Shobogenzo Zuimonki

Book 2


On one occasion someone asked,

“How do you feel about the following view? Upon hearing that one’s own self is the buddha-dharma and that it is futile to seek anything outside of oneself, what if a student were to believe this deeply, give up practice and studying, and spend his whole life doing good and bad according to his nature?”

Dogen taught,

“In this view, the person’s words and reality are contradictory. Giving up practice and abandoning study because of the futility of seeking anything outwardly, sounds as though something is being sought after by the act of giving up. This is not non-seeking.

Just realize that practice and study themselves are the buddha-dharma. Without seeking anything, refrain from engaging in worldly affairs or evil things even if you have the mind to do so. Do not think of or hate the boredom of the practice of the Way. Just practice wholeheartedly. Practice without even seeking after the completion of the Way or the attainment of the result. This attitude is in accordance with the principle of non-seeking.

Through Nangaku’s1 polishing a tile to make a mirror, he was admonishing Baso’s seeking to become a Buddha. Still he did not restrain Baso from sitting zazen. Sitting itself is the practice of the buddha. Sitting itself is non-doing. It is nothing but the true form of the Self. Apart from sitting, there is nothing to seek as the buddha-dharma.

  1. When Baso Doitsu (701–788) was sitting by himself in a hermitage, his teacher Nangaku Ejo (677–744) visited him and asked “What do you intend to become by sitting zazen?”
    Baso said, “I intend to become a Buddha.”
    Nangaku then picked up a piece of tile and began to polish it on a stone in front of the hut.
    Baso asked, “Master, what are you doing?”
    Nangaku replied, “I am polishing the tile to make a mirror.”
    Baso said, “How can you make a mirror by polishing a tile?”
    Nangaku replied, “How can you become a buddha by practicing zazen?”