Shobogenzo Zuimonki

Book 3


In an evening talk, Dogen said,

Among lay people these days I see that those who have attained successful results1 [by their deeds] and have enabled their families to prosper are all honest, straight-forward, and kind to others. Because of that, their families will survive and prosper in later generations. Even if dishonest people and those who harm others seem to receive a good reward and are able to maintain their livelihood for a while, their fortunes will decline in the end. Or even if they seem to spend their own lifetimes without trouble, their descendents will inevitably wane.

Furthermore, doing good for others because of one’s desire to be well thought of or to ingratiate oneself seems better than doing evil. However, such actions are not truly doing good for others since one is still thinking of oneself.

One who does good for others or for the future without being noticed and without considering for whom his acts are good is truly a good person. A monk should cultivate a mind even much more superior to this.

Have compassion for living beings without distinguishing between the intimate and the unrelated and maintain an attitude of saving all equally. Never think of your own profit in terms of worldly or supraworldly benefit2. Even though you are neither known nor appreciated, just do good for others according to your own heart and do not show others that you have such a spirit.

The secret of keeping this attitude is, first of all, abandoning the world and casting aside your own body. No desire to be well thought of by others arises, but only if you have truly thrown away your own body. However, if you think “let others think what they may” and you do evil, indulging in this or that, you go against the will of the Buddha. Simply do good without expectation of reward or fame, be truly gainless3, and work for the sake of benefiting others. The primary point to bear in mind is to separate from your ego. To keep this mind you have to awaken to impermanence. Our life is like a dream. Time passes swiftly. Our dewlike life easily disappears. Since time waits for no one, try to do good to others and follow the will of the Buddha as long as you are alive.

  1. Kaho in Japanese, means effect, reward, or retribution for some act done.
  2. Supraworldly benefit (In Japanese, Shusseken no riyaku) means benefit for clarifying the Way, not benefit for fulfilling one’s desires.
  3. Mushotoku in Japanese, means nothing to gain, or no desire to gain anything, or being free from the discrimination between subject (one who gains) and object (things to be gained). This expression is found in the Diamond-Sutra. “The Lord (Shakyamuni) said, ‘So it is, Subhuti, so it is. Not even the least dharma is there found or got at. Therefore is it called ‘utmost (anutara), right and perfect enlightenment’.” (Translated by Edward Conze). In the Heart Sutra we find, …there is no knowledge, no attainment, [and] no realization, because there is no attainment.” (Translated by D. T. Suzuki)