Shobogenzo Zuimonki

Book 2


In an evening talk Dogen said,

During the reign of Taiso of the To dynasty1, Gicho 2, one of the ministers, remarked to the emperor, “Some people are slandering your Majesty.”
The emperor replied, “As a sovereign, if I have virtue3, I am not afraid of being slandered by people. I’m more afraid of being praised despite the lack of it.”
[Here is an example of how] even a lay person had such an attitude. Monks should, first of all, maintain this attitude. If you have compassion and bodhi-mind, you need not worry about being defamed by ignorant people. You have to be very careful of being thought of as a man of the Way despite having no bodhi-mind.

Dogen also related,

Buntei 4 of the Zui dynasty said to himself, “I must nurture virtue secretly and wait until I have matured.”

What he meant was to practice virtue, wait until he himself had matured, and then, govern the people with benevolence. As a monk, if you have not yet aroused this spirit, you should be cautious. Only if you practice the Way inwardly, will the virtue of the Way naturally manifest itself outwardly. Without expectation or desire to be known by people, if you just follow the teachings of the Buddha or the Way of the patriarchs, people will believe in the virtue of the Way of their own accord.

There is a trap for students here; [others as well as oneself] may believe that being respected by other people and amassing a large amount of property is a manifestation of the virtue of the Way. You must realize in your heart that to believe such a thing is to be possessed by demons. Be most careful about this. In a certain scripture, this is called the ‘deeds of demons’. Considering the examples of the three countries (India, China, and Japan), I have never heard that being rich and revered by ignorant people was a manifestation of the virtue of the Way. Since ancient times, all people with bodhi-mind have been poor, endured physical pain, wasted nothing, were compassionate, and led by the Way. These people have been called true practitioners.

Manifesting virtue does not mean having an abundance of material wealth, nor being proud of receiving large offerings.

There are three steps in the manifestation of virtue. Firstly, it becomes known that the person is practicing the Way. Next, people who aspire to the Way come to that person. And lastly, people learn the Way and practice with him in the same way. This is called the manifestation of the virtue of the Way.

  1. Taiso of the To dynasty (597–649) was the second emperor of the dynasty. He reigned from 627 to 649.
  2. One of the ministers of Taiso (580–643).
  3. Jin in Japanese (Ch., ren) is the most important concept of Confucianism. This may be understood as benevolence, kindheartedness, perfect virtue, philanthropy etc.
  4. Buntei was the founder of the Zui dynasty (541-604). He reigned from 589 to 604.