zen-master-dogen

Cease from practice based on intellectual understanding, pursuing words and following after speech, and learn the backward step that turns your light inwardly to illuminate your self. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will be manifest.
—  Zen Master Dogen
Tea and Rice

By Zen Master Dogen

‘When you ride in a boat and watch the shore, you might assume that the shore is moving. But when you keep your eyes closely on the boat, you can see that the boat moves. Similarly, if you examine myriad things with a confused body and mind, you might suppose that your mind and essence are permanent. When you practice intimately and return to where you are, it will be clear that nothing at all has unchanging self.’

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'To study the way of enlightenment is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of enlightenment remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly.’

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'If you attain unsurpassable, complete enlightenment, all sentient beings also attain it. The reason is that all sentient beings are aspects of enlightenment.’

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'Great enlightenment right at this moment is not self, not other’

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'If you speak of “achieving enlightenment,” you may think that you don’t usually have enlightenment. If you say, “Enlightenment comes,” you may wonder where it comes from. If you say, “I have become enlightened,” you may suppose enlightenment has a beginning.’

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'Great enlightenment is the tea and rice of daily activity.’

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From The Essential Dogen: Writings of the Great Zen Master edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi and Peter Levitt.

Dogen- "Kindly Advice for Doing Seated Meditation"


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My Friendly Advice for Seated Meditation
Compiled by Meditation Master Wanshi Shōgaku


The important function for Buddha after Buddha
And the pivotal moment for Ancestor after Ancestor
Is to know It without ‘stirring anything up’
And to be illuminated without setting up an opposite.


When one knows It without stirring anything up,
Such knowing is naturally humble:
When one is illumined without setting up an opposite,
Such illumination is naturally subtle.


Since that knowing is naturally humble,
There is never a discriminating thought:
Since that illumination is naturally subtle
There is never the least outward sign of It.


Since there is never a discriminating thought,
That knowing is wondrous, with nothing left to be dealt with:
Since there is never the least outward sign of It,
That illumination is complete, with nothing left unrealized.


The water is now so clear you can see to its depths,
As fish swim by at their leisure:
The sky is now so clear it is boundless,
As birds fly off, leaving no trace.
The point of this needle of seated meditation

(from Shobogenzo)

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There is a simple way to become a buddha: When you refrain from unwholesome action, are not attached to birth and death, and are compassionate toward all sentient beings, respectful to seniors and kind to juniors, not excluding or desiring anything, with no designing thoughts or worries, you will be called a buddha. Do not seek anything else.
—  Zen Master Dogen (1200-1253), Moon in a dewdrop
Moon in a Dewdrop

‘Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water. The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken. Although its light is wide and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide. The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in dewdrops on the grasses, or even in one drop of water.

Enlightenment does not divide you, just as the moon does not break the water. You cannot hinder enlightenment, just as a drop of water does not hinder the moon in the sky.

The depth of the drop is the height of the moon. Each reflection, however long or short its duration, manifests the vastness of the dewdrop, and realizes the limitlessness of the moonlight in the sky.’

- Zen Master Dogen, Moon in a Dewdrop, edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi.

The Far Side of the Moon.

In Genjokoan, Zen Master Dogen wrote:

“Conveying oneself toward all things to carry out practice-enlightenment is delusion. All things coming and carrying out practice-enlightenment through the self is realization.”

Although these words may sound daunting, Dogen is really just giving us some practical advice on meditation or practice-enlightenment.

When we first take up meditation we find that our attention easily wanders after thoughts and sensation. As we progress, we find ourselves looking for some experience called enlightenment. Later, we see that every meditation is accompanied by a thought that we call myself or “I”. All of these are part of what Dogen calls “conveying oneself toward all things” because in each we are moving outwardly to seek the self in thought and experience.

When we finally realize that the subject of practice is not found in things we begin to abandon the outward search. We do not follow our thoughts so much when they beckon. We do not heed our cognizing mind when it tells us the solution lays this way or that. Thought and experience do not end but instead of running after them we begin to just watch as they arise and fall. To paraphrase Dogen, all things come through the self yet no thing is mistaken for that Self which just watches.

In a recent post I likened this realization to sitting in a field looking up at a full moon knowing that, although you can’t see it, its far side is always there. Likewise, the Self is here, right now. It’s you! Yet in your very search for it you move away from it.

It may seem paradoxical but the value of practice lies in its ability to lead you to a place where you give up your search for enlightenment or Buddhahood. You just sit, expecting nothing, looking for nothing, not seeing self as anything. It is then that enlightenment unfolds of it’s own accord and the meaning is made clear of, “All things coming and carrying out practice-enlightenment through the self is realization.”

The Mind of the Ancient Buddhas

’“The mind of the ancient Buddhas” should not be understood as something irrelevant to your experience, as some mind which exists from the beginningless past, for it is the mind that eats rice gruel or tastes other food in your ordinary life, it is the mind which is grass, the mind which is water. Within this life just as it is, is the act of sitting like a Buddha which is called “arousing the thought of enlightenment.”

The conditions for arousing the thought of enlightenment do not come from anywhere else. It is the enlightened mind which arouses the thought of enlightenment… 

One honors the Buddha with a grain of sand, one honors the Buddha with the water in which rice has been soaked. One offers a handful of food to living creatures.’

- Zen Master Dogen, Arousing the Supreme Mind, translated by Francis Cook.