Shobogenzo Zuimonki

Book 3


In an evening talk Dogen said,

Students of the Way should be thoroughly poor. When we look at people in the secular world, men of property inevitably have two kinds of troubles; anger and dishonor. If they have some treasure, others wish to steal it, and when they try to protect it anger immediately arises. Or in talking about some matter, argument and negotiation eventually escalate to conflict and fighting. Proceeding in this way anger will arise and result in dishonor. Being poor and unselfish, releases people from these problems and they find peace. Proof is right in front of our eyes. We don’t need to search for it in the scriptures. Not only that, ancient sages and wise predecessors criticized being wealthy, and heavenly deities, buddhas, and patriarchs have all denounced it. Nevertheless, foolish people accumulate wealth and bear so much anger; this is the shame of shames. Our wise predecessors, ancient sages, buddhas, and patriarchs have all been poor yet aspired to the Way.

These days the decay of the buddha-dharma is occurring right before our eyes. From the time I first entered Kenninji Monastery1, over a period of seven or eight years I saw many changes gradually taking place. They had built storerooms in each temple building, each person having his own utensils. Many became fond of fine clothing, stored up personal possessions, and indulged in idle talk. No one cared about the forms of greeting one another nor about prostrating before the Buddha. Looking at these things, I can imagine what other places must be like.

A person of the buddha-dharma should not possess any treasure or property other than robes and a bowl. What is the need for a closet? You should not own things which have to be hidden from others. You try to hide things because you are afraid of thieves; if you abandon them you will be that much more at ease. When you don’t want to be killed even though you have to kill, your body suffers and your mind is anxious. However, if you make up your mind not to retaliate, even if someone tries to kill you, you will not need to be careful or worry about thieves. You will never fail to be at ease.

  1. Dogen began to practice with Myozen at Kenninji, in 1217, when he was eighteen years old. He stayed there until he went to China in 1223. After he came back from China he stayed at Kenninji again for a few years.