Shobogenzo Zuimonki

Book 6

6-4

In a talk on various subjects, Dogen instructed,

Students of the Way, do not worry about food and clothing. Although Japan is a small country, far removed (from the Buddha’s country), there are quite a few people who were famous as scholars of the Exoteric and Esoteric Teachings, and who have become known to later generations. There are also many people who devote themselves to poetry, music, literature, and the martial arts. I have never heard of even one of them who had an abundance of food and clothing. They became known because they all endured poverty and forgot about other matters, so they could devote themselves completely to their own profession.

This is all the more true of people learning the Way in this tradition of the patriarchs. They have abandoned their occupations in society, and never seek after fame and profit. How could they become wealthy? Although this is the degenerate age, there are thousands of people in the monasteries in China who are learning the Way. There are some who came from remote districts or left their home provinces. In any case, although they never worry about their poverty, almost all of them are poor. Their only concern is that they have not yet attained the Way. Sitting either in a lofty building or under it, they practice [zazen] wholeheartedly as if they had lost their mother.

I personally met a monk from Shisen who had no possessions because he had come from a remote district. All he had was a few pieces of ink stick1. They cost about two or three hundred mon2 in China, which is about twenty or thirty mon in Japan. He sold them, bought very low quality Chinese paper, and made an upper robe and lower robe with it. Whenever he stood up or sat down, he made strange noises, though he never paid any attention to it.

Someone said to him, “Go back home and bring some personal belongings and clothing.”

He replied, “My home is far away. I don’t want to waste time on the road home, and lose time to practice the Way.”

He practiced the Way all the more, without being concerned with cold weather. This is why many prominent people have appeared in China.

  1. Chinese ink stick is made from pine roots or vegetable oil. It is used for painting and calligraphy.
  2. The minimum monetary unit in ancient China and Japan, the equivalent to a few pennies.