Shobogenzo Zuimonki

Book 5


One day Dogen instructed,

Many people in the world say that although they listen to the words of the teacher, they do not accord with their own thinking. This attitude is a mistake. I don’t understand how they can say such things. Do they say it because the principles in the sacred teachings do not agree with what they think, and believe the teachings to be wrong? If so, they are utterly foolish. Or is it that what the teacher said did not agree with their own preference? If so, why did they ask the teacher in the first place? Or do they say it on the basis of their ordinary discriminating thoughts? If so, this is illusory thought from the beginningless beginning. The vital attitude in learning the Way is to give up and reform your egotistical views. Even if they go against your own preferences, if they are your teacher’s words or statements from the sacred scriptures, you must follow them completely. This is an essential point you should be careful about in learning the Way.

Formerly, one of my fellow practitioners who visited various teachers was very attached to his own views. He refused to accept whatever went against his ideas, and held onto only what agreed with his own views. He spent his whole life in vain and never understood the buddha-dharma.

I realized from observing his attitude that learning the Way must be different from that. So, I followed my teacher’s words and attained the truth of the Way completely. Later, I found the following passage in a sutra I was reading, “If you wish to learn the buddha-dharma, do not hold onto the [conditioned] mind of the past, present, and future. 1”

I truly understood that we must gradually reform previous thoughts and views and not hold firmly to them. In one of the Classics it is said, “Good advice sounds harsh to the ear.” This means that useful advice always offends our ears. Even though it may be contrary to our liking, if we force ourselves to follow and carry it out, there should be benefit in the long run.

  1. This refers to a certain system of values, preconceptions, prejudices, etc. formed by our experiences or the education we received from our parents, teachers, and friends etc, in the society.