Shobogenzo Zuimonki

Book 5


Dogen instructed,

Students of the Way, do not learn the buddha-dharma for the sake of your own egos. Learn the buddha-dharma only for the sake of the buddha-dharma. The most effective way for doing this is to completely throw away your body and mind leaving nothing, and dedicating yourselves to the great ocean of the buddha-dharma.

Then, without being concerned about right and wrong, without clinging to your own views, even if it is difficult to do or to endure, you should do it being forced to by the buddha-dharma. Even if you really want to do something, you should give it up if it is not in accordance with the buddha-dharma. Never expect to obtain some reward for practicing the Buddha-Way. Once you have moved in the direction of the Buddha-Way, never look back at yourself. Continue practicing in accordance with the rules of the buddha-dharma, and do not hold on to personal views.

All the examples among past practitioners were like this. When you no longer seek anything on the basis of your (discriminating) mind, you will be in great peace and joy (Nirvana).

Among lay people too, those who have never kept company with others and have grown up only within their own families, behave as they want and put priority on fulfilling their own desires. They never think of others’ views and do not care how others feel. Such people are always bad. You have to be careful of the same thing in practicing the Way. Keep company with others (in the sangha), and follow your teacher without setting up personal views. If you continue reforming your mind (in this way), you will easily become a man of the Way.

In practicing the Way, first of all, you must learn poverty. Give up fame and abandon profit, do not flatter, and put down all affairs; then you will become a good practitioner of the Way without fail. In Great Song China, those who were known as eminent monks were all poor. Their robes were tattered, and they were short of other provisions.

When I was at Tendo Monastery, the recorder 1 was a senior monk called Donyo, a son of the prime minister. But, since he had completely left his family, and no longer coveted worldly profit, his robes were so tattered he was hard to look at. His virtue of the Way, however, was known by others and he became the recorder of that great temple.

Once I asked, “Senior Donyo, you are a son of a high government official and a member of a wealthy and noble family. Why are the things you wear so shabby? Why do you live in such poverty?”

Senior Donyo replied, “Because I have become a monk.”

  1. ‘Recorder’ is a translation of shoki, the officer in charge of making public documents, letters etc., in the Zen monastery.