Shobogenzo Zuimonki

Book 3


Dogen also said,

Now if you wish to practice the Way of the buddhas and patriarchs, you should practice the Way of the previous sages and emulate the conduct of the patriarchs with no (expectation of) profit; expect nothing, seek nothing, gain nothing.

One day a monk came and asked about what to be careful of in learning the Way. Dogen replied,

“First of all, a person studying the Way should be poor. If you possess great wealth, you will definitely lose aspiration.

If a lay person learning the Way still clings to wealth, covets comfortable housing, and keeps company with relatives, despite having the aspiration he will confront many obstacles in learning the Way.

Although many lay people have learned the dharma since ancient times, even those who were known as good practitioners were no match for monks. Since monks do not possess any property except for three robes and one bowl, never worry about where to live, and are not greedy for food and clothing, they will obtain benefit as long as they devote themselves to learning the Way according to their capacity. This is because being poor is being intimate with the Way.

Hoon1 was a layman but he was not inferior to the monks; his name has remained among Zen practitioners. When he began to learn Zen, he took all his family possessions and was about to throw them into the sea. People tried to dissuade him by saying, “You should give them to others or use them for the sake of Buddhism.”

He replied to them, “I am throwing them away because I think they are harmful. Since I know them to be harmful, how can I give them to others? Wealth is poison which sickens both body and mind.”

In the end, he threw them into the sea.

After that, he made bamboo baskets and sold them to earn his living. Though he was a layman, because he abandoned his wealth, people thought he was a good person. So much more should a monk completely give up wealth.

  1. Hoon (?–808) was a lay disciple of Baso Doitsu.