Shobogenzo Zuimonki

Book 5


Dogen instructed,

Once there was a king. After having established his government, he inquired of his ministers, “I have governed this country well. Am I a wise king?”

His ministers said, “Your Majesty, you have governed very well. You are very wise.”
One of the ministers, however, said, “You are not wise.”

The king asked, “Why not?”

The minister replied, “After establishing your government, you handed it over to your son, instead of to your younger brother.”

The king was offended and expelled the minister.

Later, the king asked another minister, “Am I a benevolent king?”

The minister replied, “Yes, you are very benevolent.”

The king asked, “Why?”

The minister replied, “Benevolent rulers all have loyal ministers, and loyal ministers offer straightforward remarks. That minister’s opinion was very straightforward. He was a loyal minister. If you were not a benevolent king, you would not have had such a minister.” The king was impressed by this and called the minister back.

Dogen also said,

During the time of the Shikotei (the first emperor) of Shin 1, the crown prince wanted to enlarge his flower garden.

A minister said, “Wonderful! If you enlarge the flower garden and many birds and animals gather there, we will be able to defend our country against the troops of the neighboring country with the birds and animals.” Because of this remark, the crown prince gave up the project.

At another time, the prince wanted to build a palace with lacquered pillars. A minister said, “It really should be done. If you lacquer the pillars, the enemy will not invade.”

So, this was also stopped.

The essence of Confucianism is to stop doing wrong and encourage doing good by using skillful words. Monks also should have this kind of skillfulness when teaching others.

  1. Shikotei (?–210 B.C.) He was the first emperor of the Shin dynasty and became famous for building the Great Wall of China.