Shobogenzo Zuimonki

Book 4

4-11

Dogen instructed,

It is hard to tell what is good or bad. Worldly people say that it is good to wear silk brocade and embroidery and bad to wear robes made of coarse cloth and abandoned rags. In the buddha-dharma, the latter is good and pure while luxurious garments embroidered with gold and silver are considered bad and defiled. In the same way, everything else is opposite.

In my case too, since I sometimes write poetry or prose some worldly people praise me, saying it is extraordinary. And yet, there are some who criticize me for knowing such things despite being a monk who has left home and is studying the Way. Ultimately, which shall we take as good and abandon as bad?

It is said in a scripture, “Being praised and belonging to pure things is called good; being despised and belonging to impure things is called evil.” It is also written, “Things which bring about suffering are called evil; things which invite joy are called good.”

In this way, we should carefully figure out in detail, and take up what is really good and practice it; see what is really evil and discard it. Since a sangha is born out of (the realm of) purity1, things which do not arouse human desires are considered good and pure.

  1. The realm of being free from the defilement of delusive desires.