Shobogenzo Zuimonki

Book 4


One day a visiting monk asked,

“These days, the way of retreating from the world1 is to prepare food and other necessities for oneself beforehand so as not to have to worry about them later. This is a trivial matter, yet it supports the practice of the Way. If it is lacking, our practice will be disturbed. According to what I have heard about how you practice, you make no such preparation and leave everything to fate. If this is really so, you will have trouble later on, won’t you? What do you think?”

Dogen replied,

“Everything (I do) has precedents. I don’t rely on my personal views. All the buddhas and patriarchs in India and China lived in this way. The blessings of the ‘White Hair’2 will never be exhausted. Why should we take personal plans for our livelihood? Besides, it is impossible to know what will happen tomorrow. This is not my personal opinion but what all the buddhas and patriarchs have carried out. If we run out of food and have nothing to eat, only then should we look for a means (to gain something). We should not think about these things in advance.”

  1. See 2-12, footnote 3.
  2. Skt. Urna. The Buddha’s White Hair refers to one of the Buddha’s thirty-two marks, the curl of hair on his forehead. It is said that it continually radiated great light. What Dogen meant here is that all offerings from people or nature are nothing but the Buddha’s legacy.