Shobogenzo Zuimonki

Book 2


In an evening talk, Dogen said,

The late Sojo Eisai often admonished, “Monks, do not think that I give you the clothing, food, and other provisions you use. They are all offered by various heavenly beings. I merely play the role of distributor. Also, each one of you is fully endowed with the necessities for your lifetime. Do not run around seeking after them. Do not think that I feed you or that you have to be grateful to me.” I think these are most admirable words.
Also, in great Song China, when the assembly was under the direction of Zen Master Wanshi1, Tendo Monastery had enough provisions for one thousand people. Thus, seven hundred people inside the sodo and three hundred people outside the sodo2 could be fed. However, due to the excellence of the master, many monks gathered like clouds from all over the country. There were one thousand people inside the sodo and five or six hundred people outside.

One of the officers remarked to Wanshi, “The temple provisions are sufficient for only one thousand people. We do not have enough food for everyone staying here. Please take this into special consideration and send the extra monks away.”

Wanshi replied to him, “Each one of them has his own mouth. It is not your business. Do not worry about it.”

I believe that everyone has a certain amount of food and clothing granted from birth. It does not come about by worrying over it, nor will it cease to come by not seeking it. Even lay people leave such things to fate; being concerned with loyalty and filial piety. How much more should monks who have left home be unconcerned with trivial matters [besides practice]. We have the fortune given to us by Shakyamuni; we also have the food and clothing offered by the deities. Moreover, we have the natural share of life we were allotted when we were born. Without chasing after it or worrying over it, we are sure to receive as much as we need. Even if we chase after and secure a great fortune, what will happen to it when impermanence suddenly comes?  Therefore, students must not be concerned with extra matters. Simply practice the Way wholeheartedly.

Also, someone said, “We are living in the last-period (of the dharma) 3, and ours is a country remote from the Buddha’s land. The buddha-dharma can flourish here and its benefit spread widely only by living at ease in a quiet hermitage without worrying about food and clothing coming from lay supporters, and by practicing the Buddha-way only after being sufficiently provided for.” Now, as I think about this, it is not so.

When people gather together to study who are only able to see the form [of things] and who cling to their egos, surely not a single one among them will arouse bodhi-mind. Even if a thousand or ten thousand people who were attached to profit and indulging, only in their desire for possessions were to gather together, it would be worse than if no one were to come. This is because only the karma which causes falling into the evil realms of samsara (hell, the realm of insatiable spirits and animals) would accumulate naturally of itself and there would be no aspiration [to practice] the buddha-dharma. If we remain pure and poor and practice the Way while enduring hardship in begging for food, eating wild nuts or fruit, and enduring hunger, a single person hearing about us and coming to practice will be one possessing true bodhi-mind. I think this is the way the buddha-dharma can truly flourish. To have no [disciples] because of hardship or pure poverty and to have many people gather together because of abundant food and clothing while lacking the buddha-dharma is six of one and half a dozen of the other.

Dogen also said,

Most people today mistakenly think that constructing buddha-images and building stupas helps the buddha-dharma flourish. Even though we might erect huge temples adorned with polished jewels and gold, we cannot attain the Way by these works. This is nothing more than merit for lay people enabling their wealth to enter into the world of the buddha and allowing people to do good. Although they might receive a great result from a small cause, for monks to be involved in such things has nothing to do with the flourishing of the buddha-dharma. To learn even a single phrase of the dharma-gate (teaching) or to practice zazen even for a single period while living in a thatched hut or under a tree shows the true flourishing of the buddha-dharma.

At present I am appealing for donations and working as much as possible to construct a sodo.4 Still, I do not think that this necessarily contributes to the flourishing of the buddha-dharma. Only because there are few people who are studying the Way right now and because I am spending my days leisurely, do I think it better to engage in these activities than be idle. I hope this will enable deluded people to form a connection with the buddha-dharma. Moreover, I am working on this project for the sake of founding a dojo for zazen practice for people studying the Way in this age. I will have no regrets even though what I have wished for and begun might not be realized. I do not mind if but one single pillar is erected as long as people in later generations think that someone had the aspiration to carry out such a project.

  1. Wanshi Shogaku (1097–1157) was a contemporary of Daie Soko (1089–1163) who advocated the koan practice of the Rinzai School and criticized Soto Zen, calling it mokusho-jazen (an evil zen of silent-illumination). Later, Wanshi wrote Mokushomei in which he used the expression positively and clarified the essence of mokusho-zen (silently-illuminating zen). Dogen called this shikantaza. He respected Wanshi deeply and praised him in his writings, calling him Wanshi-kobutsu (Wanshi the Old Buddha).
  2. In Zen monasteries there are people who stay inside the sodo and concentrate on practice while others take care of the various things needed to support the practice. They take turns each practice period; one period living in, the next period supporting it.
  3. See 1-16, footnote 3.
  4. At the time Dogen was working on raising funds to build a sodo or Juundo (second sodo).