Dōgen’s Extensive Record (Hardcover) - Introduction
By Taigen Dan Leighton
Overview of Dōgen’s Teaching Career
In 1227 the Japanese monk Dōgen (1200–1253) returned to Japan from four years of study in China. During his remaining twenty-five years he composed an extraordinary volume of writings, now widely prized for their philosophical profundity, poetic virtuosity, and subtle, evocative wordplay. Dōgen is remembered as the founder of the Sōtō branch of Japanese Zen. But he disdained sectarian labels, saying that “Zen” was “an extremely foolish name” and that “if you use the name Zen School you are not descendants of buddha ancestors, and also have poisonous views.” Nevertheless, in the long history of what is now considered the Zen tradition, no master has left a legacy of writings as voluminous and comprehensive, in so many aspects of teaching and practice, as Eihei Dōgen. Although he was a medieval monk born eight centuries ago, his writings about time, space, Buddha nature, and the subtle character of spiritual pursuit and realization are now widely esteemed by contemporary philosophers, physicists, poets, environmentalists, and religious thinkers and practitioners. His writings can be baffling and intensely challenging but also inspiring and deeply comforting. This work of Dōgen’s, Eihei Kōroku, or Dōgen’s Extensive Record, is one of his great collections of wisdom and insight, but it also reveals the unique kindness, authority, wit, and personality he displayed while training his disciples, who successfully sustained his teaching and practice.
Dōgen’s earliest writing, his first declaration of awakening, was Fukanzazengi (Universally Recommended Instructions for Zazen), written after he returned from China to the Kenninji monastery in Kyoto in 1227. It proclaims the value, power, wonder, and accessibility of zazen, or seated meditation, the primary practice that Dōgen advocated throughout his life. The earliest version of this text is no longer extant, but a later version is included at the end of volume 8 in this book.
Aside from the substantial legacy of Dōgen’s own writings, much remains uncertain about the historical facts of his life. The first substantial biography of Dōgen, titled Kenzeiki, was not written until the fifteenth century and remained unpublished for another couple of centuries. Much of it might well be considered sectarian hagiography. But we know that Dōgen was born into high aristocracy in the ancient capital of Kyoto and that he was a precocious, highly intelligent child. According to the legendary account, he first decided to enter the spiritual life at the age of seven, after experiencing a deep realization of impermanence while watching the incense smoke rising at his mother’s funeral. Five years later he became a monk in the Tendai school, one of the two dominant branches of Japanese Buddhism at the time, which had its headquarters, Enryakuji temple, on Mount Hiei on the northeast edge of Kyoto. Sometime between the age of fourteen and seventeen, for unclear reasons, Dōgen left Mount Hiei and went to practice at Kenninji, the first Zen monastery in Japan.
In 1223 Dōgen traveled to China with his teacher from Kenninji, Butsuju Myōzen, who was a successor of the Kenninji founder Myōan Eisai (or Yōsai). Eisai, who had also studied in China, was a successor in the Linji (Jpn.: Rinzai) lineage and was later considered the founder of the Japanese Rinzai school (although it is a different branch of the school that survived in Japan). We do not know if Dōgen actually met Eisai, who died in 1215. But certainly Dōgen highly esteemed Myōzen, who died at age forty-one in 1225 while practicing together with Dōgen at the Tiantong monastery in China. It was shortly before Myōzen’s death that Dōgen met his Chinese teacher Tiantong Rujing, who was a master in the Caodong (Jpn.: Sōtō) lineage.
After Dōgen’s return from China he was highly dissatisfied with the quality of the practice at Kenninji, as he describes in detail in his essay “Instructions for the Tenzo” in Eihei Shingi. He derides the laxity of the tenzo (chief cook) there, who “never went to see whether things were done correctly or not.” Instead of exemplifying the appropriate sincere attention and care for the monks and their practice, the Kenninji tenzo “was a person without Way-seeking mind who never had the chance to see anyone with the virtue of the Way.” In 1230 Dōgen left Kenninji and moved south to Fukakusa, then a suburb of Kyoto, where he lived alone and wrote Bendōwa (Talk on Wholehearted Practice of the Way). In 1233 in Fukakusa he founded the Kannon Dōri Kōshō Hōrin Zenji temple, known as Kōshōji for short. At Kōshōji, where he resided from 1233 to 1243, Dōgen taught zazen to many students, both laypeople and monks. He also began writing essays, most of them based on talks, though some were apparently drawn from letters to students. During this period Dōgen’s teaching emphasized the universal applicability of zazen and its inner meaning. But from early on, while still in Kyoto, he also wrote about monastic community practice and the virtues of practicing in remote mountains. He touched on a variety of themes, many from traditional East Asian Buddhist teachings, including the universality of Buddha nature, the teaching and practice of suchness, the richness and multidimensionality of time, and the way to read, and practice with, traditional Buddhist scriptures and Zen dialogue encounters, or kōans. But although his writings are now praised as a high point of East Asian Buddhist philosophy, Dōgen was not writing to expound abstract philosophical doctrines or positions. Rather, his writings are spiritual teachings addressed to the practice of particular students.
Among Dōgen’s many writings, most famed is his Shōbōgenzō (True Dharma Eye Treasury). The name comes from the Zen legend about Śākyamuni Buddha’s Dharma transmission to his disciple Mahākāśyapa, when the Buddha said that he was transmitting the “true Dharma eye treasury, wondrous mind of nirvāṇa.” The same title, “True Dharma Eye Treasury,” had earlier been given to his own collection of six hundred kōans by Dahui, a Song dynasty Linji lineage master whom Dōgen would severely criticize at times.
The essays in Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō each elaborate on specific themes, motifs, kōans, or other traditional teachings. The modern collection designated as Shōbōgenzō, first compiled in 1695, includes all ninety-five of the essays found in earlier Shōbōgenzō collections, arranged chronologically. Historically a number of different collections of Dōgen’s writings have borne the name Shōbōgenzō: a seventy-five-essay and a twelve-essay version, both probably arranged by Dōgen himself, as well as historically important sixty-, eighty-four-, and twenty-eight-essay editions. Dōgen apparently had the intention late in his life to produce a one-hundredessay version and rewrote some of the essays to this end, but he did not live to accomplish it. The Shōbōgenzō essays were the first Japanese religious or philosophical writings written in Japanese, using the Japanese syllabary alphabet along with Chinese characters. Previous religious or philosophical writings in Japan were written strictly in Chinese, analogous to the use of Latin for religious works in medieval Europe.
Among Dōgen’s other works are two from the early Kōshōji period that also include the name Shōbōgenzō. One is the Shōbōgenzō Zuimonki, a collection of informal talks given to students at Kōshōji between 1235 and 1238. Another work, Mana Shōbōgenzō or Shinji Shōbōgenzō, both of which mean “Chinese Shōbōgenzō,” is a collection of three hundred kōans selected and arranged by Dōgen without commentary. This seems to have been Dōgen’s workbook collection of these Chinese stories drawn from a wide range of sources, many now obscure. Dōgen may have used it as the source for his renowned “Kana” (Japanese) Shōbōgenzō essays, many of which focus on kōans. This Mana Shōbōgenzō was dismissed as inauthentic until recently because the only extant version was from a commentary by a Tokugawa period teacher (after the sixteenth century), and the text has no commentary by Dōgen himself. Also, the (erroneous) modern Sōtō stereotype that Dōgen did not use kōans was influential. But recently discovered versions of the Mana Shōbōgenzō text prove that it was indeed created by Dōgen. (In this book, “Shōbōgenzō” will refer to the Japanese text with longer essays. The Chinese text with three hundred kōans is specified as Mana Shōbōgenzō.)
Another separate work of Dōgen’s is Hōkyō-ki, a journal of his studies in China found after Dōgen’s death by his successor, Koun Ejō. Scholars now are uncertain whether it was written while Dōgen was actually in China or in later years while Dōgen was reflecting on his time there.
Dōgen’s Eihei Shingi (Pure Standards) is a compilation of his writings in Chinese about monastic community practice. The first known compilation was made in 1502 and first published in its entirety in 1667. It includes the much acclaimed and discussed Tenzokyōkun (Instructions for the Tenzo), written in 1237. The other five essays were written after Dōgen left Kōshōji and Kyoto and moved far north to the Echizen Mountains in 1243. Dealing with the specific procedures of monastic life, Dōgen’s own emphasis in this material is to offer beneficial attitudinal postures and instructions. Thus this work is relevant to the application of meditative awareness to everyday activity. This practical relevance can be seen as extending to modern Western Zen with its predominantly lay practitioners.
The work translated in this book, Eihei Kōroku, Dōgen’s Extensive Record, is almost as lengthy and substantial as the Shōbōgenzō, which has overshadowed Dōgen’s other works in modern times. Eihei Kōroku consists of ten volumes. A more detailed account of each element or genre included follows later in this introduction, but a brief overview is helpful here to start. The first seven volumes are roughly chronological records of Dōgen’s jōdō, or Dharma hall discourses, formal talks given to his assembly of students (mostly monks). These seven volumes comprise 531 numbered Dharma hall discourses. Only the 126 discourses in the first volume were given at Kōshōji, between 1236 and the seventh month of 1243, just before Dōgen left with his students for the remote northern province of Echizen. The Dharma hall discourses in volume 2 do not resume until the fourth month of 1245, after he had established his new temple there.
The eighth volume contains a variety of material. It includes twenty shōsan, or “informal meetings,” longer talks given to his students in the abbot’s quarters after Dōgen settled at Eiheiji. These are followed by material mostly from the Kōshōji period, fourteen hōgo, or “Dharma words,” also lengthier writings probably based on Dōgen’s letters to individual students, sometimes named in the selections. Volume 8 concludes with the popular version of Fukanzazengi (Universally Recommended Instructions for Zazen). This is a revision that Dōgen made at Kōshōji, around 1242, of writings composed upon his return from China in 1227, which he had also revised in 1233. A copy of this 1233 version (called the Tenpukubon), calligraphed by Dōgen himself, is still stored at Eiheiji.
Volume 9 of Eihei Kōroku consists of a collection of ninety kōans with Dōgen’s own verse commentaries, also from the Kōshōji period. Some of these kōans are included in the three-hundred-kōan collection of Mana Shōbōgenzō, and many are discussed elsewhere in the Eihei Kōroku Dharma hall discourses or in the longer essays of Shōbōgenzō.
Volume 10 consists of Dōgen’s poetry written in Chinese, 150 poems composed from 1223, while he was in China, up to 1252 at Eiheiji, before his death in 1253.
The Move to Echizen
In the seventh month of 1243 Dōgen left Kōshōji and, apparently fairly abruptly, moved most of his community north to the rugged mountains of Echizen (modern Fukui Prefecture) near the Japan Sea coast, remote from the capital of Kyoto. Speculations about this move are diverse, and none can be clearly validated.
Much of the speculation presumes pressures on Dōgen, or even active harassment, from the Kyoto Buddhist establishment, especially the nearby Tendai headquarters of Enryakuji up on Mount Hiei. In 1243, not far from Kōshōji, construction was begun on the Rinzai lineage Zen temple Tōfukuji, where the noted teacher Enni Bennen (1201–1280) became abbot. Enni had himself returned in 1241 from six years of study in China with one of the leading Linji (Rinzai) masters. Some have speculated that Dōgen moved either out of a desire to avoid competition with this nearby Zen temple, or out of disappointment at not having received such patronage himself. Furthermore, Tōfukuji was officially a Tendai temple initially, and Dōgen’s relative independence from the establishment sects may have exacerbated tensions.
But there might have also been positive reasons for Dōgen’s wanting to move away from the capital to the remote mountains. In his early writings at Kōshōji in Kyoto, Dōgen refers to himself very frequently with the common Zen term “mountain monk,” and he extols the virtues of practicing in the mountains. For example, in his 1240 “Mountains and Water Sutra” essay in Shōbōgenzō, Dōgen states that “mountains have been the abode of great sages from the limitless past to the limitless present…. A virtuous sage or wise person enters the mountains.” In Dharma hall discourse 41, below, given in 1241, Dōgen refers to the love of mountains by all buddha ancestors. “With the aspiration to love mountains established, although each mountain is different, thirty-one people [probably the number of monks in the Kōshōji assembly then] are on the same single mountain.” Later that year, in Dharma hall discourse 65, Dōgen says, “Although the white clouds [sometimes symbolizing pure monks] have no mind, wherever they go they seem to be attracted to the old mountains.”
Dōgen also may have moved after receiving the encouragement of significant patronage and support to build a traditional training monastery in Echizen. Dōgen’s main patron from at least 1242 on was Hatano Yoshishige (d. 1258), a politically powerful samurai who had land in the Echizen area, some of which he donated for Dōgen’s temple. Yoshishige’s influence further assured Dōgen and his monastery in Echizen long-term support and protection. Imaeda Aishin and others have speculated that Dōgen may have moved to Echizen in alliance with the Hakusan movement within the Tendai school, which included Hajakuji temple, near Eiheiji. Hakusan Tendai opposed the Enryakuji branch of Tendai on Mount Hiei and was affiliated with Shugendō, the Japanese mountain ascetic practice, and with the Onjōji Tendai branch. Since the eleventh century an occasionally violent split persisted within the Tendai school between the Enryakuji branch on Mount Hiei and the branch based at Onjōji temple (also known as Miidera) to the south. Although Dōgen had left Enryakuji before he went to China, perhaps he had maintained good relationships with the Onjōji branch. He had studied briefly at Onjōji with the teacher Kōin (1145–1216) before moving to Kenninji, possibly at Kōin’s suggestion. Perhaps Dōgen’s move to Echizen might have even been sponsored by some Tendai source.
Another source of support for Dōgen in the Echizen area was Kakuzen Ekan (d. 1251) of the Daruma shū, an immature Japanese Zen movement that predated Dōgen. In 1241 Ekan and many of his students had joined Dōgen at Kōshōji. Ekan’s students included future key disciples of Dōgen such as Tettsū Gikai, Gien, and Kangan Giin. Kakuzen Ekan had been abbot of Hajakuji, the Hakusan Tendai temple in Echizen, and some of his disciples who joined Dōgen had various other connections in the area that may have been very supportive.
When he arrived in the Echizen area, Dōgen first stayed at Yoshimine temple while awaiting completion of construction nearby of his monastery, initially known as Daibutsuji, or Great Buddha Temple. Dōgen occupied Daibutsuji in the fall of 1244 and then renamed it Eiheiji, or Eternal Peace Temple, in the sixth month of 1246. The name Eihei was taken from the name of the period in China (57–75 C.E.) when it is said that a Buddhist sutra was first brought to China.
Once Dōgen settled at Eiheiji he remained there, with the exception of a seven-month trip east to the new capital, Kamakura, in 1247. He was probably summoned to Kamakura by his patron Hatano Yoshishige, who was in residence there at the time. Some speculation suggests that Dōgen, or perhaps Yoshishige, was seeking new support in Kamakura for Dōgen’s teaching. When he returned to Eiheiji in the third month of 1248, as recounted in Dharma hall discourse 251, Dōgen assured his monks that he had not taught the samurai rulers anything that they had not themselves heard, and he seems to acknowledge that he had made a mistake by leaving the monastery for so long. William Bodiford infers from this Dharma hall discourse that Dōgen’s disciples were furious about his trip to Kamakura. Dōgen concludes the discourse: “This mountain monk has been gone for more than half a year. I was like a solitary wheel placed in vast space. Today, I have returned to the mountains, and the clouds are feeling joyful. My great love for the mountains has magnified since before.”
In late 1252 Dōgen’s health began to decline rapidly. His last Dharma hall discourses in Eihei Kōroku were in the tenth month or so of 1252. In the first month of 1253 he composed his last substantial writing, Shōbōgenzō Hachidainingaku (The Eight Awakenings of Great People), based on Buddha’s final discourse. In the eighth month of 1253 he left Eiheiji to seek medical care in Kyoto, where he passed away only a few weeks later.
The Significance of Eihei Kōroku in Dōgen’s Writings
The time shortly before the move to Echizen in 1243, and also during the construction of Eiheiji, was a peak period of Dōgen’s writing creativity, if one measures solely by his output of Shōbōgenzō essays. Of the eighty-four essays that bear dates in the inclusive, modern, ninety-five essay version of Shōbōgenzō, a full sixty-three were written between the beginning of 1241 and the third month of 1244, when Dōgen finally moved into the completed Daibutsuji temple. The jōdō, or Dharma hall discourses, at the beginning of volume 2 of Eihei Kōroku resumed in the fourth month of 1245. Only seven of the dated Shōbōgenzō essays were written after the jōdō resumed in 1245, three of them dating from that year. As Steven Heine has suggested, we might easily infer from this that Dōgen actually came to prefer, as a teaching vehicle, the generally briefer jōdō to the jishu essay style used in Shōbōgenzō. The dated essays in Shōbōgenzō do not include most of the essays in the twelve-volume version collected by Dōgen’s successor, Koun Ejō, two or three years after Dōgen’s death. Supposedly these were from Dōgen’s undated writings of his last two or three years, although two of the twelve are dated from before he settled at Eiheiji, and some are reworkings of earlier essays. Nevertheless, it does seem apparent that once Dōgen settled at Eiheiji with appropriate monastic facilities, he mostly discarded the more elaborated jishu form used in the Shōbōgenzō essays, preferring to teach his monks with jōdō. The latter may likely have appealed to Dōgen as the form most used by the classic Chan masters in their traditional “recorded sayings” genre (Ch.: yulu; Jpn.: goroku).
To consider Dōgen’s writings and teaching only through the Shōbōgenzō is to ignore the quality and deep significance of the bulk of Eihei Kōroku, and all that he accomplished in his last decade of his teaching at Eiheiji. Some recent commentators have indeed written off Dōgen’s last ten years of teaching. Reflecting lack of appropriate appreciation for Eihei Kōroku, Heinrich Dumoulin says of Dōgen’s move to Echizen, “He fell into a depression that had been building up through the external pressures and animosities of the dark times he was going through…. It is not that there are no valuable passages in the late books of the Shōbōgenzō, but the downturn is undeniable…. Dōgen’s depression vented itself in a surfeit of literary productions.” But as Bodiford says in his excellent landmark text on medieval Sōtō Zen, “Dōgen’s [Eihei] Kōroku has not attracted the attention it deserves…. His Kōroku reveals an invaluable portrait of Dōgen as a Zen master, presenting a living example for his disciples.” The 405 Dharma hall discourses in volumes 2–7 of Eihei Kōroku must be included in any understanding of Dōgen and his teaching career. They demonstrate Dōgen’s mature teaching in his last decade, as he trained his core group of monks.
Although these shorter talks were considered more formal in the tradition, they paradoxically are much more revealing than Shōbōgenzō of Dōgen’s human qualities and personality. In them we can see more fully his training techniques and probing manner. But also revealed are Dōgen’s literary wit, his sense of humor and spontaneous playfulness, as well as his occasional sadness and deep sentiment. As for Dōgen’s humor, he prods his monks with playful questions and ironic answers, responds with putdowns and wordplay to the masters in the classic dialogues he cites, or demonstrates his teachings with nonverbal performances. Unlike the more philosophical essays in Shōbōgenzō, in Eihei Kōroku we find Dōgen clarifying points by drawing circles in the air with his whisk, or tossing it down, or pounding his staff emphatically on the wooden platform, or simply descending from his seat.
In one theatrical example, Dharma hall discourse 123, Dōgen relates to his monks a meditative vision—or is it a dream?—from the night before. He says that during the night he punched out the empty sky, or emptiness itself. “My fist didn’t hurt,” he boasts, “but the empty sky knew pain.” Thereupon, he relates, sesame cakes fell from the sky, suddenly turning into the faces and eyes of the world. Then the bodhisattva of compassion, AvalokiteŚvara, showed up, seeking to purchase these faces and eyes to equip his many-armed, many-faced form, although he had arrived without any money. Dōgen concludes even such a playful fantasy with deep, encouraging Dharma: “When AvalokiteŚvara Bodhisattva makes an appearance, mountains and rivers on the great earth are not dead ashes. You should always remember that in the third month the partridges sing and the flowers open.”
It is highly ironic that Dōgen’s writings (especially Shōbōgenzō) have been so influential in the importation of Zen, and even of Buddhism generally, to the West, since they were of minor significance to the early spread and success of Sōtō Zen in Japan. From Dōgen’s time until the 1920s, Shōbōgenzō was not studied widely. Beginning in the midsixteenth century, however, it was studied by Sōtō scholars and by the few monks who were educated (10 percent at most). Disparate collections of essays with widely variant versions, all designated as Shōbōgenzō, proliferated until the eighteenth century. This led some leaders of the Sōtō sect to doubt whether Shōbōgenzō was in fact written by Dōgen. Sōtō monks began to actually read Dōgen when new editions were published, and especially during the early eighteenth century when there was a revival in Dōgen studies within the Sōtō school. This renewal was initiated in 1700 by Manzan Dōhaku (1636–1714) when he cited Dōgen in his campaign to restore transmission lineages based on direct relationship with teachers rather than on temple abbacy lineages, as was then the norm. The ensuing debate, with both sides citing Dōgen, culminated in 1722 when the Sōtō hierarchy arranged for the government to ban publication of any version of Shōbōgenzō for a century. Later in the eighteenth century, study of Dōgen was inspired by commentaries on Shōbōgenzō by Tenkei Denson (1648–1735), a brilliant monk who often criticized and frequently “corrected” Dōgen’s writings based on his own views and promotion of kenshō as a standard for zazen. Slightly later, the influential commentaries in response to Tenkei by Menzan Zuihō (1683–1769), based on the reliable commentaries of Dōgen’s students Senne and Kyōgō, established new standard versions of Dōgen’s writings.
Dōgen generally was revered throughout Sōtō Zen history as the founder figure, but at least until the seventeenth century his reputation was mostly based on his image as a meditator and charismatic miracle worker, rather than on his writings. Ryōkan, the great early nineteenthcentury Sōtō monk, famed and still much beloved by the Japanese for his exceptional poetry, delicate calligraphy, and sweetly foolish, colorful character, was among the Sōtō clerics who studied Dōgen’s writings in the intervening centuries. But Ryōkan could read Dōgen only after receiving permission from his teacher. At the end of the introductory essays of this book is a long poem by Ryōkan from the 1790s in which he tearfully laments that none of his contemporaries, or anyone since Dōgen’s time, had deeply studied or understood Eihei Kōroku, the work translated here. Ryōkan wonders at its neglect: “For five hundred years it’s been covered with dust / Just because no one has had an eye for recognizing Dharma. / For whom was all his eloquence expounded?” It was not until 1815 that Dōgen’s collected essays became popularly available through a woodblock edition. And it is only in the last century that Dōgen’s writings have been generally read by people outside the Sōtō establishment. Dōgen was first presented as an important Japanese philosopher, apart from the Sōtō sect, in essays by the philosopher Tetsurō Watsuji in the early 1920s. Gradually since then, interest in Shōbōgenzō and in Dōgen’s image as a philosophical writer has grown in Japan, and internationally in the past few decades.
As the founder, Dōgen’s actual and significant contributions to the historical establishment and spread of Sōtō Zen in Japan were based not on his writings but rather on his training of capable successors and his initiation of lay precept ceremonies. Sōtō Zen survived thanks to Dōgen’s training of a dedicated cadre of monks at Eiheiji. Along with their successors in the next few generations, these talented disciples were able to establish Sōtō Zen as a strong network of vibrant and vital religious communities in the Japanese countryside. Eihei Kōroku, and especially its Dharma hall discourses, are the only real source for understanding the nature of the training Dōgen presented to his highly productive successors during his last decade of mature teaching.
Often through this text we can see Dōgen training his disciples, offering them his image of the Chan tradition he had received in China, and providing his successors with a vision of practice-realization and a model for its application. Sometimes in Eihei Kōroku he explicitly discusses his approach to training monks. For example, in Dharma hall discourse 266, dating from 1248, Dōgen specifies four of his approaches and their intent. He states that sometimes he enters the ultimate state and offers profound comments, so that his students may be “steadily intimate in [their] mind field.” Sometimes, while walking around the monastery grounds, he provides “practical instruction, simply wishing you all to disport and play freely with spiritual penetration.” Sometimes, he says, “I spring quickly leaving no trace, simply wishing you all to drop off body and mind.” Sometimes, finally, Dōgen “enters the samādhi of self-fulfillment, simply wishing you all to trust what your hands can hold.” These four approaches indicate Dōgen’s subtle awareness of his conduct and impact as a Dharma master. But, characteristically, Dōgen concludes this discourse by expressing the ungraspable true quality of his teaching, beyond any techniques or categories. He poetically describes that which goes beyond all of these teaching approaches as, “Scrubbed clean by the dawn wind, the night mist clears. Dimly seen, the blue mountains form a single line.”
A few generations after Dōgen, during the time of Keizan Jōkin (1264– 1325) and his successors, the practice of lay ordination and initiation cemented the widening popularity of Sōtō Zen amid the rural populace. Through this precept-taking ceremony for laypeople, many common people could feel connected to the Zen lineage. The strict monastic training and zazen practice of local priests were highly respected. But through these ceremonies, people who had no opportunity for such rigorous practice learned how to apply the Sōtō teachings in their everyday activities. This precept initiation practice continues to be important in Sōtō Zen, even in its modern spread in the West. The impetus for this practice, with its emphasis on bodhisattva precepts, can be traced back to the teachings of Dōgen in his later years in Eihei Kōroku, which emphasized the place of ethical conduct, not ignoring cause and effect, and the importance of attention to the concrete details of ordinary daily affairs. Dōgen himself conducted highly impressive precept recitation ceremonies for many laypeople at Eiheiji. In many of the teachings in Eihei Kōroku, Dōgen stresses the importance of attention to karma. For example, in Dharma hall discourse 485, given in 1252, Dōgen cites a saying attributed to an ancestral Indian teacher: “Even after a hundred thousand kalpas have passed, [the shadow and echo of conduct] have not been erased.” Dōgen adds, “The way of the buddha ancestors is like this. Descendants of buddha ancestors should carve this in their bones and etch it in their skins.” For another example, Dharma hall discourse 510 begins with “Students of the way cannot dismiss cause and effect. If you discard cause and effect, you will ultimately deviate from practice-realization.” For more on Dōgen’s wrestling with the centrality of ethical conduct in his final years, see also note 83 to volume 7.
Thus the teachings of Dōgen, and especially their true role in the successful establishment of Sōtō Zen in Japan, cannot be fully understood without significant attention to Eihei Kōroku, with its demonstrations of Dōgen’s training of his successors, and his emphasis on ethical application of the teaching to everyday activity. For more on the crucial role of Eihei Kōroku in the full range of Dōgen’s work, in the context of the academic field of Dōgen studies, see the additional introductory essay by eminent Dōgen scholar Steven Heine that follows this introduction.
The Question of Shifts in Dōgen’s Teachings
Related to the quality of Eihei Kōroku, and the move from Kyoto to Echizen, is one of the prominent issues in modern Dōgen studies, a supposed shift between Dōgen’s early and late teachings. Some commentators, such as Dumoulin, have claimed that Dōgen’s teachings declined severely after moving to Eiheiji, or even that Dōgen had become senile, although he died only in his early fifties. A recent contrary view is that only the very late teachings, after his return to Eiheiji from Kamakura in 1248, with their strict emphasis on karma, are in accord with early, supposedly “orthodox” Buddhism, and that Dōgen intended to renounce all of his earlier writings. Both of these extreme views are untenable, for they ignore the nuances and subtlety of Dōgen’s shifting emphases during his career and also the basic consistency underlying his teaching. Moreover, these modern views about a fundamental shift in Dōgen’s doctrinal position are based primarily on his Shōbōgenzō essays, not the mature teachings presented in Eihei Kōroku.
Briefly, one of the main concerns has been that Dōgen’s early writings at Kōshōji in Kyoto generally celebrate the universal applicability of zazen, emphatically including the possibility of awakening for laypeople and women. However, Dōgen’s later teachings, including some of Eihei Kōroku, generally emphasize the efficacy and importance of monastic practice, and a few Shōbōgenzō essays even say that full enlightenment is possible only for monks. This is stated in a couple of Shōbōgenzō essays from early on at Eiheiji, when Dōgen was first establishing his mountain monastery. These are “The Thirty-Seven Elements of Enlightenment,” from 1244, and “Home-Leaving,” from 1246, in which Dōgen says, “Someone who has not left family life is never a Buddhist patriarch.” This might be interpreted as a simple acknowledgment that the Zen lineage had been transmitted by ordained monks through Dōgen’s time, which remained the case until the twentieth century. But in a later version of this essay, “The Merit of Home-Leaving,” in the late twelve-volume Shōbōgenzō, Dōgen states it more strongly: “Within the sacred teaching there is explanation of lay realization of Buddha, but it is not the authentic tradition. There is explanation of the female body realizing Buddha, but this also is not the authentic tradition. What the Buddhist patriarchs authentically transmit is to leave family life and realize Buddha.” This might reasonably be interpreted as indicating that buddhahood is beyond all gender discriminations, and requires renunciation of personal attachments. But such interpretation might seem forced or excusatory to modern Western Buddhists informed by feminist and nonhierarchical perspectives.
However, one of Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō essays from 1240—a few years before his departure from Kyoto—Raihai Tokuzui (Making Prostrations and Attaining the Marrow), includes one of the strongest statements for the equality of women in Asian Buddhist history. The long essay states, for example:
Nowadays extremely stupid people look at women without having corrected the prejudice that women are objects of sexual greed. Disciples of the Buddha must not be like this. If whatever may become the object of sexual greed is to be hated, do not all men deserve to be hated too?… What wrong is there in a woman? What virtue is there in a man? Among bad people there are men who are bad people. Among good people there are women who are good people. Wanting to hear the Dharma, and wanting to get liberation, never depend on whether we are a man or a woman.
Nothing later in Shōbōgenzō or in Eihei Kōroku gives any indication of a significant alteration of such thoroughly articulated avowals of gender equality.
There is no question that Dōgen’s later teachings, including Eihei Kōroku, often emphasize monastic practice, for his focus was the training of his monk disciples at Eiheiji. This included an emphasis on precepts, moral conduct, and the attentive care of everyday activities and their karmic consequences. But even in Bendōwa, a very early writing from 1231, even before establishing Kōshōji, Dōgen had already expressed his deep concern with monastic practice and standards. “I do not have a chance now to also present the standards for monasteries or regulations for temples, especially as they should not be treated carelessly.” Moreover, even at his later teachings at Eiheiji there were laypeople, including women, who frequently attended the Dharma hall discourses along with the monks. Another frequently cited concern about Dōgen’s later teachings is the increase in his apparently sectarian critiques and even occasionally vitriolic attacks directed against other schools or teachers. But the few writings in Shōbōgenzō in which these appear are not actually from his late period writings, and throughout the Dharma hall discourses in Eihei Kōroku, Dōgen praises Linji and other figures from diverse lineages that he had previously criticized. “The period of Dōgen’s intense criticism of rivals was short-lived and did not occur again.” We must once more bear in mind that Dōgen is not seeking to promulgate some philosophical doctrine. He is simply expressing his own understanding and deep personal experience of the Buddha way to encourage and develop the practice of an audience of particular students. Many of his later emphases can be clearly viewed as responses to his many monk disciples formerly of the Daruma shū, or Bodhidharma sect.
The importance of the Daruma shū as the background of many of Dōgen’s disciples is quite significant. The Daruma shū was an early Zen group in Japan founded by Dainichi Nōnin, active in the late twelfth century. Nōnin developed his teaching from Chan writings without personal guidance of a teacher. Two disciples whom he sent to China found a Chinese master who authorized Nōnin’s teaching without meeting him.
Nōnin’s main disciple, Bucchi Kakuan (n.d.) was the teacher of both Koun Ejō and Kakuzen Ekan, who both later became important disciples of Dōgen.
The Daruma shū is universally accused by later Zen people, including by Dōgen, of severely misguided teachings, especially their purported antinomian view that one’s understanding of the omnipresence of Buddha nature is sufficient, with no further practice thereafter required. Many scholars believe that Dōgen’s later teachings were strongly affected by these disciples’ Daruma shū background, as Dōgen’s later emphases—for example, on the necessity of diligent practice and of attending to causality and ethical conduct in daily life—are thought to have been specific antidotes to Daruma shū teachings.
Throughout Dōgen’s writings, he persistently assigns a central place to zazen practice, and continually offers commentaries on the kōans from the Chan sources. While there may be shifts in emphasis, these are not substantial changes in doctrine, but rather in teaching style and audience. As Steven Heine indicates, the change in teaching genre from the Shōbōgenzō essay style to the Dharma hall discourses is the most identifiable difference in Dōgen’s later teaching. “Yet even this change indicates that Dōgen never abandoned but continued to transform and adapt the roots of his religiosity, especially commentaries on kōans…. The main changes his writings underwent were not so much a matter of either a drastic reversal or a rebirth of ideology as of attempts to work out various literary styles appropriate to the needs of diverse audience sectors, including [both] monks and laypeople.”
Dōgen’s Great Disciples and the Spread of Sōtō Zen in Japan
We can identify seven great, influential disciples of Dōgen, all of whom were present for many of the Dharma hall discourses and other teachings in Eihei Kōroku. We can envision them as present in the assembly during these teachings, which must have been deeply formative to their training. Thus modern readers may appreciate Eihei Kōroku, not as a compilation of abstract dissertations, but as teachings addressed directly to an assembly whose exact size we do not know but which included these seven individuals: Koun Ejō, Senne, Senne’s disciple Kyōgō, Tettsū Gikai, Gien, Kangan Giin, and Jakuen.
Among these foremost disciples, Koun Ejō, Tettsū Gikai, Gien, and Kangan Giin had been part of the Daruma shū before joining Dōgen’s assembly. Tettsū Gikai, Gien, and Kangan Giin had all been disciples of Kakuzen Ekan, the Daruma shū teacher mentioned above, and they all joined Dōgen’s assembly together with Ekan when he became a student of Dōgen. Their generation of disciples in that school were all given names beginning with Gi, meaning “dignity” or “bearing.” So of the following seven disciples of Dōgen, all of whom were trained with the Eihei Kōroku teachings at Eiheiji, only Senne, Kyōgō, and Jakuen had not been Daruma shū monks.
Koun Ejō (1198–1280) was Dōgen’s personal attendant (jisha) and main successor, and he became abbot of Eiheiji after Dōgen. He compiled many of Dōgen’s writings, including much of Shōbōgenzō and volumes 2–4 and the informal meetings in volume 8 of Eihei Kōroku. Initially a Tendai monk, Koun Ejō had studied with many of the contemporary Japanese Buddhist movements, including Pure Land, before he met Dōgen in 1227 and then became one of his first students in 1234. It is thought that Ejō’s inquiries may have been the model for the questions in Dōgen’s early writing Bendōwa (Talk on Wholehearted Practice of the Way). Dōgen’s early death prevented him from giving Dharma transmission to the rest of the seven (except probably for Senne, as described below). But Koun Ejō ended up giving transmission to the others. Thus all later successors in Dōgen’s lineage officially trace their lineage through Koun Ejō.
Senne (n.d.) and his eventual successor Kyōgō (n.d.) were both present as disciples in the assembly for at least some of Dōgen’s teachings at Eiheiji, and Senne from early on at Kōshōji. According to early biographies of Dōgen, beginning with Sanso Gōgyōki, Senne was one of three Dharma successors of Dōgen along with Koun Ejō and Sōkai (see below), who all received transmission at Kōshōji (although some modern scholars have questioned the transmissions of Senne and Sōkai). Senne was Dōgen’s personal attendant at Kōshōji. He was the compiler of volume 1 of Eihei Kōroku and the Dharma words in volume 8, and the primary compiler of the kōans in volume 9 and the poetry in volume 10.
After Dōgen’s death Senne and Kyōgō left Eiheiji and founded Yōkōji in Kyoto, near the site where Dōgen was cremated. Their lineage survived for only a few generations after Kyōgō, so they are not so important in medieval Sōtō history. But what did survive are their extensive commentaries on Shōbōgenzō, called Goshō, including writings by both Senne and Kyōgō. These writings are vital to our modern understanding of Dōgen. Since Senne and Kyōgō were both personal students of Dōgen and heard him expound these teachings, their commentaries are reliable records of Dōgen’s own interpretations and ways of reading his complex, often ambiguous essays in Shōbōgenzō. This is especially crucial for the many instances in which Dōgen intentionally misread passages from old sutras and kōans to render deeper meanings, but in ways that were doubted by later generations without the clarifications of Senne and Kyōgō. First used by Menzan in the eighteenth century, these commentaries have shaped all modern readings of Dōgen. Kyōgō must have been still quite young when Dōgen died in 1253, as Kyōgō’s own commentary on Shōbōgenzō was written fifty years later, between 1303 and 1308, and he wrote another important commentary on Dōgen’s writing about precepts in 1309.
Tettsū Gikai (1219–1309) was Koun Ejō’s main successor and followed him as abbot of Eiheiji from 1267 to 1273 and perhaps again from 1280 to 1293. Like Koun Ejō, Gikai had been a Tendai and Daruma shū monk before he came with Kakuzen Ekan to study with Dōgen in 1241. Gikai was from Echizen, where he had significant noble family contacts, which may have contributed to Dōgen’s move there. Clearly a leading disciple, Gikai was the tenzo (chief cook) for Dōgen’s assembly during the first harsh winter after the move to Echizen. According to Gikai’s main successor, Keizan, Gikai had realized his first experience of awakening upon hearing a Dharma hall discourse at Kōshōji in which Dōgen grounded a statement of the ultimate with its concrete expression. This was apparently in Dharma hall discourse 91: “All dharmas dwell in their dharma positions; forms in the world are always present. Wild geese return to the woods, and orioles appear in early spring.” However, Keizan’s account cited as the second part a similar phrase from Dharma hall discourse 73: “Partridges sing and a hundred blossoms open.” This is a specific dramatic example of the impact Dōgen’s teachings in Eihei Kōroku had upon his disciples.
According to a work written by Gikai himself, Eihei Kaisan Gōyuigon Kiroku (Record of the Final Sayings of the Founder Eihei), Koun Ejō and Tettsū Gikai nursed Dōgen during his final illness. Dōgen considered giving transmission to Gikai, who was very capable and diligent, but Dōgen told Gikai a few times that he did not yet have sufficient compassionate “grandmotherly mind.” After Dōgen’s passing, Koun Ejō did eventually give transmission to Gikai in 1255 after Gikai finally declared his realization of the truth of Dōgen’s teaching that “the manners and dignified conduct in the monastery are exactly the true Buddha Dharma.” Dōgen’s emphasis on attentive conduct in everyday activities is frequently expressed in his teachings to the monks in Eihei Kōroku. Apparently Gikai’s “grandmotherly mind” could not be activated until he had thoroughly accepted the necessity for this attention to responsible conduct, superseding his previous Daruma shū understanding of all activity as already inherently Dharma. Gikai traveled to China from 1259 to 1262 to study Chan monastic practices and architecture so as to more fully develop the Eiheiji monastic standards. Koun Ejō retired as abbot in 1267 and appointed Gikai. Gikai retired as abbot in 1273 and lived in a hermitage nearby caring for his aged mother. Although the history of this period is very murky, Koun Ejō likely returned as abbot then. In 1280 Gikai returned to Eiheiji to nurse Ejō before his death, and may have become abbot again, but left around 1292 and became abbot of Daijōji temple. He turned over that temple to his successor Keizan in 1298.
Gien (d. 1314) was one of the Daruma shū monks who had joined Dōgen in 1241. From 1249 to 1252, while he was Dōgen’s attendant, Gien compiled volumes 5–7 of Eihei Kōroku (Dōgen’s final Dharma hall discourses) and also some of the later Shōbōgenzō essays. Gien became abbot of Eiheiji after Tettsū Gikai left, sometime before 1287, and probably remained abbot until his death in 1314. Gien’s own lineage did not survive into the fifteenth century. But Gien was highly revered by Gikai’s formal successor Keizan, who also studied with Gien, from whom he received transmission of the precepts before Tettsū Gikai. Keizan saw Gien as embodying strict dedication to practice, and he later dreamed of Gie stating that he would never leave Eiheiji.
Jakuen (1207–1299) was a Chinese disciple of Dōgen’s teacher, Tiantong Rujing. He had met Dōgen at the Tiantong monastery and, after Rujing’s death, traveled to Japan and became Dōgen’s student at Kōshōji around 1230. Jakuen served as manager of the memorial hall at both Kōshōji and Eiheiji. A while after Dōgen’s passing, in 1261, Jakuen left Eiheiji and founded Hōkyōji monastery in the same region. Hōkyōji continues today as a Sōtō training monastery, and there are still some surviving members of the lineage founded by Jakuen.
Jakuen’s disciple Giun (1253–1333) succeeded Gien as Eiheiji abbot from 1314 to 1333. Before coming to study with Jakuen, Giun had helped Koun Ejō edit parts of Shōbōgenzō, and Giun later composed short verse commentaries to the sixty-essay version of Shōbōgenzō. Giun’s later teachings comment more on the Chinese Sōtō (Caodong) teacher Hongzhi Zhengjue than on Dōgen, who also frequently cites Hongzhi in Eihei Kōroku. Giun also focused on Chinese Sōtō teachings such as the five ranks. The Jakuen-Giun line dominated Eiheiji until the early seventeenth century.
Starting in the mid-fifteenth century, Jakuen-lineage Sōtō historians claimed that a dispute had arisen between Gien and Gikai or their immediate disciples. But this is highly dubious, and not verified in any earlier records, although there was certainly rivalry between these various lineages for some time from the fifteenth century on. Many later and some modern historians have made much of the so-called “third generation conflict,” including the theory that Gien, Jakuen, and Giun sought to return to a “pure” Zen of Dōgen, while Tettsū Gikai, Keizan, and their successors favored a more eclectic, popular version of Sōtō Zen. The actual evidence of the teachings and range of practices of all involved, and their ongoing cooperation through at least Keizan’s generation, call into strong question the notion of an active or ideological conflict. The returns and departures of Tettsū Gikai to and from Eiheiji, which may have given rise to speculations about conflict, easily could have been due to personal issues, rather than any supposed ideological dispute.
The lineage of Kangan Giin (1217–1300), based in the Southern Japanese island of Kyushu, became so strong from the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries as to vie with Eiheiji in prominence. The exaggerated biographies produced during that period make accurate knowledge about many details of Giin’s life uncertain. Before joining Dōgen, Giin had been a Tendai monk and was connected with the Daruma shū. He is said to have joined Dōgen at Kōshōji in 1241, although it is possible that he arrived at Eiheiji only several years before Dōgen’s death. Giin eventually received Dharma transmission from Koun Ejō. He traveled to China from 1264 to 1267, although some records claim that he also had visited China from 1253 to 1254, after Dōgen’s death. In the 1260s Giin showed a copy of Eihei Kōroku to Wuwai Yiyuan (n.d.), one of the main disciples of Dōgen’s teacher Tiantong Rujing. Wuwai selected less than 10 percent of Eihei Kōroku for an abridged version, Eihei Dōgen Zenji Goroku, which was published at Eiheiji in 1358. (Here goroku means “recorded sayings,” as opposed to kōroku, “extensive record.”)
After his return from China in 1267, Kangan Giin founded a Sōtō lineage in Kyushu, based at the temple Daijiji. His disciples, prominently including many nuns, engaged in a range of traditional Japanese Buddhist practices along with zazen. Giin gained popularity and strong patronage in part for sponsoring and arranging various public works projects, including a bridge over the dangerous Midori River. Giin’s lineage flourished late into the seventeenth century and still has some successors today.
Keizan Jōkin (1264 or 1268–1325), sometimes considered the second founder of Sōtō Zen after Dōgen, was officially Tettsū Gikai’s successor, but he also had studied with Koun Ejō, Gien, and Jakuen, further demonstrating the quality and impact of the range of Dōgen’s trainees, and the compatibility of their teachings. Keizan founded Sōjiji, still considered the second headquarters temple of Sōtō along with Eiheiji. His successors popularized Sōtō Zen throughout northern and central Japan, and the vast majority of the current Sōtō school is from Keizan’s line.
This brief survey of the later accomplishments of influential disciples of Dōgen highlights the importance of Dōgen’s training, which can best be discerned through study of the teachings of Eihei Kōroku that they all received. But a few other disciples of Dōgen mentioned in Eihei Kōroku are worth discussing.
Among other disciples mentioned in Eihei Kōroku, most noteworthy is Sōkai (1216–1242), who is said to have received Dharma transmission from Dōgen at Kōshōji as well as Koun Ejō and Senne. Dharma hall discourses 111 and 112 are Dōgen’s laments after Sōkai’s early death at Kōshōji. Sōkai must have been greatly beloved among the assembly, as Dōgen notes their profuse weeping, and also says of himself that “tears fill my breast like an overflowing lake.”
Another prominent disciple of Dōgen who died before him was Kakuzen Ekan, already mentioned as having brought his students Gikai, Gien, and Giin when he began study with Dōgen in 1241. In his last illness, Ekan regretted that he would not be able to receive transmission from Dōgen, but encouraged his disciples (then also studying with Dōgen) to do so. Dōgen’s memorial Dharma hall discourse for Ekan is discourse 507 in volume 7.
Among the hōgo (Dharma words) in volume 8, letters by Dōgen to disciples from the Kōshōji period in Kyoto, are three (hōgo 4, 9, and 12) addressed to the nun Ryōnen. Not much is known about her, although she was older than Dōgen and died before him, and may not have gone to Echizen. In these dharma words, Dōgen says that Ryōnen has had the seeds of prajñā (wisdom) from youth, and that she is a woman with “strong, robust aspiration.” He also says, “Regarding the sincerity of the aspiration for the way of wayfarer Ryōnen, I see that other people cannot match her.” Ryōnen is named after Moshan Laoran (Ryōnen in Japanese), the Chinese teacher whom Dōgen praises in his strong defense of women’s enlightening capacities in Shōbōgenzō Raihai Tokuzui (Making Prostrations and Attaining the Marrow). Dharma word 5 and poem 62 in volume 10 are addressed to Yakō, a layperson and official of the imperial office in Kyushu. Dōgen’s famous essay Genjōkōan, usually considered part of Shōbōgenzō, was also originally a letter, or dharma word, sent to a Kyushu official named Yō Kōshū. It is possible that Yakō and Yō Kōshū were different names for the same person; if not, the two worked in the same office. It has been speculated that Dōgen met these persons upon his departure to, or return from, China when he embarked via the southern island of Kyushu. Dharma word 5 mentions that Dōgen met with Yakō at Kōshōji in 1234 and again in 1235. Dōgen identifies him as a student of Confucianism, but one who has “kept his mind on the ancestral way [of Zen] for a long time through many years.” This individual may not himself be an especially significant student of Dōgen. But he represents an example of the many sincere laypeople who came, sometimes from great distances, to study with Dōgen, especially while Dōgen was still at Kōshōji, although we know that lay students also traveled to Eiheiji.
Perhaps Dōgen’s great patron Hatano Yoshishige should also be mentioned as a lay student of Dōgen, judging by the strong encouragements to diligent practice with a teacher probably addressed to him in dharma word 14. Yoshishige also donated the land for Eiheiji and presented a complete copy of the Tripitika to Eiheiji in 1249 (see Dharma hall discourses 361 and 362).
A number of other people are mentioned, both monks and laypeople, in the Dharma hall discourses and in the dharma words of volume 8. Although not much is known about them, their presence in Dōgen’s discourses and dharma words provide some context for seeing these students with whom Dōgen was relating.
Dōgen’s Use of Kōans
Although Dōgen claimed in Dharma hall discourse 48 that he returned from China to Japan “with empty hands,” he brought with him an extraordinary mastery of the extensive Chinese Chan kōan literature. A popular stereotype is that Japanese Rinzai Zen emphasizes kōan practice whereas Sōtō Zen emphasizes just sitting meditation, or zazen, and even disdains kōans. However, even a cursory reading of Dōgen demonstrates his frequent use of a very wide range of kōans. Contrary to the stereotype, as amply proved in Eihei Kōroku along with his other writings, Dōgen is clearly responsible for introducing the kōan literature to Japan, and in his teaching he demonstrates how to bring this material alive. One legend about Dōgen is that on the night before he left China to return home, with the help of a guardian deity he copied in one night the entire Hekiganroku, or Blue Cliff Record, still one of the most important kōan anthologies, including one hundred cases with extensive commentary. Whether or not he accomplished such a supernormal feat, Dōgen certainly brought to Japan not only that text but also an amazing encyclopedic knowledge of the contents of many other such collections.
In the centuries after Dōgen, kōan study was often prominent in Sōtō Zen history. But the modes of kōan practice and study promoted by Dōgen, and in much of Sōtō Zen until the present, differ distinctly from the modern Rinzai kōan curriculum study, which emphasizes frequent student interviews with the teacher after intent focus on the kōan as an object of formal meditation. This Rinzai kōan system had its roots in the teachings of Dahui, a Chinese Linji/Rinzai master in the century before Dōgen. The development of this kōan system, especially as it was informed by the great seventeenth-century Rinzai master Hakuin, has often been seen in the West today, mistakenly, as the definition and limit of “kōan practice.” This has led to the erroneous belief that Dōgen, or Sōtō generally, does not use kōan practice. Steven Heine’s excellent detailed study, Dōgen and the Kōan Tradition, clearly elaborates the varying modes of kōan study and praxis employed by Dōgen, as opposed to the Rinzai approach. Generally a kōan—the word means “public case”—is a teaching story primarily based on a dialogue or some other encounter between a teacher and a student. The classic kōan stories go back to the genres of the lamp transmission anthology and the recorded sayings (Ch.: yulu; Jpn.: goroku), mostly from the great masters of the Chinese Tang dynasty (608–907). Many of these recorded sayings of individual masters were not actually compiled until early in the Song dynasty (960–1278), which has led many modern scholars to question their historical reliability. However, given the strong monastic culture of memorization and oral transmission, we cannot say definitively whether or not these stories are historically reliable. But they have unquestionably served as useful tools for the realization of awakening truth and spiritual development by generations of monks and seekers throughout the past millennium.
In the development of the kōan literature, the fuller records of individual masters would seem to have preceded the lamp transmission anthologies, but historically they actually often followed them. These lamp anthologies consist of briefer excerpts from many masters descended from the various Chinese lineages, arranged together in the same generation, with each generation included in sequence. The most noted and comprehensive of these is the “Jingde Transmission of the Lamp” (Ch.: Jingde Chuandenglu; Jpn.: Keitoku Dentōroku), some sections of which have been translated. But Dōgen cites many other lamp transmission texts as well. One collection that Dōgen quotes very frequently in Eihei Kōroku is the “Collection of the Essence of the Continuous Dharma Lamp” (Ch.: Zongmen Liandeng Huiyao; Jpn.: Shūmon Rentō Eyō), published in 1189, not yet available in English translation. This is the third of the five major dharma lamp transmission anthologies collected in the important compilation Five Lamps Merged in the Source (Ch.: Wudeng Huiyuan; Jpn.: Gotō Egen), which also includes the Jingde Transmission of the Lamp. Also among the five is the Jiatai Record of the Universal Lamp (Ch.: Jiatai Pudenglu; Jpn.: Katai Futōroku), compiled in 1204, and also often cited by Dōgen.
Finally, in the last stage of creating the classic kōan genre, the stories from the collected records and the lamp transmission texts were excerpted, often in highly abbreviated form, in the great Song dynasty kōan anthologies, which then included many layers of added commentary by later masters. Although there were a great many such anthologies, among the most prominent are the Blue Cliff Record (Ch.: Biyanlu; Jpn.: Hekiganroku) and the Book of Serenity (Ch.: Congronglu; Jpn.: Shōyōroku), two collections still important today, together with the Gateless Gate (Ch.: Wumenguan; Jpn.: Mumonkan), which was compiled in China during Dōgen’s life, and which he never saw in that form.
In Eihei Kōroku, Dōgen follows and expands upon many traditional modes of kōan commentary. Volume 9, ninety kōans selected by Dōgen with his own added verse comments, usually only four lines, features a traditional poetic mode of commentary, patterned after the core of the Blue Cliff Record and also followed in the Book of Serenity anthology. This collection in Eihei Kōroku, volume 9, is one of Dōgen’s important early efforts at kōan commentary. Of course the many essays in Shōbōgenzō, often with elaborated thematic responses to specific kōans, display one of Dōgen’s distinctive approaches and major contributions to kōan commentary. The Dharma words (hōgo), letters to individual students in volume 8 of Eihei Kōroku, are from the earlier period in Kōshōji. They might be seen as a bridge between the longer, more philosophical Shōbōgenzō essay form and the Dharma hall discourses of volumes 1–7 in Eihei Kōroku. The shōsan (informal meetings) in volume 8 are from the Eiheiji period and, though often somewhat longer, are closer to the Dharma hall discourses in their approaches to kōan commentary.
Informal meeting 9 features line-by-line interjected brief responses by Dōgen on Zhaozhou’s kōan “The cypress tree in the garden.” This was Zhaozhou’s response to a monk who asked what Buddha is. This case is also cited by Dōgen in his Dharma hall discourses 433 and 488. Such interlinear commentary is a mode Dōgen here adopts from similar responses to the cases and primary verse commentaries in the Blue Cliff Record. In the Dharma hall discourses, Dōgen uses various other modes of comment on this kōan. In discourse 433 he praises Zhaozhou and questions his own monks’ understanding; then, after a pause, he gives a poetic “capping phrase,” another traditional mode of response to kōans. In discourse 488 Dōgen takes the same story and sharply criticizes common misunderstandings of it, then offers the responses that he, Dōgen, would give at each part of the dialogue were he in the story, another traditional mode of kōan response from the Chinese Dharma hall discourses. This ends with Dōgen giving his own final response in the form of a four-line verse comment, thereby mixing modes of commentary. In all these ways and more, Dōgen plays with these traditional Zen stories to bring forth fresh teaching and enlivening awareness for his students.
One difference between Dōgen’s use of kōan study and a stereotypical modern view of kōan practice can be found in his critique of kenshō as a goal. This term, which means “seeing the nature,” has been understood at times to refer to an opening experience of attainment of realization, going beyond conceptual thinking. Dōgen believes that this is a dualistic misunderstanding and such experiences are not to be emphasized. For Dōgen, Buddha nature is not an object to merely see or acquire, but a mode of being that must be actually lived and expressed. All realizations or understandings, even those from Dōgen’s own comments, must be let go, as he stresses to a student in Dharma word 4: “If you hold on to a single word or half a phrase of the buddha ancestors’ sayings or of the kōans from the ancestral gate, they will become dangerous poisons. If you want to understand this mountain monk’s activity, do not remember these comments. Truly avoid being caught up in thinking.”
Unlike in the formal Rinzai curriculum, or the kōan study of Dahui, Dōgen does not explicitly recommend the kōan stories as objects of formal meditation, but offers them for general contemplation and intent study. For example, in the last Dharma word, 14, Dōgen says: “When you meet a teacher, first ask for one case of a [kōan] story, and just keep it in mind and study it diligently…. Now I see worldly people who visit and practice with teachers, and before clarifying one question, assertively enjoy bringing up other stories. They withdraw from the discussion as if they understand, but are close-mouthed and cannot speak. They have not yet explained one third of the story, so how will we see a complete saying?”
In addition to study of the traditional kōan stories, in Eihei Kōroku Dōgen also emphasizes the approach of genjōkōan, “full manifestation of ultimate reality,” or attention to the kōans manifesting in everyday activity. In this approach, each everyday phenomenon or challenge arising before us can be intently engaged, to be realized and fully expressed. “Genjōkōan” is the name of one of Dōgen’s most famous essays, now thought of as part of Shōbōgenzō. But he uses this term and expresses this approach elsewhere in his writings, including in Eihei Kōroku. For example, in Dharma hall discourse 60 Dōgen says: “Everybody should just wholeheartedly engage in this genjōkōan. What is this genjōkōan? It is just all buddhas in the ten directions and all ancestors, ancient and present, and it is fully manifesting right now. Do you all see it? It is just our…getting up and getting down from the sitting platform.”
The footnotes throughout our translation of the Eihei Kōroku text offer references to some of the available English sources for other versions and uses of these kōans, as well as other places where they are cited in Eihei Kōroku and in Dōgen’s other writings. Checking other uses of the stories may give a fuller context for understanding Dōgen’s commentaries. However, we have not attempted to provide a full concordance of every place in the Chinese literature or in Dōgen where each of these stories can be found, a massive project far beyond the scope of this translation.
The prominent contemporary American Zen teacher John Daido Loori offers another useful view of Dōgen’s relationship to kōan practice in his essay following this introduction. In his essay, Daido describes the influence of Dōgen’s approach and writings in Daido’s own contemporary kōan training program for his students. Daido’s systematic approach to a curriculum of kōan training is widely divergent from my own way of using kōans in practice and in teaching students, and also from Dōgen’s own approach. However, Daido’s program is deeply informed by his study of Dōgen’s writings, and it exemplifies how Dōgen continues to influence modern innovations in kōan training. Daido’s teaching has made excellent use of the three hundred kōans of Dōgen’s Mana Shōbōgenzō, which was the immediate basis for much of Dōgen’s ninety cases in Eihei Kōroku, volume 9. Daido Loori and Kazuaki Tanahashi have recently completed a reliable, useful, and very welcome translation of the three hundred cases of Mana Shōbōgenzō with Daido’s commentary.
The Eihei Kōroku Text and Translation Notes
The present translation is based on the Monkaku version of Eihei Kōroku, copied in 1598 from earlier sources. This version is also called the Sozan-bon or Honzan-bon, or “Main Temple Edition,” after its source at Eiheiji. Other extant versions are the Kōshōji-bon, Shingetsuji-bon, and Rinnōji-bon, all later copies of the Monkaku version. A later version (called the Rufu-bon), edited by Manzan Dōhaku in 1672, differs somewhat from the four earlier ones. Manzan sometimes amended the text when it seemed incomprehensible. Manzan viewed such difficulties as indications that copiers’ errors had likely entered the text. In some cases when we agree with Manzan, we have used his suggestions, as noted. In some instances we have also mentioned Manzan’s alternative readings in the footnotes.
We have often been guided in our translation by the readings in the invaluable edition of the text by the late Genryū Kagamishima, Komazawa University professor and the leading scholar of Dōgen studies in the postwar period. We also often have been guided by Kagamishima as to when to adopt Manzan’s readings. However, we have not in every instance agreed with the interpretations of Professor Kagamishima. We have also at times consulted with editions of the text by Tetsuo – tani, Hisao Shi-Onohara, and Tōru Terada. All of these editions, listed in the bibliography, include Japanese readings, of necessity implying some interpretation, as well as the original Chinese. Our translations have been primarily from the original Chinese text, but with consideration of the Japanese readings. We have also benefited from the collections of commentaries and studies edited by Shunkō Itō and Seijun Ishii.
We have included the very useful numbers added to the text in the twentieth century, from 1 to 531 for the Dharma hall discourses in volumes 1–7; from 1 to 20 for shōsan, and 1 to 14 for hōgo, in volume 8; from 1 to 90 for the kōans in volume 9; and 1 to 5 for shinsan, 1 to 20 for jisan, and 1 to 125 for the rest of the verses in volume 10. We have used these numbers to identify particular passages when they are referred to in the introduction, the footnotes, and the indexes.
At the beginning of each Dharma hall discourse in volumes 1–7, each shōsan and hōgo in volume 8, and each kōan in volume 9, we have added our own title for each piece. These titles, which serve as a means of identification along with the numbers, should be understood as reflecting only the translators’ original interpretations and suggested focus. We have not given names for the verses in volume 10, which are mostly very brief, but many of which include headings in the text from Dōgen himself, or perhaps from their compiler, usually Senne.
In the footnotes we also have tried to clarify references to Buddhist and Zen doctrine and lore. As we wish this work to be accessible to English readers, we have focused on citing sources available in English translation. However, where we know of no English translations, names of Sanskrit, Chinese, or Japanese works referred to by Dōgen are given in the footnotes, with the relevant section of those works. We also offer English-language sources for other examples of stories or teachings cited by Dōgen, but we have not attempted to give every available source and site for such references, as already noted for the kōans. When citing English translations of such references, from Dōgen or elsewhere, we have generally tried to include the best available renditions, but in many cases we have given several options, and these citations should not necessarily be taken as endorsements of these translations, or as criticisms of those not mentioned.
When passages seemed problematic, we have at times offered alternative readings in the footnotes. We have also occasionally offered our own brief interpretive suggestions when these would help the reader.
Throughout the text, phrases or words in brackets are our own additions, not literally present in the text, which we deemed necessary to comprehension. These include implied pronouns and subjects (often fairly clear in context), since personal pronouns in the Chinese used by Dōgen in Eihei Kōroku (as well as in Japanese) are often unstated. Ambiguities in the original or in Dōgen’s source texts can be intentional, but coherent English translations usually require choosing between possible meanings. I rejoiced in the instances when we could accurately convey in English a similar range of ambiguities as the original. Of course in some cases the phrases in brackets indicate our own interpretations of Dōgen’s meaning. The occasional parentheses in the text indicate our brief clarifying or informative interjections, as opposed to the bracketed interpolations suggested as implied parts of Dogen’s text.
Translating Dōgen provides a range of challenges. He is well known for his complex use of language and intricate twisting of conventional grammar and syntax. Even without such wordplay, Dōgen’s Japanese, when compared to modern Japanese, is analogous to Chaucerian English compared to modern English. He also employs many technical Buddhist and Zen terms and allusions that need to be clarified. Dōgen especially works to express the inner meanings of Buddhist teaching and expose the limitations of conventional thought patterns. He thereby dramatizes the deeper, radical nondualism of developed Mahāyāna insight, often by overturning standard subject-object grammatical constructions. Through elaborate wordplay and puns, Dōgen often reinterprets traditional readings of sutra passages or kōans.
Many times we felt perplexed by obstacles to understanding particular passages in Eihei Kōroku. Sometimes several hours of consideration were required, puzzling about what point Dōgen was striving to make. In such instances the meaning would usually become apparent, or at least imaginable, when we eventually returned to a literal reading of Dōgen’s original. Through our long collaborations on Dōgen, on this and two previous books, Shohaku Okumura and I have become increasingly confirmed in our view that faithful and felicitous renderings of Dōgen can best be achieved though as literal as possible a reading of his wordplay.
Appended to the Eihei Kōroku text is a chronological index of Dharma hall discourses that include their dates, followed by an index and glossary of names, an index of the translators’ names for the Dharma hall discourses, and a bibliography. The name index provides dates and some brief biographical information about all historical persons mentioned in the text, along with a list of places where they appear in Eihei Kōroku or the notes. People Dōgen quotes are identified when possible in the footnotes, if they are not named in the text.
As to conventions for this translation, we are using standard diacritical marks on Japanese and Sanskrit words. For readers unfamiliar with these, they need not impinge on readability. Briefly, macron lines over vowels in Japanese words, such as in “Dōgen,” indicate a longer vowel sound. For Sanskrit names, the most significant pronunciation issue is that a mark over an s indicates a sh sound; “Śākyamuni” is thus pronounced “Shakyamuni.” For Chinese names we are using the pinyin system of transliteration, although the older Wade-Giles transliteration equivalents are given in the appended index and glossary of names. The main pronunciation issues in pinyin are as follows: X as in “Xuefeng” is pronounced with a soft sh, like the s in “sugar”; C as in “Caoshan” is pronounced like the ts in “tsetse fly”; Q as in “Qingyuan” is pronounced like the ch in “chuckle”; and Zh as in “Zhaozhou” is pronounced like the dg in “judging.”
Throughout the Eihei Kōroku text, except for our own headings to sections, the only use of italics is for the places in the Dharma hall discourses where the text itself includes “stage directions” referring to Dōgen as if in third person (although his name is not mentioned explicitly in the original). For example, the text to volumes 1–7 frequently records such features of the Dharma hall discourses as “After a pause Dōgen said,” or “Then Dōgen descended from his seat,” or “Dōgen threw down his whisk.” These are all given in italics to clarify where Dōgen is not himself speaking. Japanese terms are given in italics in the footnotes, and defined at least in their initial use, but are not italicized in the text.
In the footnotes, names of books published in English are in italics, but names of works in Sanskrit, Chinese, or Japanese are not italicized, nor are they italicized when referred to by the English translation of their names, except when citing specific published translations. Thus, for example, references to Hekiganroku, or Blue Cliff Record, are not italicized, but the translation by Thomas Cleary and J. C. Cleary, The Blue Cliff Record, published by Shambhala, is cited in italics.
The Jōdō (Dharma Hall Discourses), Volumes 1–7
The recorded Dharma hall discourses, Dōgen’s formal talks to his assembly, are called jōdō in Japanese, literally “ascending in the hall.” As mentioned above in the comparison with the longer Shōbōgenzō writings, or jishu, the jōdō is the form often used by Chan teachers in China in the traditional recorded sayings. The Dharma hall discourses are often very brief. After leaving the monks’ hall—where they meditated, took meals in formal ceremony, and slept, each in his assigned place—the monks would come to the Dharma hall. After entering, they stood in lines and listened to the teacher, who was seated high on the altar. Disciples were not seated, as in our modern custom of dharma talks. Contemporary Sōtō scholars believe that after the recorded Dharma hall discourses in Eihei Kōroku there might perhaps have been either ceremonies or some exchange or discussion between Dōgen and his monks. Such dialogue is often recorded in the Chinese recorded sayings. If this occurred in Dōgen’s assembly, it is almost never recorded in Eihei Kōroku, with the unique exceptions of Dharma hall discourses 72 and 243, in which there are dialogues between Dōgen and unnamed monks. In a few other places in Eihei Kōroku, the compiler mentions in a note that there was further discussion by Dōgen and perhaps others (in Dharma hall discourses 88, 105, and 358), but any dialogue is omitted, with only the words of Dōgen himself recorded.
In general, as can be seen from those that are dated, the 531 Dharma hall discourses in Eihei Kōroku are listed in chronological order from the year 1236 at Kōshōji to 1252 in Eiheiji. But there are some exceptions to strict chronology, usually mentioned in the footnotes. One noteworthy example is a sequence in volume 5. Discourse 360 is from the twelfth month in 1249. But discourse 362 was given in the autumn, and discourse 363 is from the second day of the ninth month of 1249, probably before 362. Chronologically, discourse 360 should immediately precede discourses 364, 365, and 367, all from the second month of 1250. But such irregularities are rare exceptions; the Dharma hall discourses present a mostly chronological account of the development and rhythms of Dōgen’s teachings. Since most of them are undated, we do not know their exact frequency, or the time lapses between these discourses. But we can often glimpse threads of ongoing themes, or of stories about particular Zen personages, spanning several Dharma hall discourses.
Dōgen’s Dharma hall discourses should be read in part for their theatricality, as performative expressions of the teaching. Many aspects of these usually brief performance pieces, including the nonverbal, draw heavily on the Dharma hall discourses in the traditional Chan recorded sayings. Frequently Dōgen asks his monks a question and then answers himself, a traditional mode much employed by Yunmen, for example. Dōgen’s ending of these discourses by abruptly stepping down from his seat also echoes Yunmen and Linji. Other frequent gestures employed by Dōgen (also drawn from Chinese tradition) include pounding his staff, holding up or throwing down his whisk, or drawing a circle in the air with his whisk.
Another mode very frequently evident in Dōgen’s Dharma hall discourses is pausing before giving a response to his own questions to the assembly. This certainly highlights the sense of drama in these events (although during these pauses perhaps there might occasionally have been some unrecorded discussion). But we might imagine the monks, including those already mentioned who would later become prominent teachers themselves, standing and reflecting on a question during one of these silent pauses in the music of Dōgen’s teaching. We might also consider Mark Twain’s reflection: “The Pause—that impressive silence, that eloquent silence, that geometrically progressive silence, which often achieves a desired effect where no combination of words, howsoever felicitous, could accomplish it.” The Dharma hall discourses featured in Eihei Kōroku, as well as the informal meetings from Eiheiji, discussed next, were primarily addressed to monks. However, according to contemporary accounts, laypeople also regularly attended these events. Drawings included in Teiho Kenzeiki, Menzan’s important seventeenth-century biography of Dōgen, also depict laypeople listening to these talks in sections of the hall behind the monks.
Aside from the ritual aspect of these Dharma hall discourses, they seem to include a number of specific functions. Many were given on particular ceremonial days, including New Year’s Day; Buddha’s parinirvāṇa day; Buddha’s birthday; the beginning and end of the summer practice period; the opening and closing of the fireplace in the monks’ hall; and Buddha’s enlightenment day. Some were given on memorial days—for example, for Dōgen’s teacher Tiantong Rujing. Others were given to mark the beginning or end of a particular monk’s term in one of the monastic positions. A very great many of the Dharma hall discourses, including those on ceremonial days, are commentaries by Dōgen on traditional kōans. In these commentaries Dōgen regularly prods the monks, asking them to thoroughly study and penetrate the meanings of these teachings. Evidently this exhaustive study was to include awareness and consideration, not only during the Dharma hall events themselves, but also during their formal meditation periods, as well as throughout their daily responsibilities in the monastery.
Generally, many of the Dharma hall discourses are practice encouragements to the monks to bring their aware and insightful presence into all their everyday activities. Sometimes these encouragements are stern admonishments. Sometimes they are warm and tinged with humor. In one example, Dharma hall discourse 239, Dōgen mentions the courage of a hunter facing tigers or other fierce beasts, or the courage of a warrior facing death in battle. Then Dōgen asks, “What is the courage of patch-robed monks?” After one of his characteristic pregnant pauses, Dōgen suggests, “Spread out your bedding and sleep; set out your bowls and eat rice; exhale through your nostrils; radiate light from your eyes. Do you know there is something that goes beyond? With vitality, eat lots of rice and then use the toilet. Transcend your personal prediction of future buddhahood from Gautama.” Dōgen is constantly encouraging the monks to express their awakening in all their activities, not to look to some other, future time or Buddha realm for the fulfillment of their practice.
The Shōsan (Informal Meetings) and Hōgo (Dharma Words), Volume 8
The shōsan, or informal meetings, are informal only when compared to the Dharma hall discourses. They were also a traditional genre of teaching, usually given to smaller groups of monks by the abbot in the abbot’s quarters, and significantly longer than the brief Dharma hall discourses. Traditionally these informal meetings were given on days ending with 3 or 8 in the calendar, preceding the days ending with 4 or 9 characterized by a somewhat more relaxed schedule. But the twenty “informal meeting” teachings by Dōgen presented herein were instead given at four special occasions, all on precise dates. These were New Year’s Eve (informal meetings 2, 5, 10, 14, and 18); the beginning of the summer practice period (6, 8, 11, 15, and 19); the end of the summer practice period (1, 3, 7, 12, 16, and 20); and the winter solstice (4, 9, 13, and 17). These informal meetings in Eihei Kōroku were all given at Eiheiji after 1245 and are presented in at least roughly chronological order, but the years are not recorded and can only be inferred very inexactly from internal evidence.
In modern Japanese Sōtō Zen, a shōsan occurs in the Dharma hall rather than the abbot’s quarters. In this event, also used in Western Sōtō Zen, a shōsan is a somewhat formal event in which, after a statement by the teacher, students will take turns coming forward to ask the teacher a question, perhaps with a brief follow-up exchange.
The hōgo, or Dharma words, are another traditional genre, consisting mostly of letters of practice instructions to specific students. The fourteen dharma words in volume 8 are probably all from Dōgen’s earlier, Kōshōji period. Many of the students addressed in these letters are indicated in the texts. Three of them, dharma words 4, 9, and 12, are apparently to the nun Ryōnen, mentioned above. Dharma word 2, probably from 1231, is an encouragement to practice given to a monk named Enchi, who came to visit Dōgen at Kōshōji at least a few times from his temple in the Shizuoka area of eastern Japan. Dharma word 5, probably from 1235, was written to Yakō, the lay student of Dōgen’s from Kyushu mentioned above. One of Dōgen’s most famous writings, Genjōkōan, usually included among the essays in Shōbōgenzō, was probably written as a letter to this or another fellow official from Kyushu.
Dharma word 6, from late 1240, was written to E’un, a monk in Dōgen’s assembly who had exhibited extraordinary diligence and dedication as work leader. Dharma word 7, from 1241, praises Ken’e, the monk then in charge of caring for the monastery toilets. Dharma word 10 was for Futō, the government official in charge of overseeing monasteries. From its content, he may have also been a physician as well as a lay practitioner of Zen. Dharma word 13 was written to encourage a young monk in Dōgen’s assembly, Gyōgen, who had become a monk just the year before at age thirteen.
Dharma word 14 is probably to Dōgen’s great patron, Hatano Yoshishige, and emphasizes the importance for lay practitioners of finding a good teacher and offers a lengthy encouragement of diligent practice.
Kōans and Juko (Verse Comments), Volume 9
The ninety kōans of volume 9 with Dōgen’s verse comments in Chinese, compiled mostly by Senne, were apparently finished before the move to Echizen. Case 10 mentions Sōkai, Dōgen’s disciple who died at Kōshōji in 1242. The selection and ordering of the stories in the collection was almost certainly made by Dōgen himself. However, modern scholars speculate that Senne might have divided some of the cases with verse comments, to make an even ninety, and perhaps slightly altered their order.
Many of these ninety cases are frequently cited in the classic kōan literature, although some are fairly obscure, exemplifying Dōgen’s encyclopedic knowledge of this literature. But Dōgen idiosyncratically chooses as his entire second case the scriptural dictum “The triple world is mind only,” and for cases 58, 85, and 86 he selects sayings of his own teacher, Tiantong Rujing.
Many of the ninety cases in volume 9 also appear in the Eihei Kōroku Dharma hall discourses. A full fifty-two of the ninety are used as well, without comment, in Dōgen’s three-hundred-case Mana Shōbōgenzō (as footnoted in volume 9). While the Mana Shōbōgenzō may be seen as Dōgen’s early collection of cases to use as a workbook for his future writings on kōans, volume 9 of Eihei Kōroku is one of his early systematic kōan commentaries. One of the riches of Dōgen’s writings is his subtle intertextuality, with references to the same stories in his other writings, along with the range of their references in various traditional Zen sources. The footnotes in volume 9 include references not only to the same stories in Dōgen’s longer Shōbōgenzō essays, but also to their other uses in the Eihei Kōroku Dharma hall discourses. According to Kagamishima, 298 kōan cases appear in these Dharma hall discourses. These can be traced and compared through the index and glossary of names. The juko, or verse comments, on each case by Dōgen in volume 9 are in the traditional mode of kōan commentary. Most of these are four-line Chinese verses, although some are longer, and in some cases two or even three such verses are included. The collection in volume 9 follows the pattern of the classic collection of one hundred cases by Xuedou with his verse comments, and the similar collection with verses by Hongzhi. Both collections were well known and cited by Dōgen, who uses a saying and anecdote from Hongzhi for his cases 25 and 88.
These two earlier collections were expanded with extensive prose comments by Yuanwu and Wansong, respectively, to form the classic Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record), and Shōyōroku (Book of Serenity). Dōgen was very familiar with the Hekiganroku. But he did not know the Shōyōroku in that form, as Wansong’s comments were written contemporaneously with Dōgen, although Dōgen frequently references Hongzhi’s cases and verses that are its foundation. Dōgen’s commentaries in volume 9, as well as throughout the Shōbōgenzō essays, can thus be seen as part of the contemporary Song Chinese kōan anthology movement that produced the Shōyōroku and Mumonkan collections.
The Poems, Volume 10
Dōgen’s Chinese verses in volume 10 were written throughout his life, from some composed as early as 1226, while he was studying in China, up to poems from 1252, in his final illness. The verses are divided into three sections. First are the five shinsan, or comments to be inscribed on portraits of great ancient masters, for Śākyamuni, Bodhidharma, finanda, and Dōgen’s Japanese teacher Butsuju Myōzen.
Next come twenty jisan, verses to be inscribed on portraits of Dōgen himself. This was a standard Zen poetic form for verses, often ironic or self-deprecating, to be inscribed on one’s own portrait. We are uncertain how many of these might have actually been inscribed by Dōgen himself on such portraits. Apparently Dōgen wrote a number of these verses for portraits that might be done in the future.
Only one portrait probably from Dōgen’s own lifetime survives, now enshrined at Hōkyōji monastery, founded by Dōgen’s Chinese disciple Jakuen. Jisan 3 is inscribed on this Hōkyōji portrait. According to Okubo Dōshū the verse was copied onto the portrait by Giun, but perhaps the calligraphy is actually by Dōgen. Jisan 10 is on a picture of Dōgen now at Eiheiji, painted in the fourteenth century, according to Okubo Dōshū.
These pictures appear at the front of this book.
Jisan 18 is on a portrait of Dōgen now at Honmyōji in Kumamoto in Kyushu. The portrait was supposedly painted by Dōgen himself and inscribed in 1227 upon his return from China, although scholars speculate that it was likely done much later. Honmyōji is now a Rinzai school temple. When I was in residence at a monastery in the area in 1992, I had the unusual opportunity to view this picture. It indeed looks like a young Dōgen, a bit more round-faced than the later portraits, but recognizably the same monk.
The remainder of volume 10 consists of 125 verses on different topics. According to the compiler, Senne, the first fifty verses were written from 1226, while Dōgen was in China at Tiantong monastery, until his departure in 1227. Verses 51–76 were written after his return to Japan but probably before his departure to Echizen, although some of the later ones may have been written at Eiheiji. Verse 77 was written during his visit to Kamakura in 1248. And verses 78–125 were written in Echizen.
In general, the meanings of the poems are often problematic and subject to diverse interpretations. Manzan changed the poems frequently, more than in the Dharma hall discourses, reflecting his own difficulty with comprehending Dōgen’s intention. Unlike the previous volumes of Eihei Kōroku (with interpretive headings by ourselves as translators), the headings in volume 10 before many of the verses, or groups of verses, are by Dōgen himself.
While Eihei Kōroku as a whole may be most illuminating as a window on Dōgen’s mature teaching at Eiheiji, the early poems in volume 10, composed while Dōgen was still a monk in training in China, provide an intriguing view of the young Dōgen. Some of these verses seem formal or stiff, and many of them were occasional, written for Chinese lay patrons or other monks who visited the monastery where Dōgen was staying. One even suspects that Dōgen might be showing off his literary ability with Chinese verse, as some of these early poems seem notably less profound than his later writings. And yet among these are also many that are striking or moving, such as verse 32, given to a Zen person whose child had died, or the series of verses 19–23, written to a visiting Chinese nun. Another example is verse 26, for a fellow Japanese pilgrim monk who had died in China:
Vast emptiness, nothing holy is as hard as iron.
But placing him into the red furnace, he melts like snow.
And now I ask, to where have you returned?
With the green waves deep, what moon do you see?
The later verses, and especially those written in Echizen from verse 78 on, are often less didactic. Of all Dōgen’s writings, they are perhaps the most revealing of his own personal feelings. Many speak of Dōgen’s long nights in meditation, his deep love of nature, the beauty of mountains, but also of the severe snows and cold of winter. He often reflects, somewhat whimsically, on his own life of practice, as in verse 90:
In our lifetime, false and true, good and bad are confused.
While playing with the moon, scorning the wind, and listening to birds,
For many years I merely saw that mountains had snow.
This winter, suddenly I realize that snow makes the mountains.
While the Dharma hall discourses often reflect the strictness of his teaching, in his verses on dwelling in the mountains he sometimes expresses satisfaction with the inner progress of his disciples, as in verse 110:
The evening bell rings in moonlight and lanterns are raised.
Training monks sit in the hall and quietly observe emptiness.
Having fortunately attained the three robes, now they plant seeds.
How heartwarming; their ripening liberation in the one mind.
Using Eihei Kōroku as a Practice Tool
Although some no doubt will do so, we hardly expect most readers to go through this massive record of Dōgen’s teachings from beginning to end in order, as we in fact have translated it. Because this record is made up of small sections, sometimes as brief as a mere sentence, practitioners can digest it in small bites. Some may want to open at random and enjoy Dōgen’s teachings out of sequence—although at times the sequence is not insignificant. Practicing with this material, we may remember that Dōgen’s students themselves never heard more than one Dharma hall discourse or informal meeting in any given day, or sometimes even in one week. Indeed, during the Eiheiji period, the Dharma hall discourses seem to have averaged about one a week. So in addition to just reading through this material, the student of Zen may likely want to chew slowly at times, find pieces that are especially provocative, stimulating, or unsettlingly challenging, and take a while to consider, reflect, and digest.
Again, Dōgen’s intent is not to present doctrines or philosophical positions, but to encourage deepening religious practice. Much of Eihei Kōroku is dedicated to instructions for zazen, or upright seated meditation, whether in the Fukanzazengi (Universally Recommended Instructions for Zazen), or in the many Dharma hall discourses that mention just sitting or dropping off body-mind. But Dōgen is clearly not recommending zazen as mere blank, mindless sitting. Although he frequently criticizes practice concerned with achievement, or with reaching for particular schematized stages of development, Dōgen regularly asks his monks if they thoroughly understand. He is suggesting a practice that is informed by intense inquiry into the ancient teachings, sayings, and dialogues, as well as into our present immediate experience. Throughout formal meditation as well as in our everyday activity, Dōgen encourages vivid attention and awareness. Modern practitioners may also take the stories and encouragements offered by Dōgen and investigate them thoroughly through daily practice. But clearly Dōgen is suggesting such intensive inquiry also be brought to our daily relationships and conduct.
Dōgen’s spirit of inquiry, his realm of intense questioning, is captured in these lines by the great American poet-songwriter Bob Dylan: “A question in your nerves is lit, yet you know there is no answer fit to satisfy, ensure you not to quit, to keep it in your mind and not forget, that it is not he or she or them or it that you belong to.” Again and again before his pauses in the Dharma hall discourses, Dōgen questions his monks, asking, “Great assembly, do you completely understand this or not?” He insistently demands, “At this very time, what can you say?” (Dharma hall discourse 486). Dōgen persists in lighting a question in the nerves of his students and turning up the heat. For example: “Immediately you should energetically extinguish the flames on your head, and courageously make undaunted effort. At just such a time, how do you practice? Do you want to clearly understand this?” (Dharma hall discourse 497). This questioning is not a matter of mere intellection or discriminating consciousness, but questioning that pervades nerves, sinew, muscle, and spine. And the point is the questioning itself, not some quick answer. As Dylan says, “There is no answer fit.” Dōgen crushes all complacency in the practice of his monks, even though they are involved in the deep, calm settling-in of the monastic schedule and immersion in zazen.
The modern reader may want to take one brief selection from this material, one that is found striking or somehow engaging, and consider it closely, and perhaps even consult an experienced Zen teacher when one is available. And in our time many Zen centers and trained teachers are available in the Western world to work with in chewing these teachings. But the teacher is not there to feed you some answer. At best the teacher can only point you toward deepening your own investigation. With each brief teaching from Dōgen, you may consider: What does Dōgen mean here? Why would he say that? What is he encouraging me to consider in this story? What traditional Buddhist teachings are involved here? What might Dōgen have been concerned with or pointing out to his own particular students? And how does this relate to my situation today?
Reading one of Dōgen’s Dharma hall discourses in which he comments on a traditional dialogue or kōan, the reader would do well to envision the whole scene. First, imagine Dōgen sitting up on the seat on the altar in the Dharma hall, looking down at Jakuen, Senne, Koun Ejō, Tettsū Gikai, and the other monks standing in the chill mountain air of Eiheiji. Then, before even considering Dōgen’s often pithy comments, envision the scene in the story Dōgen is relating. Perhaps it is Zhaozhou, Mazu, Yunmen, or one of the other great masters Dōgen frequently cites, face to face with one of those nameless Chinese monks who wandered around questioning these masters and eliciting great Dharma. See the situation in the story as a theatrical performance. See it from every viewpoint you might imagine. What is going on for the monk? What is the concern of the teacher? How is it for any bystanders who may have been present, mentioned or unmentioned in the original story? What is the issue or concern? What is at stake? If there seems to be a winner or loser, or praise or criticism, check that this is not ironic. These stories should not always be taken at face value. Only after such considerations, check what Dōgen is doing to turn the story. How do his comments change the meaning as you had seen it? What part of the story is Dōgen emphasizing to his monks? Is he simply commending the teaching of the ancient master in question, as is often the case, or is he transforming the original story to make some deeper point?
Deeply considering these nuggets from Dōgen, feel these questions, not only with your conceptual thinking, but physically, with upright attentive posture. Allow the situation in the text and your own questioning to penetrate your present experience, including your breathing and all your senses. With this awareness you may bring the teachings of his Extensive Record to bear in your own life. This was surely his intention.
Wallace Stevens in his poem “Questions Are Remarks” says about the pure questioning of his two-year-old grandson, “In the weed of summer comes this green sprout why.” The question that sprouts up from such total innocent immersion “sees it as it is.” Reading and practicing with Dōgen’s Extensive Record, allow your own questioning to shoot up. Stevens’s “weeds of summer” may be seen as the meditative awareness and settled concentration developed from ongoing, everyday zazen practice, as engaged in by Dōgen and his assembly. Such practice is still ever available today, nourishing this “green sprout why.” Continuing, Stevens proclaims about the child, “His question is complete because it contains / His utmost statement. It is his own array, / His own pageant and procession and display / As far as nothingness permits…Hear him.” The questioning by Dōgen, and by the teachers and monks in the old stories, may be complete just as they are. Such childlike questioning may be the total utterances of mature spiritual life, “utmost statements.” In this material, questions may be statements, and statements are often questions, inciting further questions. Questions that are such total utterances are nourishing spiritual food to digest and absorb.
You can encounter the questions Dōgen offers with your own investigations into the issues posed by Dōgen, as well as into the situations you meet in this present world around you. It is not that such practice of open hearted questioning will yield some final answer or solution. But such questioning may offer the possibility to live authentically, even amid the difficulties and cold winters you may face.
In addition to using this work as a field for probing and deepening insight, modern readers may also appreciate and benefit from Dōgen’s encouragements for ongoing practice, and even his warm consolations for the difficulties of such effort. Modern practitioners may also accept Dōgen’s reminder to his students, “Don’t forget that we are transmitting the Dharma and saving deluded beings” (Dharma hall discourse 505). Dōgen repeatedly returns to the illuminating value of our own zazen, raw and ever fresh. “Although the sitting cushions are old, they show new impressions” (Dharma hall discourse 523).
We are very grateful to Professor Seijun Ishii of Komazawa University, who patiently responded to many questions about the text, offered helpful comments on some of our translations, and kindly shared his notes from his study of Eihei Kōroku with Genryū Kagamishima. We are also grateful to Ryūtarō Suzuki and to Jikisai Minami, who each provided source material and commentary texts that aided our translations.
We would like to thank the three writers of introductory material for this book. Tenshin Reb Anderson, my root dharma teacher to whom my personal gratitude is immeasurable, has long brought forth with subtle insight the vital practice dimensions of Dōgen’s teachings. His luminous foreword provides a living context for digesting and lovingly engaging with Dōgen’s Eihei Kōroku. The work of Steven Heine, Professor at Florida International University, is certainly unsurpassed among American academic scholars of Dōgen. Heine’s many fine writings about Dōgen are a valuable resource for all students of Zen. His introductory essay highlights the importance of Eihei Kōroku to modern Dōgen studies, and the timeliness of this present volume to contemporary understandings of Dōgen, and of the Zen tradition generally. John Daido Loori, a prominent American Zen teacher in the lineage of Taizan Maezumi Roshi and Abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery in New York, has produced a fresh integration of Dōgen and kōan teachings to offer to a new generation of Zen students. Daido’s essay situates Dōgen’s writings in one innovative example of modern kōan practice, and illustrates how Dōgen’s approach can be included in a formal kōan training program. Thanks also to my friend Kaz Tanahashi for his permission to include the poem by Ryōkan lamenting the neglect of Eihei Kōroku, which we translated together and was previously published in Moon in a Dewdrop.
Thanks to Wisdom Publications, especially to Josh Bartok for longtime support in bringing forth this teaching of Dōgen, as well as for the helpful suggestions of copy editor John LeRoy. Thanks to the San Francisco Zen Center for cosponsoring this translation project, and especially to Blanche Hartman, Shosan Austin, and Michael Wenger for help arranging this support and our use of Zen Center facilities to do part of the translation work. Thanks also to Sokoji temple in San Francisco’s Japantown, and to Taiken Yokoyama, Ikki Nambara, Gengo Akiba Roshi, and the Sōtō Zen Buddhism International Center, whose facilities we also used for our translation work. We thank Beverly Ewing for extensive, and very helpful, proofreading assistance. We especially deeply thank the kind benefactor and donor who wishes to remain anonymous, without whose support this work would not have been even remotely conceivable.
Our gratitude goes to Shinkai Tanaka Roshi, currently the abbot of Hōkyōji, the monastery established by Dōgen’s disciple Jakuen. I had the extraordinary privilege of practicing for several sesshins with Shinkai Roshi in the early 1990s when he was the abbot of Saikōji temple outside Kyoto. He has kindly provided for this book a photograph of the painting of Dōgen now enshrined at Hōkyōji, with the inscribed verse given in volume 10, jisan verse 3. Thanks also to Daihonzanji Eiheiji, to Dōnin Minamisawa Roshi (General Director of Daihonzanji Eiheiji), and to Rev. Hakujin Kuroyanagi for providing and giving special permission to reproduce the portrait of Dōgen that has inscribed on it jisan verse 10 from volume 10. Eiheiji also generously provided Dōgen’s calligraphy from Fukanzazengi (whose text is at the end of volume 8), a sampling of which appears on the cover of this book.
Thanks to all the students who have made helpful comments in many classes and workshops that both Shohaku Okumura and I have given on the materials from Eihei Kōroku during the translation process. Thanks also for encouragement and suggestions from various Zen colleagues, teachers, and scholars who have read portions of the text in process, including Tom Kirchner, Steven Heine, Dosho Mike Port, Enkyo O’Hara, Katherine Thanas, Shosan Austin, Gaelyn Godwin, Myo Lahey, Susan Postal, Kimberly Johnson, and Britt Pyland. The white lotus is blossoming, smiling above a sea of clouds.
We would like to acknowledge the efforts of Yuhō Yokoi, who published a rendition of Eihei Kōroku in Tokyo in 1987, based on the Manzan version. Unfortunately, difficulties with English coherency, unclear or questionable interpretations, and omissions from the original text significantly limit the usefulness of that volume. Nevertheless, we did occasionally consult it, and sometimes were grateful to find interpretations that were helpfully suggestive.
I would like to express my great appreciation to Shohaku Okumura. Together we shared the adventure of wrestling with Dōgen, earnestly seeking to convey his ancient words and fresh spirit to contemporary English readers. I have thought of this translation work as ongoing dokusan with Dōgen, deeply investigating each passage of text to penetrate his Dharma, wit, and spiritual depths. At times we have found ourselves with a dismayed “What could he possibly mean here?” Only after sustained mutual reflection and questioning have Shohaku and I been able to bring forth responses that we feel do some justice to Dōgen’s insights and playful challenges. Still, after his many years of study and translation of Dōgen, on his own and in collaboration with myself and others, Shohaku Okumura insists that he does not understand Dōgen at all. I can only say that it has been a great privilege and joy to share with Shohaku this study and work.
Finally, we are immeasurably grateful to Eihei Dōgen for his strenuous efforts to convey his profound, simple, and creative teaching and allow it to take root in Japan. Equally, we are deeply grateful to the many generations of Japanese masters who have kept this practice tradition alive, and especially, here, for those such as Manzan Dōhaku who helped preserve Dōgen’s Extensive Record. May Dōgen’s teachings, and our efforts to present them in English in this book, now inform and illuminate our lives in this contemporary Western world. It is truly wondrous how much Dōgen’s ancient teachings can give us, considering that our modern technological world would surely seem far more alien to him than the most bizarre imaginable science fiction realm could ever appear to us.
Taigen Dan Leighton
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© Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura Dōgen's Extensive Record (Wisdom Publications, 2004)
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