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Steven Heine (1950-)



Books on Dōgen


Books on Zen Buddhism

Co-Edited Series with Dale S. Wright

Edited Books by Masao Abe

Books on Asian Religion in Contemporary Culture: East & West


A Day in the Life


Steven Heine

Chapter 4, in: Dogen: Textual and Historical Studies. Edited by Steven Heine - Editor. Oxford University Press. New York. 2012

In a hundred thousand kalpas encompassing the cycles of
life and death, a single day of sustained practice is a bright
pearl in a topknot or an ancient mirror that lives and dies in
conjunction [with buddhas], and is a joyous day reflecting
the joyful effort of sustained practice itself.” Gyōji


Thematic Tensions within “Gyōji”

The “Gyōji” fascicle of the Shōbōgenzō 1 provides Dōgen's listing and exposition of the significance of the ancestors (Ch. zushi , Jp. soshi ), known for their recorded sayings (Ch. yulu , Jp. goroku ) that he considers to be the most pertinent for his inheritance of the Chan/Zen lineage. This is the closest his writings come to the approach taken by the transmission of the lamp records (Ch. chuandeng lu; Jp. dentōroku ) that document the hagiographies of leading masters. This text by Sōtō Zen's founder (or kōso ) also resembles the Denkōroku by Keizan, the eminent fourth ancestor (also known as taiso ), which is a collection of essays on the sect's 52 ancestors, including Dōgen and his main disciple Ejō as the final representatives. However, “Gyōji” is somewhat less systematic in structure and lengthy in substance than is Keizan's work. A two-part composition that was, according to the colophon, first recorded as a sermon on the fifth day of the fourth month of 1242 and edited by Ejō on the eighteenth day of the first month of 1243, it appears as a single fascicle in the 95-fascicle edition (no. 30; see Table 4.1) and the 75-fascicle edition (no. 16) of the Shōbōgenzō . It also is included as two separate units in the 60-fascicle edition (nos. 16 and 17).

“Gyōji” offers a hagiographical discussion of32 ancestors in35 sections— Mazu (5–33) and Yunju (7–18) are both treated twice, and the list also includes


Emperor Xuanzong from the ninth century who was a strong Buddhist supporter. The ancestors range from Indian Buddhist figures Sakyamuni (1), Mahakasyapa (2), and Parsva (3), discussed at the beginning of Part I, to first Chinese ancestor Bodhidharma (25) cited in Part II and other leaders, culminating in Caodong (Jp. Sōtō) master Furong Daokai (32) (Jp. Fūyū Dōkai) and Dōgen's mentor Tiantong Rujing (35) (Jp. Tendō Nyojō). Rujing's role is highlighted in three paragraphs at the penultimate section of the fascicle's second division for espousing a form of training that is superior in authenticity and efficacy to all others. The list of masters is somewhat mysteriously nonsequential and seemingly erratic or out of order in some cases, but in the final analysis, the majority of these figures represent either Mazu's Hongzhou school, which gave rise to the various Linji (Jp. Rinzai) branches, or the Shitou lineage that eventually led to the development of the Caodong school. Thus, a wide variety of Chan leaders who reflect the major historical streams of lineal affiliation are portrayed in “Gyōji,” although it is clear that the Caodong lineage gets favored treatment, particularly toward the end of Part II.

This text is one of several Shōbōgenzō fascicles that are unique in varying ways. The majority of fascicles focus on Mahayana Buddhist doctrines explicated in terms of Zen kōan literature, which Dōgen often radically reinterprets, and “Gyōji” does contain some of this element. In contrast to the generally thematicbased nature of the great majority of Dōgen's works, this fascicle is centered on the authenticity of daily life rather than the rhetoric of explicating doctrine. The opening passage presents an abstract philosophical discourse on the meaning of practice as related to the metaphysics of temporality in a way that is contiguous with some of Dōgen's writings like the “Uji” fascicle. For the most part, however, “Gyōji” uses concrete examples representing diverse streams of Chan from its origins to through the Song dynasty to show why the ancestors deserve to be venerated. The masters are selected and recognized not for espousing high-minded ideas or sophisticated literary styles, but for displaying spiritual ideals. This is evident in their unrelenting commitment to the strict regimen of everyday religious practice ( gyōji ) carried out in all aspects of their behavior over the course of an entire career.

This 760-year old text received special scholarly attention in the first decade of the 21st century through the publication of the two major works that deal with the distinctive fascicle in complementary ways. The first is a two-volume modern Japanese translation ( gendaigoyaku ) with commentary by prominent literary critic Yasuraoka Kōsaku, who has published extensively on Kamakura-era Buddhist works such as Heike monogatari and Chōmei's Hōjōki? The other important study is a detailed examination of the fascicle's contents by the noted scholar of Chan history, Ishii Shūdō, who has authored many works on Dōgen and who was inspired to undertake the massive study in part by Yasuraoka's work. 3 Taken


together, these books emphasize that “Gyōji” plays a crucial role in articulating Dōgen's views—and the tensions carried within them—concerning lineal identity in relation to Chinese Chan and the establishment of the Sōtō sect in Japan.

As Yasuraoka and Ishii both show, some of the questions that arise in examining “Gyōji” concern the reasons for the division of the fascicle into two parts and the relation between these sections, along with the sources Dōgen cites regarding the lives and teachings of the ancestors, as seen in connection with materials and resources he evokes in other writings. Although it seems different from other Dōgen writings, “Gyōji” cannot be examined in isolation, but must be looked at in terms of whether it supports and/or counters the approach expressed elsewhere in his corpus. One of the main aims of studying the sections and sources of the fascicle is to understand how Dōgen endorses both a universal pan-sectarianism that embraces all streams and includes many elements of the Linji/Rinzai school and a highly polemical pro-sectarian standpoint linked to a harsh criticism of rival outlooks in support of Caodong/Sōtō. In the final analysis, as I will show, Dōgen's main interest lies in exhorting his band of followers with the carpe diem spirit of Zen practice in the midst of fleeting existence, regardless of labels and divisions, based on the significance of the notion of gyōji dōkan , or unbroken continuing practice forming the “circle of the Way.”


Functions of Chan Lineage

To clarify the significance of lineage in Dōgen's appropriation of Chinese Chan sources applied to the formation of Japanese Zen, it must be noted that several prominent figures in traditional lineage charts play a dual role in serving as receivers who culminate a lineal transmission and as founders of a new legacy in a different land or realm. 4 For example, Sakyamuni is listed as the last of the seven primordial buddhas, as well as the first ancestor of the historical process of transmitting the teaching beginning in the sixth century BCE. Coming a millennium later, Bodhidharma is considered the 28th and final example of the ancestors in India who became the founder of the Chan school after he traveled and propagated his teaching and practice in China. Similarly, Dōgen, who established Eiheiji as the first head temple of the Sōtō sect, was the successor of the Chinese Caodong lineage, which he brought back to his native country through ordination bequeathed by mentor Rujing, at Mount Tiantong monastery, near what is now the city of Ningbo (traditionally Mingzhou) in Zhejiang Province. According to the Denkōroku by Keizan,

Just as Bodhidharma, the 28th Indian ancestor, entered China and became
the first Chinese ancestor, so Dōgen became the 51st Chinese ancestor [of
Caodong] and the first ancestor [of Sōtō] in Japan. Thus, Dōgen is revered


as the founding ancestor of our school. Although China was full of
authentic teachers, if Dōgen had not met a true master and penetrated his
study, how could we have unfolded and clarified his treasury of the true
Dharma-eye? 5

Modern historians note that Dōgen actually received three different transmissions during the formative years of his career. The other two instances include his induction into Japanese Tendai, which took place when he was first ordained as a monk in 1213, on Mount Hiei, by receiving the bodhisattva precepts; and his ordination in the Huanglong (Jp. Ōryū) stream of the Rinzai Zen lineage, which was established by Eisai and developed by his disciple Myōzen at Kenninji temple in Kyoto. After leaving Mount Hiei because of his doubt concerning the consistency of the notion of original enlightenment ( hongaku shisō ), which seemed to preclude the need for meditation, Dōgen again received the bodhisattva precepts when he began training at Kenninji for about six years, before accompanying Myōzen on a pilgrimage to China in 1223. 6

However, it is the tutelage under Rujing and, in particular, the breakthrough insight of casting off body-mind ( shinjin datsuraku ) gained during a prolonged session of zazen during the summer retreat of 1225 that are most important as the experiences shaping Dōgen's ideology and determining the substance and style of his distinctive approach to Zen theory and practice. Dōgen's role as founder and transmitter of Sōtō Zen was based on his reception of face-to-face ( menju ) transmission from Rujing, as depicted in Hōkyōki , a collection of dialogues between master and disciple, and a number of passages in other sources, including Shōbōgenzō (especially “Menju”), Eihei kōroku (especially 1.48), and Shōbōgenzō zuimonki , along with the traditional biographies, Denkōroku and Kenzeiki .

Despite the overwhelming emphasis on the importance of the Caodong transmission received from Rujing, and perhaps because of his ecumenical and trans-sectarian background, Dōgen's writings exhibit a complex and seemingly contradictory view of the meaning and significance of the transmission of Zen lineage as something he at once adamantly rejects or repudiates and firmly supports or defends. On the one hand, from an idealistic and universalistic perspective, in several writings, Dōgen dismisses sectarianism and discards the labeling of the Zen sect altogether in favor of a pan-Buddhist view of the spread of the Dharma. This standpoint, which rejects those who cling to the term Zen as “scoundrels,” is forcefully expressed in the “Butsudō” fascicle, as well as in the “Gyōji” section on Bodhidharma and in fascicle seven of Eihei kōroku . Focusing on the role of any autonomous sect, school, or stream goes against the grain and will ultimately have a deleterious effect on the Buddha's teachings. In that context, Dōgen endorses zazen practice not because it is unique to Zen but because it was always practiced by all buddhas since the time of Sakyamuni's enlightenment.


Furthermore, it is not clear if Dōgen's fledgling movement was designated with the term “sect” (shūi) during his lifetime. Perhaps the moniker was derived from later developments, particularly through the dissemination of Sōtō by Keizan, who established the second main temple at Sōjiji, which became the center of a wide network of expansionism through the conversion of existing Tendai and Shingon temples. At the same time, from a more pragmatic and localized standpoint, Dōgen was very much concerned with championing the legacy of his lineage stemming from Rujing, especially in seeking to promote his movement in the face of obstacles and opponents within the highly competitive religious environment of the early Kamakura period. He is even more scathing about the “ignorant skin-bags” who are too worthless to know enough to admire and respect Rujing's method of teaching than he is about supporters of the Zen sect.

The 13th century in Japan was a dynamic historical era in which a variety of new Buddhist schools were forming quickly, including Zen, Pure Land, and Nichiren, among others, with each emphasizing a distinctive approach to ritual practice and the theology of salvation. However, the schools were challenged and at times threatened by complex sociopolitical circumstances and critics, both within and outside of the mainstream Tendai Buddhist church, which was rapidly fading in power and prestige. All of the new sects had to be approved and registered by the government, and could be punished with proscription or exile if they fell out of favor, including the early Zen-based Daruma-shū movement developed by Dainichi Nōnin, which was attacked for antinomian tendencies by Eisai in the 1190s and prohibited and disbanded by the government in 1228.

The keyphase of Dōgen's at times fierce defense of sectarianism was the period in the early 1240s, which led to his moving from the capital to the remote mountains of Echizen province in the summer of 1243. During this stage, several different developments seemed to cause him to champion the Sōtō school as superior and to highlight Rujing while denigrating apparent rivals or opponents. First, he inherited a number of followers from the Daruma-shū. Dainichi himself had never been to China, but sent a couple of disciples who received transmission from Deguang of the Linji branch linked to the famed 12th-century monk, Dahui. This may have led to Dōgen's focus on face-to-face experience as the only valid method of transmission, as well as his harsh criticism of Dahui and his followers. Ejō was from the Daruma-shū and became Dōgen's disciple in 1234, and the other erstwhile members of this movement who joined Dōgen at Kōshōji in Kyoto in 1241 had been occupying a temple in Echizen that was not far from where Eiheiji was going to be established just a couple of years later.

At this time, Dōgen may have felt vulnerable when Enni, who studied at the Linji school's head temple of Mount Jing in China for six years, returned to Japan and was favored by the authorities, especially Emperor Go-Saga, with a large new temple constructed for him at Tōfukuji. This was just up the road in southeast


Kyoto from, and it dwarfed, Dōgen's temple at Kōshōji. Dōgen was also starting to become largely dependent on the patronage of Hatano Yoshishige, who owned land in Echizen and may have sought to have the Zen master distinguish his movement from that of rival schools, in part to gain favor with the Hōjō shogunate, which invited Dōgen to preach in the new capital at Kamakura. Finally, on the fifth day of the eighth month of 1242, Dōgen received a copy of the recorded sayings of Rujing (Ch. Rujingyulu , Jp. Nyojō goroku ), which he may have thought was not fully representative of the greatness of his mentor's teachings. Reading over this text may have instigated Dōgen to stress in his own writings the unique flavor of Rujing's approach, which he had experienced first-hand in China but was not captured in the official record. This also probably caused Dōgen to begin to focus, in addition to Furong, on the role of Hongzhi, the eminent Caodong monk and rival of Dahui, who preceded Rujing by two generations as a long-term abbot of Mount Tiantong. 7


Why Two Parts?

As Yasuraoka shows, there are 13 main editions of the “Gyōji” fascicle originally held in various Sōtō temples, including four editions of the 75-fascicle Shōbōgenzō text version, two editions of the 60-fascicle text version, and one edition of the 95-fascicle text version. In addition, there are two editions of a lesser-known 83-fascicle version and one each of 84-fascicle, 78-fascicle, 96-fascicle, and 89fascicle versions. 8 Whether it is counted as one or two fascicles, “Gyōji” is always divided into two parts, with the first section containing masters 1–24 and the second section masters 25–35 in a total of 42 paragraphs. This total includes multiple paragraphs for certain ancestors and additional writings on the meaning of gyōji , especially at the beginning (paragraphs 1–5) and middle (19–20) of Part I and at the very end of Part II (42).

What is the relation between the two divisions of “Gyōji”? In considering this question, it is important to note that one of the characteristics of both parts of the text is that, while chronological sequence is followed at first, there are quite a few notable exceptions. For example, Huangbo (22) appears after his disciple Linji (21) and Mazu, who is included in both parts, appears after Furong in the second division. It is difficult to understand the reasons for this breach of chronology as, at first read, it does not seem to be a case—otherwise typical of Dōgen's approach to appropriating Chinese sources—of taking poetic license with convention in order to make a specific ideological point. Perhaps Dōgen was preemptive of modern historical criticism of the fanciful elements of Chan transmission records by showing that he could avoid the “string of pearls” fallacy in his utilizing, but without being wedded to, the traditional narrative of generation-togeneration lineage. In this way, his aim was to accomplish for Japanese Buddhism


what Eisai had not done, which is the extraction of the Zen element from the fourfold formula of Tendai's approach, namely, the Perfect Teaching-EsotericismMeditation-Precepts ( en-mitsu-zen-kai) .

Because of ambiguities and inconsistencies in the traditional dating of events, the history of the formation of “Gyōji” is difficult to determine. Ishii speculates for reasons internal to the text that Part II was the original draft completed on the fifth day of the first month of 1242, prior to the composition of Part I, which was written subsequently, and that Ejō finalized the editing of the entire scroll on the eighteenth day of the first month of 1243. In doing so, Ejō apparently decided to place the section that was composed later as the first of the two parts, and it is safe to assume that Dōgen consented or even suggested this since he was very much involved in editing the Shōbōgenzō . In other words, the former date does not refer to the composition of the two sections, as is often understood, so that the latter date refers to the time when the sequence of the sections was set. In between the two dates was the time of the reception of Rujing's record, which no doubt greatly affected Dōgen's standpoint in regards to “Gyōji” and probably motivated him to revise and perhaps expand the section in Part II dealing with his mentor.

Ishii feels that the second division's introductory discussion of bringing the Dharma to the “remote outpost” of Japan—much as Bodhidharma once courageously brought it to China—as well as its emphasis on the Caodong lineage stretching from Shitou (27) to Furong and Rujing indicate that this was the initial draft. Afterward, Ishii argues, Dōgen must have decided to provide additional background, as well as praise and commentary for a wider variety of masters without regard to lineage. Since this section begins with introductory comments leading up to the role of Sakyamuni, Ejō placed it first. Dōgen also probably felt that the founder of the Caodong school, Dongshan (17), whose entry is very short compared to Zhaozhou's, for example, along with prominent Song dynasty master Hongzhi (15), a second-generation successor to Furong, was neglected and needed to be included. The only other Song figure Dōgen cites in Part I is Wuzu Fayan (14) in the Rinzai-Yangqi lineage, and both of these masters are for some reason treated before predecessors Dongshan and Yunju (7 and 18), among others.



“Gyōji” is unique because it deals with so many different Chan masters in a single fascicle, but at the same time, it shows the trend found in different ways throughout the Shōbōgenzō to reference directly or indirectly and to interpret creatively a tremendous diversity of sources. The remarkable richness of Dōgen's writings is seen in the way they are open to multiple texts and perspectives from


Sino-Japanese Buddhist literature. The studies of Yasuraoka highlight the extraordinary level of intertextuality infusing Dōgen's works with Chinese Chan and Japanese literary citations and allusions, as well as the extensive intratextual function within Dōgen's corpus of referring back and forth to the sources.

The approaches of Yasuraoka and Ishii are overlapping yet complementaryin that they use Dōgen's writings as a window by which to view the flow of textual predecessors, antecedents, influences, and parallels. Both scholars highlight the impact of the Lotus Sutra and the seminal transmission of the lamp text, the Jingde chuandeng lu , which is the primary source for many of the anecdotes of the ancestors, in addition to Chinese sources like the Zhuangzi . But, for the most part, the two scholars pursue different directions. Yasuraoka naturally focuses on Japanese literary and linguistic elements and Ishii on Chan texts that Dōgen had studied in China and was importing and introducing to his native country.

Yasuraoka's opening statement in the preface to the first volume is the disclaimer, “I am not a Buddhist studies scholar. I am not a religious studies scholar. I am not a Zen Buddhist practitioner.” 9 Influenced by his mentor Nishio Minoru, who wrote a frequently cited book dealing with Dōgen and Zeami, 10 in looking for influences on Dōgen, Yasuraoka explores such writings that were created at the same time as Dōgen's, such as Hōjōki by Chōmei and Heike monogatari , as well as concepts such as yūgen (mysterious depth) expressed in many kinds of early Kamakura-era writings. Of particular interest in Yaruraoka's approach is his linguistics expertise in identifying, for passage after passage throughout the fascicle, the innovative ways that Dōgen transforms Chan's Chinese literary style into Japanese vernacular. It is well known that one of Dōgen's main skills was in adapting the Chan sources to particular Japanese pronunciation and syntax patterns, and Yasuraoka does an outstanding job in documenting and explicating the complex linguistic process evident in this text.

Ishii's strength, on the other hand, lies in identifying the Chan sources from among the transmission of the lamp, kōan collection, and recorded sayings records for Dōgen's citations. He says in the postscript that undertaking this study gave him the opportunity to explore more extensively diverse Song Chan sources, much as his book on the Mana Shōbōgenzō , published over two decades ago, 11 which was similarly derived from a lecture series and released by the same publisher, focused on Tang dynasty masters and sources. 12 In considering the roots of Dōgen's notion of gyōji dōkan . Ishii, who finds resonances with the “Zenki” fascicle, turns inventively to Buddhist sources such as the Congrong lu (Jp. Shōyōroku ), which in case 77 deals with “Yangshan's Swastika.” 13 In this kōan record, a rival monk draws a circle around Yangshan's mystic symbol, and Hongzhi's verse commentary suggests, “The void of the circle of the Way is never filled.” 14



Question of Sectarianism

Ishii points out that, in Part I. and to a large extent in the second part as well, Dōgen generally avoids the sectarian partisanship that affects some of the discourse from this crucial transitional stage of his career, when he came to be highly critical in numerous Shōbōgenzō fascicles of rival lineages. Dōgen gives relatively equal weight to all factions of Chan, especially the multiple streams from the Tang dynasty, with the one relatively minor exception that in the discussion of Linji, who is greatly praised here, Dōgen criticizes Deshan as an inferior mind who “could not be Linji's equal.” 15

One way of getting a sense of how the approach toward lineage is taken in “Gyōji” in relation to Dōgen's other writings is to compare the list of masters in the fascicle in Table 4.1 with Table 4.2 that illustrates the ancestors most frequently cited by Dōgen throughout all of his major works. The table was compiled and catalogued based on my reading of the scholarship of Ishii Shūdō, as well as that of Kagamishima Genryū, 16 and it shows how many times Dōgen cites those ancestors who are most prominent for him. According to this table, the pre-Song masters who are key for Dōgen more generally and who are also mentioned in “Gyōji” are derived from both Mazu's Hongzhou school, which gave rise to the Linji branches, and Shitou's followers, among whom there was Dongshan, in addition to leaders of other streams. The Mazu-based ancestors include Nanyue, Baizhang, Huangbo, Zhaozhou, Linji, and Xiangyan, and Shitou's followers include such figures as Xuefeng, Yunju, and Xuansha. However, somewhat surprisingly, ancestors from the Shitou lineage, including Caoshan, considered the co-founder of Caodong, in addition to Yunmen, Fayan, and Xuedou (all of whom Dōgen does cite extensively in other writings) are not mentioned in “Gyōji.”

This is a sign of pan-sectarianism. But Table 4.2 also shows that it is when Dōgen appropriates the teachings of Song dynasty masters that he reveals his sectarian colors by citing so extensively both Hongzhi (primarily in the Eihei kōroku from the mid-124os) and Rujing (in both Shōbōgenzō and Eihei kōroku throughout the middle and late phases of his career). This is in a way that far surpasses any other master cited in his collected writings. Even so, it is not until the end of the second part of “Gyōji,” in which Dōgen lavishes praise on Rujing and dismisses his opponents, that pro-sectarianism comes to the fore as the major agenda of the fascicle. At this stage of the text, it is abundantly clear that Dōgen favors the Caodong lineage as transmitted through his own mentor and indirectly rejects the Dahui-Dainichi axis through his attack on Deguang. While eulogizing Rujing, Dōgen takes the opportunity to assail Deguang, the Dahui follower who had given transmission to Dainichi Nōnin's Daruma-shū disciples. According to Dōgen's presentation of the matter, unlike the spiritually-committed Furong and


Rujing, both of whom would routinely turn down gifts from the rich and powerful while embracing followers who were of lowly status in their fold, Deguang was not a genuinely enlightened master. Rather, he was nothing but a charlatan of sorts who merely sought fame and fortune by entertaining dignitaries who visited his temple.

During 1242, Dōgen composed 16 fascicles, his most productive period except for 1243, which was the year of his move from Kyoto to Echizen, when 22 fascicles were composed, 18 of these in mountain retreats before the new temple (later renamed Eiheiji) was opened. Dōgen's teacher receives the most attention and praise in three culminating paragraphs of “Gyōji,” which presages three fascicles written, in the last two months of 1243, at Echizen hermitage that are almost entirely based on Rujing citations, including “Bustsudō,” “Ganzei,” and “Kajō,” which have seven or eight citations each, many of them not included in Rujing's recorded sayings. Although most of the other masters are treated in “Gyōji” in a single paragraph of varying length, Bodhidharma is given three paragraphs, whereas second patriarch Huike along with Furong Daokai get two each. Ishii notes that the attention given to the latter, who was known for his fierce spirit of autonomy in declining an offer of the imperial robe and who figures prominently in the “Sansuikyō” fascicle and is also cited at the beginning of “Kajō,” is significant as he represents an important link in the Chinese Chan Caodong lineage.


Exhortative Perspectives

It is clear that there is a basic tension in the two divisions of “Gyōji” between prosectarianism and pan-sectarianism, or highlighting the Caodong/Sōtō lineal transmission received exclusively via Rujing and appreciating the merit of nearly all other Chan/Zen teachers and sources. Is there a perspective embedded in the fascicle's interrelated though provisionally separable philosophical and hagiographical writings that transcends this sense of institutional polarity? 17 The combined impact of the emphasis on the metaphysics of daily, sustained practice based on the notion of gyōji dōkan in several key passages, as well as on the authenticity of lifelong training by evoking the ancestors in the remainder of the text, is to create an intense focus in “Gyōji” on the exhortative dimension of religious rhetoric. Dōgen is true to his sacred vision (apparently first experienced with the early death of his mother, when he saw the smoke of incense wafting in midair and renewed by his doubt about Tendai doctrine) of the overwhelming importance of impermanence in shaping the spiritual endeavor. Life is short, he maintains repeatedly, and there is not an instant to spare or any moment to waste in order to pursue and sustain the goal of attaining enlightenment. Therefore, it is necessary to seize the twinkling of the eternal now while also maintaining and prolonging such an effort over the course of a lifetime of dedicated practice. 18



Metaphysics of the Moment

As Ishii shows, there are fundamental affinities between “Gyōji” and other Dōgen texts that treat similar topics regarding the theory of practice, such as Shōbōgenzō zuimonki and Eihei kōroku . In addition, he highlights the modern Sōtō compilation that targets a lay audience based on passages selected from the Shōbōgenzō , the Shushōgi , which contains three consecutive paragraphs selected from Parts I and II of the “Gyōji” fascicle near the end of the text's fifth and final section on the role of practice. To cite some of this section:

Our daily life should be spent constantly in selfless activity with no waste
of time whatsoever. Time flies faster than an arrow and life passes with
greater transience than the dew. However skillful you may be, you cannot
ever bring back a single day of the past. Should you live for a hundred years
just wasting your time means that every single passing day will be filled
with sorrow. Should you drift as the slave of your senses for a hundred
years and yet train in Buddhist mediation for only so much as a single day,
you will, in that one day, not only live a hundred years of life but also gain
a hundred years of your next life. The life lived this one day, in this very
moment, is invaluable.…. 19

In addition, the assertion in “Gyōji” that “a single day of sustained practice is worth more than many lives lasting vast kalpas” can be considered to combine the features of “Uji,” which explores the metaphysics of temporality, with the short exhortative text Gakudōyōjinshū, which similarly highlights the transient quality of existence but from the standpoint of emphasizing sustained training. According to the doctrine of the unending circle of the Way, the eternal now encompasses past, present, and future, yet is not merely a container or shell but a cosmological principle of understanding that supports selfless, renewable praxis of all ancestors at all times. Gyōji dōkan also includes positive and negative aspects of life, including flowers at once blooming and falling, as well as mirrors both reflecting and breaking, a sentiment also expressed in the “Hōsshō” fascicle.

As also discussed in Bendōwa . Dōgen emphasizes the unity of practice and attainment ( shushō ittō ) here and now. His overall carpe diem-oriented reading of the lives of the patriarchs sends a clear message that an attitude of dedication affirmed through continuous practice in the eternal present moment during this fleeting life is an avenue for attaining the Dharma that is superior to conventional forms of training, such as following external guidelines for conduct like the precepts or monastic institutional regulations. Although transcending the path of orthodox activity in his exhortations, Dōgen's approach also avoids the pitfall of ethical antinomianism.


Authenticity of Praxis


The term gyōji can be translated in various ways, but the first kanji, gyō , indicates the discipline of practice and the second kanji, ji , suggests maintaining the resolve for the unrelenting continuation of this effort or exertion extended over a prolonged period. Practice in this sense is a broader category of training than zazen , although the two terms are inseparable in that, as Ishii explained it to me during an office interview (June 2007), gyōji is an attitude or state of mind of supreme dedication driving the commitment to ongoing meditation. In philosophical passages, Dōgen depicts gyōji as a cosmic power that upholds buddhas and beings, life and death, and right and wrong in each and every moment. It is an all-encompassing principle that embraces its opposite in that, “since all activity is a manifestation of dedicated practice, to attempt to avoid dedicated practice is an impossible evasion, for the attempt itself is a form of dedicated practice.” 20

Although “Gyōji” reflects Dōgen's particular interest in stressing the importance of zazen or sitting meditation, 21 it is not a text that advocates “just sitting” ( shikan taza ) in a way that is akin to the Fukanzazengi or Shōbōgenzō “Zazenshin,” which both offer specific admonitions and instructions on how to meditate. Instead, as Yasuraoka and Ishii both show, “Gyōji” expresses a broad vision of how strict adherence to various forms of discipline underlies and is the necessary condition for meditation. The forms of discipline include the austerities of the 12 dhuta or severe ascetic practices (Jp. zuda or zudagyō ) amid a life of constant wandering, or a commitment to spiritual independence and integrity while living in thatched huts on remote peaks to abandon worldly temptations, as frequently evidenced through the supernatural power to overcome indigenous spirits. 22

To cite a few examples, Dōgen admires Sakyamuni because he did not replace his robe and did not stay alone for a single hour or single day, and he praises Mahakasyapa, not for receiving Sakyamuni's flower as in the prototypical Zen narrative, but for being an extraordinary representative of dhuta -based asceticism, as portrayed in early (pre-Chan) Buddhist literature. His emaciated state was disdained by other monks but was highly valued by Sakyamuni, who made him the senior member of his order. The lengthy entry on Parvsva, the tenth ancestor in India, stresses that he never used a bed (and slept in irregular quarters every night due to constant itinerancy) or wasted a single moment, and instead single-mindedly and unrelentingly kept his vows. Huineng (4) left his mother in pursuit of Dharma, making a greater sacrifice than Huike's cutting off an arm, and after enlightenment he remained humble and pure. Whereas Yunju from the Shitou lineage did not use a bed for 40 years of training, Mazu never neglected zazen. His disciple Baizhang (8) made such an effort that his legacy became synonymous with the injunction, “A day without work is a day without eating,” and


he turned down food when his disciples hid his tools one day to test his dedication and he was not able to labor in the fields.

Furthermore, Dōgen sums up the merit of several masters, such as Yunju Daoying (7), Jingqing Daofu (9), Sanping Yichong (10), and Changqing Daan (ii), based on their supranormal skill in being able to dispense with the need to be served food or even to be seen by local gods who were eager to accommodate the Zen practitioners. The moral of these supernatural stories is that the capacity for selfless practice outweighs and transcends conventional divisions between gods and humans, now and then, or—despite indicators that may suggest otherwise—sectarian and pan-sectarian concerns. In that sense, the brevity, frailty, vulnerability, and uncertainty of evanescent existence is redeemed by being transformed from a weakness to strength in becoming the steady fulfillment of a majestic self-realization that supports all beings.




DZZ Dōgen zenji zenshū, ed. Kagamashima Genryū, et. al., (Tokyo: Shunjūsha, 1988–1993).

T Taishō shinshū daizōkyō (Tokyo Daizōkyōkai, 1924–1935).

ZZ Zoku zōkyō (Kyoto: Zōkyō shoin, 1905–1912).


1. Dōgen zenji zenshū I, Kawamura Kōdō, ed. (Tokyo: Shunjūsha, 1991), pp. 145170 (Part I) and 171– 202 (Part II).

2. Yasuraoka Kōsaku, trans., Shōbōgenzō [Gyōji] jō (Tokyo: Kodansha, 2002) and Shōbōgenzō [Gyōji] ge (Tokyo: Kodansha, 2002).

3. Ishii Shūdō, Shōbōgenzō [Gyōji] ni manabu (Kyoto: Zen bunka kenkyūsho, 2007). Another interesting recent study is Itō Shūken, “ Shōbōgenzō- kikigakishō goyaku no kokoromi: ‘Gyōji, Ichi,'” Zen kenkyūjō kiyō , 31 (2003): 53– 85.

4. See Yanagida Seizan, Shoki Zenshūshi no kenkyū (Kyoto: Hōzōkan, 1967).

5. T. 82: 407c- 408a; Kazuaki Tanahashi, ed. Treasury of the True Dharma- Eye (Boston: Shambhala, 2010), vol. 2, p. 920.

6. Of the three instances, interestingly enough, the Caodong transmission is the one that is suspect since, unlike Myōzen, Dōgen never received the pratimoksha (or Hinayana) precepts, which was a requirement of Chan and other Chinese Buddhist schools, which means that his claim that Rujing transmitted 16 precepts as depicted in “Jukai” is dubious.

7. Hongzhi and Dahui had a complex relationship, as depicted in Ishii Shūdō's article in this volume.

8. Yasuraoka, Shōbōgenzō [Gyōji] ge , pp. 436– 437.

9. Yasuraoka, Shōbōgenzō [Gyōji] jō , p. 3.

10. Nishio Minoru, Dōgen to Zeami (Tokyo: Iwanami shoten, 1965).

11. Ishii Shūdō, Chūgoku zenshūshi wa: Mana Shōbōgenzō ni manabu (Kyoto: Zen bunka kenkyūsho, 1988).

12. Ishii, Shōbōgenzō [Gyōji] ni manabu pp. 597– 598 This is complicated by the fact that Tang masters, also cited extensively in “Gyōji,” are known primarily through Song sources.

13. Ishii, Shōbōgenzō [Gyōji] ni manabu . pp. 22– 23 See also Ishii Shūdō, Sōdai zenshūshi no kenkyū (Tokyo: Daitō shuppansha, 1987) for a study of Song Chan Buddhism.

14. T. 48: 204c.

15. Ishii's discussion of Linji includes a section titled Linji hihan (“critique of Linji”. pp. 252– 258) because he relates the passages in “Gyōji” to other Dōgen writings that criticize Linji, as well as additional masters in rival lineages.

16. Kagamishima Genryū, et al., eds., Dōgen no inyō goroku no kenkyū (Tokyo: Sōtōshū shūgaku kenkyūsho, 1995).

17. Even though the metaphysical material is less significant, because it comes primarily at the beginning of the first part, it often gets more attention than it probably deserves for an overall assessment of the fascicle. The first English translation nearly four decades ago consists of just this brief portion, giving readers the misimpression that “Gyōji” was largely a doctrinal rather than hagiographical work; in Wm. Theodore De Bary, et al., eds., The Buddhist Tradition in India, China, and Japan (New York: The Modern Library, 1969), pp. 369371. An early translation titled “Continuous Practice” consisting of part one of the text only (although this is not mentioned by the translator) first appeared in Francis Dojun Cook, How to Raise an Ox: Zen Practice as Taught in Zen Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō (Los Angeles: Center Publications, 1978), pp. 175204. Among the complete translations is the following one titled “[Pure] Conduct and Observance [of Precepts]” that includes very helpful annotations, although the overall phrasing is rather awkward: Gudo Nishijima and Chodo Cross, Master Dogen's Shobogenzo, Book 2 (London: Windbell Publications, 1996), pp. 129– 152 (part I) and 153– 184 (part two). One way of counting the themes in the 96- fascicle Shōbōgenzō is 42 fascicles on philosophy, 22 on practice, 14 on doctrine, ten on rules, four on tradition, and four on ethics; see http:// www. numenware. com/ index. php? id= 523.

18. As was said of the Shakers' millenarian approach to the building of furniture, a chair was made as if the artisan would die tomorrow but the piece would last a thousand years.

19. Mizuno Kōgen, Shushōgi no Bukkyō (Tokyo: Shunjūsha, 1968), p. ii.

20. Dōgen zenji zenshū I, p. 146.

21. Other anomalous fascicles that stress practice over doctrine include “Shisho,” which deals with Dōgen's experiences in viewing transmission certificates during his travels in China, and “Senmen” and “Senjō,” which both focus on monks' everyday behavior, such as washing and cleaning, thereby making these texts seem appropriate for inclusion in the Eihei shingi .

22. Reginald A. Ray, Buddhist Saints in India: A Study in Buddhist Values and Orientations (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).