have moved in the direction of the Buddha-Way, never look back at yourself. Continue practicing in accordance with the rules of the buddha-dharma, and do not hold on to personal views.

All the examples among past practitioners were like this. When you no longer seek anything on the basis of your (discriminating) mind, you will be in great peace and joy (Nirvana).

Among lay people too, those who have never kept company with others and have grown up only within their own families, behave as they want and put priority on fulfilling their own desires. They never think of others' views and do not care how others feel. Such people are always bad. You have to be careful of the same thing in practicing the Way. Keep company with others (in the sangha), and follow your teacher without setting up personal views. If you continue reforming your mind (in this way), you will easily become a man of the Way.

In practicing the Way, first of all, you must learn poverty. Give up fame and abandon profit, do not flatter, and put down all affairs; then you will become a good practitioner of the Way without fail. In Great Song China, those who were known as eminent monks were all poor. Their robes were tattered, and they were short of other provisions.

When I was at Tendo Monastery, the recorder 1 was a senior monk called Donyo, a son of the prime minister. But, since he had completely left his family, and no longer coveted worldly profit, his robes were so tattered he was hard to look at. His virtue of the Way, however, was known by others and he became the recorder of that great temple.

Once I asked, “Senior Donyo, you are a son of a high government official and a member of a wealthy and noble family. Why are the things you wear so shabby? Why do you live in such poverty?”

Senior Donyo replied, “Because I have become a monk.”

  1. ‘Recorder' is a translation of shoki , the officer in charge of making public documents, letters etc., in the Zen monastery.


Book 5


One day Dogen instructed,

A lay person said, “A treasure is an enemy which harms one's life. This has happened in the past, and it happens in the present as well.”

This is a reference to the person in the following story. Once there was a man who had a beautiful wife. A man who had power commanded the man to give him the woman. The husband was reluctant to give up his wife. Finally, the powerful man raised his troops and surrounded the house. When the wife was about to be taken away, her husband said, “I will give up my life for you.”

His wife replied, “I will also give my life for you.”

Saying this, she jumped from a lofty building and killed herself. Later the husband who failed to die told the story.

There is another story. Once there was a wise man who was the governor of a province. He had a son who had to leave on an official matter. Calling on his father to say farewell, the father gave him a bolt of fine silk.

The son said, “You are a man of high integrity. Where did you get this silk?”

The father replied, “It was left over from my salary.”

The son left, gave the silk to the emperor, and told him what his father had said. The emperor admired the father's wisdom.

The son said, “My father hid his name. I revealed his name. My father's wisdom is truly superior to mine.”

The story means that even though a bolt of silk is trivial, a wise person does not take it for his private use. It also shows that a truly wise person hides his name. Since it was his salary, he said he would use it 1 .

Even a lay person was like this. How much more should a monk learning the Way not hold personal preferences. Moreover, if he would like to follow the true Way, he should hide his name.

Dogen also said; “Once there was a sennin 2 .

A man asked him, “How do you become a sennin ?”

The sennin replied, “If you want to become a sennin , you should devote yourself to the Way of sennin .”

Therefore, students, if you wish to attain the Way of the buddhas and patriarchs, you should devote yourself to the Way of the buddhas and patriarchs.

  1. Part of this story seems to have been lost or omitted when it was transcribed, though the overall point is that a truly great or wise person hides his wisdom.
  2. A legendary wizard living in the mountains and capable of performing miracles. A hermit. Literally, sennin means a person living in the mountains. This story refers to the people who practiced Taoism, and left society. It is said that they attained the supernatural powers of wizards, and gained immortality.


Book 5


Dogen instructed,

Once there was a king. After having established his government, he inquired of his ministers, “I have governed this country well. Am I a wise king?”

His ministers said, “Your Majesty, you have governed very well. You are very wise.”
One of the ministers, however, said, “You are not wise.”

The king asked, “Why not?”

The minister replied, “After establishing your government, you handed it over to your son, instead of to your younger brother.”

The king was offended and expelled the minister.

Later, the king asked another minister, “Am I a benevolent king?”

The minister replied, “Yes, you are very benevolent.”

The king asked, “Why?”

The minister replied, “Benevolent rulers all have loyal ministers, and loyal ministers offer straightforward remarks. That minister's opinion was very straightforward. He was a loyal minister. If you were not a benevolent king, you would not have had such a minister.” The king was impressed by this and called the minister back.

Dogen also said,

During the time of the Shikotei (the first emperor) of Shin 1, the crown prince wanted to enlarge his flower garden.

A minister said, “Wonderful! If you enlarge the flower garden and many birds and animals gather there, we will be able to defend our country against the troops of the neighboring country with the birds and animals.” Because of this remark, the crown prince gave up the project.

At another time, the prince wanted to build a palace with lacquered pillars. A minister said, “It really should be done. If you lacquer the pillars, the enemy will not invade.”

So, this was also stopped.

The essence of Confucianism is to stop doing wrong and encourage doing good by using skillful words. Monks also should have this kind of skillfulness when teaching others.

  1. Shikotei (?–210 B.C.) He was the first emperor of the Shin dynasty and became famous for building the Great Wall of China.


Book 5


One day, a monk asked,

Ultimately, which is better, an intelligent person without bodhi-mind or an ignorant person with bodhi-mind?” Dogen replied, “Many ignorant people with bodhi-mind eventually regress. Intelligent people, though lacking bodhi-mind, eventually arouse the aspiration for the Way. There are many examples in this age to prove this. Therefore, first of all, diligently learn the Way without being concerned with whether you have bodhi-mind or not.

To learn the Way, just be poor. In both Buddhist and non-Buddhist texts, we find people who were so poor that they did not have a fixed place to live; one wandered floating on the water of the Soro River 1, some hid themselves in Mt. Shuyo 2, some sat in the upright posture (zazen) on the ground under a tree, and others built huts in graveyards or deep in the mountains. There were also those who were so wealthy that they built palaces painted with vermilion lacquer, and adorned them with gold and jewels. Both kinds of people are found in the texts. However, those who were poor and without possessions were praised as models for later generations. When admonishing about evil deeds, the texts criticized those who were wealthy with abundant possessions as being people of extravagance and arrogance.”

  1. This refers to Kutsugen . See 2-23, footnote 1.
  2. This refers to Hakui and Shukusei , the sons of a king of the In dynasty. When the In was conquered by the Shu dynasty, they hid themselves in Mt. Shuyo, finally starving to death.


Book 5


Dogen instructed,

A monk who has left home should never be overjoyed upon receiving offerings from others. Nor, however, should such offerings be refused.

The late Sojo (Eisai) said, “It goes against the precepts of the Buddha to rejoice upon receiving offerings. It also goes against the good will of the donor to be ungrateful.”

What we should bear in mind on this point is that the offerings are not to ourselves, but to the Three Treasures (buddha, dharma, and sangha). So, in acknowledging thanks, you should say, “The Three Treasures will surely accept your offerings.”


Book 5


Dogen instructed,

There is an old saying which goes, “Although the power of a wise man exceeds that of an ox, he does not fight with the ox.” Now, students, even if you think that your wisdom and knowledge is superior to others, you should not be fond of arguing with them. Moreover, you should not abuse others with violent words, or glare at others angrily.

Despite having been given great wealth and receiving the favors of some person, people in this age would definitely have negative feelings if the donor were to display anger and slander them with harsh words.

Once, Zen Master Shinjo Kokubun1 told his students, “In former times, I practiced together with Seppo . Once Seppo was discussing the dharma loudly with another student in the monk's dormitory. Eventually, they began to argue using harsh words, and in the end, wound up quarreling with each other. After the argument was over, Seppo said to me, ‘You and I are close friends practicing together with one mind. Our friendship is not shallow. Why didn't you help me when I was arguing with that man?' At the time, I could do nothing but feel small folding my hands and bowing my head.

Later, Seppo became an eminent master, and I too, am now an abbot. What I thought at the time was that Seppo's discussion of the dharma was ultimately meaningless. Needless to say, quarreling was wrong. Since I thought it was useless to fight, I kept silent.”

Students of the Way, you also should consider this thoroughly. As long as you aspire to make diligent effort in learning the Way, you must be begrudging with your time. When do you have time to argue with others? Ultimately, it brings about no benefit to you or to others. This is so even in the case of arguing about the dharma, much more about worldly affairs. Even though the power of a wise man is stronger than that of an ox, he does not fight with the ox.

Even if you think that you understand the dharma more deeply than others, do not argue, criticize, or try to defeat them.

If there is a sincere student who asks you about the dharma, you should not begrudge telling him about it. You should explain it to him. However, even in such a case, before responding wait until you have been asked three times. Neither speaks too much nor talks about meaningless matters.

After reading these words of Shinjo, I thought that I myself had this fault, and that he was admonishing me. I have subsequently never argued about the dharma with others.


Book 5


Dogen instructed,

Many of the ancient masters have cautioned not to spend one's time in vain. It has also been said not to pass one's time wastefully. Students of the Way, value every moment of time. This dew-like life disappears easily; time passes swiftly. For the little while you are alive, do not engage in other affairs. Just devote yourself to learning the Way.

People today say that they cannot abandon their debt of gratitude to their parents, or they can not disregard the order of their lord, or they cannot part from their wives, children, and relatives. Or they excuse themselves saying that their families would not be able to survive, or that people would slander them. Or, they say they cannot afford monk's supplies, or they are not capable of enduring the practice of the Way.

Since they consider the matter with such sentiments, they cannot leave their lords, fathers and mothers; or abandon their wives, children, or relatives. They go on following worldly sentiments and cling to their wealth. Consequently, they spend their whole lifetime in vain and cannot help feeling regret upon departing from this life.

Sit tranquilly and ponder reality, and promptly determine to arouse bodhi-mind. Neither your lords nor parents can give you enlightenment. Nor can your wives, children, or relatives save you from the suffering [of life-and-death].

Wealth cannot cut off the cycle of birth-and-death. People in the world cannot give you any help. If you do not practice on the grounds that you are not a vessel of the dharma, when will you be able to attain the Way? Just cast aside all affairs and devote yourself to the practice of the Way only. Do not have expectations of any later time (to practice).


Book 5


Dogen instructed,

In learning the Way, you must depart from your ego. Even if you have been able to study a thousand sutras or ten thousand commentaries, if you do not free yourself from ego-attachment, you will eventually fall into the hole of demons.

An ancient master said, “If you lack the body and mind of the buddha-dharma, how is it possible to become a buddha or a patriarch?” To depart from your ego means throwing your body and mind into the great ocean of the buddha-dharma, and practicing by following the buddha-dharma no matter how much pain or anxiety you may have.

You might think that if you beg for food, people will think ill of you. As long as you think in this way, you will never be able to enter the buddha-dharma. Forget all worldly sentiments, and just practice the Way, relying only on Reality.

Underestimating yourself, thinking that you are not capable of practicing the buddha-dharma is also due to ego-attachment. To be concerned with the views of others and to care about human sentiments is the root of self-attachment. Just study the buddha-dharma; don't follow worldly sentiments.


Book 5


One day Ejo asked, “What should we practice diligently in the monastery?”

Dogen instructed,

“ Shikantaza (Just sitting)! Whether you are upstairs or under a lofty building sit in samadhi 1. Without engaging in idle talk, be like one who is deaf and dumb; always devote yourself to sitting alone.”

  1. Literally, the Japanese expression rojo kakka means the upstairs or downstairs in a large building, though in this expression, Dogen means sit samadhi wherever you are.


Book 5


One day in a speech Dogen said,

Daido Kokusen1 said, “Sitting in the wind and sleeping in the sun is better than wearing rich brocades like people today.” Although this is a saying of an ancient master, I have some doubts about it. Does “people today” refer to worldly people who covet profit? If so why did he mention it? It is most stupid to compete with such people. Or does it refer to people who are practicing the Way? If so, why did he say doing what he did was better than wearing brocades? As I examine his frame of mind, it sounds as if he still values brocades. The sages were not like this. They attached themselves neither to gold and jewels, nor to broken tiles and pebbles.

Therefore Shakyamuni-Tathagata accepted milk gruel offered by the cowmaid, as well as grain used to feed horses 2. He accepted both with equanimity.

In the buddha-dharma, there is nothing valueless nor valuable, yet among people there is shallow and profound. Nowadays, when people are given gold and jewels, they consider them valuable and refuse them. But if they are given wood or stone, they consider such things cheap, so they accept them and hold attachment to them. Gold and jewels have been taken from the earth, wood and stone also come from the earth. Why do people refuse one because it is expensive and covet the other because it is cheap? When I inquire into such a mind, it would seem that if they obtained something expensive they would worry about building attachment to it. However, even if they acquire something cheap and love it, they will be guilty of the same fault. Students should be careful about this.

  1. Daido Kokusen (Dadao Guquan, ?–?) was a disciple of Funyo Zensho (947–1024).
  2. Milk gruel is an example of fine food while grain used as feed for horses (see 1-16, footnote 9) represents coarse food. Buddha Shakyamuni received both equally without discrimination.


Book 5


Dogen instructed,

When my late teacher Myozen 1 was about to go to China, his former teacher Myoyu Ajari 2 , who was living on Mt. Hiei, become seriously ill, and was about to die.

At the time, Master Myoyu asked Myozen, “I am old and sick; my death must be near at hand. Please put off going to China for a while, take care of me as I am very sick, and conduct a funeral service for me when I die? After I have passed away, carry out what you really wish to do.”

Myozen gathered together with his fellow priests and disciples to consult with them. He said, “Since the time I left my parents' home in my childhood, I have been brought up by this teacher and now I have grown up. My debt of gratitude for his raising me is very great. Also, due solely to his upbringing I learned the dharma-gate which is beyond the ordinary realm of the verbal teachings of mahayana and hinayana , or the provisional and the real. Thanks to him, I came to understand causality, learned right from wrong, surpassed my fellow monks and gained honor, and now I aspire to go to China to seek the dharma because I understand the truth of the buddha-dharma. But this year he has become seriously ill due to old age, and is lying on his death bed. He will not live much longer and he cannot expect to see me again. Therefore, he strongly urges me to postpone my trip. It is difficult to go against my teacher's request. Moreover, my going to China to seek the dharma for the sake of benefiting sentient beings without holding my life dear, derives from the great compassion of the bodhisattva. Is there any reason to go against the request of my teacher and go to China, or not? Tell me what you think.”

At the time, all of his disciples said, “Give up going to China this year. Your aged master's illness is critical. He will surely die. If you stay only for this year and go to China next year, you wouldn't be going against your teacher's wish and you wouldn't be neglecting your great debt of gratitude.

What is wrong with going to China half a year or a yearfrom now? It wouldn't go against the bond between master and disciple, and still you would be able to carry out your wish to go to China.”

At the time, as the least experienced monk, I said, “If you think that your enlightenment of the buddha-dharma is what it should be, you should put off your trip to China.”

My late master said, “That is so. Practice of the buddha-dharma should be like this. If I practice this way for my whole lifetime, I think I will be released (from samsara) and attain the Way.”

I said, “If that is so, you should stay.”

After all of us had given our opinions, Myozen said, “All of you agree that I should stay. My resolution is different. Even if I put off my trip for the time being, one who is certain to die will die. My remaining here won't help to prolong his life. Even if I stay to nurse him, his pain will not cease. Also, it would not be possible to escape from life-and-death because I took care of him before his death. It would just be following his request and comforting his feelings for a while. It is entirely useless for gaining emancipation and attaining the Way. To mistakenly allow him to hinder my aspiration to seek the dharma would be a cause of evil deeds. However, if I carry out my aspiration to go to China to seek the dharma, and gain a bit of enlightenment, although it goes against one person's deluded feelings, it would become a cause for attaining the Way of many people. Since the merit is greater, it will help return the debt of gratitude to my teacher.

Even if I were to die while crossing the ocean and failed to accomplish my aspiration, since I would have died with the aspiration to seek the dharma, my vow would not cease in any future life. We should ponder Genjo Sanzo's 3 (Tripitaka Master ) journey to India. Vainly spending time which is easily lost, for the sake of one person would not be in accordance with the Buddha's will. Therefore, I have firmly resolved to go to China now.”

So saying, he finally went to China. For my late teacher, having true bodhi-mind was like this. Therefore, students, you should not become involved in useless matters and lose time in vain, using your parents or teacher as an excuse, nor set aside the Buddha-Way which is superior to all other ways. Do not waste time.

At the time Ejo asked, “For the sake of truly seeking the dharma, we must eliminate the hindrance caused by our obligation to our parents or teachers, existing only in the realm of delusion. It is just as you said. And yet, even if we completely renounce our obligation and affection for our parents or our teachers, when we aspire to the practice of a bodhisattva, we should put aside personal benefit and put primary importance on benefiting others. If so, when the aged teacher was seriously ill, and no one but Myozen could nurse him, if he was only thinking in terms of his own practice without helping his teacher, it would seem to go against the bodhisattva practice, wouldn't it ? A mahasattva 4 (a magnanimous person) does not discriminate between things in doing good. Shouldn't we consider the buddha-dharma according to the circumstances and the particular situation? By this reasoning, should he not he stayed to help his teacher? Why did he only think of seeking the dharma instead of caring for his aged teacher in his final illness? What do you think?”

Dogen instructed;

“Whether acting for the benefit of others or acting for your own benefit, if you abandon the inferior one and take the superior one it should be the good practice of the mahasattva . To care for infirm aged parents in poverty is only the temporary pleasure of illusory love and deluded sentiment of this brief life. If you go against your deluded sentiments and learn the Way of no-defilement, even though you may receive some resentment, it will become a positive factor [in entering the buddha-dharma which is] beyond the world. Consider this well.”

  1. Butsujubo Myozen (1183–1225). Born into the Soga family, he received his ordination under Myoyu at Shuryogon-in Temple on Mt. Hiei. Later practiced Zen with Zen Master Eisai. Myozen went to China with Dogen, but died in China when he was forty two years old. Dogen brought back Myozen's ashes, and buried them in Kenninji. In his Sharisodenki , Dogen briefly described and praised Myozen's life.
  2. Ajari is Acarya in Skt., which means teacher. In Japan this is the title of a qualified teacher in Esoteric Buddhism.
  3. Genjo (600–664). A Chinese priest who went to India, staying there for twelve years. He brought back 657 volumes of Sanskrit texts, and translated 1330 fascicles of scriptures into Chinese. Sanzo means Tri-Pitaka (the three categories of the Buddhist scriptures, sutras, sastras, and vinaya). Sanzo is an honorific title of a priest who has mastered and translated Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit to Chinese.
  4. Mahasattva literally means a great person. This is another name for a bodhisattva.


Book 5


One day Dogen instructed,

Many people in the world say that although they listen to the words of the teacher, they do not accord with their own thinking. This attitude is a mistake. I don't understand how they can say such things. Do they say it because the principles in the sacred teachings do not agree with what they think, and believe the teachings to be wrong? If so, they are utterly foolish. Or is it that what the teacher said did not agree with their own preference? If so, why did they ask the teacher in the first place? Or do they say it on the basis of their ordinary discriminating thoughts? If so, this is illusory thought from the beginningless beginning. The vital attitude in learning the Way is to give up and reform your egotistical views. Even if they go against your own preferences, if they are your teacher's words or statements from the sacred scriptures, you must follow them completely. This is an essential point you should be careful about in learning the Way.

Formerly, one of my fellow practitioners who visited various teachers was very attached to his own views. He refused to accept whatever went against his ideas, and held onto only what agreed with his own views. He spent his whole life in vain and never understood the buddha-dharma.

I realized from observing his attitude that learning the Way must be different from that. So, I followed my teacher's words and attained the truth of the Way completely. Later, I found the following passage in a sutra I was reading, “If you wish to learn the buddha-dharma, do not hold onto the [conditioned] mind of the past, present, and future. 1”

I truly understood that we must gradually reform previous thoughts and views and not hold firmly to them. In one of the Classics it is said, “Good advice sounds harsh to the ear.” This means that useful advice always offends our ears. Even though it may be contrary to our liking, if we force ourselves to follow and carry it out, there should be benefit in the long run.

  1. This refers to a certain system of values, preconceptions, prejudices, etc. formed by our experiences or the education we received from our parents, teachers, and friends etc, in the society.


Book 5


One day, in a talk on various subjects, Dogen said,

Originally, there is no good or evil in the human mind. Good and evil depend on the situation. For example, when we arouse bodhi-mind and enter some mountain or forest, we think that staying in the mountains is good and living in human society is bad. But then, we get bored and leave the mountain thinking it bad. This is because the mind has no fixed characteristics; it changes in various ways depending on the circumstances. Therefore, if you encounter good circumstances, your mind becomes good; if you encounter bad circumstances, your mind becomes bad. Do not think that your mind is bad by nature. Just follow good circumstances.


Book 5


On another occasion, Dogen said,

The human mind definitely changes depending on others' words. In the Daichidoron (Mahaprajnaparamitasastra) 1, it is written,

“For example, it is like a foolish person who has a precious jewel in his hands. Someone sees him and says, ‘You are so vulgar; you hold things in your own hands.' Hearing this he thinks, ‘This jewel is precious, yet my reputation is also important. I don't want to be thought of as being vulgar.' Worrying about this and being pulled around by [the idea of his] reputation, he finally follows another's words. He decides to put the jewel down and has his servant take it. And, in the end, he loses the jewel.”

This is how the human mind works. There are some who do not follow advice, being trapped by ideas about their reputations, although they think it is undoubtedly good for them. Also, there are some who follow advice for the sake of establishing their own fame, even though they know it is obviously harmful to them.

When you follow something good or bad, your mind is pulled by goodness or badness. Therefore, no matter how evil your mind may be, when you follow a good teacher and become intimate with good people, your mind will naturally become good. If you associate with bad people, even though in the beginning you may think they are bad, eventually you will follow such people's minds, you will get used to being with them. And finally become really bad without realizing it.

Or, though determined in your mind not to give something to someone, if they press you too strongly, you give it to them unwillingly, even though you hate them. And, though you decided to give it to them, you might not if you don't have a good opportunity.

Therefore, even if you don't have bodhi-mind, once having become familiar with good people and having met good circumstances, you should listen to and look at the same things again and again. Do not think that you don't need to listen because you have heard it once before. Even if you have aroused bodhi-mind once, though it may be the same thing each time you hear it, your mind will become more refined and you will improve even more. Moreover, even if you still lack bodhi-mind, and don't find it interesting the first or second time, if you listen to a good person's words again and again, just like walking through the mist or dew, your clothing naturally gets wet without noticing it; you will naturally feel ashamed and true bodhi-mind will arise.

For this reason, even though you have understood the sacred scriptures, you must read them again and again. You must listen to your teacher's words repeatedly, even though you have heard them before. You will find more and more profound meanings. Do not be involved in matters which obstruct your practice of the Way. Even if it is painful and difficult, you should become familiar with good friends and practice the Way with them.

  1. The Mahaprajnaparamita-sástra 100 vol. This is a commentary by Nagarjina (ca 150–ca 250 A.D.) on the Mahaprajnaparamita-sutra .


Book 5


Dogen instructed,

Once Zen master Daie1 had a swelling on his buttocks. A doctor took a look at it and said it was critical.

Daie asked, “Is it so serious that I might die?”

The doctor replied, “Possibly.”

Daie said, “Well, I am going to die anyway, so I shall practice zazen that much harder.”

He pushed himself to sit and, eventually the swelling broke and went away.
The mind of this ancient master was like this. When he got sick, he sat zazen all the more. Students of today, despite being well, don't let up practicing zazen!

I think that sickness changes depending upon the mind.

When someone has hiccups, if you tell a lie [with the intention of] making him feel dejected, he will be shocked and try to say something, forgetting about his hiccups.
On my way to China, I suffered from diarrhea on the ship 2, yet when a storm came up and people on the ship made a great fuss, I forgot about the sickness and it went away.

Considering this, I think if we devote ourselves to the practice of the Way and forget everything else, no illness will arise.

  1. Daie Soko (1089–1163), a disciple of Engo Kokugon. Dogen criticized Daie in several parts of the Shobogenzo, but in Zuimonki he praised him because of his sincere attitude towards practice.
  2. Dogen left Kyoto on February 21st 1223, arrived in Hakata in Kyushu in the middle of March, and sailed for China toward the end of March.


Book 5


Dogen instructed,

There is a proverb, “Unless you are deaf and dumb, you cannot become the head of a family.”

In other words, if you do not listen to the slander of others and do not speak ill of others, you will succeed in your own work. Only a person like this is qualified to be the head of a family.

Although this is a worldly proverb, we must apply it to our way of life as monks. How do we practice the way without being disturbed by the slandering remarks of others, and without reacting to the resentment of others, or speaking of the right or wrong of others? Only those who thoroughly devote even their bones and marrow to the practice can do it.


Book 5


Dogen instructed,

Zen Master Daie said, “You must practice the Way with the attitude of a person owing a vast debt and being forced to return it despite being penniless. If you have this frame of mind, it is easy to attain the Way.”

In the Shinjinmei 1 , we read; “The supreme Way is not difficult, just refuse to have preferences.” Only when you cast aside the mind of discrimination will you be able to accept it immediately. To cast aside discriminating mind is to depart from ego.

Do not think that you learn the buddha-dharma for the sake of some reward for practicing the Buddha-Way. Just practice the buddha-dharma for the sake of the buddha-dharma. Even if you study a thousand sutras and ten thousand commentaries on them, or even if you have sat zazen until your cushion is worn out, it is impossible to attain the Way of the buddhas and patriarchs if this attitude is lacking. Just casting body and mind into the buddha-dharma and, (practicing) along with others without holding onto previous views, you will be in accordance with the Way immediately.

  1. Shinjinmei was written by the Third Patriarch Sosan (?–606). Shinjin means Faith and Mind, or Faith-in-Mind.


Book 5


Dogen instructed,

An ancient master said, “The provisions and food in storage belonging to the monastery should be entrusted to the officers 1 who understand cause and effect. Let these officers administer the various tasks; dividing the monastery into departments and distributing the work.” This means the abbot of the monastery should not take charge of any major or minor matter whatever; rather he should concentrate only on practicing zazen, and encourage the members of the assembly.

It is also said, “It is better to master even a small skill than to own thousands of acres of productive rice paddies.”

“When you do a favor for others, do not expect a reward. After having given something away, harbor no regret.”

“Keep your mouth as silent as your nose, and no disasters will reach you.”

“If your practice is lofty, people naturally respect you; if your talent is great, others will follow you of themselves.” 2

“Despite plowing deep and planting shallow, you may still suffer natural disaster. All the more so will you receive the effect of your evil if you profit only yourself while harming others.”

Students of the Way, when you learn the sayings [of the ancient masters], you must look at them and examine them very closely with fullest attention.

  1. There were six major officers in ancient Zen monasteries. Each of them was in charge of his respective function in the monastery. The six are tsusu , kansu , fusu , ino , tenzo , and shissui .
  2. In the Choenjibon version, this sentence reads, “A person whose practice is firm will naturally be respected; though one who is highly talented will be put down by others.”


Book 5


Dogen instructed,

An ancient master said, “At the top of a hundred foot pole, advance one step further.”

This means you should have the attitude of someone who, at the top of a hundred foot pole, lets go of both hands and feet; in other words, you must cast aside body and mind.

There are various stages involved here. Nowadays, some people seem to have abandoned the world and left their homes. Nevertheless, when examining their actions, they still haven't truly left home, or renounced the world.

As a monk who has left home, first you must depart from your ego as well as from [desire for] fame and profit. Unless you become free from these things, despite practicing the Way urgently as though extinguishing a fire enveloping your head, or devoting yourself to practice as diligently as the Buddha who stood on tiptoe 1 (for seven days), it will amount to nothing but meaningless trouble, having nothing to do with emancipation.

Even in the great Song China, there are people who have departed from attachment [to their family] which is hard to let go of, abandoned worldly wealth which is difficult to give up, joined communities of practitioners, and visited various monasteries. Some of them, however, have been spending their lives in vain because they practice without understanding this key point. They neither realize the Way nor clarify the Mind.

Although in the beginning they arouse bodhi-mind, become monks and follow the teachings, instead of aspiring to become buddhas or patriarchs, they only concern themselves with making it known to their patrons, supporters, and relatives about how respectable they are or how high the status of their temple is. They try to get people to revere them and make offerings to them. Furthermore, they claim that other monks are all vicious and immoral; that only they are men of bodhi-mind and good monks. They try to persuade people to believe their words. People like this are not even worth criticizing; they are like the five evil monks (at the time of the Buddha) who lacked goodness 2. Without exception, monks with such a frame of mind will fall into hell. Lay people who don't know what they really are, think that they are respectable men of bodhi-mind.

There are some who are a little better than these people. Having abandoned their parents, wives, and children, and no longer coveting offerings from patrons, they join the communities of practitioners to practice the Way. However, though they feel ashamed of being idle, since they are by nature lazy, they pretend to be practicing when the abbot or the shuso is watching. However, when no one is around, they waste their time, neglecting to do what they should be doing. They are better than lay people as irresponsible as themselves, but still cannot cast away their ego, or (their desire for) fame and profit.

There are also those who are not concerned with what their teacher thinks or whether the shuso or other fellow practitioners are watching or not. They always bear in mind that practicing the Buddha-Way is not for the sake of others but only for themselves; such people desire to become buddhas or patriarchs with both body and mind. So they truly practice diligently. They really seem to be people of the Way compared with the people mentioned above. However, since they still practice trying to improve themselves, they have not become free from their ego. They want to be admired by buddhas and bodhisattvas, and desire to attain buddhahood, and complete awareness. This is because they still cannot throw away their selfish desire for fame and profit.

Up to this point, none of these people have yet advanced beyond the hundred foot pole; they remain clinging to it.

Just cast body and mind into the buddha-dharma, and practice without desire either to realize the Way or to attain the dharma. Then you can be called an undefiled practitioner. This is what is meant by not staying where buddha exists; and running quickly from where no-buddha exists 3.

  1. This refers to a story in the life of Shakyamuni Buddha in a previous lifetime. When he was a bodhisattva, upon seeing an ancient Buddha in samadhi, he recited verses of praise standing on his tiptoes for seven days. From this story, ‘standing on one's tiptoes' has come to mean being very diligent in practice.
  2. According to a Buddhist legend, there were five evil monks who were so lazy that they did not practice or chant sutras, etc. Since no one supported them, they pretended to practice zazen to gain offerings from lay people.
  3. A monk went to bid farewell to Joshu .
  4. The master asked, “Where are you going?”
    The monk replied, “I'm going to visit various places to learn the buddha-dharma.”
    Joshu took up the whisk and said, “Do not stay where buddha exists; run quickly from where no-buddha exists.”
    The place ”no-buddha exists” means being free even from attachment to the buddha. In the Fukanzazengi , Dogen said, “Do not seek to become buddha.”


Book 5


Dogen instructed,

Do not make arrangements in advance for obtaining food and clothing. Only when you run out of food and have nothing to cook, should you beg for food. Even planning ahead regarding who to ask for what you need is the same as storing food. This is evil food gained by improper means.

A Zen monk should be like a cloud with no fixed abode, like flowing water with nothing to rely on. Such is called a monk.

Though possessing nothing except robes and a bowl, if you rely on some patron or close relative, you and they are both bound to each other, so the food becomes impure. It is impossible to realize the pure and great dharma of the buddhas with a body and mind fed and maintained by impure food. Just as cloth dyed with indigo becomes indigo-blue, and cloth dyed with kihada (Chinese cork tree) becomes yellow, a body and mind dyed with food gained by improper means becomes a body of impure-life. Desiring to attain the buddha-dharma with such a body and mind is like pressing sand to get oil.

Just handle everything in accordance with the Way in each situation. To plan in advance goes entirely against the Way. You should consider this very carefully.


Book 5


Dogen instructed,

Students must know that every human being has great faults. Among them, arrogance is the worst. Arrogance is equally admonished against in both Buddhist and non-Buddhist texts. In a non-Buddhist text, it is written, “There are some who are poor but do not flatter. However, there are none who are rich but not arrogant.” The text admonishes us not to become arrogant even though we might be rich. As this is a most important matter, give it careful consideration.

If you are of humble birth and compete with people who belong to the upper class hoping to surpass them, this is a typical (example of) arrogance. However, this is easy to watch out for.

In the secular world, relatives gather around but do not criticize those who are wealthy and blessed. Since a rich person takes it as a matter of course, he becomes arrogant, and the poor people around him become envious and resentful. How can such a person prevent himself from increasing the suffering and resentment of others? It is difficult to caution this sort of person, and it is hard, for the person himself too, to practice self-restraint.

Even when the person does not intend to be arrogant, if he does what he wants, humble people around him feel pain and resentment. To prevent this is called restraining arrogance. A person who enjoys his wealth as a reward, and pays no attention to the poor people who envy him is called an arrogant person.

In a non-Buddhist text it is written, “Do not pass in front of a poor (man's) house riding in a chariot.” This means that even if you are able to ride in a vermillion chariot, don't do it in front of poor people. Buddhist scriptures also admonish against this.

Nevertheless, students or priests today want to surpass others in intelligence and knowledge of the Buddhist teachings. Don't be arrogant because of your wide knowledge. To speak of the faults of inferior people, or to blame mistakes on your senior or fellow practitioners is terrible arrogance.

An ancient person said, “It is not bad to be defeated in front of the wise, but do not win in front of the stupid.” When someone misunderstands what you know well, speaking ill of him is your own error.

When talking about the dharma, do not slander your predecessors or senior priests. Take careful consideration on this point, especially when ignorant and benighted people may become envious or jealous.

While I was staying at Kenninji, many people asked about the dharma. Among them, there were some strange opinions or mistaken views. However, I kept this deep in my heart; I only talked about the virtue of the dharma as it is, instead of criticizing the mistaken views of others. I avoided trouble in that way. A foolish person firmly attached to his own opinions always gets angry, saying that his virtuous predecessors have been slandered. The wise and sincere person realizes and reforms his own mistakes and those of his virtuous predecessors without having them pointed out by others, only if he understands the true meaning of the buddha-dharma. You should ponder this thoroughly.


Book 5


Dogen instructed,

The most vital concern in learning the Way is to practice zazen. In China, many people attained the Way entirely through the power of zazen. If one concentrates on practicing zazen continuously, even an ignorant person, who does not understand a single question, can be superior to an intelligent person who has been studying for a long time. Therefore, practitioners must practice shikantaza wholeheartedly without bothering to concern themselves with other things. The Way of the buddhas and patriarchs is nothing but zazen. Do not pursue anything else.

At the time, Ejo asked, “In learning both sitting and reading, when I read the collections of the old masters' sayings or koans , I can understand one thing out of a hundred or a thousand words, though I have never had such an experience in zazen. Should we still prefer to practice zazen?”

Dogen replied, “Even if you may seem to have some understanding while reading koans , such studies will lead you astray from the Way of the buddhas and patriarchs. To spend your time sitting upright with nothing to be gained and nothing to be realized is the Way of the patriarchs. Although the ancient masters encouraged both reading and shikan zazen, they promoted sitting wholeheartedly. Although there are some who have gained enlightenment hearing stories (of the masters), the attainment of enlightenment is due to the merit of sitting. True merit depends on sitting.”


Book 6


Dogen instructed,

If you have to concern yourself with criticism from others, you should consider the opinion of a person with clear eyes1.

When I was in China, Master Nyojo of Tendo Monastery chose me as his personal attendant saying, “Although Dogen is a foreigner, he is a man of capacity.” I declined it unequivocally.

I refused knowing it was important for establishing my reputation in Japan and for the sake of practicing the Way. This is because I thought there might have been someone with clear eyes in the assembly who was critical of a foreigner becoming the abbot's attendant in such a great monastery, implying there were no men of ability in the great Song China. I had to be very careful. I wrote what I thought in a letter to the abbot. When Master Nyojo read it, he understood my respect for his country and my feeling of shame before people having clear eyes, so he did not ask me again.

  1. This means a person who has the intelligence to see Reality.


Book 6


Dogen instructed,

Someone said, “I am sick. I am not a vessel of the dharma. I cannot endure the practice of the Way. Having heard the essentials of the dharma, I wish to live alone, departing from the world, nourishing my body and taking care of my sickness until my life is over.” This is a terrible mistake. The sages in the past did not necessarily have golden bones. Ancient practitioners did not all have superior capabilities. Not such a long time has passed since the Buddha's death. Even in the age of the Buddha not everyone was sharp witted. Some were good and others were not. Among the monks, there were some who did incredibly evil things, and others who had a very low intellect. None of them, however, demeaned themselves or failed to arouse bodhi-mind; none failed to study the Way on the grounds of not being a vessel of the dharma.

If you do not learn and practice the Way now, in which lifetime will you become a person of capability or a person without sickness? Just do not think of your body and mind, arouse bodhi-mind, and practice. This is most important in learning the Way.


Book 6


Dogen instructed,

Students of the Way, you should not be greedy for food and clothing. Everyone has an allotted share of food and life. Though you might seek after more than your share, you will never be able to obtain it. Moreover, for us students of the Buddha-Way, there are offerings from donors. The food obtained from begging will not be exhausted. There will also be provisions belonging to the monastery. These are not the products of personal work. Fruits and berries, food gained from begging, and offerings from faithful believers are the three kinds of pure food. Food obtained from the four kinds of occupations1, farming, commerce, soldiering, and craftmaking is all impure. This is not food permissible for monks.

Once there was a monk who died and went to the realm of the dead. King Yama2 said, “This person's allotted life has not been exhausted yet. Let him go back.”

One of the officers of the realm of the dead said, “Although the life allotted him has not yet been exhausted, the food allotted him has already been consumed.”

The King said, “Then, let him eat lotus leaves.”

After the monk returned from the realm of the dead, he could not eat ordinary human food, so he maintained what remained of his life eating only lotus leaves.”

Therefore, the food allotted to monks who have left home, because of the power of learning the Buddha-Way, will not be exhausted. Not a single White Hair of the Buddha3, nor the twenty-year legacy of the Buddha's life will be exhausted, even if they are used forever. Devote yourself only to the practice of the Way, and do not seek after food and clothing.

In books on medicine, it is said that only if the body, blood, and flesh are well maintained, will the mind also become healthy. Even more so, in practicing the Way should you keep the precepts, make your life pure, and restrain yourself, following the activities of the buddhas and patriarchs. In doing so, your mind will also become tranquil.

Students of the Way, when you want to say something, reflect on it three times; if it is beneficial to both yourself and others, then say it. If it is not, remain silent. However, these things are difficult to carry out. Keep them in mind and educate yourself gradually.

  1. These four occupations represent various ways of making a living, and of the various classes in the society.
  2. The lord of the dead. Yama is the judge of the merits and sins of the dead.
  3. See 4-15, footnote 2.


Book 6


In a talk on various subjects, Dogen instructed,

Students of the Way, do not worry about food and clothing. Although Japan is a small country, far removed (from the Buddha's country), there are quite a few people who were famous as scholars of the Exoteric and Esoteric Teachings, and who have become known to later generations. There are also many people who devote themselves to poetry, music, literature, and the martial arts. I have never heard of even one of them who had an abundance of food and clothing. They became known because they all endured poverty and forgot about other matters, so they could devote themselves completely to their own profession.

This is all the more true of people learning the Way in this tradition of the patriarchs. They have abandoned their occupations in society, and never seek after fame and profit. How could they become wealthy? Although this is the degenerate age, there are thousands of people in the monasteries in China who are learning the Way. There are some who came from remote districts or left their home provinces. In any case, although they never worry about their poverty, almost all of them are poor. Their only concern is that they have not yet attained the Way. Sitting either in a lofty building or under it, they practice [zazen] wholeheartedly as if they had lost their mother.

I personally met a monk from Shisen who had no possessions because he had come from a remote district. All he had was a few pieces of ink stick1. They cost about two or three hundred mon 2 in China, which is about twenty or thirty mon in Japan. He sold them, bought very low quality Chinese paper, and made an upper robe and lower robe with it. Whenever he stood up or sat down, he made strange noises, though he never paid any attention to it.

Someone said to him, “Go back home and bring some personal belongings and clothing.”

He replied, “My home is far away. I don't want to waste time on the road home, and lose time to practice the Way.”

He practiced the Way all the more, without being concerned with cold weather. This is why many prominent people have appeared in China.

  1. Chinese ink stick is made from pine roots or vegetable oil. It is used for painting and calligraphy.
  2. The minimum monetary unit in ancient China and Japan, the equivalent to a few pennies.


Book 6


Dogen instructed,

I have heard that at the time of the founder of the monastery on Mt. Seppo1, the temple was so poor they sometimes had no food to cook or sometimes had to eat green beans2 steamed with rice. They lived such a poor life while learning the Way. In later years there were never less than fifteen hundred monks staying at the monastery.

Ancient people practiced in such a way. Today, we should also be like this. This degeneration of monks is often caused by wealth and fame. In the time of the Buddha, Dêvadatta3 aroused jealousy since he received daily offerings of five hundred cartloads of provisions. Wealth was harmful not only to himself, but made other people commit evil deeds. How can sincere people who learn the Way become wealthy? Even if it is an offering made from pure faith, if it accumulates in abundance, you must see it as a debt and want to return it.

People in this country make donations for the sake of gaining personal profit. It is only natural in the human world to give more to people who approach with a flattering smile. However, if you do so to curry favor with others, it will surely become an obstacle to your practice of the Way. Just endure the hunger and the cold and devote yourself completely to the practice of the Way.

  1. Seppo Gison (822–908) was a disciple of Tokusan Senkan.
  2. In the Tenzo Kyokun Dogen wrote, “First, take out any insects in the rice. And carefully winnow out any green beans, rice bran, or tiny stones.” Green beans ( rokusu ) were not usually eaten.
  3. Dêvadatta was a cousin of Shakyamuni and became his disciple. It is said that he attempted to take over the leadership of the Buddhist sangha after Prince Ajatasatru took refuge with him and offered five hundred cartloads of provisions daily.


Book 6


One day Dogen instructed,

An ancient person said, “Listen, see, attain.”

Further, “If you haven't attained, see. If you haven't yet seen, listen.”

He meant that seeing is superior to listening, attaining is superior to seeing. If you haven't attained, you should see. If you haven't seen, you should listen.


Book 6


Dogen also said,

The essential point to be careful about in practicing the Way is casting aside your tendency (from the past) to cling to certain things. If you first change your physical behavior, your mind will be reformed as well. Firstly, carry out what is prescribed to do and avoid what is prohibited in the precepts; then your mind will reform of itself.

In China, there is a custom among lay people of gathering at their ancestral shrine and pretending to cry, to demonstrate their filial piety toward their fathers and mothers. Eventually, they actually begin to cry. Students of the Way! Even if you don't have bodhi-mind in the beginning, if you force yourself to practice the Buddha-Way, eventually you will arouse true bodhi-mind. Especially beginners in the Way should just practice [the Way] following the other members of the sangha. Do not be in a hurry to study and understand the essential points and ancient examples. It is good to understand such things without misinterpretation when you enter the mountains or seclude yourselves in a city. If you practice following the other practitioners, you will surely attain the Way. It is like making a voyage. Even though you don't know how to steer the ship, if you leave everything to the skill of the sailors, whether you understand or not, you will reach the other shore. Only if you follow a good teacher and practice with fellow practitioners without harboring personal views, will you naturally become a person of the Way.

Students of the Way, even if you have attained enlightenment, do not stop practicing. Do not think that you have reached the pinnacle. The Way is endless. Even if you have attained enlightenment, continue to practice the Way. Remember the story of Ryosui who visited Zen Master Mayoku1.

  1. The lecturer Ryosui (?–?) visited Mayoku (?–?) a disciple of Baso. Upon seeing Ryosui coming, Mayoku took a hoe and went to hoeing up weeds. Although Ryosui went to where Mayoku was working, Mayoku paid no attention to him, went back to his room, and shut the gate. Ryosui visited Makoku again the next day. Makoku shut the gate again. Ryosui knocked on the door.
    Mayoku asked, “Who is it?”
    “It's Ryosui!”
    When the lecturer called out his own name, he suddenly attained enlightenment, and said, “Master, do not deceive Ryosui. If I had not come to see you, I would have been deceived by the sutras and śastras my whole life.”
    When Ryosui went back, he gave a speech to his class, “All you know, Ryosui knows. What Ryosui knows, you don't know.”
    Then he quit giving lectures and had the people leave.


Book 6


Dogen instructed,

Students of the Way, you should not postpone beginning to practice the Way. Just do not spend this day or even this moment in vain. Practice diligently day by day, moment by moment.

A certain lay person had been sick for a long time. Last spring he promised, “As soon as I have recovered, I will abandon my wife and children and build a hermitage near the temple. I will join in the meetings of repentance ( fusatsu )1 held twice a month. I also want to practice daily and listen to your lectures on the dharma. I would like to spend as much as possible the rest of my life being in accord with the precepts.”

After that, he received various treatments, and recovered a little bit. But then, he had a relapse and spent his days in vain. In January of this year, his condition suddenly became critical, and he suffered increasing pain. Because he hadn't had enough time to bring the materials to build the hermitage he had been planning, he rented a room to stay in temporarily. Within a month or so, however, he passed away. He died peacefully since he had received the Bodhisattva precepts and had taken refuge in the Three Treasures the night before his death. So it was better than having stayed at home, clinging to the bonds of affection for his wife and children dying in madness. However I think it would have been better for him to have left home last year when he first made up his mind to do so. He could have lived close to the temple becoming familiar with the sangha and ended his life practicing the Way. Considering this, I feel that the practice of the Buddha-Way should not be put off until a later day. It is due to your lack of bodhi-mind that, you think since you're sick you can begin to practice after you have recovered. Whose body doesn't become sick composed as it is of the four elements!2 The ancient masters did not necessarily have golden bones. They practiced without concern for anything else only because they thoroughly aspired (to practice the Way). It is like forgetting petty matters when encountering a great problem. Since the Buddha-Way is the vital matter, you should resolve to complete it in this lifetime and not waste even a single day or hour.

An ancient master said, “Do not pass time wastefully3.” When you are receiving some treatment, but instead of getting better the pain gradually increases, you should practice while the pain is still not too bad. After the pain has become severe, you should determine to practice before your condition becomes critical. And when your condition has become critical, you should resolve to practice before you die.

When you are sick, sometimes the illness passes, sometimes it gets worse. Sometimes it gets better even without any treatment. And, sometimes it gets worse even though you are being treated. Take this carefully into consideration.

Practitioners of the Way, do not think of practicing after shelter has been assured, and robes and bowls etc. have been prepared. Although you may be living in dire poverty, while waiting until robes, bowls, and other equipment have been prepared, can you prevent death from approaching? If you wait until shelter has been prepared and robes and bowls are ready, you will have spent your whole lifetime in vain. You should have the resolution that without robes and bowls, even a lay person can practice the Buddha-Way. Robes and bowls are simply the ornaments of monkshood.

True practitioners of the Buddha-Way do not depend on such things. If they are available, let them be with you, but do not deliberately seek after them. On the other hand, do not think of not owning them when you have them. In the same way, if it is possible to cure your sickness, it goes against the Buddha's teachings to try and die intentionally and not receive treatment. For the sake of the Buddha Way neither hold your life dear, nor be careless about it. When possible, use moxa or decocted herbal medicines which do not obstruct your practice of the Way. Anyway, it is a mistake to put aside your practice of the Way and put primary importance on curing your sickness, planning to practice only after you have recovered.

  1. Fusatsu (Skt., Uposata ) is a regular meeting of monks and other members of the sangha. It is held twice a month, on the 15th and 30th of the lunar month, at which time the precepts are recited and any transgressions repented.
  2. The four basic elements of the material world: 1. chidai , the earth element, which represents solidity and forms the support for all things, 2. suidai , the water element, which moistens and contains all things, 3. kadai , the fire element, which represents heat and enables all things to mature and, 4. fûdai , the wind element, which represents motion and causes things to grow.
  3. This is a quotation from the Sando-kai , a poem composed by Zen Master Sekito Kisen.


Book 6


Dogen instructed,

In the ocean, there is a place called the Dragon-Gate1, where vast waves rise incessantly. Without fail, all fish once having passed through this place become dragons. Thus, the place is called the Dragon-Gate.

The vast waves there are not different from those in any other place, and the water is also ordinary salt water. Despite that, mysteriously enough, when fish cross that place, they all become dragons. Their scales do not change and their bodies stay the same; however, they suddenly become dragons.

The way of Zen monks is also like this. Although it is not a special place, if you enter a sorin 2 (monastery), without fail you will become a buddha or a patriarch. You eat meals and wear clothes as usual; thus you stave off hunger and keep off the cold just the same as other people do. Still, if you shave your head, put on a kesa , and eat gruel for breakfast and rice for lunch, you will immediately become a Zen monk. Do not seek afar to become a buddha or a patriarch. Becoming one who either passes through the Dragon Gate or not depends only on entering a sorin (monastery), just the same as the fish.

There is a saying in the secular world, “I sell gold, but no one will buy it.” The Way of the buddhas and patriarchs is also like this. It is not that they begrudge the Way; even though it is always being offered, no one will accept it. To attain the Way does not depend on whether you are inherently sharp or dull witted. Each one of us can be aware of the dharma. Slowness or quickness in attaining the Way depends on whether you are diligent or indolent. The difference between being diligent or indolent is caused by whether your aspiration is resolute or not. Lack of firm aspiration is caused by being unaware of impermanence. Ultimately speaking, we die moment by moment, not residing for even a little while. While you are alive, do not spend your time in vain.

There is an old saying, “A mouse in a storehouse starves for food. An ox plowing the field never eats his fill of grass.” This means that even though living in the midst of food, the mouse is starving; even though living in the midst of grass, the ox is short of grass. Human beings are also like this. Even though we are in the midst of the Buddha-Way, we are not living in accordance with the Way. Unless we cut off the desire for fame and profit, we cannot live in peace and joy (nirvana) throughout our lifetime.

  1. Ryumon in Japanese. Actually this is the name of a gorge along the Huangghe (the Yellow River).
  2. See 1-1, footnote 13.


Book 6


Dogen instructed,

Whether they seem good or bad, the deeds of a person of the Way, are results of deep consideration. They cannot be fathomed by ordinary people.

A long time ago, Eshin Sozu1 once had someone beat a deer that was eating grass in the garden and drive it away.

Someone asked him, “You seem to lack compassion. Why did you begrudge the grass to the deer and have it driven away?”

The Sozu replied, “If I did not beat it and drive it away, the deer would eventually become familiar with human beings. And if it ever went near an evil person, it would surely be killed. This is why I drove it away.”

Although he seemed lacking in compassion by beating the deer and driving it away, deep in his heart he had compassion.

  1. Genshin (942–1017) was a Tendai priest and a great exponent of Pure Land thought. He is popularly called Eshin Sozu because he lived in Eshin-in at Yokawa on Mt. Hiei. He lost his father when he was young and went up to Mt. Hiei to study Buddhism under Ryogen. His Ojoyoshû laid the foundation for the Japanese Pure Land teaching. Sozu is a rank in the Buddhist hierarchy in Japan.


Book 6


One day Dogen instructed,

When someone asks about the dharma or the essentials of practice, Zen monks must reply on the basis of the true dharma. Do not answer on the basis of expedient means that are not true, thinking the person is not a vessel (of the dharma), or is incapable of understanding because he is only a beginner.

The spirit of the Bodhisattva Precepts1 is that even if a person who is a vessel of hinayana asks the way of hinayana , you should reply only on the basis of mahayana . This is the same as the Tathagata taught during his lifetime. The provisional teaching as an expedient means is really of no value. Ultimately, only the final true teaching is beneficial. Therefore, without being concerned with whether the person can grasp it or not, you must answer only on the basis of the true dharma.

When you see a person, value his true virtue. Do not judge him on his outward appearance or superficial characteristics.

In ancient days, a person came to Confucius2 to become his student. Confucius asked him, “Why do you want to be my disciple?”

The person replied, “When I saw you going to the court, you looked very noble and dignified. So, I wanted to become your student.”

Confucius then asked one of his students to bring his cart, garments, gold, silver, and other treasures. He gave them to the person saying, “It is not me that you respect.” And he sent him away.

Dogen also said,

The Kanpaku (the Chief Advisor to the Emperor) of Uji3 once came to the bathhouse in the court, and watched the person in charge making a fire.

He saw the Kanpaku and said, “Who are you? Why did you come to the bathhouse in the court without permission?”

The Kanpaku was driven out. Then, he took off the shabby clothes he had been wearing and changed into a magnificent costume. When he appeared dressed up the man in charge of the fire spotted him from a distance, became frightened, and fled. The Kanpaku put his robes on the top of a bamboo pole and paid homage to them. Someone asked what he was doing.

He replied, “I am respected by others not because of my virtue but because of this costume.”

Foolish people respect others in this way. Their respect towards words or phrases in the scriptures is the same.

An ancient person said, “Though the words (of statesmen) fill the land, there is no fault on their tongue. The actions (of statesmen) influence the whole country, but there is no one who bears a grudge against them.” This is because they have said what they should say and carried out what they should have carried out. These are the words and actions of ultimate virtue and the essence of the Way. Even in the secular world, if people speak and pass judgment with one-sided personal evaluations, there will be nothing but mistakes. The speech and deeds of Zen monks have been established by our predecessors. Never hold onto personal one-sided views. This is the Way the buddhas and patriarchs have been practicing.

Students of the Way, you should reflect on your own selves. To reflect on your self means to examine how to maintain your own body and mind. You are already the children of the Buddha Shakyamuni. So you must learn the Way of the Tathgata. There is a code of conduct that has been carried out by previous buddhas regarding the manners of body, speech, and mind. Each one of you should follow them.

Even in the secular world, it is said that clothes should be in accordance with the law, speech should be based on the Way. Much more so then should Zen monks never follow their own selfish ideas.

  1. See 1-2, footnote 7.
  2. Confucius (551–479B.C.) was a great Chinese philosopher, the founder of Confucianism.
  3. Fujiwara Yorimichi (992–1074). He built Byodoin Temple in Uji near Kyoto.


Book 6


Dogen instructed,

These days, many people who are learning the Way listen to a talk on the dharma, and above all want their teacher to know that they have a correct understanding and want to give good replies. This is why the words they listen to go in one ear and out the other. They still lack bodhi-mind and remain self-centered.

First of all, forget your ego and listen quietly to what others say, and later ponder it well. Then, if you find some faults or have some doubts, you may make criticism. When you have grasped the point, you should present your understanding to your teacher. Waiting to claim immediate understanding shows that you are not really listening to the dharma.


Book 6


Dogen instructed,

During the reign of Taiso of the To dynasty, a foreign country presented the emperor with a horse that could travel thousands of miles a day. After receiving the horse, he thought to himself joylessly,

“Even if I travel thousands of miles on this excellent horse, it is useless if no retainers follow me.”

Therefore he summoned Gicho1 and asked him about it.

Gicho replied, “I agree with you.”

So, the emperor returned the horse with a load of gold and silk on its back.
Even an emperor in the secular world did not keep what was useless; he returned it. Much more so for Zen monks; besides robes and a bowl, there is nothing at all which is useful. Why store up useless things? Even among lay people, those who completely devote themselves to a certain way do not think it necessary to possess property such as rice paddies, gardens, or manors. They consider everyone in the whole country their own people or family.

In his will to his son, Chiso Hokyo2 said, “You must concentrate your efforts on the Way exclusively.”

Needless to say, as children of the Buddha, you should abandon all affairs and devote yourselves to one thing wholeheartedly. This is the primary thing to bear in mind.

  1. See 2-3, footnote 2.
  2. In the Rufu-bon , Suke no Hokyo. Hokyo (Dharma Bridge) is a rank in the Buddhist hierarchy. Nothing is known about him.


Book 6


Dogen instructed,

Students of the Way, when you practice with a certain teacher and learn the dharma, you should listen thoroughly again and again until you completely understand. If you spend time without asking what should be asked, or without saying what should be said, it will certainly be your own loss. Teachers always await questions from their disciples and give their own comments. You should ask again and again to make sure even of things that you have already understood. Teachers also should ask their disciples whether they have really understood or not, and thoroughly convince them (of the truth of the dharma).


Book 6


Dogen instructed,

The mental attitude of a person of the Way is somewhat different from that of ordinary people. One time when the late Sojo (Archbishop) of Kenninji (Eisai) was still alive, the temple ran completely out of food. At the time, one of the patrons invited the Sojo over and offered him a bolt of silk. The Sojo rejoiced and carried it back to the temple himself, instead of having someone else carry it for him. He gave it to the temple officer who was in charge and told him to use it to pay for the following morning's gruel, etc.

However, a certain layman asked, “A shameful affair happened, so that I need a few bolts of silk. If you have any, could you kindly let me have them?”

The Sojo immediately took back the silk from the temple officer and gave it to the man. At the time, the officer and all the other monks were extremely upset by this. Later the Sojo said, “You may think it was wrong. However, my thinking is that you gather together here because of your aspiration for the Buddha-Way. It should not matter even if we run out of food and starve to death. It is more beneficial to save people in the secular world right now who are suffering from a lack of something they need.”
Truly, the consideration of a person of the Way is like this.


Book 6


Dogen instructed,

All the buddhas and patriarchs were originally ordinary people. While they were ordinary people, they certainly did bad deeds and had evil minds. Some of them were undoubtedly dull or even stupid. However, since they reformed their minds, followed their teachers, and practiced (the Way), they all became buddhas and patriarchs. People today should also be like this. Do not underestimate yourselves because you think you are dull or stupid. If you do not arouse bodhi-mind in this present lifetime, when can you expect to be able to practice the Way? If you force yourselves to practice now, you will surely attain the Way.


Book 6


Dogen instructed,

There is a proverb about the way of the emperor, “If one's heart is not empty, it is impossible to accept loyal advice.” What this means is that without holding personal views, one follows the opinions of loyal ministers and carries out the way of the sovereign according to how things should be.

The attitude of Zen monks practicing the Way should be the same. If you hold on to personal views even slightly, the words of your teacher will not enter your ears. If you don't listen to your teacher's words, you cannot grasp your teacher's dharma. Forget not only the different views on the dharma, but also worldly affairs, and hunger and cold as well. When you listen being completely purified in body and mind, you will be able to hear intimately. When you listen with this attitude, you will be able to clarify the truth and resolve your questions. True attainment of the Way is casting aside body and mind and following your teacher directly. If you maintain this attitude, you will be a true person of the Way. This is a primary secret.