Zen in daily life

Zen teacher Dogen and the Soto approach to Zen


Written by zen master Dogen Zenji translated by Prof. Masunaga Reiho

Translated in Soto Approach to Zen by Prof. Masunaga Reiho, Chapter 10, Layman Buddhist Society Press, 1958.


Dogen wrote Bendowa shortly after his return from China. At that time he was 32 years old and living quietly in Fukakusa, a suburb of Kyoto. Shortly before that he wrote Fukanzazengi, while staying at Kennin temple in Kyoto. In this work, he clarified the meaning of truly transmitted zazen. Bendowa attempted to express and propagate the great aspirations and profound beliefs of Buddhism on the basis of zazen in the religious world of those days. The Zen style and basic spirit of Dogen permeated this work. Bendowa can be considered a general introduction and summary to the 95 fascicles of the Shobogenzo. Other fascicles could well be called elaboration of Bendowa. Those who wish to study the Shobogenzo must delve deeply into this work in a narrow sense Bendo means zazen; in a broader sense it means training.

Basically Bendowa discusses zazen; more specifically it tells how to perfect the Buddhist way through zazen. Put away in draft form, it did not appear either in the 75 fascicles of Ejo or the 60 fascicles of Giun.

Bendowa began to circulate during the life of Manzan Dohaku (1636-1715). Manzan went to Imadegawa in Kyoto on business and stayed at Kikuteiden. Kagesue, the master of Kikuteiden, seemed to have been a descendant of Dogen. During dinner, he brought out a carefully preserved manuscript of Bendowa in Dogen' own handwriting. Manzan considered this a tremendous discovery and after reading it carefully, he satisfied himself that it was genuine. He ordered Menzan Zuiho (1683-1769), who accompanied him, to copy this work. In this way Bendowa became available to the general public.

The first part of Bendowa is called Jijiyuzammai (self-joyous meditation). Here the truly- transmitted Buddhism of Dogen finds clear expression. After this there are 18 questions and answers. They are important because they explain the reasons for urging Dogen' zazen of original enlightenment. In the copy discovered at Shobo temple in Iwate Prefecture there are 19 questions and answers.

It is interesting that one of the 19 questions and answers suggests the object of worship in the Soto sect. In Bendowa Dogen tried to define his zazen of original enlightenment and wondrous training. He emphasized that since the Buddhas and patriarchs have shown that all men inherently have the Buddha-Mind, we must have deep faith in our Buddhahood and manifest it in zazen and in own daily life. This is what Dogen means by original enlightenment and wondrous training. This zazen does not strive for enlightenment but is itself the living form of the Buddhas and the patriarchs. It is a zazen of no attainment and no seeking. Enlightenment dwells naturally in training, and training freely embody enlightenment.

Shobogenzo, in contrast to works by founders of other sects does not draw heavily on the canons. Instead it abounds in Dogen's original views. It lives today because it integrates the deepest in sights of science and philosophy. This book will probably open only to those who really want to experience life's potentials.

Text (Bendowa)

The various Buddhas and Tathagatas have a most enlightened way of realizing superior wisdom and transmitting the supreme law. When transmitted from Buddha to Buddha, its mark is self-joyous meditation. To enter this meditation naturally, right sitting is the true gate. Though each man has Buddha-nature in abundance, he cannot make it appear without practice or live it without enlightenment. If you let it go, it fills your hand; it transcends the one and many. If you talk about it, it fills your mouth; it is beyond measurement by height and width. All Buddhas eternally have their abode here without becoming attached to one-sided recognition. All beings are working here without attachment to sides in each recognition. The devices and training that I teach now manifest all things in original enlightenment and express unity in action. And when you thoroughly understand, why cling to such trifles as these?

On awakening of the desire to seek the way, I visited Buddhist masters in all parts of the country. Finally I met Zenko (Myozen, disciple of Eisai) at Kennin temple. The nine years that If served as his follower passed quickly. From him I heard about the Rinzai style. Zenko, as the leading disciple of Eisai, truly transmitted the highest Buddhism. Other disciples could not compare with him. I also went to China, visited Zen masters of both Cheh-chiang (Chekiang, formerly divided into east and west), and heard about the styles of the five schools. Finally I studied with Zen master Ju-sting (Nyojo) on Ta-p'ein (Taihaku) peak. In this was I completed the valuable training for my life.

After that at the beginning of the Shotei period (1227), I returned to Japan. Because I had the idea of spreading the Law and saving all beings, I was like a man carrying a heavy burden. Then I thought of abandoning this idea of spreading the Law and wait for a more propitious time. I wandered here and there for some time sincerely trying to teach the style of the former Zen master. There are true trainees who deliberately shun fame and profit and concentrate on the search for the way. But unfortunately they are misled by false masters, so real understanding is veiled and the trainees uselessly become drunk with self- madness and drown for long years in the world of delusion. How can the right seed of wisdom sprout and the chance for enlightenment be grasped?

I am now wandering here and there like a cloud or water grass - what mountain or river shall I visit?

Because I sympathize with such seekers, I went to China, saw the form and style of the monasteries, and received the essence of the Zen teaching. Gathering and recording all this, I am leaving it for the trainees so that they may be helped toward knowing the essence of Buddhism. Isn't this the core of Zen? Buddha Sakyamuni transmitted the right law to Mahakasyapa on Grdhrakuta Mountain, and a long line of patriarchs handed it down to Bodhidharma. And Bodhidharma went to China and transmitted the right law to Hui-k'o (Eka).

This started the transmission of Zen Buddhism to the East. Transmitted thus in its essential purity, it came down by a natural route to the Sixth Patriarch, Hui-neng. At this time true Buddhism was transmitted to China, and it expressed a meaning free from trivialities. The Sixth Patriarch had two outstanding disciples- Nan-yueh Huai-jang and Ch'ing-yuan Hsing-ssu. Together they transmitted the Buddha seal; they were leaders of man and heaven. These two schools spread, and five styles of Zen appeared. They were the schools of Fa-yen, Wei-yang, Ts'ao-tung, Yun-men, and Lin-chi. In present-day China only the Lin-chi (Rinzai) school is flourishing. Although the five schools differ, they are all based on the single seal of the Buddha Mind. From the later Han period to the present in China, the scriptures of the other teachings were propagated, but it was impossible to determine which was best. With the coming of Bodhidharma from India the root of the conflict was abruptly cut, and pure Buddhism spread. We must also try to do the same in our country. All the Buddhas and patriarchs who transmitted Buddhism considered sitting and practicing self-joyous meditation the true way of enlightenment. The enlightened ones in both the East and West followed this style. This is because the masters and their disciples correctly transmitted this superior method from person to person and received the uncorrupted truth.

  1. Q: I have heard of the superior merits of zazen. But an ordinary person will have doubts and say there are many gates in Buddhism. Why do you urge only zazen?

    A: Because it is the right gate to Buddhism - this is my answer to him.

  2. Q: Why is it the only right gate?

    A: The great teacher Sakyamuni handed down this unexcelled method of enlightenment. And the Tathagatas of the past, present, and future were similarly enlightened by zazen. They, too, transmitted it as the right gate. The patriarchs in India and China were also enlightened by zazen. For this reason, I now indicate the right gate for human beings and heaven.

  3. Q: Such reasons as correct transmissioby the unexcelled method of the Tathagatas and following in the footsteps of the patriarchs are beyond common sense. To ordinary people, reading the sutra and saying the Nembutsu are the natural means to enlightenment. You just sit cross-legged and do nothing. How is this a means to enlightenment?

    A: You look on the meditation of the Buddhas and the supreme law as just sitting and doing nothing. You disparage Mahayana Buddhism. Your delusion is deep; you are like someone in the middle of the ocean crying out for water. Fortunately we are already sitting at ease in the self-joyous meditation of the Buddhas. Isn't this a great boon? What a pity that your true-eye remains shut-that your mind remains drunk. The world of the Buddhas eludes ordinary thinking and consciousness. It cannot be known by disbelief and inferior knowledge. To enter one must have right belief. The disbeliever, even if taught, has trouble grasping it. For example, when the Buddha was preaching at Grdhrakuta, the disbelieves were allowed to go away. To bring out the right belief in your mind you must train and study. If you cannot do this, you should quit for awhile, regretting that you lack the influence of the law from a former beneficial relation. What good are such actions as reading the sutras and saying the Nembutsu. How futile to think that Buddhist merits accrue from merely moving the tongue and raising the voice. If you think this covers Buddhism, you are far from the truth. Your only purpose in reading the sutras should be to learn thoroughly that the Buddha taught the rules of gradual and sudden training and that by practicing his teachings you can obtain enlightenment. You should not read the sutras merely to pretend to wisdom through vain intellections. To strive for the goal of Buddhism by reading many sutras is like pointing the hill to the north and heading south. It is like putting a square peg in a round hole. While you look at words and phrases, the path of your training remains dark. This is as worthless as a doctor who forgets his prescription. Constant repetition of the Nembutsu is also worthless-like a frog in a spring field croaking night and day. Those deluded by fame and fortune, find it especially difficult to abandon the nembutsu. Bound by deep roots to a profit-seeking mind, they existed in ages past, and they exist today. They are to be pitied. Understand only this: if enlightened Zen masters and their earnest disciples correctly transmit the supreme law of the seven Buddhas, its essence emerges, and it can be experienced. Those who merely study the letters of the sutras cannot know this. So put a stop to this doubt and delusion. Follow the teachings of a real master and, by zazen; attain to the self-joyous samadhi of the Buddhas.

  4. Q: The Tendai school and Kegon teachings have both came across to this country; they represent the cream of Buddhism. In the Shingon school-transmitted directly from Vairocana Tathagata to Vajrasattva - there is no stain between master and disciple. This school maintains that "this mind is the Buddha", and that "this mind becomes the Buddha"; it does not advocate long step-by-step training. It teaches the simultaneous enlightenment of the five Buddhas. It is unexcelled in Buddhism. In view of all this what superiority does zazen have that you recommend it alone and exclude the other teachings?

    A: You must understand that in Buddhism the stress falls on the truth or falsity of the training-not on the excellence or mediocrity of the teaching or the depth or shallowness of the principle. In times past, men were drawn to Buddhism by grass, flowers, mountains, and water. Some received the Buddha seal by grasping dirt, stones, sand, and pebbles. The dimensionless letters overflow all forms, and we can hear the sermon now in a speck of dust. "This mind is the Buddha" - these words are like a moon reflected in water; and the meaning of the words: "sitting cross-legged is itself Buddhism"? Like a figure in the mirror. Do not be victimized by clever manipulation of words. When I recommend the training of immediate enlightenment, I want to make you a true human being by indicating the superior path transmitted by the Buddhas and patriarchs. To transmit the Buddha law you should always make the enlightened person your Zen master. Don't follow a scholar who counts the letters of the scripture. This would be like the blind leading the blind. In the teachings directly transmitted from the Buddhas and patriarchs, the Buddha law is sustained by respect for the enlightened person. When the Gods of darkness and light reject the Zen masters and when the enlightened Arhats ask the path, they provide the means of opening the Buddha Mind. In the other teachings we could not endure it. The followers of Buddhism only have to study the Buddha law. You must understand that we do not lack the highest wisdom. Though we enjoy it eternally, we do not always harmonize with it. This is because we meet setbacks on the Great Way through clinging to individual opinion and chasing after material things. Through individual opinions various phantoms arise. For example, there are countless views on the 12 chains of transmigration, the 25 worlds, the three vehicles, the five vehicles, the Buddha, and the non-Buddha. Training in the true path does not require learning these opinions. So when we sit cross-legged, depending on the Buddha sign and abandoning all things, we can enjoy great wisdom. We enter at once the superior field beyond delusion and enlightenment - a field without distinction between sage and commoner. How can one who clings to verbal tools rise up to this?

  5. Q: Samadhi dwells in the three training, and dhyanaparamita (means of meditation) in the six means of enlightenment. All Bodhisattvas study them from the beginning. They train without discriminating cleverness and stupidity. Even this zazen may be a part of them. Why do you say that the true law is gathered in zazen?

    A: This question comes from giving the name "Zen sect" to the treasury of the essence of the true law, and to the unexcelled doctrine-the most important teachings of the Buddha. You must understand that the name "Zen sect" emerged from China and the East; it was not heard in India. When Bodhidharma stayed at Shao-Lin ssu in Sung-shan, gazing at the wall for nine years, the priests and laymen did not understand the true law of the Buddha; they called him a Brahmana who emphasized sitting cross-legged. Afterward every patriarch devoted himself to sit ting cross-legged. Unenlightened laymen who saw them carelessly referred to them as the zazen sect without understanding the truth. Today the "Za" has been dropped, and the followers of this practice are known as members of the Zen sect. This is clear in the manuscripts of the patriarchs. You must not equate zazen with the meditation in the six means and the three training. The spirit of transmission in Buddhism is clear in the career of the Buddha. To Mahakasyapa alone on Grdhrakuta Mountain the Buddha transmitted the eye and treasury of the true law, the superior mind of enlightenment and supreme doctrine, and some gods in heaven saw it. Don't doubt this. The gods of heaven protect Buddhism eternally. This is still a living fact. You must understand that zazen is the full way of Buddhism. It is incomparable.

  6. Q: Why does Buddhism advocate meditation and enlightenment through cross-legged sitting alone (of the four actions)?

    A: I do not analyze the way of training and enlightenment followed by the various Buddhas. If you ask why, I say simply that it is the way used in Buddhism. You should not seek no further. But the patriarchs praised cross-legged sitting, calling it the comfortable way. I know this sitting is the most comfortable of the four actions. It is not only the training of one Buddha or two Buddhas but of all Buddhas and patriarchs.

  7. Q: Those who do not know Buddhism have to attain enlightenment by zazen and training. What use is zazen to those who have clearly obtained enlightenment?

    A: Though I do not talk about last night's dream and cannot give a paddle to a woodcutter, I have something to teach you. The view that training and enlightenment are not one is heretical. In Buddhism these two are the same. Because this is training enfolding enlightenment, the training even at the outset is all of original enlightenment. So the Zen master, when giving advice to his disciples, tells them not to seek enlightenment without training because training itself points directly to original enlightenment. Because it is already enlightenment of training, there is no end to enlightenment. Because it is training of enlightenment, there is no beginning to training. Sakyamuni Tathagata and Mahakasyapa, therefore, were both used by training based on enlightenment. Training, based on enlightenment similarly moved both Bodhidharma and Hui-neng. This is typical of all traces of transmission in Buddhism. Already there is training that is inseparable from enlightenment. Because training even at the outset transmits a part of superior training, we fortunately gain a part of original enlightenment in this natural way. You must understand that the Buddhas and patriarchs emphasized the need for intensive training so as not to stain the enlightenment that is self-identical with training. If you throw away superior training, original enlightenment fills your hand. If you abandon original enlightenment, superior training permeates your body. In China I saw Zen monasteries in many districts, each with a meditation hall where 500 to 1,200 monks lived and practiced zazen day and night. When I asked the Zen masters who have been entrusted with the Buddha seal, What is the essence of Buddhism? they answered: Training and enlightenment are not two but one. So they urged disciples to follow the footsteps of the Zen masters in accordance with the teachings of the Buddhas and patriarchs. They recommended zazen not only to their disciples, but to all those who seek the true way, to those who yearn for true Buddhism, regardless of whether one is a beginner or an advanced student, a commoner or a sage. As a patriarch (Nangaku) has said:It is not true that there is no training and enlightenment, but do not stain them by clinging to them." Another patriarch has said: "He who sees the way trains the way. You must, therefore, train within enlightenment.

  8. Q: Why did Japanese patriarchs of the past, who went to China and returned to propagate Buddhism, transmit other teachings besides this Zen?

    A: The patriarchs of the past did not transmit this Zen because the time was not ripe.

  9. Q: Did the patriarchs of the past understand this Zen?

    A: If they had understood, they would have propagated it.

  10. Q: Someone has said, Don't throw away delusion (birth and death). There is an easy shortcut to freedom from birth and death. This is because the spirit is eternal. The meaning here is that even if this body is born, it will eventually come to nothing, but this spirit does not perish. If this Spirit that is not subject to rising and ceasing resides in my body, this is the original spirit. Because of this, the body takes temporal form and remains unfixed, for it dies here and arises there. This spirit is eternal and does not change in past, present, and future. To know this is to free oneself from birth and death. For those who know this, the birth and death they have known up to now disappear, and they enter into an ocean of the spirit. When you embrace this ocean, superior virtue will be complete like the Buddhas. Even if you know this, because this body is the result of former delusive actions, you differ from the sages. Those who do not know this transmigrate eternally. So know only the eternity of the spirit. If you sit in vain and waste your whole life, what can you possibly hope for? Does this view conform to the way of the Buddhas and patriarchs?

    A: Your view is not Buddhism. It is the Srenika heresy. This heretical view says: In our body there is a spiritual knowledge. Through the knowledge we recognize like and dislike, right and wrong, pain and titillation, and suffering and pleasure. This spiritual knowledge, when the body deteriorates, is released here and is born anew elsewhere. Therefore, though it seems to die here, it is born there. It never dies; it continues eternally. This is the heretical view. If you absorb this and think it is Buddhism, it is more foolish than holding roof tiles and pebbles and thinking they are the golden treasures. This foolish delusion is shameful. It is beyond serious consideration. National master Hui-Chung of the Tang dynasty issued a sharp warning against this view. Those who hold this delusive view think that the mind is eternal and that appearance is transitory and equate this with the superior training of the Buddhas; they create the cause of transmigration and think that they have broken free from transmigration. Isn't this false? In deed, it is pathetic. This is nothing but delusive heresy. Don't listen to it. Although I hesitate to say it, I will correct your delusion with sympathy. In Buddhism you have to know this: the body and mind are one; essence and form are one. Make no mistake- this is known also in India and China. In a teaching that talks about eternity, all things become eternal. Don't separate body and mind. In a teaching that talks about cessation, all things are ceasing. Don't separate essence and form. Why do you say that the body ceases while the mind is eternal? Isn't this against the right law? You must realize that life-death itself is nirvana. We cannot talk about nirvana without life-death. You think erroneously that this is the Buddha wisdom free from life and death. Your mind, which understands and perceives, arises and perishes; it is not eternal. Understands this thoroughly: the unity of body and mind is always upheld in Buddhism. In the light of this, why is the mind only released from the body to become free from arising and perishing while the body arises and perishes? If you assert that body and mind are one now and that they are not one at another time, you becloud the Buddha's teachings. To think that birth and death are things to be avoided is a sin against Buddhism. They are truly the tools of Buddhism. In Buddhism, especially in the Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana, the great teaching of the Tathagata-garba embraces the Dharma-dhatu. It does not divide suchness and appearance, nor discuss arising and perishing. Even enlightenment and nirvana are nothing but the Tathagata-garba. It is self-identical with all things and appearances and contains them. These various teachings are all based on One Mind. There is no mistake about this. This is understanding of the Mind of Buddhism. How can you divide this into body and mind and delusion and nirvana. You are already the son of Buddha. Do not listen to madmen who preach heretical views.

  11. Q: Does one who seriously practices zazen have to observe the precepts strictly and purify his body and mind?

    A: Observing the precepts and living purely are rules of Zen Buddhism and practices handed down by the Buddhas and patriarchs. Those who have not received the precepts should receive them; those who violate the precepts should repent. They shall then absorb the Buddha's wisdom.

  12. Q: Is there any objection to a serious student of zazen practicing the mantra of the Shingon sect and the Samathavipa'syana (calm and insight) of the Tendai sect together?

    A: When I was in China and heard the gist of Buddhism from the Zen masters, they said they had never heard of any patriarchs who truly transmitted the Buddha seal, now and in the past, undertaking such simultaneous training. Unless we earnestly concentrate on one thing, we cannot gain one wisdom.

  13. Q: Can a layman practice this zazen or is it limited to priests?

    A: The patriarchs have said that to understand Buddhism there should be no distinction between man and woman and between rich and poor.

  14. Q: The priests are free from myriad relations; for them there is no obstruction to zazen training. How can the busy layman attain enlightenment by earnest training?

    A: Through their boundless love the Buddhas and patriarchs have flung the vast gates of compassion for all beings- whether Human beings or Deva. We many examples in past and present: Tan-tsung and Sung-tsung, though very busy with state affairs practiced zazen and understood the great way of the Buddhas and patriarchs. Prime ministers Li and Fang were close advisers to the emperors, and they too practiced zazen and were enlightened in the great way of the Buddhas and patriarchs. It simply depends on the will. It has nothing to do with being either a priest or a lay man. Those who can discern excellence and inferiority will believe Buddhism naturally. Those who think that worldly tasks hinder Buddhism know only that there is no Buddhism in the world; they do not know that there is nothing that can be set apart as worldly tasks in Buddhism. In the great Sung dynasty a Prime Minister named P'ing mastered the way of the patriarchs and wrote a poem about himself: Away from state affairs I practiced zazen, hardly ever laying on my side in bed and sleeping; although I am the prime minister, my fame as a Zen master spread throughout the world. Official business kept P'ing busy, but because he had the will to train earnestly, he gained enlightenment. Consider yourself through these cases (persons); look at the present through the past. At this moment, in the great Sung dynasty, emperors, ministers, soldiers and commoners, and men and women take interest in the way of the patriarchs. Warriors and intellectuals have the will to train, and many of them will eventually experience enlightenment. All this tells us that worldly tasks do not hinder Buddhism. If true Buddhism spreads in the state, the Buddhas and heavenly beings always protect that state, and the world becomes peaceful. If the world becomes peaceful, Buddhism acquires strength. In the age of the Buddha, even misguided criminals were enlightened through his teachings. Under the patriarchs, even hunters and woodcutters were enlightened. And others will gain enlightenment. All you have to do is to receive instructions from a real teacher.

  15. Q: Can one gain enlightenment by this zazen, even if one trains in this degenerate age and evil world?

    A: Other teachings argue about the name and form of the doctrines. The true teaching does not differentiate the three periods of Sho, Zo and Matsu. Anybody who trains will inevitably gain enlightenment. In the correctly transmitted right law, you can always enjoy the rare treasure of your own house. Those who train know whether enlightenment has been obtained, just as one who drinks water knows personally whether it is cold or warm.

  16. Q: Some people say that to know Buddhism you only have to understand the meaning of "this mind itself is the Buddha"; you do not have to chant the sutras or train the body in Buddhism. Understand only that Buddhism is inherent in your self - this is full enlightenment. There is no need for seeking anything from others. So is there any use going to the trouble of practicing zazen?

    A: That is a most grievous error. If what you say is true - even though the sages teach this ("this mind itself is the Buddha") - you cannot understand it. To study Buddhism you have to transcend the viewpoint of self and others. If you become enlightened by knowing that the self itself is the Buddha, Sakyamuni long ago would not have tried so hard to teach the way. This is evident in the high standards of the ancient Zen masters. Long ago there was a monk named Tse-kung Chien-yuan under Zen master Fa-yen. Fa-yen asked him: Tse-kung, how long have you been in this monastery? Tse-kung answered: I have been here three years. Fa-yen: You are younger than me. Why don't you ever ask me about Buddhism? Tse-kung: I will not lie. While studying under Zen master Ch'ing-feng, I understood the serenity of Buddhism. Fa-yen: By what words did you gain this understanding? Tse-kung: I asked Ch'ing-feng, What is the real self of the trainee? He answered, The God of Fire calls for fire. Fa-yen: That's a fine expression. But you probably did not understand it. Tse-kung: The God of Fire belongs to fire. Fire needs fire. It is like saying that the self needs the self. This is how I understood it. Fa-yen: I see clearly that you did not understand. If Buddhism is like that, it would not have continued until now. This disturbed Tse-kung deeply, and he left there. On the way home he thought: Fa-yen is an excellent Zen master and the leader of 500 disciples. He has pointed out my fault. There must be a valuable point in his words. Tse-kung then returned to Fa-yen's monastery. Repenting and giving his salutation, he asked: What is the real self of the trainee? Fa-yen answered: The God of Fire calls for fire. On hearing this, Tse-kung was fully enlightened about Buddhism. Obviously one does not know Buddhism by merely understanding that this self is the Buddha. If this is Buddhism, Fa-yen could not have guided Tse-kung in the manner described above, nor would he have given the advice he did. On first visiting a Zen master, you should ask for the rules of training. Only practice zazen earnestly and avoid cluttering your mind with superficial knowledge. The unexcelled method of Buddhism will then bear fruit.

  17. Q: In India and China-from ancient times to now-some Zen masters were enlightened by the sound of a stone striking bamboo, and others had their minds cleared by seeing the color of plum blossoms. Even the great teacher Sakyamuni was enlightened by seeing the morning star. The venerable Ananda saw the truth in a stick falling. In addition after the sixth patriarch many Zen masters of the five schools were enlightened by a single word. Did all of these persons practice zazen?

    A: From ancient times until now all those who have been enlightened by seeing color or hearing sound practiced zazen without zazen and immediately became unexcelled.

  18. Q: In India and China men had inner integrity, and because culture was widespread, trainees were able to understand Buddhism when it was taught to them. In our country, from ancient times, many people have lacked superior intellect; it has been difficult to store the right seeds of wisdom. This comes from the barbaric current. It is very regrettable. Again the priests in this country are inferior to laymen in other countries. Everybody in Japan is foolish and narrow-minded. People cling tightly to worldly merit and hunger for the superficial good. Can such people quickly attain enlightenment about Buddhism even if they practice zazen?

    A: It is as you say. The people in this country have neither knowledge nor integrity. Even if they are shown the true law, they change its sweet taste to poison. They tend to seek fame and profit and find it difficult to free themselves from attachments. But to become enlightened about Buddhism, we cannot rely on the worldly knowledge of human beings and heaven. Even during the time of the Buddha, those who enlightened the four results (includes the Arhats) by handball and those who enlightened the great path by the kesa were foolish and crazy. But they found the way to free themselves from delusion by the help of right faith. Again a woman trainee who waited with a prepared meal was enlightened by seeing the silent sitting of a foolish old priest. None of these cases depend on knowledge. They do not rely on scholarship, words, or speech. They all underline help through right faith. In the some 2,000 years since the birth of Buddhism, it spread to various countries. Its appeal was not limited to highly cultured nations or to people who were clever and wealthy. The true law of the Buddha, with its indeterminate power for good, will spread throughout the world when the right chance comes. All who train with right faith will be enlightened equally with no gap between the wise and foolish. Don't imagine that because Japan is not a highly cultured country and because its people lack knowledge, it is not ready for Buddhism. You must realize that all human beings have the seed of wisdom in abundance. Only there is little recognition of this fact. People do not train with right faith because they do not adequately recognize the essence of Buddhism and lack experience in practical application.

These questions and answers seem unwarranted. But I have tried to help those with poor eyesight to see a flower where nothing appeared before. For in this country the gist of zazen training has not been transmitted, and those who want to know about it are made sorrowful. Therefore, gathering what I saw and heard in China and recording the essence of the Zen masters, I would like to guide those who seek training. I would also like to teach the rules of the Zen monasteries and the rituals of the temples, but I have no time. These things cannot be described simply. Though our country is east of the sea and far from India, the Buddhism of the west was transmitted here about the time of the emperors Kinmei and Yomei. This was our good fortune. But because names, forms, things, and relations become tangled, we lose direction in training.

Now I will take my simple robe and bowl and make my abode among the reed-wrapped rocks of blue and white. Here, while I sit and train true Zen Buddhism - Buddhism transcending the Buddha manifests itself, and with this the object of training it fulfilled. This is the teaching of the Buddha and the style left behind by Mahakasyapa. The rules for this zazen depends on Fukanzazengi, which was transcribed during the Karoku period. To spread Buddhism within a country one must get the permission of the king. But in the light of the Buddha's transmission at Grdhrakuta there emerged kings and nobles and ministers and generals, who appeared in various countries, who gratefully received the guidance of the Buddha, and who did not forget the original spirit that preserved the Buddhism of former ages. All places where the teaching has spread are the Buddha's land. So to spread the way of the Buddhas and patriarchs there is no point in selecting the place or awaiting good conditions. Do not think that today is the beginning. I have, therefore, gathered this record and left it for the superior seeker of Buddhism and for serious trainees who wander here and there in search for the way.

Time-Mid-autumn, 1231

Dogen, Transmitter of the Law

From China