Shobogenzo Zuimonki

Book 5


Dogen instructed,

Students must know that every human being has great faults. Among them, arrogance is the worst. Arrogance is equally admonished against in both Buddhist and non-Buddhist texts. In a non-Buddhist text, it is written, “There are some who are poor but do not flatter. However, there are none who are rich but not arrogant.” The text admonishes us not to become arrogant even though we might be rich. As this is a most important matter, give it careful consideration.

If you are of humble birth and compete with people who belong to the upper class hoping to surpass them, this is a typical (example of) arrogance. However, this is easy to watch out for.

In the secular world, relatives gather around but do not criticize those who are wealthy and blessed. Since a rich person takes it as a matter of course, he becomes arrogant, and the poor people around him become envious and resentful. How can such a person prevent himself from increasing the suffering and resentment of others? It is difficult to caution this sort of person, and it is hard, for the person himself too, to practice self-restraint.

Even when the person does not intend to be arrogant, if he does what he wants, humble people around him feel pain and resentment. To prevent this is called restraining arrogance. A person who enjoys his wealth as a reward, and pays no attention to the poor people who envy him is called an arrogant person.

In a non-Buddhist text it is written, “Do not pass in front of a poor (man’s) house riding in a chariot.” This means that even if you are able to ride in a vermillion chariot, don’t do it in front of poor people. Buddhist scriptures also admonish against this.

Nevertheless, students or priests today want to surpass others in intelligence and knowledge of the Buddhist teachings. Don’t be arrogant because of your wide knowledge. To speak of the faults of inferior people, or to blame mistakes on your senior or fellow practitioners is terrible arrogance.

An ancient person said, “It is not bad to be defeated in front of the wise, but do not win in front of the stupid.” When someone misunderstands what you know well, speaking ill of him is your own error.

When talking about the dharma, do not slander your predecessors or senior priests. Take careful consideration on this point, especially when ignorant and benighted people may become envious or jealous.

While I was staying at Kenninji, many people asked about the dharma. Among them, there were some strange opinions or mistaken views. However, I kept this deep in my heart; I only talked about the virtue of the dharma as it is, instead of criticizing the mistaken views of others. I avoided trouble in that way. A foolish person firmly attached to his own opinions always gets angry, saying that his virtuous predecessors have been slandered. The wise and sincere person realizes and reforms his own mistakes and those of his virtuous predecessors without having them pointed out by others, only if he understands the true meaning of the buddha-dharma. You should ponder this thoroughly.