Shobogenzo Zuimonki

Book 4


Dogen instructed,

Students of the Way, the reason you do not attain enlightenment is because you hold onto your old views. Without knowing who taught you, you think that ‘mind’ is the function of your brain – thought and discrimination. When I tell you that ‘mind’ is grass and trees1, you do not believe it. When you talk about the Buddha, you think the Buddha must have various physical characteristics and a radiant halo. If I say that the Buddha is broken tiles and pebbles2, you show astonishment. The views you cling to are neither what has been transmitted to you from your father nor what you were taught by your mother. You have believed them for no particular reason; they are the result of having listened for a long time to what people have said. Therefore, since it is the definite word of the buddhas, and patriarchs, when it is said that ‘mind’ is grass and trees, you should understand that grass and trees are ‘mind’, and if you are told that ‘Buddha’ is tiles and pebbles, you should believe that tiles and pebbles are the ‘Buddha’. Thus, if you reform your attachment, you will be able to attain the Way.

An ancient said, “Though the sun and the moon shine brightly, the floating clouds cover them over. Though clusters of orchids are about to bloom, the autumn winds blow causing them to wither.” This is found in the Jogan Seiyo3, comparing a wise king and his evil ministers. Restating this, “Even if the floating clouds cover the sun and the moon, they will not stay long. Even if the autumn winds wither the flowers, they will bloom again.” If the king is wise enough, he will not be turned around, even if the ministers are evil. It should be the same in maintaining the Buddha-Way. No matter how evil minds arise, if you keep steadfast and maintain (aspiration) and practice for a long time, the floating clouds will disappear and the autumn winds will cease.

  1. In the Zekkan-ron (A Dialogue on the Contemplation of Extinction) translated by Gishin Tokiwa, there is a dialogue about grass and trees.
    Gateway asks, “Does the Way lie only in the spiritual body? Or does it also lie in grass and trees?”
    Attainment says, “There is no place where the Way does not pervade.”
  2. There is a dialogue about broken tiles between Nanyo Echu  and a monk. The monk asked, “What is the mind of the ancient buddha?” The master said, “Fences, walls, broken tiles, and pebbles.”
  3. The Jogan-Seiyo. A ten volume collection of discussions on politics among the emperor Taiso of the To dynasty and his ministers. This was studied in Japan too, as a textbook by students belonging to families of the nobility and the samurai class.