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面山瑞方 Menzan Zuihō (1683-1769)


Menzan Zuihō (面山瑞方 1683-1769) was a Japanese Sōtō Zen scholar and abbot of the Zenjo-ji and Kuin-ji temples active during the Tokugawa era. Born in Ueki, Kyushu, Menzan was the most influential Sōtō Zen writer of his time and his work continue to influence Sōtō Zen scholarship and practice today. Menzan's scholarship was part of the Tokugawa movement of returning to original historical sources to revitalize Zen (復古. "fukko" - "return to the old"), especially the works of Dōgen Zenji. Before Menzan the works of Dōgen were not widely studied or put into practice, he helped revitalize the Sōtō school by analyzing and building on Dogen's writings. Menzan used Dōgen to promote a reform of the Sōtō sect, which included reforming the monastic code and meditation practice. Due to Menzan's efforts, Dōgen studies now occupies a central position in Sōtō Zen thought. Menzan wrote to advocate the use of the old Song dynasty monk's hall system, in which monks ate, slept, and meditated in one large monk's hall, rather than in separate rooms as was commonly practiced in Japan at the time. Menzan was the most prolific Sōtō zen scholar, having written over a hundred titles of detailed scholarship on monastic regulations, precepts, ordination, dharma transmission and philology. Menzan was also involved in lecturing to the public and teaching laymen and laywomen meditation practice. One of his most famous works, the Buddha Samadhi (Jijuyu Zanmai) is addressed to laypeople and focuses on the teachings of Dōgen.


Dharma lineage (hōkei 法系)

峨山韶碩 Gasan Jōseki (1275-1366)

太源宗真 Taigen Sōshin (?-1371)

梅山聞本 Baizan Monpon (?-1417)

傑堂能勝 Ketsudō Nōshō   (1355-1422)

南英謙宗 Nan'ei Kenshū (1387-1460)

瑚海仲珊 Kokai Chūsan (1390-1469 )

德嶽宗欽 Tokugaku Sōkin

太安梵守 Taian Bonshu (1407-1482)

審巌正察 Shingan Shōsatsu (?-1491)

固剛宗厳 Kogō Sōgon

天初蘂源 Tensho Zuigen (1451-1524)

大光元可 Daikō Genka

源菴守真 Genan Shushin

當山禅徹 [透山禪徹] Tōsan Zentetsu

霊庵宗鷲 [靈庵宗鷲] Ryōan Sōju

祥屋清吉 [祥屋盛吉] Shō'oku Seikichi

九山光天 Kyūsan Kōten

鱗庵光金 Rinan Kōkin

天國隆梵 Tenkoku Ryūbon

在智圭存 Zaichi Keizon

俊岩圭逸 Shungan Kei'itsu

學州存逸 Gakushū Sonitsu (?-1692)

可山洞悅 [可山投悦 / 可山叟 悦] Kasan Tōetsu (1637-1707)

損翁宗益 Sonnō Shūeki (1650-1705)

面山瑞方 [芳] Menzan Zuihō (1683-1769)

衡田祖量 Kōda Soryō (1702-1779)

斧山玄鈯 Fuzan Gentotsu (?-1789)

壽山智量 Shūzan Chiryō

瑞巖建宗 Zuigan Kenshū




Ken-O and his disciple Menzan (1683-1769) were eating a melon together. Suddenly the master asked, "Tell me, where does all this sweetness come from?"
"Why," Menzan quickly swallowed and answered, "it's a product of cause and effect."
"Bah! That's cold logic!"
"Well," Menzan said, "from where then?"
"From the very 'where' itself, that's where."

L. Stryk and T. Ikemoto, eds., Zen: Poems, Prayers, Sermons, Anecdotes, Interviews (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1963), p. 107.


Jijuyū-zanmai (“Samadhi of the Self”)
by Menzan Zuiho Zenji
in Shikantaza: An Introduction to Zazen, edited and translated by Shohaku Okumura
Kyoto Soto-Zen Center, 1985

Although a great many people practice zazen, most practice in the way of ordinary people, Hinayana practitioners, or bodhisattvas within the expedient Mahayana. Those who understand
jijuyu-zanmai as the realm of true enlightenment of all buddhas are rare.

That is why some, by wrestling with koans, hurry on their way to gain enlightenment. Some struggle within themselves, searching for the subject of seeing and hearing. Some try to rid themselves of their thoughts in order to reach the pleasant place of no-mind, no-thought. Many methods of practicing zazen were advocated in China’s Song, Yuan, and Ming dynasties.

Koan practice began in the Song dynasty in China. There was no such practice during the time of Bodhidharma or Eno (Huineng, the 6th patriarch). This tradition did not originate with Seigen (Qingyuan) or Nangaku (Nanyoe). It was established during the Song dynasty. Although some have said that koan practice was started by Obaku Kiun (Huangbo Xiyun), there is no basis for supporting this to be the case. It is nonsense to say that Obaku suggested that his students learn the koan of Joshu’s Mu (the story of a dog’s Buddha-nature) since Obaku had already died when Joshu talked about it. Also, not all koans were created in order to encourage people to practice zazen.

Searching for the subject of seeing and hearing is also useless. The harder you look for the subject, the more you will become tired of wastefully struggling, since what is seeking and what is being sought cannot be separated. Understand that your eyes cannot see themselves. Arousing the mind to eliminate thoughts is rather like pouring oil on a fire to extinguish it. The fire will blaze with increasing strength.

There are many other ways to practice zazen, but among these the properly transmitted original way is not to be found. This is why Dogen Zenji criticized the Zazengi, Zazenshin or Zazenmei in the Keitoku-Dento-roku and the Katai-Futo-roku, etc, saying that none expressed the Way which has been properly transmitted. The Zazengi in Zennen-Shingi written by Choro Sosaku Zenji (Zhanglu Zongze) is appreciated by many teachers, both in China and Japan. Nevertheless, Dogen Zenji criticized it, saying it had lost the essential point of the patriarchs’ teaching. This Zazengi is presently the last part of the Shiburoku.

Why did he criticize his predecessors’ teachings? The Song dynasty teachers thought that we are all deluded and that if we practiced zazen, we could gain enlightenment. They also thought that, after gaining enlightenment, there would be no further need to practice zazen. They compared it to needing a boat to reach the other shore, but, upon arrival, having no further use for the boat.

Modern man often practices zazen in this manner. This is the attitude of ordinary people. Hinayana practitioners, and bodhisattvas within the expedient-Mahayana practice of zazen.
They aspire to rid themselves of delusions and to gain enlightenment; to eliminate illusory thoughts and to obtain the truth. Such an attitude is just another form of dualism in that one escapes from one thing and chases after another. If we think this kind of practice is the same as that transmitted by the buddhas and patriarchs, as the Tathagata’s zanmai-o-zanmai, or as Bodhidharma’s sitting facing the wall for nine years, these also become mere methods to rid oneself of delusions and to obtain enlightenment. What a pitiful view!

In the last several hundred years, a great many have had this attitude, both in China and Japan. All mistake a tile for gold, or a fish eye for a jewel, because they do not yet clearly understand the essence of the great dharma.

The true zazen which has been transmitted by the buddhas and patriarchs is the Tathagata’s jijuyu-zanmai; it is the state in which the body and mind (self) of perfect nirvana always peacefully abide.

In the Lotus Sutra, the Tathagata’s zazen is called the samadhi of infinite meanings. In the Mahaprajna Paramita Sutra, it is called the King of Samadhis. It is referred to as zanmai-o-zanmai in the Daibon Hannyakyo, and Zen Master Tozan Ryokai called it the samadhi of the precious mirror.

Obviously, we do not practice zazen to get rid of delusion or to gain enlightenment. When the Buddha transmitted this zazen to the Venerable Mahakashapa, he called it shobogenzo-nehan-myoshin. Zen Master Sekito Kisen expressed it in Sandokai by saying, ‘The essence of the great master in India has been transmitted intimately from person to person in both East and West.’

Tozan Zenji also said, ‘The dharma of nyoze (suchness, or as-it-is-ness, the Reality of Life) has been transmitted intimately through the buddhas and patriarchs.’ This nehanmyoshin was transmitted for twenty-eight generations, right up to Bodhidharma in India.
This great master came to China and transmitted the same samadhi to the second patriarch Eka (Huiko). We must learn Bodhidharma’s teaching thoroughly. What is his teaching? - to live facing the wall without wavering and to see that ordinary people and sages are one and the same. We must fully penetrate the marvelous saying of the second patriarch, ‘Always be clearly aware.’

The essence of their teaching was transmitted through twenty-three generations, to Nyojo (Rujing) of Mt. Tendo, of the Song dynasty. Dogen Zenji went to China, practiced under Nyojo Zenji, and received the transmission of this jijuyu-zanmai. After he returned to Japan, he advocated this samadhi, calling it dropping-off body and mind, body and mind dropped off. This is another name for anuttara-samyak-sambodhi (ultimate awareness). This awareness transcends the ranks of ordinary people, Hinayana, and the ten stages of bodhisattvas. Therefore, it is said, ‘Directly penetrate the
reality of the Tathagata. Just be aware of the fundamental reality, and do not worry about trifling things.’

The practice of the six paramitas of bodhisattvas and all of the 84,000 ‘dharma-gates’ of Buddhism are without exception included in this jijuyu-zanmai. This is why it is said in the Shodoka, ‘As soon as you clarify the Tathagata-Zen, the six paramitas and all other practices are complete within yourself.’

It is said in another sutra, ‘When you sit, be aware of reality. All evil is like frost or a drop of dew - if you settle in this samadhi, all evil will disappear as promptly as frost or a drop of dew disappears under the sun.’

In Shodoka we find the expression, ‘Being aware of Reality there is neither object nor subject, and we are immediately released from the karma of the hell of incessant suffering.’

When you sit in this samadhi, you will enter directly into the realm of the Tathagata. Therefore it is endowed with the limitless virtue of the roots of goodness, the limitless obstructions of one’s evil deeds caused by evil karma will disappear without a trace. As this samadhi is the truly incomparable, great dharma wheel, and the practice of going beyond buddhahood, it is beyond words and discriminating thoughts.

If you were to encounter such true dharma in the infinite eons of transmigration in the rounds of life and death, even one day of your life would be more precious than millions of years without the true dharma. Therefore, waste no time; devote yourself diligently to this samadhi, cherishing every second.

Now I will explain in detail the Way to clarify and rely on this samadhi. This is done simply by not clouding the light of your true Self. When the light of the Self is clear, do not fall into either dullness or distraction. The Third Patriarch said in Shinjinmei (Verses on the Believing Mind), ‘When the cloudless light illuminates itself, there is no need to make mental effort.’
This is the essential principle of the practice and enlightenment of this samadhi.

‘The cloudless light’ means the light of the Self. ‘Not to make mental effort’ means not to add affective and intellectual thoughts and discriminations. When you make mental efforts, the brightness becomes the darkness of your own emotion-thoughts.
If you do not make mental effort, the darkness becomes the Self-illumination of the brightness. This is the meaning of the Third Patriarch’s ‘Light of a jewel illuminates the jewel itself.’

It is like the light of the sun or moon illuminating everything - mountains, rivers, human beings, dogs, et cetera - equally, without differentiation or evaluation. Also, a mirror reflects everything without bothering to discriminate among the objects.

In this jijuyu-zanmai, you should just keep the Light (of the Self) unclouded without discriminating among objects. This is the meaning of Wanshi Zenji’s expression in his Zazenshin;
(The Acupuncture Needle of Zazen):

Be-all of the Buddhas and end-all of the patriarchs
Knowing without being attached to things
Illuminating without setting up objects

When, through practice, you learn the reality of zazen thoroughly, the frozen blockage of emotion-thought will naturally melt away. If you think that you have cut off illusory thoughts, instead of clarifying how emotion-thought melts, the emotion-thought will come up again, as though you had cut the stem of a blade of grass or the trunk of a tree and left the root alive.

For this reason, when you practice the buddha-dharma, you must study the essence of practice-enlightenment of buddhas and patriarchs under the guidance of a true teacher to whom the dharma has been properly transmitted; otherwise, you will be wasting your time, no matter how long or hard you practice.

Fundamental delusion (ignorance of the Reality) is called emotion-thought. It is the source of the rounds of life and death from the beginningless beginning. It is our discriminating mind which obstinately clings to body, mind, and all things, as being the way we have perceived and recognized them until now.

Emotion-thought is the root of delusion; that is, a stubborn attachment to a one-sided point of view formed by our own conditioned perception.

Originally, all things are free from emotion-thought and beyond evaluation or differentiation. You must realize this clearly and without doubt.

Now, because people are blinded with illusory thoughts, they cannot clearly and thoroughly see the Reality of the whole body of all beings. Consequently, they view things as good or evil, being or non-being, life or death, sentient beings or buddha. If their eyes were open, however, they could not help but realize that the knowledge or perspective acquired through their personal experience is not the whole of Reality.

Therefore, no one can be free of delusion until emotion-thought has dropped off. No matter how diligently one continues to do good deeds, if these deeds are based on a blinded mind, the result will be only a limited happiness in the world of human or heavenly beings, for such good deeds still belong to the defiled causation in the six worlds of samsara.

In the Maha-prajna Paramita Sutra, it is said that even though you may practice the five paramitas (giving, observing the precepts, patience, diligence and dhyana), all of your practices remain within the realm of defiled causation of human or heavenly beings unless you practice prajna-paramita. Such practices are not that of anuttara-samyak-sambodhi (ultimate awareness, enlightenment).

To practice prajna-paramita means that the light of the wisdom of jijuyu-zanmai illuminates and dispels the darkness of the ignorance of emotion-thought. If the Light of the Self is clear, even a small good deed is the practice of incomparable enlightenment, since the deed was performed prior to discriminating mind. Therefore, you should not concern yourself with anything but leaving behind emotion-thought, cutting the root of delusion, and emitting the light of jijuyu-zanmai, opening the eye of prajna (wisdom). This is buddha’s wisdom and it is also the true path of practicing the Buddha-Way.

In the Lotus Sutra, it is said,

Everything buddhas do is to teach bodhisattvas.
All that they do is for just one purpose, that is,
to show sentient beings buddha’s wisdom.

Buddha’s wisdom means that buddhas see and know all things free from emotion-thought. Therefore, buddhas enable sentient beings to leave behind emotion-thought (limited views) and to gain a wisdom equal to that of buddhas. This is the core of the teachings of all buddhas past, present and future, and is also the essence of the teachings of all patriarchs in each and every generation.

The distinction of the ten worlds (hell dweller, hungry-ghost, animal, asura, human being, heavenly being, sravaka, pratyeka-buddha, bodhisattva and buddha), and judging them as either good or evil, arises from emotion thought. This is because we are bound by the thought and discrimination of emotion-thought, and fabricate the boundaries between realms, defining one as superior to another, or one as good and another evil.

The Tathagata peacefully abides in the realm of buddha which is beyond thinking and discriminating, radiates the great light of virtue, and illuminates all sentient beings in the ten worlds who are bound by thinking and discriminating. Therefore, these sentient beings can be released from the limitation of each world and be caused to realize the enlightenment of buddha. It is like the frozen snow on the high mountains which melts when the spring sun shines upon it. Therefore, in the Lotus Sutra, it is said that only a buddha together with a buddha can fathom the Reality of the whole dharma. This means that this dharma cannot be grasped by thinking and discriminating.

Since this samadhi cannot be grasped by thought or discrimination, those commentators on sutras and sastras (commentaries) who try only to interpret the meaning of the words, cannot fathom it, not matter how intelligent they are. Only when we sit zazen in the present are our eyes opened to the realm which is beyond thought and discrimination. We simply illuminate our thoughts which, moment by moment, arise and pass away, and refrain from creating attraction or repulsion and hatred or love. For one who is a Tathagata, what one does in zazen is expressed as radiating the great light, illuminating all the worlds in the ten directions, and releasing all sentient beings from suffering.

Furthermore, our practice-enlightenment of this samadhi is the cause, while the Tathagata’s dwelling in this samadhi is the result. Within cause, we actualize the result, and within result, the Tathagata completes the cause. Therefore, cause and result are not two. They are beyond the argument of whether they are the same or different. They are outside of logic and reason. They are called the cause of Buddha and the result of Buddha. This is also the meaning of the expression ‘head is right, tail is right’. Therefore, the zazen which we are presently practicing is the Tathagata’s samadhi. The samadhi of the Tathagata is our zazen. There is no difference between them at all. There is not the slightest distinction of superior or inferior.

Expressing this same idea, the Shodoka says:

The dharma-body of the Tathagata enters into my own nature;
my nature becomes one with the Tathagata.
One level completely contains all levels. It is
neither material, mind, nor activity. In an instant
eighty-thousand dharma-gates are completed;
in a twinkling the three kalpas pass away.

Just as our zazen is the same as that of the great master Bodhidharma, so it is the same as the sitting of all the patriarchs, and likewise their zazen is no different from the Tathagata’s King of Samadhis. Wanshi Zenji expressed this in his Zazen-shin (The Acupuncture Needle of Zazen) as ‘(Zazen is) the be-all of the buddhas and the end-all of the patriarchs.

Dogen Zenji expressed this in the Shobogenzo Zanmai as follows:

That which directly goes beyond the whole world is kekkafuza (sitting in full lotus). It is what is most venerable in the house of the buddhas and patriarchs. Only this practice transcends the pinnacle of buddhas and patriarchs.

We must understand that this is the ultimate, unsurpassable samadhi which continually goes beyond everything. For this reason, all buddhas in all worlds in the ten directions, in the past, present and future, always dwell in zazen. We must know that there is no other teaching or practice superior to this zazen. This is the essential meaning of the practice-enlightenment of Zanmai-ozanmai (the King of Samadhis), shobogenzo-nehanmyoshin (the Treasury of the True Dharma Eye, Wondrous Mind of Nirvana) beyond emotion-thought, which has been properly transmitted by buddhas and patriarchs.


Meditation for Laymen and Laywomen
The Buddha Samādhi (Jijuyū Zanmai) of Menzan Zuihō

by David E. Riggs
In: Zen Classics: Formative Texts in the History of Zen Buddhism (2006

The text that is discussed in this chapter is about meditative practice and it confronts this misunderstanding in its very title, which emphasizes the ultimate realm of the awakening of the Buddha, not the details of meditation technique. The Buddha Samadhi (Jijuyū zanmai) is an informal piece written by Menzan Zuihō (1683-1769) during the early years of his teaching career at the request of laymen and laywomen, and was published some twenty years later in 1737. Menzan was a learned monk and a leading figure in the comprehensive reforms, which were sweeping the Sōtō schools during the eighteenth century. The expressed intention of the text is to help ordinary people to practice meditation, but the text is in fact an extended sermon in praise of the teaching of Dōgen (1200-1255), who is now regarded as both the founder and the source of all teachings for the Sōtō school.


The Zen of Books and Practice: The Life of Menzan Zuihō and His Reformation of Sōtō Zen
by David Riggs
In: Zen Masters / edited by Steven Heine and Dale S. Wright. New York, 2010. Chapter 6.

The Life of Menzan Zuihō, Founder of Dōgen Zen
by David E. Riggs
Japan Review, 2004, 16 : 67-100.

Menzan Zuihō (1683-1769) was one of the most illustrious writers and reformers of Japanese Sōtō Zen Buddhism in the Tokugawa period (1603-1867). Menzan is thought of primarily as a meticulous and hard working editor of the writings of Dōgen (1200-1253), the founder of the Sōtō lineage, but under the cloak of simply returning to the old ways, Menzan used the long neglected texts of Dōgen in entirely new ways to create a reconstituted tradition based on careful textual learning rather than on secretly transmitted lore. After his early years in Kyushu, where he came under the influence of the newly imported Chinese Buddhism called Ōbaku Zen, Menzan traveled to the capital where he came into contact with early proponents of a new focus on Dōgen. Menzan spent most of his later life in Obama City north of Kyoto, first as abbot of Kūinji, and then doing his research and writing at a nearby hermitage. In addition to his work on Dōgen, he did fundamental research on monastic regulations, precepts, ordination, and dharma transmission. Menzan's groundbreaking research into all aspects of Zen texts and teaching set a new standard for Sōtō Zen learning and created a framework for Sōtō thinking and practice which persists to this day. With over one hundred titles to his credit, most of which saw print during his lifetime, Menzan's output dwarfs all other authors of his school. Although Menzan presented himself a conservative editor and historian, in fact he brought about sweeping changes in the doctrinal basis and the daily practice of Sōtō Zen.


Are Sōtō Zen Precepts for Ethical Guidance or Ceremonial Transformation?
Menzan's Attempted Reforms and Contemporary Practices
by David E. Riggs

Precept Practice and Theory in Sōtō Zen by David E. Riggs. Working Draft.


"The Rekindling of a Tradition: Menzan Zuihō and the Reform of Japanese Sōtō Zen in the Tokugawa Era."
PhD dissertation at UCLA in 2002
by David E. Riggs


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).


桃水和尚傳贊 Tōsui oshō densan

Letting Go: The Story of Zen Master Tōsui
Biography of 桃水雲渓 Tōsui Unkei (1612-1683) by Menzan Zuihō
Translated with an Introduction by Peter Haskel
University of Hawai‘i Press, Honolulu, 2001