Rational Zen: The Mind of Dogen Zenji [NOOK Book]


Zen has often been portrayed as being illogical and mystifying, even aimed at the destruction of the rational intellect. These new translations of the thirteenth-century Zen master Dogen—one of most ...

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Rational Zen: The Mind of Dogen Zenji

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Zen has often been portrayed as being illogical and mystifying, even aimed at the destruction of the rational intellect. These new translations of the thirteenth-century Zen master Dogen—one of most original and important Zen writers—illustrate the rational side of Zen, which has been obscured through the centuries, tainting people's understanding of it.


consists of enlightening selections from Dogen's two masterworks,
"Treasury of Eyes of True Teaching" (the famed
Japan's most sophisticated philosophical work) and "Universal Book of
Eternal Peace," which until now has been unavailable in English. The translator also provides explanations of the inner meanings of Dogen's writings and sayings—the first commentaries of their kind of English. A compendium of authentic source materials further enhances the reader's insight into Dogen's methods, linking them to the great classical traditions of Buddhism that ultimately flowered in Zen.

These writings by 13th-century Zen master Dogen Zenji illustrate the rational side of Zen, which is usually thought of as anti-intellectual. It consists of selections from Dogen's two masterworks "Treasury of Eyes of True Teaching" (the famed Shobogenzo) and "Universal Book of Eternal Peace."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780834829459
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/25/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 228
  • Sales rank: 752,335
  • File size: 981 KB

Meet the Author

Thomas Cleary holds a PhD in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University and a JD from the University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law. He is the translator of over fifty volumes of Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian, and Islamic texts from Sanskrit, Chinese, Japanese, Pali, and Arabic.

Thomas Cleary holds a PhD in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University and a JD from the University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law. He is the translator of over fifty volumes of Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian, and Islamic texts from Sanskrit, Chinese, Japanese, Pali, and Arabic.

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Read an Excerpt

Universal Book of Eternal Peace

Selections from


The years of a lifetime are a flash of lightning; who clings to objects? They are empty through and through. Even if you care for the nose hung in front of your face, still be careful and value every moment to work on enlightenment.

This a statement for people in meditation; what about a statement for the seasoned adept on the mountain?

autumn colors of the thousand
are dyed with seasonal rain;

the hard
rock on the mountain

follow along with
the wind?


The saying that having no mind is Buddha originated in India, the saying that mind itself is Buddha began in China.

If you understand accordingly, you are as far off as the sky is from earth.

If you do not understand accordingly, you are just a common sort.

what is what?

third month of spring

The fruit is full on the enlightenment tree;

One night the flower blooms

and the whole world is fragrant.


seeker asked a Zen master, "What are you thinking of so intently?"

Zen master said, "I am thinking of what does not think."

The seeker asked, "How can you think of what does not think?"

Zen master said, "It is not thought."

Minding already gone,

does not quite describe
In this life,

purity is foremost.


Supreme enlightenment is not for oneself, not for others, not for fame, not for gain.
To nevertheless seek unexcelled enlightenment wholeheartedly and singlemindedly, persevering without regressing, is called "awakening the mind for enlightenment."

Once you get this mind to appear, it is not even for the sake of enlightenment that you seek enlightenment; this is the true mind of enlightenment. Without this mind, how can you really practice the way to enlightenment?

Those who are singlemindedly seeking the mind of enlightenment must not weary of this quest; they must not give up. Those who have not yet attained the mind of enlightenment should pray to the Buddhas of former ages, and should also dedicate their good works to the quest for the mind of enlightenment.

Someone once asked a great Zen master, "All things return to One. Where does the
One return?"

Zen master said, "When I was living in such-and-such a place, I made a cloth shirt that weighed seven pounds."

This is how an ancient illuminate spoke. If someone asked me, "All things return to One; where does the One return?" I would say it returns to transcendence.

If asked why I say this, I would say I am within, making offerings to billions of


In ancient times a man up in a high tower saw two monks passing by in front of the tower; there were two gods sweeping the road and strewing flowers before them.

Then when the monks came back that way, there were two demons angrily shouting and spitting, wiping away their tracks.

The man came down from the tower and asked the monks the reason for this phenomenon.

The monks said, "As we were going, we were discussing the principles taught by the Buddha. On our way back, we were talking about trivia. That must be why it was like this."

The two monks were awakened by this. They repented and went on their way.

Although this is a crude objectification, when you examine it carefully you find it is a most important issue for people studying the Way. Why? Simply because outside objects appear when emotive thoughts arise. If thoughts do not arise, there are no objects that can be apprehended.

In the case of this old story, the gods found a road on which to strew flowers,
the demonic spirits found a way to spy: that is why it was like this. What about when the gods find no road on which to strew flowers, and the demons have no way to spy?

Do you want to understand? I will say now what has not been said in former generations.

Buddhas do not appear in the world by virtue of meditation experiences, powers, or occult knowledge. Ordinary people of sharp faculties also practice these meditations, yet they do not realize noncontamination. If the enlightened one explained, they too would realize noncontamination.


didn't go to many monasteries, but I happened to see my teacher and directly found that my eyes are vertical and my nose is horizontal. Then I was not to be fooled by anyone. So I came back with open hands. That is why I haven't got any
Buddhism at all; I pass the time leaving it to the flow. Every morning the sun rises in the east, every night the moon sets in the west. When the clouds are gone the ridges of the mountains are bared; when the rain has passed, the surrounding hills hover low. Ultimately, how is it?
One leap year after every three; the rooster crows at dawn.


Even acting upon seeing the moment of opportunity is not yet expertise; if you manage by physical manifestation, I still dare not accept it.

That is why it is said, "What thing is it that comes thus?"

What is the principle behind "what thing is it that comes"?

The true does not cover the false, the crooked does not hide the straight.


Cultivating practice
for three immeasurable eons,

don't rest
when the
task is fulfilled.

in an instant,

cannot affect

An ancient said, "Understanding the meaning according to the scriptures is the enemy of the Buddhas of all times; but a single word's departure from the scriptures is the same as devil talk."

When we do not depend on the scriptures yet do not depart from the scriptures, how do we practice? Do you want to read a scripture?

[Raising a whisk]

This is my whisk; what is the scripture?

What follows is lengthy; I leave it for another day.


One statement removes obstructing fixations; one statement fills everywhere. Tell me, which statement do the enlightened ones use to help people?

have a statement that the enlightened ones have never made, and which I will quote to you.



Even dismantling fixed structures is whirling in the flow of birth and death; even imparting the middle way is still illusion and error.

When you study thus, you are studying along with the Buddhas. When you study it as not thus, you are studying along with your self.

Studying along with the Buddhas and studying along with your self, explaining a furlong and explaining a foot; these are different. Speaking of ten and speaking of nine are different.

What is "not thus"? It is your self. What is "thus"? It is the

When the great Baso was beginning to teach, his teacher Nangaku said to his own group, "Is Baso teaching people?" They said he was. Nangaku said,
"I have never seen anyone bring news of this." No one had any reply.

Nangaku sent a monk to Baso, with these instructions:

Baso gets up in the hall to lecture, just ask him how he is. Remember what he says and come back."

The monk went and did as he had been told. When he returned, he told Nangaku,
"Baso said, 'Ever since the barbarian rebellion,

these last thirty years, I have never lacked salt and soup for meals.'"

Making a ball of this story, I offer it to the enlightened ones. There are three people who bear witness: one says it is making offerings of flowers, one says it is making offerings of precious incense, one says it is making offerings of head, eyes, marrow, and brains.

Leaving aside the testimony of these three people, how would the testimony of the whole community have any ordinary people explain?

"In the million years since the barbarian rebellion, I've never lacked salt and vinegar."


The lineage of Buddas comes from conditions, the teaching of Buddhas comes from the start. Once you have encountered good conditions, you shouldn't miss them, but should cultivate practical application. In practical application there is refutation and there is accommodation.

Being here, you shouldn't stumble past; you should find out the Way. In finding the
Way, there is practice, there is effort; if you break through one day, all things will be complete. If you haven't broken through, all things will be wrong.

Once there was a certain monk in the assembly of one of the great classical masters who was serving as the superintendent of the monastery.

One day the Zen master asked him, "How long have you been here?"

The monk said, "Three years, so far." The Zen master asked, "You are young; why don't you ever ask about the Teaching?" The monk said, "I
dare not deceive you. I already attained peace while I was at the place of another Zen teacher."

Zen master inquired, "By what words did you gain entry?" The monk said, "Once I asked the teacher, 'What is the student's self?' The teacher said, 'The fire god comes looking for fire!'"

Hearing this story, the Zen master remarked, "That is a fine saying, but I'm afraid you didn't understand."

The monk said, "The fire god is in the realm of fire; to seek fire with fire is like seeking the self."

Zen master said, "You really don't understand. If Buddhism were like this,
it wouldn't have reached the present."

The monk left in high dudgeon, but on his way out he thought, "This Zen master is the teacher of five hundred people. There must be some point to his warning that I'm wrong."

So he went back to the Zen master and apologized. The master instructed him,
"You ask me." The monk said, "What is the student's self?"
The Zen master said, "The fire god comes looking for fire!" At this the monk was greatly enlightened.

it was "the fire god looking for fire," and it was "the fire god looking for fire" afterwards too: why wasn't he enlightened the first time, but fell into the road of intellectual understanding; and why was he greatly enlightened afterwards and shed his nest of cliché?

Do you want to understand?


The fire god comes looking for fire;

light do the pillars and lamps begrudge?

Buried in
though you search you don't see;

it goes
into action


Sudhana visited Manjushri, Manjushri said to him, "Go outside and get a stalk of medicinal herb."

Sudhana went out and looked all over the earth, finding nothing that was not medicine.

He returned and said to Manjushri, "The whole earth is medicine; what could I

Manjushri said, "Bring a stalk of medicinal herb."

Sudhana brought a blade of grass.

Manjushri took the blade of grass, then showed it to the assembly and said, "This blade of grass can kill people and can also enliven people."

it was a blade of grass; later it was a blade of grass: how far apart are before and after?


They're a blade of grass apart.

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