Shobogenzo Zuimonki

Book 5


One day Dogen instructed,

A lay person said, “A treasure is an enemy which harms one’s life. This has happened in the past, and it happens in the present as well.”

This is a reference to the person in the following story. Once there was a man who had a beautiful wife. A man who had power commanded the man to give him the woman. The husband was reluctant to give up his wife. Finally, the powerful man raised his troops and surrounded the house. When the wife was about to be taken away, her husband said, “I will give up my life for you.”

His wife replied, “I will also give my life for you.”

Saying this, she jumped from a lofty building and killed herself. Later the husband who failed to die told the story.

There is another story. Once there was a wise man who was the governor of a province. He had a son who had to leave on an official matter. Calling on his father to say farewell, the father gave him a bolt of fine silk.

The son said, “You are a man of high integrity. Where did you get this silk?”

The father replied, “It was left over from my salary.”

The son left, gave the silk to the emperor, and told him what his father had said. The emperor admired the father’s wisdom.

The son said, “My father hid his name. I revealed his name. My father’s wisdom is truly superior to mine.”

The story means that even though a bolt of silk is trivial, a wise person does not take it for his private use. It also shows that a truly wise person hides his name. Since it was his salary, he said he would use it 1 .

Even a lay person was like this. How much more should a monk learning the Way not hold personal preferences. Moreover, if he would like to follow the true Way, he should hide his name.

Dogen also said; “Once there was a sennin 2 .

A man asked him, “How do you become a sennin?”

The sennin replied, “If you want to become a sennin, you should devote yourself to the Way of sennin.”

Therefore, students, if you wish to attain the Way of the buddhas and patriarchs, you should devote yourself to the Way of the buddhas and patriarchs.

  1. Part of this story seems to have been lost or omitted when it was transcribed, though the overall point is that a truly great or wise person hides his wisdom.
  2. A legendary wizard living in the mountains and capable of performing miracles. A hermit. Literally, sennin means a person living in the mountains. This story refers to the people who practiced Taoism, and left society. It is said that they attained the supernatural powers of wizards, and gained immortality.