Shobogenzo Zuimonki

Book 3


Once, a certain nun asked,

“Even lay women practice and study the buddha-dharma. As for nuns, even though we have some faults, I feel there is no reason to say that we go against the buddha-dharma. What do you think?”

Dogen admonished,

“That is not a correct view. Lay women might attain the Way as a result of practicing the buddha-dharma as they are. However, no monk or nun1 attains it unless he or she has the mind of one who has left home. This is not because the buddha-dharma discriminates between one person and another, but rather because the person doesn’t enter the dharma. There must be a difference in the attitude of lay people and those who have left home. A layman who has the mind of a monk or nun who has left home will be released from samsara. A monk or a nun who has the mind of a lay person has double faults. Their attitudes should be quite different. It is not that it is difficult to do, but to do it completely is difficult. The practice of being released from samsara and attaining the Way seems to be sought by everyone, but those who accomplish it are few. Life-and-death is the Great Matter; impermanence is swift2. Do not let your mind slacken. If you abandon the world, you should abandon it completely. I don’t think that the names provisionally used to distinguish monks and nuns from lay people are at all important.

  1. Shukke (Leaving home) in Japanese, means one who has renounced home-life to become a monk or a nun.
  2. These phrases originally appear in the Rokuso-Dankyo, (The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch).