Dogen also said,
[You] should maintain the precepts and eating regulations 1 (one meal
a day before noon, etc.). Still, it is wrong to insist upon them
as essential, establish them as a practice, and expect to be able
to gain the Way by observing them. We follow them just because they
are the activities of Zen monks 2 and the lifestyle of the Buddha’s
children. Although keeping them is good, we should not take them
as the primary practice. I don’t mean to say, however, that you should
break the precepts and become self-indulgent. Clinging to such an
attitude is an evil view and not that of a Buddhist practitioner.
We follow the precepts or regulations simply because they form the
standard for a Buddhist and are the tradition of Zen monasteries.
While I was staying at Chinese monasteries, I met no one who took
them as the primary concern.
For true attainment of the Way, devoting all effort to zazen alone
has been transmitted among the buddhas and patriarchs 3. For this reason,
I taught a fellow student of mine, Gogenbo, a disciple of Zen-Master
Eisai 4, to abandon his strict adherence of keeping the precepts and
reciting the Precept Sutra 5 day and night.
Ejo asked, “When we practice and learn the Way in a Zen monastery we
should keep the pure regulations made by Zen Master Hyakujo 6, shouldn’t
we? In the beginning of the Regulations (Hyakujo-Shingi), it says that
receiving and maintaining the precepts is prerequisite. In this tradition,
the Fundamental Precept has also been handed down. In the oral and
face-to-face transmission of this lineage, the students are given the
precepts transmitted from the West (India). These are the Bodhisattva
Precepts. Also, it says in the Precept Sutra, that people must recite
the Sutra day and night. Why do you have us discontinue this practice?”
Dogen replied, “You are right. Practitioners of the Way certainly ought
to maintain Hyakujo’s regulations. The form of maintaining the regulations
is receiving and observing the precepts and practicing zazen, etc.
The meaning of reciting the Precept Sutra day and night and observing
the precepts single-mindedly 7 is nothing other than practicing shikantaza,
following the activities of the ancient masters. When we sit zazen,
what precept is not observed, what merit is not actualized? The ways
of practice carried on by the ancient masters have a profound meaning.
Without holding on to personal preferences, we should go along with
the assembly and practice in accordance with those ways.
- During the Kamakura Period in which Dogen lived, there were some
who neglected the precepts and regulations and others who put emphasis
on observing them. Representatives of the former were the Pure-land-Buddhists,
especially Shinran, an example of the latter was Eisai. It seems
that Dogen sought the middle-way, that is keeping the precepts without
clinging to them, without expectation of some reward from observing
them. Dogen emphasized just keeping them and practicing without the
defilements of human sentiments.
- Noso, in Japanese, literally means a monk who wears a
patched robe. The patched robe refers to the kesa (kesaya in
Sanskrit) made of abandoned rags. Monks cut abandoned rags into pieces
and sewed them together. Since Zen monks wore patched robes, they
were called patch-robed monks. Dogen also used the word “nossu”
in the same way.
- In Shobogenzo Shohojisso Dogen wrote, “The manifestation
of the buddhas and patriarchs is the manifestation of ultimate reality.
So being buddhas or patriarchs is being just as-it-is. In order to
be as-it-is. We have to learn and practice the tradition of the buddhas
- Here, Dogen called him Yojo Sojo, which is another name for Zen
Master Eisai (1141–1215). Sojo is a title of the first rank in the
Buddhist hierarchy. Originally, Eisai was a Tendai priest. When he
visited China a second time and stayed there for five years, he studied
Rinzai Zen and introduced it into Japan. He founded Kenninji where
Dogen later practiced Zen under Myozen, one of Eisai’s disciples.
Dogen respected Eisai very much and in Zuimonki praised
his deeds. There is some controversy among scholars as to whether
he actually met Eisai or not.
- This refers to the Bonmokyo (Brahmajala-sutra), translated
by Kumarajiva. This sutra presents the mahayana precepts for bodhisattvas,
which are called Bodhisattva Precepts or Fundamental Precepts, consisting
of ten major precepts and forty-eight minor ones. Recent scholars
believe this sutra was written in China.
- Shingi in Japanese : the regulations which students should
observe when practicing in Zen monasteries. The first shingi were
compiled by Hyakujo Ekai . This is why Hyakujo (720–814) was thought
of as being the founder of Zen monasteries. The Hyakujo-shingi no
longer exists. In the Zennen-shingi , however, the first chapter
is on receiving the precepts and the second chapter is on maintaining
them. In the first chapter we read, “In learning Zen and seeking
the Way, the precepts are of primary (importance). If you don’t depart
from evil deeds and protect yourself from wrong, how is it possible
to be a buddha or a patriarch? “
- In the chapter on the thirty-fourth minor precept of the Bonmokyo,
it is written that the precepts should be maintained and recited
day and night.