- Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō Zuimonki
- Cover Page
- Advance praise for Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō Zuimonki
- Title Page
- Part One. Shōbōgenzō Zuimonki
- Editor’s Preface
- Shōbōgenzō Zuimonki, Book 1
- Shōbōgenzō Zuimonki, Book 2
- Shōbōgenzō Zuimonki, Book 3
- Shōbōgenzō Zuimonki, Book 4
- Shōbōgenzō Zuimonki, Book 5
- Shōbōgenzō Zuimonki, Book 6
- Part Two. White Snow on Bright Leaves
- About the Translator
侍者 懐奘 編
SHŌBŌGENZŌ ZUIMONKI, BOOK 1
Compiled by the attendant Ejō
If you must heed someone, you should heed those with clear eyes.
I firmly declined. The reason for this was that, although it was an important opportunity to become well known in Japan and also for my own practice of the Way, there might have been certain people endowed with clear eyes who would have thought that appointing a foreigner as the abbot’s attendant in such a great monastery meant that [Rujing thought] there were no capable people in his country. I had to be very careful about this. I wrote what I thought to the abbot in a letter. Preceptor Jing understood my respect for his country and my concern about such people’s feelings, and he did not ask me again.21
Someone said, “I am sick. I am not a vessel22 [of the Dharma]. I cannot endure the practice of the Way. I wish to listen [only] to the essentials of the Dharma gates,23 to live alone retiring from the world, to indulge myself, and to tend to my sickness until the end of this lifetime.”
Sages of the past did not necessarily have golden bones; not all of the ancients were superior vessels [of the Dharma].24 If we consider [the period] after [Shakyamuni’s] death, not such a long time has passed. Thinking of [the people] when [Shakyamuni] was in the world, not everyone was endowed with natural talent. There were good people as well as bad people. Among the monks, there were some who did incredibly evil things, while others had the lowest of capabilities. However, none of them demeaned themselves by failing to arouse the mind of awakening; none avoided studying the Way, thinking they were not vessels [of the Dharma].25
If you do not study and practice the Way in this present lifetime, in which lifetime will you become a person of [exceptional] capability or a person without sickness? Simply, do not be concerned with your corporeal life, arouse the mind of awakening, and practice. This is what is most essential in studying the Way.
Students of the Way, do not be greedy for food and clothing.26 Each person has an allotted share of food and life. Even if you seek after more than your share, it will never come [to you]. Moreover, for those who study the Buddha Way, there are offerings from benefactors. This cannot be compared with daily begging.27 There are provisions that belong to the monastery. These are not [the result] of personal activity. Fruits and berries [from the wild], food received through begging, and offerings from faithful believers are the three kinds of pure food. The four occupations of farming, commerce, military service, and craftsmanship all [result in] food of impure wrong livelihood.28 These are not the types of food for [monks] who have left home.34
In ancient times there was a certain monk. When he [the monk] died and went to the underworld, King Yama said, “This person’s allotted life has not yet been exhausted. Let him return.” One of the officers of the world of the dead then said, “Although he has allotted life remaining, his allotted food has already been consumed.” The king said, “Then let him eat lotus leaves.” After the monk was brought back to life, he could not eat ordinary food in the human realm, and he maintained his remaining life eating only lotus leaves.29
Therefore, because of the power of studying the Buddha Way, the food allotted to home-leavers will not be exhausted. The single whorl of white hair [on the forehead of the Buddha] and the blessing of the Buddha leaving us twenty years of his life will never be exhausted, even if we continue to receive it for numberless eons.30 Devote yourself only to the practice of the Way, and do not seek after food and clothing.
We often read in books on medicine that only when the body, blood, and flesh are well maintained will the mind also be healthy. All the more will people who practice the Way, keep the precepts, uphold the pure practices,31 and entrust themselves to the activities of the buddhas and ancestors have their minds likewise harmonized.
Students of the Way, when you want to say something, reflect on it three times. If it is beneficial to both yourself and others, then say it. If it is not beneficial, remain silent. This is difficult to achieve immediately. Keep this in mind and gradually put it into practice.
On one occasion [when Dōgen was speaking] on miscellaneous topics, he instructed:
Students of the Way, do not be concerned about food and clothing.36
Although this country is small and remote [from the Buddha’s country], among those who are famous in the ways of the exoteric and esoteric teachings32 and are known to later generations, whether in the past and present, I have never heard of even one among them who had abundant food and clothing. All of them became well known because they endured poverty, were not concerned about other things, and devoted themselves completely to this Way. Moreover, people studying the Way abandon their occupations in society and never seek after [fame and profit]. How could they possibly become wealthy?
Although we are in the final age [of Dharma], in the monasteries in great Song China, there are thousands and thousands of people who are studying the Way. There are some who have come from remote districts or left their home provinces. Most of them are poor. However, they never worry about [food and clothing]. Their only concern is that they have not yet attained realization of the Way. Whether sitting in a lofty tower or in a magnificent hall, they think of the Way [with the seriousness] of having lost their father and mother.
I personally met a monk from Sichuan who had no possessions because he had come from a remote district.33 All he had was two or three pieces of ink stick. They cost about two or three hundred wen in China, which is about twenty or thirty mon in this country. He sold them, bought some low-quality Chinese paper that was very fragile, made an upper and lower robe with it, and put them on. Although when he stood up or sat down, his robe tore and made strange noises, he never paid any attention to it and was not bothered. Someone said to him, “You should go back to your hometown and bring some personal belongings and clothing.” He replied, “My hometown is far away. I do not want to waste time on the road and lose time [I could spend] practicing the Way.” He practiced the Way without any concern for the cold. This is why many good monks have appeared in China.
I have heard that at the time of the founding of the monastery on Mt. Xuefeng, the temple was so poor they sometimes [had no food to cook such that] no smoke came out [of the kitchen chimney], and sometimes they had to eat weedy legumes steamed with rice.34 They lived such a poor life while practicing the Way, yet they always had fifteen hundred monks. People in ancient times practiced in such a way. Today we should also be like this.
The degeneration of monks is often caused by lives of wealth. In the time of the Tathāgata, Devadatta became jealous once he began receiving daily offerings of five hundred cartloads of provisions [from King Ajātaśatru].35 Not only was wealth harmful to him, but it caused other people to commit evil deeds as well. How can people who truly study the Way become wealthy? Even if a person makes an offering with pure faith, if the offering is especially large, we see it as a debt of kindness and want to repay it.
Also, people in this country make donations expecting some profit for themselves. It is an unchanging principle that people give more to those who approach with a flattering smile. If we do the same in order to curry favor with others, it will surely become an obstacle to our practice of the Way. Just endure hunger, bear the cold, and devote yourselves completely to the practice of the Way.
One day [Dōgen] instructed:
An ancient said, “You must listen; you must see.” He also said, “If you have not experienced, you must look. If you have not seen, you must listen.” He meant that we should see rather than listen, and that we should experience rather than see. If we have not experienced, we should see. If we have not seen, we should listen.
[Dōgen] also said:
When practicing the Way, we must be cautious of our deep-rooted attachments and cast them aside. If you change your physical behavior, your mind will change as well.36 First of all, if you maintain activities according to the precepts based on moral codes and forms, then your mind will also be transformed.37 In Song China, there is a custom among laypeople. They gather at their ancestral shrine and pretend to cry in order to demonstrate their filial piety toward their fathers and mothers. Eventually, they actually do cry. Students of the Way should do the same. Even if you do not have the mind of awakening in the beginning, if you compel yourself to choose to practice the Buddha Way wholeheartedly, eventually you will arouse the true mind of awakening.38
Beginners in the Way should simply practice [the Way] following the other members of the sangha. Do not seek to study in order to gain [extensive] knowledge of the essential points and ancient practices.39 When you enter the mountains alone or seclude yourself in a city to practice, it is good to understand the essential points and ancient practices without misinterpretation. If you practice following other practitioners, you will be able to attain the Way. For example, when it comes to sailing a ship, if you do not know the ancient practices [of sailing], or even if you do not know how to steer or how the boat sails, if you entrust everything to good sailors, whether you understand or not, you will reach the other shore. Only if you follow a good teacher40 and practice with fellow practitioners without harboring personal views will you naturally become a person of the Way.
Students of the Way! Even if you have attained realization, do not think that you have reached the pinnacle and stop practicing. The Way is infinite. Even if you have attained realization, continue to practice the Way. Remember the story of Liangsui who visited Zen Master Magu.41
Students of the Way! We should not think that we will practice the Way on another day. Do not just spend this day or moment in vain; simply practice diligently day by day, moment by moment. A certain layperson had been sick for a long time. In the spring of last year, he pledged himself to me, saying, “As soon as I have recovered from the sickness I have now, I will renounce my wife and children and build a hermitage near the temple. I will join the repentance ceremony42 both times each month. I will practice daily and listen to your lectures on the Dharma. I would like to spend as much of the rest of my life as possible keeping the precepts.” After that, he received various medical treatments and recovered a little bit. But then he relapsed and spent his days in vain. In January of this year, his condition suddenly became critical, and he suffered from increasing pain. Because he did not have enough time to bring the furnishings he had been preparing, nor to build the hermitage, he borrowed someone else’s hut to stay in temporarily. Within a month or so, however, he died. The night before [he died], he received the bodhisattva precepts and took refuge in the Three Treasures.43 He was peaceful on his deathbed. It was better than staying at home and dying in a frenzy, clinging to the bonds of affection for his wife and children. However, I think it would have been better for him if he had left home last year when he had first made up his mind, had lived close to this temple, had become familiar with the sangha, and had ended his life practicing the Way. Considering this case, I feel that we must not defer the practice of the Buddha Way to another day.
If we think that because we are physically sick we will practice better only after we have recovered from sickness, it only shows that we lack the mind of awakening. Because this body is a collection of the four gross elements,44 who will not become sick? The ancients did not necessarily have golden bones. Only because their aspiration was sufficiently strong could they practice, setting other things aside. We forget trivial matters when an important matter comes up. We must consider the Buddha Way to be the vital matter and be determined to investigate it thoroughly in this lifetime, not wasting even a single day or hour.
An ancient once said, “Do not spend your days and nights in vain.”45 If we receive medical treatments to heal a sickness, but instead of getting better the pain gradually increases, we may think that we should have practiced while the pain was still not so bad. However, when we are in pain, we should be determined [to practice] before our condition becomes critical. And when our condition has become critical, we should resolve to practice before we die. When we are sick and receive treatment, sometimes the illness passes, and sometimes it gets worse. Sometimes we recover without having any treatment, and sometimes we get worse even though we are being treated. Take this into careful consideration.44
Also, we should not think that we will practice only after shelter has been arranged and robes, bowls, and so forth have been obtained.46 If we are living in poverty, we should not run around [to make such preparations]. While waiting until robes, bowls, and other things have been obtained, can we prevent death from approaching? If we wait until furnishings are ready and our shelter has been prepared before beginning to practice, we could spend our entire lifetimes in vain. Even if we do not have robes, bowls, and so on, we should practice with the resolution that even a layperson can practice the Buddha Way. Anyway, robes, bowls, and other things are simply the ornaments of monkhood. The genuine Buddha Way does not depend on such things. If they are available, we should have them, but do not deliberately seek after them. [At the same time,] we should not consider rejecting them when we can get them. It is a non-Buddhist view to refuse medical treatments because of a desire to die intentionally. In the Buddha Way it is said, “We should not begrudge our lives; we should not fail to take care of our lives.”47 When offered, moxibustion48 or purgatives will not obstruct our practice of the Way. It is a hindrance to think that we must put aside our practice of the Way and put primary importance on curing our sickness, planning to practice only after we have recovered.
In the ocean there is a place called the Dragon Gate.49 [Here] waves constantly billow. Once they have passed through the waves at this place, all fish without exception become dragons. Therefore, this place is called the Dragon Gate. Now I say, at this place the waves are not different from those in any other place, and the water is also ordinary saltwater. However, mysteriously enough, when fish pass through this place, they become dragons without fail. Although their scales do not change and their bodies stay the same, they suddenly become dragons. We should know that the way of patch-robed monks is also like this. Although it is similar to other places, if we enter a monastery, without fail we will become buddhas and ancestors. We eat meals and wear clothes just like other people; we satisfy our hunger and ward off the cold just like other people. Still, if we simply shave our heads and reveal its roundness, wear a square robe,50 and eat gruel for breakfast and rice for lunch, we immediately become patch-robed monks. Becoming a buddha or an ancestor should not be sought elsewhere far away. [Becoming a buddha or an ancestor] depends only on whether or not we enter a monastery; [becoming a dragon] depends only on whether or not fish pass through the Dragon Gate.46
Also, there is a saying in the lay world, “Although I sell gold, no one buys it.” The Way of the buddhas and ancestors is also like this. It is not that they are stingy with the Way; rather, they always offer it, but people do not accept it. Attaining the Way does not depend on whether our faculties are sharp or dull. Every one of us can realize the Dharma. Depending upon whether we are diligent or lazy, there is slowness or quickness in attaining the Way. The difference between being diligent or lazy is caused by whether our aspiration is firmly established or not. Lack of firm aspiration is caused by not considering impermanence.51 We die moment by moment. Ultimately speaking, we do not stay [alive] even for a little while. While you are alive, do not spend your time in vain.
There is a saying, “A mouse in a [sealed] granary is starved for food. An ox plowing a field does not satisfy its hunger with grass.” This means that even though it is living in the midst of abundance, [the mouse] does not necessarily eat its fill; even though it lives in the midst of grass, [the ox] is hungry for grass. People are also like this. Even though we are in the midst of the Buddha Way, we do not live in peace and joy throughout our lifetime.48
All the deeds of people of the Way, whether these actions seem good or bad, derive from deep consideration. These actions cannot be fathomed by ordinary people. Long ago, the Director of Monks Eshin52 once had someone hit a deer that was eating grass in his garden to drive it away. At the time, someone said to him, “Master, it seems you do not have compassion. You begrudged the grass and tormented the animal.” The director of monks replied, “If I did not hit it, the deer would eventually become accustomed to human beings. And when it came near an evil person, it would surely be killed. This is why I had it hit.” Although it seems he did not have compassion and had the deer hit, deep in his heart he was filled with compassion in this way.
One day [Dōgen] instructed:
When someone asks about the Dharma gates53 or methods of practice, patch-robed monks should without fail answer with the genuine teachings. Even if you believe that the questioner is not a vessel [of the Dharma], or is a beginner who has not yet entered [the Dharma], and that therefore the person is not capable of grasping the meaning [of your words], do not answer with expedient means that are not genuine. In the spirit of the bodhisattva precepts, even if a vessel of the Hīnayāna54 asks about the Hīnayāna way, we should reply with [the heart] of the Mahāyāna. Among the teaching activities of the Tathāgata during his lifetime, the provisional teachings as an expedient means [, which he expounded before he began to teach the genuine teachings,] are not truly beneficial. Only the final, genuine teaching is truly beneficial.55 Therefore, without being concerned with whether the questioner is capable of grasping it or not, we should answer only with the genuine teachings.
When a person within [the Dharma] sees [the genuine teachings], he can attain this [teaching] with genuine virtue. [Those outside the Dharma] can attain it [only] with superficial virtue. We should not assess [things] based on external superficial characteristics.56
In ancient times, a person visited Confucius to become his student. Confucius asked him, “Why do you want to be my disciple?” This worldly person replied, “Virtuous Worthy One, when I saw you going to court, you looked very dignified and powerful. Therefore, I want to become your student.” Confucius then asked [another] disciple to bring his cart, garment, gold, silver, and other treasures and gave them to the [worldly] person. [Confucius] said, “It is not me that you respect.”
[Dōgen] also said:
The emperor’s chief advisor of Uji57 once came to the bathhouse [in the imperial court] and watched the person who was in charge of stoking the fire. The bathhouse worker saw him and said, “Who are you? Why have you come into the court bathhouse without permission?” [The chief advisor] was forced to leave. Then, he took off the shabby clothes he was wearing and changed into magnificent attire. When he appeared [again] dressed up, the worker in charge of the fire saw him from a distance, became frightened, and ran away. Then, the chief advisor put his court dress on the top of a bamboo pole and paid homage to it. Someone asked what he was doing. He replied, “I am respected by others not because of my virtue but because of my clothing.” Foolish people respect others in this way. The words and phrases in the teachings of the Buddhist scriptures are venerated in the same way.
An ancient said, “The words [of a statesman] spread all over the land, but there is not a fault on his tongue. The actions [of a statesman] govern the whole country, but there is no one who bears a grudge against him.”58 This is because [the statesman] said what should be said and carried out what should be carried out. These are the “words and actions of ultimate virtue and the essence of the Way.”59 In the mundane world, most people think and make judgments based on their self-centered evaluations. I am afraid there might be nothing but mistakes [in them]. The [proper] speech and deeds of patch-robed monks have been established by our predecessors. We should never hold on to our self-centered views. This is the Way the buddhas and ancestors have practiced.52
Students of the Way, each one of us should reflect on our own self. To reflect on our self means to examine how we behave with our own body and mind. Patch-robed monks are already the children of Shakyamuni. We must follow the lifestyle of the Tathāgata. There are codes of dignified conduct regarding the manner of body, speech, and thought60 that have been carried out by a thousand buddhas. All of us should follow them. Even in the lay world, it is said, “Our clothes should be in accordance with the law; our speech should correspond with the Way.”61 We [monks] must never follow our own [ego-centered] self.
Nowadays, when those who study the Way listen to the Dharma, more than anything, they want to [give others] the impression that they understand it correctly, and thus they think about how they can reply with marvelous words. This is why what they hear goes in one ear and out the other. After all, this happens because they do not have the mind of awakening and their [ego-centered] self remains. We should simply forget our self and listen carefully to what the speaker says, then ponder it quietly later. After that, if we find faults or anything questionable, we may make a criticism on another occasion. And if we agree with [the teaching], we should return to the teacher and offer our understanding. When we try to present our understanding immediately, we are not carefully listening to the Dharma.54
During the reign of Taizong of the Tang dynasty, a horse that could travel thousands of miles was presented from a foreign country.62 The emperor was not delighted by this gift. He thought to himself, “Even if I can travel thousands of miles on this excellent horse, it is useless if no retainers follow me.” Then he summoned Wei Zheng and asked his opinion about this.63 Wei Zheng replied, “I agree with you.” Because of this, [the emperor] returned the horse with a load of gold and silk on its back.
Now I say, even the emperor did not keep what was not useful to him and returned it. Furthermore, for us patch-robed monks, besides robes and a bowl, there is absolutely nothing that is useful. Why is it that we store up useless things? Even in the mundane world, those who completely devote themselves to a certain path do not think it necessary to possess property such as rice fields or manors. [Such people] consider everyone in the whole country to be their own people or family.
In his will to his son, the Dharma Bridge64 Chisō said, “You must exclusively concentrate your efforts on the Way.” Needless to say, as children of the Buddha we should give up all other affairs and wholeheartedly devote ourselves to one thing. We must keep this in mind.
Students of the Way, when we practice with a certain teacher and listen to the Dharma, we should listen thoroughly again and again until we have attained a definitive understanding. If we spend time without asking what should be asked, or without saying what should be said, it will be our own loss. Teachers give responses to their disciples only when they are asked questions. We should ask again and again to make sure that we have a definitive understanding even about the things we have already understood. Teachers also should ask their disciples whether they have completely understood or not and give them thorough instructions.56
On some important points, the mental attitude of a person of the Way is different from that of common people. Once while the late superintendent of monks65 of Kennin-ji was still alive, the temple ran out of food. At the time, a patron66 invited the superintendent of monks [to his home] and offered him a bolt of silk. The superintendent of monks rejoiced, tucked it under his kimono, and carried it back to the temple by himself, without having his attendant take it for him. He gave the silk to the temple officer in charge and told him to use it to pay for the next morning’s gruel, and so forth.
However, a certain layman made a request saying, “An unfortunate thing has happened, and I need two or three bolts of silk. If you have even a small amount, could you kindly let me have it?” The superintendent of monks immediately took back the silk [from the temple officer] and gave it [to the layman]. At the time, the officer and other monks in his assembly were puzzled by this unexpected action. Later the superintendent of monks himself said, “You may think what I did was unreasonable. However, I think that all you monks have gathered together here because of your aspiration for the Buddha Way. None of us would mind even if we run out of food or even starve to death. It is more beneficial to help people living in the lay world who are suffering right now from a lack of something they need. Even for ourselves, it is better to give up one day’s food and help others’ suffering.” Thus is the deep consideration of a person of the Way.
正法眼蔵随聞記 一 終
All the buddhas and ancestors were originally ordinary people. While they were ordinary people they certainly did bad things and had evil thoughts. Some of them might have been dull-witted or even fools. However, since they followed their teachers, relied on [the Buddha’s] teaching and practice, and transformed themselves, they all became buddhas and ancestors. Today’s people should also do the same. We should not disparage ourselves, thinking we are foolish or dull-witted. If we do not arouse the mind [of awakening] in this present lifetime, when can we expect to? If we are fond of [the Way], we will surely attain it.
In the lay world, there is a proverb about the way of the emperor: “Unless one’s mind is empty, it is impossible to accept loyal advice.” This saying means that without holding personal views, [the emperor] should follow the opinions of loyal ministers and carry out the way of the sovereign according to how things ought to be.
The attitude of patch-robed monks practicing the Way should be the same. If we hold on to our personal views, the words of our teacher will not enter our ears. If we do not listen to our teacher’s words, we cannot attain our teacher’s Dharma.
We should forget not only different views on the Dharma gates but worldly affairs, hunger, and cold as well. When we listen completely purified in body and mind, we can hear intimately. When we listen in this way, we will be able to clarify the truth and resolve our questions. True attainment of the Way is casting aside body and mind and following our teacher straightforwardly. If we maintain this attitude, we will be true people of the Way. This is the primary truth.
The End of the First Book of Shōbōgenzō Zuimonki
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