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Dogen's Shobogenzo

A comparison of three complete translations.

A remarkable collection of essays, Shobogenzo, "Treasury of the Eye of True Teaching," was composed in the thirteenth century by the Zen master Dogen, founder of the Soto Zen school in Japan. Through its linguistic artistry and its philosophical subtlety, the Shobogenzo presents a thorough recasting of Buddhism with a creative ingenuity that has never been matched in the subsequent literature of Japanese Zen. Together with pertinent commentary, biography, and notes, these essays make accessible to a wider audience a Zen classic once considered the private preserve of Soto monks and Buddhologists. Readers from many fields in the sciences and humanities will find themselves richly rewarded.  For fairness we have included the Genzo-Koan, a basic chapter that deals with fundamental ideas of Dogen in three versions represented by these 3 complete translations  so you may judge for your self the relative merits of each.

Shobogenzo: v. 1: Zen Essays - The Eye and Treasury of the True Law by Eihei Dogen and translated Kosen Nishiyama and John Stevens (Kakayama Shobo)

Shobogenzo: v. 2: Zen Essays - The Eye and Treasury of the True Law by Eihei Dogenby Eihei Dogen (Kakayama Shobo) (Volume 2 has same ISBN as volume 1)

Shobogenzo: v. 3: Zen Essays - The Eye and Treasury of the True Law by Eihei Dogen and translated Kosen Nishiyama and John Stevens (Kakayama Shobo)

Shobogenzo: v. 4: Zen Essays - The Eye and Treasury of the True Law by Eihei Dogen and translated Kosen Nishiyama and John Stevens (Kakayama Shobo)

The first complete translation into English it tends to paraphrase when faced with textual tightness. The standard edition in English is the one by  Gudo Wafu Nishijima and Chodo Cross. Originally published under the title Master Dogens Shobogenzo, Books 1-4, by Windbell Publications, 1996-1999)

The Kosen Nishiyama and John Stevens translation basically follows the method used in the modern Japanese translations of Dogen's original text i.e., a combination of translation, commentary and paraphrase. A literal translation is almost totally incomprehensible and even a semi-literal one produces a mutant brand of English :hat alternately confounds and amuses the reader. The method used in the present translation is that of a native speaker interpreting Dogen's thought :o a modern western audience in as clear and natural English as possible. Consequently, while much of this translation follows the original text quite closely, :here is some paraphrase or interpretation of certain passages in order to make t intelligible to western readers. To be sure, there is a certain loss in the profundity and vigor of Dogen's original style in this method but that is unavoidable.

Because of its extremely subtle and profound nature any translation of the Shobogenzo will be subject to a barrage of criticism and no one is more aware )f the defects and shortcomings of this present work than the translators. Yet we feel that this translation reproduces the spirit of Dogen's original text nd will prove to be of value to all those seeking the Way.

In the text all the proper names are in the Japanese reading. The Chinese pronunciation and dates of individuals are given in the footnotes. In Volume [I an extensive glossary will be included with entries on all individuals menioned in the Shobogenzo together with special works or phrases used by Dogen. )iacritical marks are given for all Sanskrit words except for those which ave entered the English language i.e., Dharma, samsara, nirvana, karma nd Shakyamuni. When "Dharma" appears it always refers to the "Buddhist law." Both "Dharma" and "Law" are used interchangably in the text. Prajna insight or wisdom) and samadhi (concentration or meditation) are left untranslated as they are familiar to most western students.

Satori is translated as "enlightenment" and ku (sunyata) as "emptiness." Although there is some question about the accuracy of those words we have adopted them since they have been extensively used in western Buddhist terature. Other words or expressions that appear frequently are: gedatsu, translated as "detachment" or "liberation"; genjo, "actualization" or "manifestation"; shinjindatsuraku, "body and mind drop (or are cast) off; shikantaza, "singleminded sitting in zazen"; and Shobogenzo, "the Eye and Treasury of the True Law." "My late master" is always Dogen's Chinese master Tendo Nyojo (Dien t'ung Ju-ching, 1163-1228).

The text used for our translation is from the Kohonkotei Shobogenzo compiled by Doshu Okubo (Chikuma Shobo). The number of chapters in the Shobogenzo is usually given as ninety-five but that includes varient texts for the chapters Shinfukatoku, Butsukojoji and Butsudo, which we have not translated. So only 92 chapters are in this edition.

Master Dogen's Shobogenzo: Book 1 by Eihei Dogen,  Chodo Cross (translator) and Gudo Nishijima (translator) (Windbell Publications)

Master Dogen's Shobogenzo, Book 2 by Eihei Dogen, Chodo Cross (translator) and Gudo Nishijima (translator) (Windbell Publications)

Master Dogen's Shobogenzo, Book 3 by Eihei Dogen,  Chodo Cross (translator) and Gudo Nishijima (translator) (Windbell Publications)

Master Dogen's Shobogenzo, Book 4 by Eihei Dogen,  Chodo Cross (translator) and Gudo Nishijima (translator) (Windbell Publications)After due consideration, the Editorial Committee of the BDK English Tripitaka Series chose to reprint the translation of Dogen's Shobogenzo by Gudo Wafu Nishijima and Chodo Cross  in order to make more widely available this exemplary translation of this important text. Aside from the minor stylistic changes and the romanization of all Chinese and Japanese characters in adherence to the publishing guidelines of the BDK English Tripitaka Series, this edition reproduces as closely as possible the original translation.

Shobogenzo: The True Dharma-Eye Treasury - Volume 1 by Eihei Dogen, Chodo Cross (translator) and Gudo Nishijima (translator) (BDK English Tripitaka Series:Numata Center for Buddhist Translation & Research

Shobogenzo: The True Dharma-Eye Treasury - Volume 2 by Eihei Dogen, Chodo Cross (translator) and Gudo Nishijima (translator) (BDK English Tripitaka Series:Numata Center for Buddhist Translation & Research)

Shobogenzo: The True Dharma-Eye Treasury, Vol. 3 by Eihei Dogen, Chodo Cross (translator) and Gudo Nishijima (translator) (BDK English Tripitaka Series:Numata Center for Buddhist Translation & Research)

Shobogenzo: The True Dharma-Eye Treasury Vol. 4 by Eihei Dogen, Chodo Cross (translator) and Gudo Nishijima (translator) (BDK English Tripitaka Series: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation & Research)

The Shobogenzo was written by Dogen in the thirteenth century. I think that reading the Shobogenzo is the best way to come to an exact understanding of Buddhist theory, for Dogen was outstanding in his ability to understand and explain Buddhism rationally.

Of course, Dogen did not depart from traditional Buddhist thought. However at the same time, his thought as expressed in the Shobogenzo follows his own unique method of presentation. If we understand this method, the Shobogenzo would not be difficult to read. But unless we understand his method of thinking, it would be impossible for us to understand what Dogen is trying to say in the Shobogenzo.

Buddhists revere the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Buddha means Gautama Buddha. Sangha means those people who pursue Gautama Buddha's truth. Dharma means reality. Dogen's unique method of thought was his way of explaining the Dharma.

Basically, he looks at a problem from two sides, and then tries to synthesize the two viewpoints into a middle way. This method has similarities with the dialectic method in Western philosophy, particularly as used by Hegel and Marx. Hegel's dialectic, however, is based on belief in spirit, and Marx's dialectic is based on belief in matter. Dogen, through the Buddhist dialectic, wants to lead us away from thoughts based on belief in spirit and matter.

Dogen recognized the existence of something that is different from thought; that is, reality in action. Action is completely different from intellectual thought and completely different from the perceptions of our senses. So Dogen's method of thinking is based on action and, because of that, it has some unique characteristics.

First, Dogen recognized that things we usually separate in our minds are, in action, one reality. To express this oneness of subject and object Dogen says, for example:

If a human being, even for a single moment, manifests the Buddha's posture in the three forms of conduct, while [that person] sits up straight in samadhi, the entire world of Dharma assumes the Buddha's posture and the whole of space becomes the state of realization.

This sentence, taken from the Bendowa chapter (Chapter One), is not illogical but it reflects a new kind of logic.

Secondly, Dogen recognized that in action, the only time that really exists is the moment of the present, and the only place that really exists is this place. So the present moment and this place—the here and now—are very important concepts in Dogen's philosophy of action.

The philosophy of action is not unique to Dogen; this idea was also the center of Gautama Buddha's thought. All the Buddhist patriarchs of ancient India and China relied upon this theory and realized Buddhism itself. They also recognized the oneness of reality, the importance of the present moment, and the importance of this place.

But explanations of reality are only explanations. In the Shobogenzo, after he had explained a problem on the basis of action, Dogen wanted to point the reader into the realm of action itself. To do this, he sometimes used poems, he sometimes used old Buddhist stories that suggest reality, and he sometimes used symbolic expressions.

So the chapters of the Shobogenzo usually follow a four-phased pattern. First Dogen picks up and outlines a Buddhist idea. In the second phase, he examines the idea very objectively or concretely, in order to defeat idealistic or intellectual interpretations of it. In the third phase, Dogen's expression becomes even more concrete, practical, and realistic, relying on the philosophy of action. And in the fourth phase, Dogen tries to suggest reality with words. Ultimately, these trials are only trials. But we can feel something that can be called reality in his sincere trials when we reach the end of each chapter.

I think this four-phased pattern is related with the Four Noble Truths preached by Gautama Buddha in his first lecture. By realizing Dogen's method of thinking, we can come to realize the true meaning of Gautama Buddha's Four Noble Truths. This is why we persevere in studying the Shobogenzo.

The Meaning of Shobogenzo, "True Dharma-eye Treasury"

Sho means "right" or "true." Ho, "law," represents the Sanskrit "Dharma." All of us belong to something that, prior to our naming it or thinking about it, is already there. And it already belongs to us. "Dharma" is one name for what is already there.

Hogen, "Dharma-eye," represents the direct experience of what is already there. Because the Dharma is prior to thinking, it must be directly experienced by a faculty that is other than thinking. Gen, "eye," represents this direct experience that is other than thinking.

Shobogen, "true Dharma-eye," therefore describes the right experience of what is already there.

Zo, "storehouse" or "treasury," suggests something that contains and preserves the right experience of what is already there. Thus, Nishijima Roshi has interpreted Shobogenzo, "true Dharma-eye treasury," as an expression of zazen itself.

If you have not read Books 1 through 4 of this translation of the 95 chapter edition of Shobogenzo, do it now! If you have read them, do it again!

Gudo Nishijima and Mike (Chodo) Cross's four volume translation of the 13th century Zen master Eihei Dogen's masterpiece marked the first English language translation of the entire 95 chapter version of Shobogenzo - The True Dharma-Eye Treasury (excepting the more interpretative translation by Kosen Nishiyama and John Stevens).

By opting for a more "literal" rather than "interpretive" rendition, the translators have realized a monumental achievement by furnishing English readers with a reliable text that is certain to be invaluable for generations.

This set is also packed with a wide selection of reference material, or "Aids to the Reader", including a translation of The Heart Sutra, Dogen's Fukanzazengi, and a generous selection of passages from the Lotus Sutra, Glossaries, a variety of tables offering data on everything from The Works of Dogen, to equivalents of Chinese/Japanese/Sanskrit/English.

The extensive footnotes, while occasionally offering some overly "interpretive" (read: sectarian), provide readers with a vast amount of supplemental information with lucid explanations concerning cultural context, alternate readings, sources for material quoted in the body of the text, biographical (historical and traditional) information on personages appearing in the text, and much more.

Treasury of the True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dogen's Shobo Genzo by Dogen Dogen and Kazuaki Tanahashi (Shambhala) represents the collective San Francisco Zen Center community endeavor at translating and understanding the work in its entirety. It lacks the scholarly extras of  BDK English Tripitaka Series but used in conjunction with the Standard translation can offer essential insight about what the text is getting at. below the table of contents I offer examples of translations of chapter 1 (of the 75 chapter version) or 3 (of the 95 chapter version) The Genjo-Koan so one can compare for oneself.

Treasury of the True Dharma Eye (Shobo Genzo, in Japanese) is a monumental work, considered to be one of the profoundest expressions of Zen wisdom ever put on paper, and also the most outstanding literary and philosophical work of Japan. It is a collection of essays by Eihei Dogen (1200–1253), founder of Zen’s Soto school.

Kazuaki Tanahashi and a team of translators that represent a Who’s Who of American Zen have produced a translation of the great work that combines accuracy with a deep understanding of Dogen’s voice and literary gifts. The finely produced, two-volume boxed set includes a wealth of materials to aid understanding, including maps, lineage charts, a bibliography, and an exhaustive glossary of names and terms—and, as a bonus, the most renowned of all Dogen’s essays, “Recommending Zazen to All People.”

Book 1 - Table of Contents

[1] BENDOWA - A Talk about Pursuing the Truth

[2] MAKA-HANNYA-HARAMITSU - Maha-prajna-paramita

[3] GENJO-KOAN - The Realized Universe

[4] IKKA-NO-MYOJU - One Bright Pearl

[5] JU-UNDO-SHIKI - Rules for the Hall of Heavy Cloud

[6] SOKU-SHIN-ZE-BUTSU - Mind Here and Now Is Buddha

[7] SENJO - Washing

[8] RAIHAI-TOKUZUI - Prostrating to Attainment of the Marrow

[9] KEISEI-SANSHIKI - The Voices of the River-Valley and the Form of the Mountains

[10] SHOAKU-MAKUSA - Not Doing Wrongs

[11] UJI - Existence-Time

[12] KESA-KUDOKU - The Merit of the Kasaya

[13] DEN-E - The Transmission of the Robe

[14] SANSUIGYO - The Sutra of Mountains and Water

[15] BUSSO - The Buddhist Patriarchs

[16] SHISHO - The Certificate of Succession

[17] HOKKE-TEN-HOKKE - The Flower of Dharma Turns the Flower of Dharma

[18] SHIN-FUKATOKU - Mind Cannot Be Grasped [The former]

[19] SHIN-FUKATOKU - Mind Cannot Be Grasped [The latter]

[20] KOKYO - The Eternal Mirror

[21] KANKIN - Reading Sutras

Book 2 - Table of Contents

[22] BUSSHO - The Buddha-nature

[23] GYOBUTSU-YUIGI - The Dignified Behavior of Acting Buddha

[24] BUKKYO - The Buddha's Teaching

[25] JINZU - Mystical Power

[26] DAIGO - Great Realization

[27] ZAZENSHIN - A Needle for Zazen

[28] BUTSU-KOJO-NO-JI - The Matter of the Ascendant State of Buddha

[29] INMO - It

[30] GYOJI - [Pure] Conduct and Observance [of Precepts] - Parts 1 & 2

[31] KAI-IN-ZANMAI - Samadhi, State Like the Sea

[32] JUKI - Affirmation

[33] KANNON - Avalokitesvara

[34] ARAKAN - The Arhat

[35] HAKUJUSHI - Cedar Trees

[36] KOMYO - Brightness

[37] SHINJIN-GAKUDO - Learning the Truth with Body and Mind

[38] MUCHU-SETSUMU - Preaching a Dream in a Dream

[39] DOTOKU - Expressing the Truth

[40] GABYO - A Picture of Rice Cake

[41] ZENKI - All Functions

Book 3 - Table of Contents

[42] TSUKI - The Moon

[43] KUGE - Flowers in Space

[44] KOBUSSHIN - The Mind of Eternal Buddhas

[45] BODAISATTA-SHISHOBO - Four Elements of a Bodhisattva's Social Relations

[46] KATTO - The Complicated

[47] SANGAI-YUISHIN - The Triple World is Only the Mind

[48] SESSHIN-SESSHO - Expounding the Mind & Expounding the Nature

[49] BUTSUDO - The Buddhist Truth

[50] SHOHO-JISSO - All Dharmas are Real Form

[51] MITSUGO - Secret Talk

[52] BUKKYO - The Buddhist Sutras

[53] MUJO-SEPPO - The Non-Emotional Preaches the Dharma

[54] HOSSHO - The Dharma-nature

[55] DARANI - Dharani

[56] SENMEN - Washing the Face

[57] MENJU - The Face-to-Face Transmission

[58] ZAZENGI - The Standard Method of Zazen

[59] BAIKE - Plum Blossoms

[60] JUPPO - The Ten Directions

[61] KENBUTSU - Meeting Buddha

[62] HENSAN - Thorough Exploration

[63] GANZEI - Eyes

[64] KAJO - Everyday Life

[65] RYUGIN - The Moaning of Dragons

[66] SHUNJU - Spring and Autumn

[67] SOSHI-SAIRAI-NO-I - The Ancestral Master's Intention in Coming from the West

[68] UDONGE - The Udumbara Flower

[69] HOTSU-MUJOSHIN - Establishment of the Will to the Supreme

[70] HOTSU-BODAISHIN - Establishment of the Bodhi-mind

[71] NYORAI-ZENSHIN - The Whole Body of the Tathagata

[72] ZANMAI-O-ZANMAI - The Samadhi That Is King of Samadhis

[73] SANJUSHICHI-BON-BODAI-BUNBO - The Thirty-seven Auxiliary Bodhi Methods

[74] TEMBORIN - Turning the Dharma Wheel

[75] JISHO ZANMAI - Samadhi as Self Experience

[76] DAI SHUGYO - Great Practice

[77] KOKU - Space

[78] HATSU-U - The Patra

[79] ANGO - The Retreat

[80] TASHINTSU - The Power to Know Others' Minds

[81] O SAKU SENDABA - A King's Seeking of Saindhava

[82] JI-KUIN-MON - Sentences To Be Shown in the Kitchen Hall

[83] SHUKKE - Leaving Family Life

[84] SANJI-NO-GO - Karma in Three Times

[85] SHIME - The Four Horses

[86] SHUKKE-KUDOKU - The Merit of Leaving Family Life

[87] KUYO-SHOBUTSU - Serving Offerings to Buddhas

[88] KIE-SANBO - Taking Refuge in the Three Treasures

[89] SHINJIN-INGA - Deep Belief in Cause and Effect

[90] SHIZEN-BIKU - The Bhiksu in the Fourth Dhyana

[91] YUI-BUTSU-YO-BUTSU - Buddhas Alone, Together With Buddhas

[92] SHOJI - Life-and-Death

[93] DOSHIN - The Will to the Truth

[94] JUKAI - Receiving the Precepts

[95] HACHI-DAININGAKU - The Eight Truths of a Great Human Being

[Appendix 1] BUTSU-KOJO-NO-JI - The Matter of the Ascendant State of Buddha

[Appendix 2] IPPYAKUHACHI-HOMYOMON - One Hundred and Eight Gates of Dharma-Illumination

Excerpt Shambhala translation: It is may great pleasure to present the lifework of Zen Master Eihei Dogen (1200-1253), an extraordinary meditator, thinker, visionary, teacher, poet, writer, scholar, leader of a spiritual community, and reformer of Buddhism in Japan. We translate the original Japanese title, Shobo Genzo, as "Treasury of the True Dharma Eye." The "eye" here indicates the understanding as well as the experience of reality through meditative endeavor.

Dogen offers a practical, profound, and comprehensive teaching on meditation, presented in a series of sections known as fascicles.The word "fascicle," literally a bundle of pages, refers to a section of a written work that is an installment of a larger work. (In the present edition, we refer to the fascicles sometimes as "essays" and sometimes as "texts." Also, for convenience, we refer to the work consistently by its English translation in the introductory comments and notes.)

We present the most comprehensive collection of the Treasury of the True Dharma Eye texts. Our basic original text is Kozen's ninety-five-fascicle edition, published in the seventeenth century. In addition, we have included "One Hundred Eight Gates of Realizing Dharma," from- Giun's twelve-fascicle version, a thirteenth-century copy not known by Kozen. The inclusion of this fascicle brings our version to ninety-six fascicles.

There are several versions of this text: (a) 75-fascicle edition, Dogen's primary version; (b) 12-fascicle version, a later version by Dogen; (c) 60-fascicle version, edited by Giun (1252-1333), fifth abbot of Eihei-ji; (d) 28-fascicle version, called the "Secret Shobo Genzo," a collection of fascicles not included in the 6o-fascicle version. A 95-fascicle version edited in chronological order around 1690 by Kozen, thirty-fifth abbot of Eihei-ji, and published in 1815. In addition to these three main forms of the text, there are also 83- and 84-fascicle versions. Our book is based on the 95-fascicle version, plus "One Hundred Eight Gates of Realizing Dharma" from the 6o-fascicle version.

Treasury of the True Dharma Eye: [Shobo Genzo; Shobogenzo]. I.Three hundred cases of koans collected by Dogen at Kosho Horin Monastery. Dated 1235. Written in Chinese, probably to serve as notes for his main text of the same title (number 2 below). Also called Shinji Shobo Genzo, or the Chinese-Language Treasury of the True Dharma Eye.

Dogen's poetic and perplexing essays reveal startling visions and thoughts, often paradoxical and impenetrable. You might call Dogen a thirteenth-century postexistentialist. He sees the world of impermanence, and yet his voice is always active and high-spirited. He challenges us with an urgent question: how do we live each moment fully and meaningfully? He makes us feel not confined and tiny, but free and enormous.

Since Dogen is one of the greatest writers in Zen Buddhism throughout time and space, this book serves as an overall guide to the history, literature, philosophy, and practice of Zen. As he is also one of the most extensive elucidators of Buddhist scriptures, this book summarizes how he, as an East Asian Buddhist of ancient times, viewed and explained the dharma to his students. Dogen is primarily regarded as the founder of Japan's Soto Zen School where he established forms and procedures for Zen meditation. Today his way of practice is spreading throughout the Western world. You may be surprised how much of the movement in the meditation hall as taught by Dogen in the thirteenth century is practiced in a Zen center in your own city almost seven hundred years later.

Excerpt by editor of Shambhala edition have been extremely fortunate to collaborate in translation with a number of outstanding Zen teachers and writers. I worked with one or two partners in translating each short essay. We examined original sentences word by word and came up with the best possible corresponding expressions in English. As associate editor of this work, Peter Levitt has gone over the entire text several times and made valuable suggestions. The strength and consistency of our translations owe much to him. Our intention is to offer a translation that is as accurate as possible, but also one that is inspiring and useful for practitioners of dharma in the Western world.

Because Dogen's writing is known for its difficulty, we provide various kinds of assistance to help readers "decode" the text:

We present the essays in chronological order (as dated by Dogen) so that readers can trace the development of Dogen's thinking and teaching. In the section "Texts in Relation to Dogen's Life and Translation Credits" at the beginning of the first volume, we explain the background of each fascicle in relation to other fascicles.

  • The Editor's Introduction discusses Dogen's characteristic expressions, with examples quoted in the introduction endnotes.
  • In the main text, short explanations are enclosed in brackets.
  • An extensive glossary at the end of the second volume provides more detailed explanations of terms and names, as well as linguistic details.
  • The words of earlier teachers and other writers that Dogen comments upon are italicized.

Treasury of the True Dharma Eye is the fourth Dogen book project sponsored by the San Francisco Zen Center, following Moon in a Dewdrop, Enlightenment Unfolds, and Beyond Thinking. I worked for San Francisco Zen Center from 1977 to 1984 as a scholar in residence. Since then the Zen Center has been supporting the Dogen translation projects. Before that, from 196o to 1968 I worked with Shoichi Nakamura Roshi, my Zen teacher and cotranslator, to produce the first complete modern Japanese translation of Dogen's Shobo Genzo. In 1965 Robert Aitken Roshi and I made the first translation of the text "Actualizing the Fundamental Point" included in this book. It has been a half-century journey of conversation with my venerated and beloved master Dogen. I have enjoyed every moment of studying his writing and translating it.

I would like to thank Shunryu Suzuki Roshi for inviting me to speak about Dogen to his students at Soko Temple in 1964, before he founded San Francisco Zen Center. This became a seed for my long-term association with the Zen Center. My gratitude goes to Richard Baker Roshi and the successive abbots of the Zen Center and its officers for supporting the translation project while they were in charge. I am particularly grateful to Michael Wenger Roshi, who has overseen the project as director of publications at the Zen Center and wrote the afterword of this book.

All my co-translators have been delightful to work with and have taught me tremendously. Mel Weitsman Roshi has been my most frequent translating partner and the one I have worked with longest. Joan Halifax Roshi has invited me to give dharma talks during a number of sesshins and also to lead Dogen seminars.


TRANSLATORS: Robert Aitken, Steve Allen, Reb Anderson, Chozen Jan Bays, Hogen Bays, Edward Brown, Gyokuko Carlson, Kyogen Carlson, Linda Ruth Cutts, Andy Ferguson, Norman Fischer, Gaelyn Godwin, Natalie Goldberg, Joan Halifax, Paul Haller, Blanche Hartman, Arnold Kotler, Taigen Dan Leighton, Peter Levitt, John Daido Loori, Susan Moon, Wendy Egyoku Nakao, Josho Pat Phelan, Lewis Richmond, David Schneider, Jean Selkirk, Alan Senauke, Kazuaki Tanahashi, Katherine Thanas, Mel Weitsman, Dan Welch, Michael Wenger, Philip Whalen

Dogen used this text as the opening fascicle of the seventy-five-fascicle version of the Treasury of the True Dharma Eye. He revised this text nineteen years later. Consequently, this text covers a span between the beginning and the end of his monastic teaching. (The earlier manuscript of this fascicle no longer exists.)

Colophon: "Written around midautumn, the first year of the Tempuku Era [1233], and given to my lay student Koshu Yo of Kyushu Island. Revised in the fourth year of the Kencho Era [1252]."

ACTUALIZING THE FUNDAMENTAL POINT (GENJO KOAN) Completing his first practice period on the full-moon day (the fifteenth) of the seventh month, Dogen gave this text to his lay student KoshuYo on the full-moon day of the following month. Koshu must have joined the practice period, and perhaps he was leaving for his home on the southwestern island of Kyushu.

Koan—the original word for "fundamental point" in the title—usually means an exemplary Zen story given by a teacher to a student for spiritual investigation. But Dogen used the word here to point to the reality of all things that is to be realized.

"Actualizing the Fundamental Point" is probably the best-known and most studied text of all Dogen's writings, both for its summary of his teaching and for its poetic beauty. While other fascicles are focused on the themes indicated by their titles, "Actualizing the Fundamental Point" covers multiple themes, including awakened ones and nonawakened persons, enlightenment and delusion, birth and death, the potential of enlightenment (buddha nature) and actualization of it.

Dogen used this text as the opening fascicle of the seventy-five-fascicle version of the Treasury of the True Dharma Eye. He revised this text nineteen years later. Consequently, this text covers a span between the beginning and the end of his monastic teaching. (The earlier manuscript of this fascicle no longer exists.)

Colophon: "Written around midautumn, the first year of the Tempuku Era [1233], and given to my lay student Koshu Yo of Kyushu Island. Revised in the fourth year of the Kencho Era [1252]."

Translated by Robert Aitken and the Editor. Revised at San Francisco Zen Center and later at Berkeley Zen Center.


As all things are buddha dharma, there is delusion, realization, practice, birth [life] and death, buddhas and sentient beings. As myriad things are without an abiding self, there is no delusion, no realization, no buddha, no sentient being, no birth and death. The buddha way, in essence, is leaping clear of abundance and lack; thus there is birth and death, delusion and realization, sentient beings and buddhas. Yet in attachment blossoms fall, and in aversion weeds spread.

To carry the self forward and illuminate myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth and illuminate the self is awakening.

Those who have great realization of delusion are buddhas; those who are greatly deluded about realization are sentient beings. Further, there are those who continue realizing beyond realization and those who are in delusion throughout delusion.

When buddhas are truly buddhas, they do not necessarily notice that they are buddhas. However, they are actualized buddhas, who go on actualizing buddha.

When you see forms or hear sounds, fully engaging body-and-mind, you intuit dharma intimately. Unlike things and their reflections in the mirror, and unlike the moon and its reflection in the water, when one side is illumined, the other side is dark.

To study the way of enlightenment is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of enlightenment remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly.

When you first seek dharma, you imagine you are far away from its environs. At the moment when dharma is authentically transmitted, you are immediately your original self.

When you ride in a boat and watch the shore, you might assume that the shore is moving. But when you keep your eyes closely on the boat, you can see that the boat moves. Similarly, if you examine myriad things with a confused body and mind, you might suppose that your mind and essence are permanent. When you practice intimately and return to where you are, it will be clear that nothing at all has unchanging self.

Firewood becomes ash, and does not become firewood again. Yet, do not suppose that the ash is after and the firewood before. Understand that firewood abides in its condition as firewood, which fully includes before and after, while it is independent of before and after. Ash abides in its condition as ash, which fully includes before and after. Just as firewood does not become firewood again after it is ash, you do not return to birth after death.

This being so, it is an established way in buddha dharma to deny that birth turns into death. Accordingly, birth is understood as beyond birth. It is an unshakable teaching in the Buddha's discourse that death does not turn into birth. Accordingly, death is understood as beyond death.

Birth is a condition complete in this moment. Death is a condition complete in this moment. They are like winter and spring. You do not call winter the beginning of spring, nor summer the end of spring.

Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water. The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken. Although its light is wide and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide. The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in dewdrops on the grass, or even in one drop of water.

Enlightenment does not divide you, just as the moon does not break the water. You cannot hinder enlightenment, just as a drop of water does not crush the moon in the sky. The depth of the drop is the height of the moon. Each reflection, however long or short its duration, manifests the vastness of the dewdrop, and realizes the limitlessness of the moonlight in the sky.

When dharma does not fill your whole body and mind, you may assume it is already sufficient. When dharma fills your body and mind, you understand that something is missing. For example, when you sail out in a boat to the middle of the ocean where no land is in sight, and view the four directions, the ocean looks circular, and does not look any other way. But the ocean is neither round nor square; its features are infinite in variety. It is like a palace. It is like a jewel. It only looks circular as far as you can see at that time. All things are like this.

Although there are many features in the dusty world and the world beyond conditions, you see and understand only what your eye of practice can reach. In order to learn the nature of the myriad things, you must know that although they may look round or square, the other features of oceans and mountains are infinite in variety; whole worlds are there. It is so not only around you, but also directly beneath your feet, or in a drop of water.

A fish swims in the ocean, and no matter how far it swims, there is no end to the water. A bird flies in the sky, and no matter how far it flies, there is no end to the air. However, the fish and the bird have never left their elements. When their activity is large, their field is large. When their need is small, their field is small. Thus, each of them totally covers its full range, and each of them totally experiences its realm. If the bird leaves the air, it will die at once. If the fish leaves the water, it will die at once.

Know that water is life and air is life. The bird is life and the fish is life. Life must be the bird and life must be the fish. You can go further. There is practice-enlightenment, which encompasses limited and unlimited life.

Now, if a bird or a fish tries to reach the end of its element before moving in it, this bird or this fish will not find its way or its place. When you find your place where you are, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point. When you find your way at this moment, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point; for the place, the way, is neither large nor small, neither yours nor others'. The place, the way, has not carried over from the past, and it is not merely arising now Accordingly, in the practice-enlightenment of the buddha way, to attain one thing is to penetrate one thing; to meet one practice is to sustain one practice.

Here is the place; here the way unfolds. The boundary of realization is not distinct, for the realization comes forth simultaneously with the full experience of buddha dharma. Do not suppose that what you attain becomes your knowledge and is grasped by your intellect. Although actualized immediately, what is inconceivable may not be apparent. Its emergence is beyond your knowledge.

Mayu, Zen Master Baoche, was fanning himself. A monk approached and said, "Master, the nature of wind is permanent and there is no place it does not reach. Why, then, do you fan yourself?"

"Although you understand that the nature of wind is permanent," Mayu replied, "you do not understand the meaning of its reaching everywhere."

"What is the meaning of its reaching everywhere?" asked the monk. Mayu just kept fanning himself.

The monk bowed deeply.

The actualization of the buddha dharma, the vital path of its authentic transmission, is like this. If you say that you do not need to fan yourself because the nature of wind is permanent and you can have wind without fanning, you understand neither permanence nor the nature of wind. The nature of wind is permanent; because of that, the wind of the buddha house brings forth the gold of the earth and ripens the cream of the long river.

Written around midautumn, the first year of the Tempuku Era [1233], and given to my lay student Koshu Yo of Kyushu Island. Revised in the fourth year of the Kencho Era [1252].

GENJOKOAN:  "The actualization of enlightenment" Kosen Nishiyama and John Stevens Translation:

WHEN all things are the Buddha-dharma, there is enlightenment, illusion, practice, life, death, Buddhas, and sentient beings. When all things are seen not to have any substance, there is no illusion or enlightenment, no Buddhas or sentient beings, no birth or destruction. Originally the Buddhist Way transcends itself and any idea of abundance or lack—still there is birth and destruction, illusion and enlightenment, sentient beings and Buddhas. Yet people hate to see flowers fall and do not like weeds to grow.

It is an illusion to try to carry out our practice and enlightenment through ourselves, but to have practice and enlightenment through phenomena, that is enlightenment. To have great enlightenment about illusion is to be a Buddha. To have great illusion about enlightenment is to be a sentient being. Further, some are continually enlightened beyond enlightenment but some add more and more illusion.

When Buddhas become Buddhas, it is not necessary for them to be aware they are Buddhas. However, they are still enlightened Buddhas and continually realize Buddha. Through body and mind we can comprehend the form and sound of things. They work together as one. However, it is not like the reflection of a shadow in a mirror, or the moon reflected in the water. If you look at only one side, the other is dark.

To learn the Buddhist Way is to learn about oneself. To learn about oneself is to forget oneself. To forget oneself is to perceive oneself as all things. To realize this is to cast off the body and mind of self and others. When you have reached this stage you will be detached even from enlightenment but will practice it continually without thinking about it.

When people begin to seek the Dharma [outside themselves] they are immediately far removed from its true location. When the Dharma has been received through the right transmission, one's real self immediately appears.

If you are in a boat, and you only look at the riverbank, you will think that the riverbank is moving; but if you look at the boat, you will discover that the boat itself is actually moving. Similarly, if you try to understand the nature of phenomena only through your own confused perception you will mistakenly think that your nature is eternal. Furthermore, if you have right practice and return to your origin then you will clearly see that all things have no permanent self.

Once firewood is reduced to ashes, it cannot return to firewood; but we should not think of ashes as the potential state of firewood or vice-versa. Ash is completely ash and firewood is firewood. They have their own past, future, and independent existence.

Similarly, when human beings die, they cannot return to life; but in Buddhist teaching we never say life changes into death. This is an established teaching of the Buddhist Dharma. We call it "non-becoming." Likewise, death cannot change into life. This is another principle of Buddha's Law. This is called "non-destruction." Life and death have absolute existence, like the relationship of winter and spring. But do not think of winter changing into spring or spring to summer.

When human beings attain enlightenment, it is like the moon reflected in the water. The moon appears in the water but does not get wet nor is the water disturbed by the moon. Furthermore, the light of the moon covers the earth and yet it can be contained in a small pool of water, a tiny dewdrop, or even one miniscule drop of water.

Just as the moon does not trouble the water in any way, do not think enlightenment causes people difficulty. Do not consider enlightenment an obstacle in your life. The depths of the dewdrop can contain the heights of the moon and sky.

When the True Law is not totally attained, both physically and mentally, there is a tendency to think that we possess the complete Law and our work is finished. If the Dharma is completely present, there is a realization of one's insufficiencies.

For example, if you take a boat to the middle of the ocean, beyond the sight of any mountains, and look in all four directions, the ocean appears round. However, the ocean is not round, and its virtue is limitless. It is like a palace, or an adornment of precious jewels. But to us, the ocean seems to be one large circle of water.

So we see this can be said of all things. Depending on the viewpoint we see things in different ways. Correct perception depends upon the amount of one's study and practice. In order to understand various types of viewpoints we must study the numerous aspects and virtues of mountains and oceans, rather than just circles. We should know that it is not only so all around us but also within us—even in a single drop of water.

Fish in the ocean find the water endless and birds think the sky is without limits. However, neither fish nor birds have been separated from their element. When their need is great, their utilization is great, when it is small, the utilization is small. They fully utilize every aspect to its utmost—freely, limitlessly. However, we should know that if birds are separated from their own element they will die. We should know that water is life for fish and the sky is life for birds. In the sky, birds are life; and in the water, fish are life. Many more conclusions can be drawn like this. There is practice and enlightenment [like the above relationships of sky and birds, and fish and water]. However, after the clarification of water and sky, we can see that if there are birds or fish that try to enter the sky or water, they cannot find either a way or a place. If we understand this point, there is actualization of enlightenment in our daily life. If we attain this Way, all our actions are the actualization of enlightenment. This Way, this place, is not great or small, self or others, neither past or present—it exists just as it is.

Like this, if we practice and realize the Buddhist Way we can master and penetrate each dharma; and we can confront and master any one practice. There is a place where we can penetrate the Way and find the extent of knowable perceptions. This happens because our knowledge co-exists simultaneously with the ultimate fulfilment of the Buddhist Dharma.

After this fulfilment becomes the basis of our perception do not think that our perception is necessarily understood by the intellect. Although enlightenment is actualized quickly, it is not always totally manifested because [it is too profound and inexhaustible for our limited intellect].

One day, when Zen Master Hotetsu of Mt. Mayoku was fanning himself, a monk approached and asked, "The nature of the wind never changes and blows everywhere, so why are you using a fan?"

The master replied, "Although you know that the nature of the wind never changes you do not know the meaning of blowing everywhere." The monk then said, "Well, what does it mean?" Hotetsu did not speak but only continued to fan himself. Finally the monk understood and bowed deeply before him.

The experience, the realization, and the living, right transmission of the Buddhist Dharma is like this. To say it is not necessary to use a fan because the nature of the wind never changes and there will be wind even without one means that he does not know the real meaning of "never changes" or the wind's nature. Just as the wind's nature never changes, the wind of Buddhism makes the earth golden and causes the rivers to flow with sweet, fermented milk.

This was written in mid-autumn, 1233, and given to the lay disciple Yo-koshu of Kyushu.

Genjo-koan: The Realized Universe: Gudo Wafu Nishijima and Chodo Cross Translation

Translator's Note: Genjo means "realized," and Koan is an abbreviation of kofu-no-antoku, which was a notice board on which a new law was announced to the public in ancient China. So koan expresses a law, or a universal principle. In the Shobogenzo, genjo-koan means the realized law of the universe, that is, Dharma or the real universe itself. The fundamental basis of Buddhism is belief in this real universe, and in Genjo-koan Master Dogen preaches to us the realized Dharma, or the real universe itself When the seventy-five—chapter edition of the Shobogenzo was compiled, this chapter was placed first, and from this fact we can recognize its importance.

[83] When all dharmas are [seen as] the Buddha-Dharma, then there is delusion and realization, there is practice, there is life and there is death, there are buddhas and there are ordinary beings. When the myriad dharmas are each not of the self, there is no delusion and no realization, no buddhas and no ordinary beings, no life and no death. The Buddha's truth is originally transcendent over abundance and scarcity, and so there is life and death, there is delusion and realization, there are beings and buddhas. And though it is like this, it is only that flowers, while loved, fall; and weeds while hated, flourish.

[84] Driving ourselves to practice and experience the myriad dharmas is delusion. When the myriad dharmas actively practice and experience ourselves, that is the state of realization. Those who greatly realize 1 delusion are buddhas. Those who are greatly deluded about realization are ordinary beings. There are people who further attain realization on the basis of realization. There are people who increase their delusion in the midst of delusion. When buddhas are really buddhas, they do not need to recognize themselves as buddhas. Nevertheless, they are buddhas in the state of experience, and they go on experiencing the state of Buddha.

[85] When we use the whole body and mind to look at forms, and when we use the whole body and mind to listen to sounds, even though we are sensing them directly, it is not like a mirror's reflection 2 of an image, and not like water and the moon. While we are experiencing one side, we are blind to the other side.

[86] To learn the Buddha's truth is to learn ourselves. To learn ourselves is to forget ourselves. To forget ourselves is to be experienced by the myriad dharmas. To be experienced by the myriad dharmas is to let our own body and mind, and the body and mind of the external world, fall away. There is a state in which the traces of realization are forgotten; and it manifests the traces of forgotten realization for a long, long time.

[87] When people first seek the Dharma, we are far removed from the borders of Dharma. [But] as soon as the Dharma is authentically transmitted to us, we are a human being in [our] original element. When a man is sailing along in a boat and he moves his eyes to the shore, he misapprehends that the shore is moving. If he keeps his eyes fixed on the boat, he knows that it is the boat that is moving forward. Similarly, when we try to understand the myriad dharmas on the basis of confused assumptions about body and mind, we misapprehend that our own mind or our own essence may be permanent. If we become familiar with action and come back to this concrete place, the truth is evident that the myriad dharmas are not self. Firewood becomes ash; it can never go back to being firewood. Nevertheless, we should not take the view that ash is its future and firewood is its past. Remember, firewood abides in the place of firewood in the Dharma. It has a past and it has a future. Although it has a past and a future, the past and the future are cut off. Ash exists in the place of ash in the Dharma. It has a past and it has a future. The firewood, after becoming ash, does not again become firewood. Similarly, human beings, after death, do not live again. At the same time, it is an established custom in the Buddha-Dharma not to say that life turns into death. This is why we speak of "no appearance." And it is the Buddha's preaching established in [the turning of] the Dharma wheel that death does not turn into life. This is why we speak of "no disappearance." 3 Life is an instantaneous situation, and death is also an instantaneous situation. It is the same, for example, with winter and spring. We do not think that winter becomes spring, and we do not say that spring becomes summer.

[89] A person getting realization is like the moon being reflected4 in water: the moon does not get wet, and the water is not broken. Though the light [of the moon] is wide and great, it is reflected in a foot or an inch of water. The whole moon and the whole sky are reflected in a dewdrop on a blade of grass and are reflected in a single drop of water. Realization does not break the individual, just as the moon does not pierce the water. The individual does not hinder the state of realization, just as a dewdrop does not hinder the sky and moon. The depth [of realization] may be as the concrete height [of the moon]. The length of its moment should be investigated in large [bodies of] water and small [bodies of] water, and observed in the breadth of the sky and the moon.5

[90] When the Dharma has not yet satisfied the body and mind we feel already replete with Dharma. When the Dharma fills the body and mind we feel one side to be lacking. For example, sailing out beyond the mountains and into the ocean, when we look around in the four directions, [the ocean] appears only to be round; it does not appear to have any other form at all. Nevertheless, this great ocean is not round, and it is not square. Other qualities of the ocean are inexhaustibly many: [to fishes] it is like a palace and [to gods] it is like a string of pearls. 6 But as far as our eyes can see, it just seems to be round. As it is for [the ocean], so it is for the myriad dharmas. In dust and out of the frame,7 [the myriad dharmas] encompass numerous situations, but we see and understand only as far as our eyes of learning in practice are able to reach. If we wish to hear how the myriad dharmas naturally are,8 we should remember that besides their appearance of squareness or roundness, the qualities of the oceans and qualities of the mountains are numerous and endless; and that there are worlds in the four directions. Not only the periphery is like this: remember, the immediate present, and a single drop [of water] are also like this.

[91] When fish move through water, however they move, there is no end to the water. When birds fly through the sky, however they fly, there is no end to the sky. At the same time, fish and birds have never, since antiquity, left the water or the sky. Simply, when activity is great, usage is great, and when necessity is small, usage is small. Acting in this state, none fails to realize its limitations at every moment, and none fails to somersault freely at every place; but if a bird leaves the sky it will die at once, and if a fish

leaves the water it will die at once. So we can understand that water is life and can understand that sky is life. Birds are life, and fish are life. It may be that life is birds and that life is fish. And beyond this, there may still be further progress. The existence of [their] practice-and-experience, and the existence of their lifetime and their life, are like this. This being so, a bird or fish that aimed to move through the water or the sky [only] after getting to the bottom of water or utterly penetrating the sky, could never find its way or find its place in the water or in the sky. When we find this place, this action is inevitably realized as the universe. When we find this way, this action is inevitably the realized universe [itself].9 This way and this place are neither great nor small; they are neither subjective nor objective; neither have they existed since the past nor do they appear in the present; and so they are present like this. When a human being is practicing and experiencing the Buddha's truth in this state, to get one dharma is to penetrate one dharma, and to meet one act is to perform one act. In this state the place exists and the way is mastered, and therefore the area to be known is not conspicuous. The reason it is so is that this knowing and the perfect realization of the Buddha-Dharma appear together and are experienced together. Do not assume that what is attained will inevitably become self-conscious and be recognized by the intellect. The experience of the ultimate state is realized at once. At the same time, its mysterious existence is not necessarily a manifest realization.10 Realization is the state of ambiguity itself.11

[94] Zen Master Hotetsu 12 of Mayokuzan is using a fan. A monk comes by and asks, "The nature of air is to be ever-present, and there is no place that [air] cannot reach. Why then does the master use a fan?"

The master says, "You have only understood that the nature of air is to be ever-present, but you do not yet know the truth 13 that there is no place [air] cannot reach."

The monk says, "What is the truth of there being no place [air] cannot reach?"

At this, the master just [carries on] using the fan. The monk does prostrations. 14 The real experience of the Buddha-Dharma, the vigorous road of the authentic transmission, is like this. Someone who says that because [the air] is ever-present we need not use a fan, or that even when we do not use [a fan] we can still feel the air, does not know ever-presence, and does not know the nature of air. Because the nature of air is to be ever-present, the
behavior 15 of Buddhists has made the earth manifest itself as gold and has ripened the Long River into curds and whey.16

Shobogenzo Genjo-koan

This was written in mid-autumn 17 in the first year of Tenpuku, 18 and was presented to the lay disciple Yo Koshu of Chinzei. 19 Edited in [the fourth] year of Kencho.20


1 Daigo, "great realization," is the title of Chapter Twenty-six (Vol. II). Here it is used as a verb, daigo sure, "greatly realize."

2 Yadosu literally means "to accommodate."

3"No appearance" is fusho "No disappearance" is fumetsu. The words ffusho-fumetsu whichappear for example in the Heart Sutra, quoted in Chapter Two, Maka-hannyaharamitsu—express the instantaneousness of the universe.

4 Throughout this paragraph, "to be reflected in" is originally yadoru, lit., "to dwell in."

5 We should investigate realization as concrete facts.

6 This sentence alludes to a traditional Buddhist teaching that different subjects see the same ocean in different ways: to fish it is a palace, to gods it is a string of pearls, to humans it is water, and to demons it is blood or pus. Yoraku, "string of pearls," represents the Sanskrit muktahara, a name for a string of pearls or jewels worn by royalty and nobility in ancient India.

7 Jinchu-kakuge "inside dust, outside the frame," means the secular world and the world experienced in the Buddhist state.

8 Banpo no kafu, lit., "the family customs of the myriad dharmas." Ka means house, home, or family. Fu means wind, air, style, behavior, custom.

Genjo-koa is used first as a verb, genjo-koan su, and second as a noun, genjo-koan.

10 "Manifest realization" and "realization" (in the next sentence) are originally the same characters: genjo.11

11 "The state of ambiguity" is kahitsu. A Chinese sentence beginning with these characters would ask the question, "Why should it necessarily be that. . . ?" or "How can it conclusively be decided that. . . ?"

12 A successor of Master Baso Doitsu.

13 Dori means truth, principle, or fact. The monk was interested in philosophical theory, but the master recommended him to notice concrete facts.

 14 Shinji-shobogenzo, pt. 2, no. 23. According to the story in the Shinji-shobogenzo, after the monk's prostration, the master says, "Useless master of monks! If you got a thousand students, what gain would there be?"

15 Fu. Two meanings of fu are relevant in this section. The first is "wind" or "air," as in the story. The second is "customs," "manners," or "behavior," as in this usage. See also note 8.

16 Master Goso Wien said in his formal preaching, "To change the Earth into gold, and to churn the Long River into a milky whey." Soraku, or "curds and whey," was some kind of edible dairy product, like yogurt or cheese. Choga, lit., "Long River," is the Chinese name for the galaxy we call the Milky Way.

17 In the lunar calendar, autumn is the seventh, eighth, and ninth lunar months. As the autumn sky is usually very clear, this is a good time to view the moon. Several chapters of the Shobogenzo were written around the time of the autumn equinox on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month.

18 1233.

19 Corresponds to present-day Kyushu.

20 1252.



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