Impermanence is swift; life-and-death is a vital matter 1. For the
short while you are alive, if you wish to study or practice some
activity, just practice the Buddha-Way and study the buddha-dharma.
Since literature and poetry are useless, you should give them up.
Even when you study the buddha-dharma and practice the Buddha-Way,
do not study extensively. Needless to say, refrain from learning
the Exoteric and Esoteric scriptures of the teaching-schools 2. Do
not be fond of learning on a large scale, even the sayings of the
buddhas and patriarchs. It is difficult for us untalented and inferior
people to concentrate on and complete even one thing. It is no good
at all to do many things at the same time and lose steadiness of
- Life-and-death or birth-and-death. This is also a translation
of shoji, or in Sanskrit, samsara which means transmigration
within the six realms of delusions. In Shobogenzo Shoji (Life-and-death),
however, Dogen said, “Life-and-death is the precious Life of the Buddha.
For human beings, clarifying the reality of life-and-death is the great
Impermanence is also usually used in a negative sense, though Dogen
quoted the Sixth Patriarch in Shobogenzo Bussho (Buddha-nature),
“Therefore, grass, trees, and bushes are impermanent, and are nothing
but Buddha-nature. Human beings and things, body and mind are impermanent,
and are nothing but Buddha-nature. The earth, mountains, and rivers
are impermanent, because they are Buddha-nature. Supreme awareness
(Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi) is impermanent, since it is Buddha-nature.
The great Nirvana is Buddha-nature since it is impermanent.”
- The teaching-schools is a translation of Kyoke or Kyoshu,
those schools based on written scriptures. For example, Kegonshu
is based on the Kegonkyo (Avatamsaka-sutra). This is in
contrast to believers of the Zenke or Zenshu, which
insist that Zen is based on Buddha-mind alone, not on the Buddha’s
verbal teachings. Exoteric teaching is a translation of Kenkyo,
a general term for all the Buddhist teachings, both hinayana and mahayana other
than the Esoteric teachings (mikkyo). Mikkyo means
the mystic teachings which were directly revealed by the Dharma-body
Buddha, Dainichi (Mahavairocana). This school arose in India after
the hinayana and mahayana schools. In Japan, Mikkyo was
systematized by Kukai (774–835) and became the Shingon School. This
is also known as Vajra-yana Buddhism.