Dōgen’s Extensive Record (Paperback) - Foreword

A Translation of the Eihei Kōroku


824 pages, 6 x 9 inches


ISBN 9780861716708

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ISBN 9780861719426

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There is a principle in Zen Buddhism that for our practice to be alive and relevant to the actual problems of our current suffering as sentient beings, we must go beyond the previous ways the tradition has gone beyond itself. Here in this wonderful translation of the Extensive Record, we have a separate transmission that goes beyond the Zen tradition of separate transmissions beyond the Buddhist scriptures. Now, thanks to the great and loving efforts of two devoted students of Eihei Dōgen, we are challenged by this vast pile of precious records from our brilliant ancestor. These are records of his repeated attempts to free his self-expression from the Chinese Zen tradition of trying to leap free of the Buddhist tradition. In the face of this tradition, how are we going to study this oceanic record without damaging the living spirit that brings us to this text in the first place? One possibility would be to close the book now. But if we avoid reading it, how will we develop our skill as escape artists? On the other hand, if we do read and study these dusty old records, how will we avoid becoming like Huangbo’s “dreg slurpers”?

In reading this text, we can see how our Lofty Ancestor ingested, transformed, and became a new expression of his own Dharma nourishment. We can observe how his study chews up the records of his own ancestors and completely or incompletely digests them. We can see how his process of meditative digestion turns the old stories of the tradition into warmth, Dharma protein, and waste products. Or do we suppose that the Ancestor is so great that he completely burns up the tradition, with no waste products?

If we just sit by and watch while not participating in the dynamic way that Dōgen leaves the tradition behind in the dust, the dust will engulf our present generation. We must gratefully receive these records into the furnace of the ancestors’ samādhi and let them be completely burned up, thus giving off their great sweetness and light.

The cooking of the ancestors’ samādhi is demonstrated on every page of the Vast Record of Eihei. For example, in Dharma hall discourse 503 of this marvelous translation, we hear that a monk asked the great Chinese master Yunmen, “What is Buddha?” Yunmen then stands on the Buddha’s shoulders, leaps, and says, “A dried piece of shit.” Then Dōgen’s master, Tiantong Rujing, going beyond Yunmen, composed a verse saying:

Yunmen took a shit from the opposite end,
Upsetting Gautama, like an acupuncture needle in a painful spot.
We need to see the ocean dried up clear to the bottom,
To know the person dead, without remaining mind.

Then our great Japanese ancestor, going beyond his master, says:

Today, I, Eihei, would like to continue this rhyme:

How could myriad activities lead to this careless nature?
When Buddha was sick, Jīvaka offered a needle.
Even if we see the ocean dried up without any bottom,
Who can clarify the person dead, without a mind remaining?

Now it’s our turn. Do we have a fresh needle to offer? Are we in the West ready to enter this process and make our contribution to this tradition of transcendence of tradition?

Out of deep gratitude for our living tradition, I am not going to study this text any further without wholeheartedly vowing with each reading to express myself in such a way as to stand on the shoulders of this record and leap beyond it, thereby beginning to repay the boundless kindness and compassion that has gone into its creation, preservation, and new translation. How about you? Will you join me in this vow to thoroughly study and continuously refresh this tradition of endless transcendence?

Nine bows,

Tenshin Zenki Reb Anderson
Senior Dharma Teacher and former Abbot
of San Francisco Zen Center


How to cite this document:
© Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura Dōgen's Extensive Record (Wisdom Publications, 2010)

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