In an evening talk Dogen said,
“Nowadays, almost all people, both lay and clerical, want to make it known to others when they do something good, and prevent others from noticing when they do something bad. Because of this, they lose correspondence between their inner and outer selves. You should aspire carefully to make the inside correspond with the outside, repent of faults, and hide your real virtue. Do not adorn your outward appearance. Offer good things to others and accept bad things yourself.”
Someone asked, “Surely, we should maintain an attitude of hiding our true virtue and not adorning our appearance. And yet, for buddhas and bodhisattvas, it is essential to have great compassion and benefit living-beings. If ignorant monks or lay people find faults, they will become guilty of slandering the priesthood. Even if they do not understand true inner virtue, if they see monks of good appearance, respect them, and make offerings to them, there must be some merit which brings about happiness. How should we think about this?”
Dogen replied, “Although you do not adorn your outward appearance, it is irrational to become self-indulgent. If you carry out bad deeds in front of lay people on the pretext of hiding your true virtue, this is certainly a terrible violation of the precepts.
“Although some merely wish to gain fame as people of bodhi-mind, and not have their faults known by others, the heavenly beings, the guardian deities, and the three-treasures, are secretly watching them. What is being admonished against here is an attitude which feels no shame before unseen beings, and covets the esteem of worldly people. You should consider things only for the sake of the flourishing of the dharma and the benefit of living beings, all the time and in whatever situation. Speak after making careful consideration; act after giving attentive thought; do not act rashly. Ponder over what is reasonable in whatever situation you encounter. Our life changes moment by moment, it flows by swiftly day by day. Everything is impermanent and changing rapidly. This is the reality before our eyes. You do not need to wait for the teaching of masters or sutras to see it. In every moment, do not expect tomorrow will come. Think only of this day and this moment. Since the future is very much uncertain, and you cannot foresee what will happen, you should resolve to follow the Buddha-Way, if only for today, while you are alive. To follow the Buddha-Way is to give up your bodily life and act so as to enable the dharma to flourish and, to bring benefit to living beings.”
Someone asked, “According to the Buddha’s teachings, should we practice begging for food?”
Dogen replied, “Yes, we should. Yet we have to take into consideration the customs and the conditions of each country. In whatever situation, we should choose what is best for the benefit of living beings in the long run and for the progress of our own practice. As for the manners of begging, since the roads in this country are dirty, if we walk around wearing Buddhist robes, they will become soiled. Also, since people are poor, it may be impossible to beg in the same way as in India, that is, at every house along the street with no regard for whether they are poor or rich. [If we cling to such a way], our practice might regress and we would be unable to function magnanimously for the benefit of living beings. Only if we keep practicing the Buddha-Way in a humble manner following the customs of the country will people of all classes support us by making offerings of their own accord and will practice for ourselves and for the benefit of others be fulfilled.
What is best for the sake of the Buddha-Way and for the benefit of others should be considered in each situation. Forget personal profit and do not be concerned with your reputation.”