Shobogenzo Zuimonki

Book 6


One day Dogen instructed,

When someone asks about the dharma or the essentials of practice, Zen monks must reply on the basis of the true dharma. Do not answer on the basis of expedient means that are not true, thinking the person is not a vessel (of the dharma), or is incapable of understanding because he is only a beginner.

The spirit of the Bodhisattva Precepts1 is that even if a person who is a vessel of hinayana asks the way of hinayana, you should reply only on the basis of mahayana. This is the same as the Tathagata taught during his lifetime. The provisional teaching as an expedient means is really of no value. Ultimately, only the final true teaching is beneficial. Therefore, without being concerned with whether the person can grasp it or not, you must answer only on the basis of the true dharma.

When you see a person, value his true virtue. Do not judge him on his outward appearance or superficial characteristics.

In ancient days, a person came to Confucius2 to become his student. Confucius asked him, “Why do you want to be my disciple?”

The person replied, “When I saw you going to the court, you looked very noble and dignified. So, I wanted to become your student.”

Confucius then asked one of his students to bring his cart, garments, gold, silver, and other treasures. He gave them to the person saying, “It is not me that you respect.” And he sent him away.

Dogen also said,

The Kanpaku (the Chief Advisor to the Emperor) of Uji3 once came to the bathhouse in the court, and watched the person in charge making a fire.

He saw the Kanpaku and said, “Who are you? Why did you come to the bathhouse in the court without permission?”

The Kanpaku was driven out. Then, he took off the shabby clothes he had been wearing and changed into a magnificent costume. When he appeared dressed up the man in charge of the fire spotted him from a distance, became frightened, and fled. The Kanpaku put his robes on the top of a bamboo pole and paid homage to them. Someone asked what he was doing.

He replied, “I am respected by others not because of my virtue but because of this costume.”

Foolish people respect others in this way. Their respect towards words or phrases in the scriptures is the same.

An ancient person said, “Though the words (of statesmen) fill the land, there is no fault on their tongue. The actions (of statesmen) influence the whole country, but there is no one who bears a grudge against them.” This is because they have said what they should say and carried out what they should have carried out. These are the words and actions of ultimate virtue and the essence of the Way. Even in the secular world, if people speak and pass judgment with one-sided personal evaluations, there will be nothing but mistakes. The speech and deeds of Zen monks have been established by our predecessors. Never hold onto personal one-sided views. This is the Way the buddhas and patriarchs have been practicing.

Students of the Way, you should reflect on your own selves. To reflect on your self means to examine how to maintain your own body and mind. You are already the children of the Buddha Shakyamuni. So you must learn the Way of the Tathgata. There is a code of conduct that has been carried out by previous buddhas regarding the manners of body, speech, and mind. Each one of you should follow them.

Even in the secular world, it is said that clothes should be in accordance with the law, speech should be based on the Way. Much more so then should Zen monks never follow their own selfish ideas.

  1. See 1-2, footnote 7.
  2. Confucius (551–479B.C.) was a great Chinese philosopher, the founder of Confucianism.
  3. Fujiwara Yorimichi (992–1074). He built Byodoin Temple in Uji near Kyoto.