Shobogenzo Zuimonki

Book 1


In an evening talk Dogen said,

Most people in the world want to show off their good deeds and hide their bad deeds. Since this frame of mind goes against the minds of the unseen deities 1 , their good deeds go unrewarded, and their bad deeds done in secret bring about punishment. Consequently, they conclude that there is no recompense for good deeds, and little merit in the buddha-dharma. This is a false view. We must certainly revise it. Do good things secretly while people are not watching, and if you make a mistake or do something bad, confess and repent of it. When you act in this manner, good deeds you have done in secret will have recompense, and wrongdoings will be revealed and repented so that punishment can be dispelled. Therefore, there will naturally be benefit in the present, and you will be sure of the future result.

At the time, a certain layman came and asked, “These days, although lay people make offerings to monks and take refuge in the buddha-dharma, much misfortune occurs; for  this reason evil thoughts have arisen and people think they should no longer have faith in the Three Treasures. What do you think about this?”

Dogen replied, “This is not the fault of the monks or the buddha-dharma, but of the lay people themselves. The reason is as follows. For example, they revere and make offerings to monks who observe the precepts and eat in accordance with the regulations (one meal before noon) while in public eyes, but they withhold offerings to shameless monks who break the precepts, drink liquor, and eat meat, judging them to be worthless. This biased discriminating mind goes entirely against the spirit of the Buddha. Because of this, their faith and reverence is in vain and there is no reward. In various parts of the precepts-texts, there are admonitions against this frame of mind. You should make offerings to any monk regardless of whether or not he has any virtue. In particular, never judge his inner virtue by his outward appearance. Although monks in this degenerate age look somewhat strange in their outward appearance, there are worse minds and deeds. Therefore, without discriminating between good monks and bad ones, respect all the Buddha’s disciples, make offerings and take refuge with a spirit of equality. Then you will surely be in accordance with the Buddha’s spirit, and the benefits will be extensive.

Also, consider the four phrases, ‘unseen action, unseen response; seen action, seen response; (unseen action, seen response; seen action, unseen response)’. There is also the principle of karma and its effect in the three periods of time; karma returning in the present life, in the next life, or in some later life 2 . Study these principles very closely.”

  1. Unseen deities such as Brahma-deva, Indra, the dragon-kings, Yama. Etc. Originally, these were deities borrowed from Hinduism and other religions. Buddhists came to think of them as the protective deities of the buddha-dharma.
  2. In Shobogenzo Sanjigo (The Karma of the Three Periods of Time), Dogen commented on this principle of karma and its effect, “In learning and practicing the Way of the buddhas and patriarchs, from the outset, we should study and clarify this principle of karma and its effect on the three periods of time. Otherwise, we will fall into false views. Not only that, we will also fall into the evil realms and suffer for a long time.”