Shobogenzo Zuimonki

Book 4

4-12

Dogen instructed,

Many worldly people say, “I desire to practice the Way, but the world is in its last period (which is degenerate)1 and I have only inferior capabilities. I cannot endure the formal practice which accords with the dharma. I want to find an easier way which is suitable for me, make a connection [with the Buddha], and attain enlightenment in the next lifetime.”

This is entirely wrong. Categorizing the three periods of time—the true Dharma, the semblance Dharma, and the last Dharma—is only a temporary expedient. Monks in the time of the Buddha were not necessarily outstanding. There were some who were incredibly despicable and inferior in capacity. Therefore, the Buddha established various kinds of precepts for the sake of evil and inferior people. Without exception, everyone is a vessel of the buddha-dharma. Never think that you are not a vessel. Only if you practice according to the teaching, will you gain realization without fail. Since you have a mind, you are able to distinguish good from evil. You have hands and feet, and therefore lack nothing for practicing gassho or walking. Therefore, in practicing the buddha-dharma, do not be concerned with whether you are capable or not. Living beings in the human world are all vessels (of the buddha-dharma). It would not be possible if you had been born as an animal or something else.

Students of the Way, never expect to practice tomorrow. You should practice following the Buddha only today and this moment.

  1. This is one of the three periods of the dharma; the shobo (the true Dharma), the zobo (the semblance Dharma), and the mappo (the last Dharma). These three signify the three periods following the Buddha’s death. In the period of the true dharma, lasting 500 (or 1,000) years, the Buddha’s teaching is properly practiced and enlightenment can be attained. In the period of the semblance Dharma, lasting 1,000 (or 500) years, the teaching is practiced but enlightenment is no longer possible. In the period of the last Dharma, lasting 10,000years, only the teaching exists, no practice, no enlightenment exist. In Japan it was believed that the last period began in 1052 A.D.. The idea of mappo heavily influenced the Buddhist movements during the Kamakura Period.