Bringing Forth the Mind of Bodhi
(Hotsu bodai shin)
1. “Bringing forth the mind of bodhi” (hotsu bodai shin 發菩提心): An expression translating the Sanskrit bodhi-cittotpāda, “generating the thought of awakening,” a technical term for the aspiration to achieve the unexcelled, perfect awakening (anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi) of a buddha. The alternative title of this essay, Hotsu mujō shin 發無上心 (“bringing forth the mind of the supreme [awakening],” represents another translation of the same Sanskrit expression, where mujō (“supreme,” “unexcelled”) stands for mujō shōtō gaku 無上正等覺 (“supreme, perfect awakening”).
In the soteriology of the Mahāyāna, the aspiration for the awakening of a buddha is considered the starting point and the basis for the path of the bodhisattva; hence, the term has received a great deal of commentarial attention. The expression bodai shin (bodhi-citta) is most often translated “thought of enlightenment,” a practice reflecting the regular use in Buddhist literature of the term shin (citta) in reference to an individual “state of mind,” or “mental state,” or “thought.” The same term (both the Sanskrit citta and the Chinese xin 心) is also used to refer to the mental faculty itself, or the seat of consciousness, more appropriately rendered “mind”; and in those traditions (like Chan and Zen) that associate the “ground of the mind” (shinchi 心地) with the buddha nature (busshō 佛性), the bodhi-citta can be treated not only as the aspiration for the bodhisattva’s ultimate goal of awakening but as the quality of awakening inherent in the mind that the bodhisattva seeks to activate or manifest. The choice of “mind” as a translation for shin here seeks to reflect such treatment in Dōgen’s text and maintain lexical continuity with his other uses of the term.
2. “The Snowy Mountains are comparable to the great nirvāṇa” (sessen yu dai nehan 雪山喩大涅槃): This saying, attributed here to the Buddha, does not seem to occur in any Buddhist sūtra. Traditional commentaries on our text (see, e.g., Shōbōgenzō chūkai zensho 正法眼藏注解全書 8:42-44, 92, 98, 101) propose two possible sources for Baizhang’s “quotation,” both in the Nirvāṇa-sūtra.
a. A passage in the sūtra (T.12:554a27ff) offering a parable of seven men who enter the Ganges River. Six of them for various reasons fail to cross, but the seventh crosses to the other shore of the river, climbs a great mountain, and attains bliss without fear. The sūtra then relates the seven men to seven types of icchantika (those who have “cut off their good roots” [duan shangen 斷善根]) who seek to cross “the great river of birth and death,” adding at the end,
Sons of good family, the mountain of the other shore is comparable to the tathāgata; attaining ease and joy is comparable to the buddha’s permanently abiding; the great high mountain is comparable to the great nirvāṇa. (555a20-21.
b. A passage (T.12:411a10ff) treating the sūtra’s famous analogy of the “five flavors” (wu wei 五味) of milk corresponding to five levels of the Buddha’s teaching—of which the Nirvāṇa-sūtra represents the finest flavor, the cream (tihu 醍醐; maṇḍa). The sūtra points out that the flavor of milk depends on what the cow eats; it then goes on to say,
In the Snowy Mountains, there is a grass called snigdha; if a cow eats it, [its milk] will be pure cream. (411a20-21.)
Here, then, “the Snowy Mountains” are taken as the sūtra itself (while the “grass” is the sūtra’s teaching of the buddha nature).
3. “Personally once” (shinzō 親曾): Dōgen’s frequent use of this unusual expression is thought to reflect a verse by his teacher, Rujing, that he quotes more than once in the Shōbōgenzō. Here is the version given in the Shōbōgenzō kenbutsu 見佛 (DZZ.2:107):
My former master, the old buddha of Tiantongbrought up [the following]:
King Prasenajit asked the worthy Piṇḍola, “I’ve heard that the worthy has personally seen the Buddha. Is this true?”
The worthy brushed up his [famously long] eyebrows with his hand to show it.
My former master said,
He brushed up his eyebrows, and his answer was obvious;
He personally once saw the Buddha, and they did not deceive each other.
Worthy of offerings even now, throughout the four continents.
Spring is on the twigs of the plum, cold in their girdle of snow.
4. “Each mind is like trees and rocks” (shinjin nyo bokuseki 心心如木石): Although Baizhang’s text attributes this saying to Bodhidharma, we do not know his source. The expression “a mind like trees and rocks” occurs with some frequency in Chan literature; Baizhang himself uses it in a description of the Chan teaching of sudden understanding:
A monk asked, “What is the teaching of the sudden understanding of the great vehicle?”
The master answered, “First put to rest the various involvements and stop the myriad affairs. Do not recall, do not think about any dharmas, good or not good, mundane or transmundane. Cast aside body and mind, and set them free, so the mind is like trees and rocks, without disputation or distinction. When the mind is without activity, the ground of the mind is as the sky; the sun of wisdom appears of its own, like the sun emerging when the clouds part.”
Dōgen is likely alluding to Baizhang’s text elsewhere in the Shōbōgenzō, in remarks such as “[the spiritual powers (jinzu 神通)] are the same as the Snowy Mountains, are like trees and rocks” (dō sessen nari nyo bokuseki nari 同雪山なり如木石なり) (Jintsū 神通, DZZ.1:392), or “the Snowy Mountains have great understanding because of the Snowy Mountains; trees and rocks have great understanding through trees and rocks” (sessen no sessen no tame ni daigo suru ari bokuseki ha bokuseki wo karite daigo su 雪山の雪山のために大悟するあり木石は木石をかりて大悟す) (Daigo 大悟, DZZ.1:97.)
5. “Thinking of not thinking” (shiryo ko fushiryo tei 思量箇不思量底): From the words of Yaoshan Weiyan 藥山惟儼 (745-828), in a dialogue much cited by Dōgen. The story is found in a number of Chan sources (see, e.g., Jingde chuandeng lu 景徳傳燈録, T.51:311c), as well as in Dōgen’s shinji 真字Shōbōgenzō, case 129 (DZZ.5:196). Here is the version of the story on which he comments at the opening of his Shōbōgenzō zazen shin 坐禪箴 (DZZ.1:103).
Once, when the Great Master Hongdao of Yaoshan was sitting [in meditation], a monk asked him, “What are you thinking of, [sitting there] so fixedly?"
The master answered, “I’m thinking of not thinking.”
The monk asked, “How do you think of not thinking?”
The master answered, “Nonthinking.”
6. “What is it that appears like this?” (ze jūmo motsu inmo genjō 是什麼物恁麼現成): Variation on a famous dialogue, between Nanyue Huairang 南嶽懷讓(677-744) and the Sixth Ancestor, Huineng 六祖慧能 (638-713), that appears regularly throughout Dōgen’s writings. Here is the version of the story given in his shinji Shōbōgenzō (DZZ.5:178, case 101).
The Chan Master Dahui of Mt. Nanyue (descendant of Caoxi, named Huairang) visited the Sixth Ancestor. The Ancestor asked him, “Where do you come from?”
The Master said, “I come from the National Teacher An on Mt. Song.”
The Ancestor said, “What is it that comes like this?”
The Master was without means [to answer]. After attending [the Ancestor] for eight years, he finally understood the previous conversation. Thereupon, he announced to the Ancestor, “I‘ve understood what you put to me when I first came: ‘What is it that comes like this?’”
The Ancestor asked, “How do you understand it?”
The Master replied, “To say it’s like anything wouldn’t hit it.”
The Ancestor said, “Then is it contingent on practice and verification?”
The Master answered, “Practice and verification are not nonexistent; they cannot be defiled.”
The Ancestor said, “Just this ‘not defiled’ is what the buddhas bear in mind. You’re also like this, I’m also like this, and all the ancestors of the Western Heavens [i. e., India] are also like this.”
7. “The gruel is enough, the rice is enough” (shuku soku han soku 粥足飯足); “the grass is enough, the water is enough” (sōsoku suisoku 草足水足): The second phrase here occurs in a verse by Haihui Shouduan 海會守端 (1025-1072):
The ox enters the mountain; the water is enough, the grass is enough.
The ox leaves the mountain; butting to the east, butting to the west.
(Chan lin pao xun 禪林寶訓, T.48:1019b25-26.)
The first phrase appears with some frequency in Dōgen’s writings; and the combination of the two phrases occurs in a lecture (jōdō 上堂) in his Eihei kōroku 永平廣録 (DZZ.3:200, no. 305), commenting on the Chan theme of “two moons”:
On the tenth of the first month, [Dōgen] raised [the following]:
A monk asked Touzi, “What is the first moon?”
Touzi said, “The first of spring is still cold.”
The monk said, “What is the second moon?”
Touzi said, “In mid spring it gradually warms up.”
While Touzu said this, discussion of the first moon and second moon appears in the Yuanjue jing. This evening, Eihei [Dōgen] has something to say to the monks. If someone asked Eihei, “What is the first moon?” I would say to him, “The gruel is enough, the rice is enough.” If someone asked, “What is the second moon?” I would say to him, “the grass is enough, the water is enough.” If some asked, “What is the meaning of this?” I would say to him, “First, try bringing me the hundred grasses; I’ll nurture spring in the twigs and leaves.” (The last sentence paraphrases Hongzhi Zhengjue 宏智正覺 [1091-1157], at Hungzhi yulu 宏智語録, T.48:110a11.)
8. “Sitting as a buddha and making a buddha” (zabutsu shi sabutsu su 坐佛し作佛す): These two phrases invoke the language of a famous episode, involving Mazu Daoyi 馬祖道一 (709-788) and his teacher, Nanyue Huairang 南嶽懐讓 (677-744). The story has several variants; here is the version appearing in the Jingde chuandeng lu, (T.51.240c18ff).
During the Kaiyuan [era], there was a śramaṇa Daoyi (i.e., Great Master Mazu), who lived at the Chuanfa Cloister and always practiced seated meditation. The master [Nanyue], knowing that he was a vessel of the dharma, went to him and asked, “Great Worthy, what are you figuring to do, sitting there in meditation?"
Daoyi said, "I’m figuring to make a buddha."
The master thereupon took up a tile and rubbed it on a stone in front of his hermitage. Daoyi said, "Master, what are you making?"
The master said, "I’m polishing this to make a mirror."
Daoyi said, "How can you produce a mirror by polishing a tile?"
[Nanyue replied,] "How can you produce a buddha by sitting in meditation?"
Daoyi said, “Then what should I do?”
The master said, “If someone is driving a cart, and the cart doesn’t go, should he beat the cart or beat the ox?”
Daoyi did not respond. The master continued, “Are you studying seated meditation or are you studying seated buddha?” If you’re studying seated meditation, meditation is not sitting or reclining. If you’re studying seated buddha, the buddha is not fixed marks. In a nonabiding dharma, there should not be taking or rejecting. If you are a sitting buddha, this is killing buddha; if you grasp the mark of sitting, this is not reaching its principle.”
When Daoyi heard this instruction, it was like drinking cream.
Dōgen records a variant version of the story in his shinji Shōbōgenzō (DZZ.5:128-30, case 8) and comments on it in Shōbōgenzō kokyō 古鏡 (DZZ.1:237ff) and Shōbōgenzō zazen shin (DZZ.1:105ff). The vulgate version of his Fukan zazen gi 普勸坐禪儀 famously alludes to Nanyue’s remarks in its warning, “Do not figure to make a buddha, much less seize on sitting or reclining (maku zu sa butsu ki kō zaga ko 莫圖作佛豈拘坐臥乎)” (DZZ.5:4).
9. “One blade of grass” (ikkyō sō 一莖草): The saying on making a buddha from a single blade of grass occurs in several Chan works, in slightly variant forms; e.g., in this talk by Zhaozhou Congshen 趙州従諗 (778-897) (Jingde chuandeng lu, T.51:277a9-12):
[Zhaozhou] ascended the hall and addressed the assembly. “It’s like a bright pearl in the palm of your hand. When a Hu comes, a Hu appears; when a Han comes, a Han appears. The old monk takes a single stalk of grass and uses it as a sixteen foot golden body, takes a sixteen foot golden body and uses it as a stalk of grass. The buddha is the defilements; the defilements are the buddha.”
Dōgen’s frequent uses of the expression “one blade of grass” seem most often to reflect the story of the god Śakra creating a brahma-kṣetra (i.e., monastery) for the Buddha from a blade of grass. For the story, which may be particularly relevant in our context here, see, e.g., the Chanlin sengbao zhuan 禪林僧寶傳, ZZ.137:490b; here is the version from the Congrong lu 從容録, T.48:(2004)230a4-6.
Once, when the Bhagavat was walking with his assembly, he pointed at the ground and said, “This would be a good place to build a brahma-kṣetra.”
King Śakra took a blade of grass, stuck it in the ground, and said, “The building of your brahma-kṣetra is finished.”
The Bhagavat smiled.
10. “A tree without roots” (mu kon ju 無根樹): A fairly common expression in Chan, as, e.g., in the words of the Song-dynasty master Shimen Huiche 石門慧徹 (Jingde chuandeng lu [T.51:396a29-b1]:
[Someone] asked, “What is the reverend’s house style?
The master said, “It can graft the tree without any roots; it can shoulder the lamp on the ocean floor.”
The term “root” here likely refers to the “good roots” (shangen 善根; kuśula-mūla) of merit; the expression “tree without roots” derives from a discussion of the bodhi-citta in the Avataṃsaka-sūtra (Huayan jing 華嚴經, T.10:434a19-23):
[The bodhi-citta] is not born from the good roots (kuśula-mūla) of beings. Sons of good family, it is like the tree called “without roots”: it is not born from roots, yet its branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit all flourish. Similarly, the tree of the mind of bodhi of the bodhisattva, the mahāsattva, is attained without roots.
Reference to the mysterious rootless tree also occurs in the well-known tale of the seven wise maidens (see, e.g., Zongmen liandeng huiyao 宗門聯燈會要 (ZZ.136:444a8-16), on which Dōgen comments in his Eihei kōroku (DZZ.3:42-44, no. 64). A group of seven princesses visit a charnal field and, seeing the corpses there, gain understanding of the Buddhist teachings. The king of the gods, Śakra, then offers them a boon:
The women said, “Our household is fully provided with the four necessities [food, clothing, furnishings, and medicines] and the seven precious substances. We want only three things: first, we want a tree without roots; second, we want a piece of ground without yin or yang; third, we want a valley where calls don’t echo.”
King Śakra said, “I have everything you could require, but these three things, I do not have. I will go together with the noble sisters to consult the Buddha.”
Thereupon, they went together to see the Buddha and asked him about this matter. The Buddha said, “Kauśika [i.e., Śakra], none of my disciples, the great arhats, understand the meaning of this. Only the great bodhisattvas know about this matter.”
11. “Offer sand to the buddha” (isago wo mote kubutsu shi いさごをもて供佛し): The Ayu wang jing 阿育王經 (T.50:131c9ff) tells the story of the Buddha’s prediction of the famous patron of Buddhism King Aśoka. Once, when the Buddha was travelling, he came upon two boys playing in the sand. One of them put some sand in the Buddha’s begging bowl. The Buddha accepted it, smiled, and emitted a multi-colored light from his body that reached throughout the three-thousandfold world and then returned. When Ānanda questioned the Buddha, he replied:
“Ānanda, did you see the boy offer sand to the bowl?”
Ānanda said to the Buddha, “Just so, I saw it.”
The Bhagavat continued, “One hundred years after my entrance into nirvāṇa, this boy will be born as a king of Pātaliputra named Aśoka. He will become a wheel-turning king of the four quarters, having faith in the true dharma. He will make offerings widely to the śarīra, erect 84,000 stūpas, and benefit many people.” (T.50:132a26-b2.)
12. “Offer slop to the buddha” (shō wo mote kubutsu su 漿をもて供佛す): The Dazhidu lun 大智度論 (T.25:115a14ff) records a story, quite similar to that involving the offering of sand to the Buddha (Supplemental Note 11, above), in which the Buddha on his begging rounds encountered an old servant woman emptying “stinking slops” (chou pan dian 臭[米+番, M.27118]淀) from the kitchen. When she offered him some, the Buddha accepted, smiled, and emitted a five-colored light from his body. When Ānanda asked him about this, the Buddha explained,
The Buddha said to Ānanda, “Did you see the old woman offer food to the Buddha in faith?”
Ānanda said, “I did.”
The Buddha said, “Because she offered food to the Buddha, for fifteen kalpas this old woman will enjoy fortunate rebirths among devas and humans, without falling into the evil destinies. Subsequently, she will attain the body of a male, leave home and study the way, become a pratyeka-buddha, and enter nirvāṅa without remainder.” (T.25:115b3-6.)
13. “Offer five flowers to a tathāgata” (gokyō no ke wo nyorai ni tatematsuru 五莖の華を如來にたてまつる): At the time of the Buddha Dīpaṃkara, the Buddha Śākyamuni was a bodhisattva named Māṇava, who gave five hundred silver coins to acquire five flowers to present to Dīpaṃkara. When he scattered his flowers before the Buddha, they remained in the air, without falling to the ground. Dīpaṃkara then praised him for his countless kalpas of training and gave him a prophesy:
Hereafter, in 91 kalpas, in a kalpa designated good, you will become a buddha named Śākyamuni. (Taizi ruiying benqi jing 太子瑞應本起經, T.3:472c18-473a22-23.)
14. “Brought forth the mind in a dream” (muchū ni hosshin su 夢中に發心す): Two, rather different, examples of dream awakenings—one, within a dream; the other, as a result of a dream:
a. Chapter 14 of the Lotus Sūtra (T.9:39b20-c15) famously offers the dream of a bodhisattva career as one of the benefits promised devotees of the scripture.
Again, he will dream that he has become the king of a country,
Who abandons his palace and retinue,
Together with the most marvelous [objects of the] five desires;
That he goes to the site of awakening,
Places himself on the lion throne beneath the bodhi tree,
Seeks the way for seven days,
And attains the wisdom of the buddhas;
That, having achieved the unexcelled path,
He arises and turns the dharma wheel,
Preaching the dharma to the fourfold assembly;
That over thousands of myriads of millions of kalpas,
He preaches the undefiled, wondrous dharma,
Delivering countless living beings,
After which he enters nirvāṇa,
As the smoke is exhausted when the lamp goes out.
b. The Dazhidu lun (T.25:110b9-19) tells the story of three men at the time of the Buddha who dreamed of having sexual intercourse with three prostitutes. The narrative continues,
After awakening, they thought, “These women did not come to us, and we did not go to them; yet we had a sexual transaction.” As a result, they understood that all dharmas are like this. Thereupon, they went to the Bodhisattva Bhadrapāla to inquire about the matter. The Bodhisattva Bhadrapāla said, “In fact, the dharmas all arise from thought.” In various ways like this, using devices, he skillfully taught the three men the emptiness of the dharmas. At that time, the three men achieved avaivartika [i.e., the bodhisattva stage of “nonretrogression].” (T.25:109b14-19.)
15. “Brought forth the mind while drunk” (suichū ni hosshin su 酔中に發心す): The Dazhidu lun (T.25:161b17-23) tells the story of a drunken man who aspired to become a monk:
Again, when the Buddha was Jetavana, there was a drunken brahman who came to the Buddha requesting to be made a bhikṣu. The buddha encouraged Ānanda to shave his head and dress him in a robe. When the intoxication had worn off, [the brahman] was startled to find that he had suddenly become a bhikṣu and immediately ran away. The bhikṣus asked the Buddha why he had permitted the drunken brahman to become a bhikṣu. The Buddha said, “For innumerable kalpas, this brahman has never had the thought of leaving home. Now, because of his drunkenness, he has briefly brought forth this subtle thought. As a result of this, he will in the future leave home and attain the way.”
16. “Plum blossoms” (tōke 桃華): Lingyun’s poem in expression of his understanding at the sight of plum blossoms occurs in many Chan collections (see, e.g., Dahui’s 大慧, Zhengfayanzang 正法眼藏, ZZ.118:36b14-17), including Dōgen’s own shinji Shōbōgenzō (DZZ.5:206, no. 155). Dōgen recounts the episode in his Shōbōgenzō keisei sanshoku 谿聲山色(DZZ.1:277):
The Chan master Lingyun Zhiqin pursued the way for thirty years. Once, while traveling in the mountains, resting at the foot of a mountain, he looked out at a village in the distance. The time was spring, and, seeing the peach blossoms in bloom, he suddenly understood the way. Composing a verse, he presented it to [his teacher] Dawei.
For thirty years, a passenger seeking the sword.
How many times have the leaves fallen and the branches budded?
After once seeing the peach blossoms,
I’m just as I am now without further doubts.
Dawei said, “Those who enter from conditions never reverse or lose it.” This was his acknowledgement.
17. “Jade bamboo” (suichiku 翠竹): The story of Xiangyan’s realization at the sound of a tile striking a bamboo, and especially the poem he wrote in response, is found in a number of Chan collections (see, e.g., Zhengfayanzang, ZZ.118:72a4-b1). Dōgen includes the story in his shinji Shōbōgenzō (DZZ.5:142, no. 28) and retells it in Japanese in his Shōbōgenzō keisei sanshoku (DZZ.1:276):
Having spent the years and months in this way, following the tracks of the national master Dacheng, he entered Mt. Wudang, where he bound the grasses to fashion a hut at the site of the national master’s hut. He planted bamboo to keep him company. One time, when he was clearing a path, a piece of tile flew up and hit against a bamboo; upon hearing the sound, he suddenly had a great understanding. Bathing and purifying himself, he faced Mt. Dawei, offered incense, made prostrations, and said to Dawei, “Great venerable Dawei, if long ago you had explained it to me, how could this have happened? The depth of your kindness is greater than that of a parent.” Then, he composed a verse that said,
One hit, and I lost what I know;
I won’t be training myself again.
Action and repose given over to the old path;
I won’t be sinking into worry.
No traces wherever I go;
Deportment beyond sound and sight.
Masters of the way in all directions
Will call this the highest faculty.
He presented this verse to Dawei. Dawei said, “This child has penetrated it.”
18. “While being in the heavens” (tenjō ni shite 天上にして): Elsewhere in the Shōbōgenzō, Dōgen mentions two unusual examples of teaching Buddhism in the deva realms. In the Gyōbutsu iigi 行佛威儀 (DZZ.1:65), he remarks,
In the lineage of the ancestors, it is said, “The Buddha Śākyamuni, after receiving transmission of the true dharma from the Buddha Kāśyapa, went to the Tuṣita Heaven and converted the gods of Tuṣita, where he remains even now.”
In the Kobutsushin 古佛心 (DZZ.1:89), he reports of the Chan Master Nanyang Huizhong 南陽慧忠 (d. 775),
Moreover, receiving an invitation to Śakra’s palace, he ascended to the distant heavens, where amidst the devas, he preached the dharma for Śakra.
19. “While being in the ocean” (kaichū ni shite 海中にして): Undoubtedly the most famous case of aquatic awakening is that of the daughter of the dragon king Sāgara presented in Chapter 12 of the Lotus Sūtra (T.9:35b12-19):
Manjuśrī said, “In the ocean, I always only preached the Sūtra of the Lotus of the Wondrous Law.”
[The bodhisattva] Prajñākūṭa questioned Mañjuśrī, “This sūtra is extremely profound and subtle, a gem among the sūtras, rare in the world. Are there living beings who, by undertaking the vigorous practice of this sūtra, quickly attain buddhahood?”
Mañjuśrī said, “There is a daughter of the dragon king Sāgara. She is just eight years old, but she has keen faculties of wisdom and well understands the faculties and deeds of living beings. She has acquired dhāraṇī, and can accept and maintain all the extremely profound secret treasuries preached by the buddhas. She has entered deeply into meditation and mastered the dharmas. In an instant, she brought forth the mind of bodhi and attained [the bodhisattva stage of] non-retrogression.”
20. “The skin, flesh, bones, and marrow of the buddhas and ancestors” (busso no hi niku kotsu zui 佛祖の皮肉骨髓): From the famous story, known as Daruma hi niku kotsu zui 達摩皮肉骨髓, in which Bodhidharma tests his disciples’ spiritual attainments. Versions of the episode can be found in a number of texts: see, e.g., Jingde chuandeng lu, T.51:219b-c; Dōgen’s shinji Shōbōgenzō, DZZ.5:230, case 201. Here is the version Dōgen gives in his Shōbōgenzō kattō 葛藤 (DZZ.1:417).
The Twenty-eighth Ancestor addressed his followers, saying, “The time is coming. Why don’t you say what you’ve attained?”
At that time, the follower Daofu said, “My present view is, without being attached to the written word or being detached from the written word, one still engages in the function of the way.”
The Ancestor said, “You’ve got my skin.”
The nun Zongchi said, “My present understanding is, it’s like Ānanda seeing the land of the Buddha Akṣobhya: seen once, it isn’t seen again.”
The Ancestor said, “You’ve got my flesh.”
Daoyu said, “The four major elements are originally empty; the five aggregates are nonexistent. My view is that there’s not a single dharma to attain.”
The Ancestor said, “You’ve got my bones.”
Finally, Huike, after making three bows, stood in his place.
The Ancestor said, “You’ve got my marrow.”
Consequently, [Bodhidharma] made him the Second Ancestor, transmitting the dharma and transmitting the robe.
21. “The merit of the unconditioned” (mui no kudoku 無爲の功徳); “the merit of the unproduced” (musa no kudoku 無作の功徳): The terms mui and musa both commonly appear in Chan literature to describe spontaneous, non-intentional, uncontrived action. The translation of mui as “unconditioned” reflects its use in Buddhist texts for the Sanskrit asaṃskṛta, “uncompounded,” “unproduced (by causes and conditions),” one of the definitions of nirvāṇa and, in the Mahāyāna, of the “suchness” (shinnyo 眞如) and “dharma nature” (hosshō 法性) mentioned in the sentence following this in our text. The term is often rendered “non-action,” a translation that favors its common Chinese (especially Daoist) sense of “without(intentionally) doing.” The term musa, translated here as “unproduced,” is often used as a near synonym for mui, perhaps especially to express a lack of intentionality (or expectation of karmic reward) in the actor. The phrases mui no kudoku and musa no kudoku are somewhat ambigious and can be understand either as “the merit (i.e., good karma, puṇya) that is without conditions (or production),” or as “the virtue (i.e., attribute, guṇa) of being without conditions (or production).”
22. “They do not remember the buddhas or read the scriptures” (nenbutsu dokkyō sezu 念佛讀經せず): At several points in his writings, Dōgen quotes his teacher Rujing on the irrelevance of remembering the buddhas and reading scriptures—e.g., at Shōbōgenzō gyōji 行持 (DZZ.1:198):
Studying Zen is body and mind sloughed off. It is achieved only when one just sits, without burning incense, making prostrations, remembering the buddhas, practicing repentence, or looking at scripture.
The saying has no known source in extant Chinese texts and is generally assumed to be Dōgen’s private recollection. Slightly variant versions are attributed to Rujing at Shōbōgenzō bukkyō 佛經 (DZZ.2:178), as well as at Hōkyō ki 宝慶記 (DZZ.7:18-20); a similar passage, unattributed to Rujing, appears in Dōgen’s early work, the Bendō wa 辨道話 (DZZ.2:538).
23. “When I had this thought, the buddhas of the ten directions all appeared” (sa ze shiyui ji jippō butsu kai ken 作是思惟時十方佛皆現): In Chapter 2 of the Lotus Sūtra (T.9:9c17-20), Śākyamuni explains why he decided to preach the three vehicles as an expedient device:
I recalled the buddhas of the past,
And the power of the expedient devices they practiced.
Now, that I have attained the way,
I too should preach the three vehicles.
When I had this thought,
The buddhas of the ten directions all appeared.
Their Brahmā voices consoling and instructing me,
24. “Take a pinch of empty space” (kokū wo sattoku shi 虚空を撮得し): This unusual expression may reflect a conversation discussed in the Shōbōgenzō kokū 虚空 (DZZ.2:208). Here is the version recorded in Dōgen’s shinji Shōbōgenzō (D.5:256, no. 248):
The Chan Master Shigong Huizang of Fuzhou (descended from Mazu) asked Xitang, “Can you take a pinch of empty space?”
Xitang said, “I can.”
The master said, “How do you do it?”
Xitang pinched space with his fingers.
The master said, “You can’t pinch space.”
Xitang said, “How does the master do it?”
The master pinched Xitang’s nose and pulled it.
Xitang gave a cry of pain and said, “Murderer! Pinching someone’s nose, you could pull it off.”
The master said, “You have to pinch it like this.”
25. “Swallow a handful of the valley stream” (keisui wo kikutan shi 渓水を掬啗し): Stream water figures in two sources much appreciated by Dōgen. One is the story, discussed in Shōbōgenzō dōtoku 道得, of a hermit who drank from a stream. Here is the version recorded in Dōgen’s shinji Shōbōgenzō (DZZ.5:218, no. 183).
On the edge of Mt. Yuefeng, there was a monk who set up a hermitage. For many years, he did not shave his head. He made himself a wooden ladle and went to a stream to scoop up water to drink.
On one such occasion, a monk asked him, “What was the intention of the ancestral master’s coming from the west?”
The hermit said, “The stream is deep, the ladle long.”
The monk returned [to the monastery on the mountain] and raised this with Yuefeng.
Feng said, “Very strange. It may be so, but this old monk will have to investigate it.”
One day, Feng and his attendant, carrying a razor, went to visit him. As soon as they met, he asked, “If you’ve attained the way, why not shave your head?
The hermit brought some water and washed his head; the master shaved him.
The notion of making a buddha with mountain stream water is also reminiscent of a verse by the famed poet Su Shi 蘇軾 (Su Dongpo 蘇東坡, 1037-1101) that provides the title theme for Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō keisei sanshoku (DZZ.1:274):
The sound of the stream is his long, broad tongue;
The mountain form, his pristine body.
This evening’s 84,000 verses —
How will I tell them tomorrow?
26. “The thirty-seven aids to bodhi” (sanjūshichi hon bodai bunpō 三十七品菩提分法): Sanskrit saptatriṃśad-bodhi-pakṣikādharmāḥ. A venerable list, in seven parts, of the attainments of a buddha, widely repeated (with slight variation) throughout Buddhist literature:
1) the four foundations of mindfulness (shi nenjū 四念住, smṛtyupasthāna)
2) the four correct eliminations (shi shōdan 四正断, samyak-prahāṇa)
3) the four bases of paranormal power (shi jinsoku 四神足, ṛddhi-pāda)
4) the five faculties (go kon 五根, indriya)
5) the five powers (go riki 五力, bala)
6) the seven branches of awakening (shichi kakushi 七覺支, bodhyaṅga)
7) the eightfold holy path (hasshōdō 八正道, ārya-mārga)
27. “The real mark of suchness” (nyoze jissō 如是實相): Though seemingly not particularly popular in Chan, this expression is not uncommon in Tiantai texts. It likely reflects the famous passage in the Lotus Sūtra (T.9:5c11-13), from which Tiantai derives its characteristic teaching of the “tenfold suchness” (jū nyoze 十如是):
Only buddhas together with buddhas can exhaust the real marks of the dharmas: that the dharmas are of such a mark, such a nature, such a substance, such a power, such an action, such a cause, such a condition, such an effect, such a recompense, such an ultimate equality from beginning to end.
28. “The Buddha Śākyamuni said” (Shakamuni butsu gon 釋迦牟尼佛言): While the source of this quotation is unknown, the practice of offering wives and children, as well as one’s own body, for the sake of awakening is celebrated in various Buddhist texts. One example occurs in the Lotus Sūtra (T.9:3a13-14), in a speech by the Bodhisattva Maitreya to which Dōgen will allude below (Note 25. “Entering the deep mountains and thinking of the way of the buddha”):
Further, I see bodhisattvas,
Donating the flesh of their bodies, their arms and legs
As well as their wives and children,
In their quest for the supreme Way.
The most famous example of the offering of wives and children occurs in the story of Śākyamuni’s own previous life as the Bodhisattva Prince Sudāna (Xudana taizi 須達拏太子; better known in the Pali accounts as Vessantara), who practiced the virtue of charity by giving away his wife and children. (See, e.g., Taizi xudana jing 太子須大拏經, T.3:422a6ff.). The offering of one’s own flesh is reminiscent of the well-known story in the Prajñā-pāramitā-sūtra of the Bodhisattva Sadāprarudita (Changti pusa 常啼菩薩), who offered to sell his body parts to a brahman in the course of his quest for the perfection of wisdom. (See, e.g., Mohe bore boluomi jing 摩訶般若波羅蜜經, T.8:419a1-10.)
29. “The Fifth Ancestor was once a practitioner who grew pines” (goso ha ichiji no saimatsu dōsha nari 五祖は一時の栽松道者なり): In his Shōbōgenzō busshō 佛性 (DZZ.1:19), Dōgen recounts an interesting tale about the Fifth Ancestor Hongren:
The Fifth Ancestor, the Chan Master Daman was from Huangmei in Chizhou. He was born without a father, gained the way as a child, and then was a practitioner who grew pines. Initially, he was growing pines on Xishan in Chizhou when he encountered the Fourth Ancestor on a visit there.
[The Fourth Ancestor] addressed the practitioner, “I want to transmit the dharma to you, but your years are already full. If you will come again [in your next life], I will wait for you.”
The master agreed.
Thereafter, he was born by a woman of the Zhou family. He was thrown into a dirty harbor but was protected from harm by a spirit for seven days. He was then taken in and raised. As a boy of seven, he met the Fourth Ancestor, the Chan Master Dayi, on the road in Huangmei. The ancestor saw that, although a child, the master’s build was remarkably fine, different from an ordinary child.
Seeing this, the ancestor asked, “What is your surname.”
The master answered, “I have a surname, but it’s not an ordinary surname.”
The ancestor said, “What is this surname.”
The master answered, “It’s the buddha nature.”
The ancestor said, “You don’t have the buddha nature.”
The master replied, “Since the buddha nature is empty, we can say I don’t have it.”
The ancestor, recognizing that he was a vessel of the dharma, made him his attendant. Later, he transmitted the treasury of the eye of the true dharma. [The master] resided on Dongshan in Huangmei, where he greatly wielded the “dark style.”
Dōgen’s source for this story is unknown. Elements of his account (without mention of his rebirth) can be found in several texts—e.g., at Jianzhong jingguo xu deng lu 建中靖國續燈録 (ZZ.136:46b3-11).
30. Linji worked at planting fir and pine on Mt. Huangbo (Linji ha Ōbaku san no sai sanshō no kufū ari 臨濟は黄檗山の栽杉松の功夫あり): A story found in the Linji lu 臨濟録 (T.47:505a5-9) and several other Chan texts. Dōgen quotes and discusses it in his Shōbōgenzō gyōji (DZZ.1:166):
When the master [Linji] was on Huangbo, he was planting fir and pine with Huangbo, when Huangbo asked the master, “Why are we planting so many trees deep in the mountains?”
The master said, “First, for the monastery, for the sake of its grounds; second, for later people, to serve as a standard.”
Then, he struck the earth two times with his hoe.
Huangbo took up his staff and said, “Maybe so, but you’ve already tasted my thirty blows.”
The master went, “Whew, whew.”
Huangbo said, “My line will flourish in the world with you.”
31. “On Dongshan, there was old Mr. Liu, who planted pines” (Dongshan ni ha Ryū shi ō ari saishō su 洞山には劉氏翁あり栽松す): Old man Liu figures in the life of the Chan master Dongshan Siqian 洞山師虔 (d. 904), as recorded in the Jingde chuandeng lu (T.51:338b24-27):
The master [Dongshan Siqian] was on Dongshan planting pines. A certain old man Liu asked the master for a verse. The master composed a verse saying,
Tall, tall, more than three feet;
Dense, dense, covered with weeds.
Who knows what generation
Will see these pines grow old.
32. “Where are we, that we’re talking about conditioned and talking about unconditioned?” (shari ze jinmo shozai setsu ui setsu mui nari 遮裡是甚麼處在説有爲説無爲なり): Variation on a question found in a number of Chan texts; e.g., in the famous story of Linji and his crazy friend Puhua (as given in Dōgen’s shinji Shōbōgenzō, DZZ.5:174, no. 96):
Puhua and Linji were at a meal at a donor’s home. Ji asked, “A hair follicle swallowing the vast ocean, a mustard seed containing Sumeru. Are these the spiritual powers and marvelous functions, or are they the dharma itself just as it is?”
The master kicked over the table.
Ji said, “How rough!”
The master said, “Where are we, that we’re talking about rough and fine?”
Ji took a break.
Again, they went for a meal at the same house. Ji asked, “How does today’s offering compare with yesterday’s?”
The master again kicked over the table.
Ji said, “How rough!”
The master said, “Blind man! What rough and fine are we talking about in the buddha dharma?”
Ji stuck out his tongue.
33. “When the ocean dries up, the bottom remains; though a person dies, the mind remains” (kai karete naho soko nokori hito ha shisu tomo shin nokoru beki 海かれてなほ底のこり人は死すとも心のこるべき): Dōgen is here playing with a saying, drawn from a verseby the poet Du Xunhe 杜荀鶴 (846-907), that occurs often in Chan literature. See, e.g., Zongjing lu 宗鏡録, T.48:564b12:
When the ocean dries up, you finally see the bottom;
When a person dies, you do not know his mind.”
Dōgen seems to have enjoyed such play with this saying. In his Shōbōgenzō hensan 偏參 (DZZ.2:116), we find “When the ocean dries up, you cannot see the bottom” (kai ko fuken tei 海枯不見底); “when a person dies, he does not leave his mind behind” (nin shi furyū shin 人死不留心). In Shōbōgenzō kokyō (DZZ.1:226), he has “Though the ocean dries up, it does not reveal the bottom” (kai ko futō ro tei 海枯不到露底).
34. “Seven feet or eight feet” (shichi shaku hachi shaku 七尺八尺): In his Shōbōgenzō juki 授記 (DZZ.1:249ff), Dōgen comments on a conversation between the Chan Masters Xuansha Shibei 玄沙師備 (835-908) and Xuefeng Yicun 雪峰義在 (822-908); here is the version recorded in his shinji Shōbōgenzō, case 60, (DZZ.5:158).
Once, when Xuansha was traveling with Xuefeng, Feng pointed at the ground in front of them and said, “This piece of land would be a good place to build a seamless stūpa[i.e., a deceased cleric’s monument stone].”
The master said, “How tall would it be?”
Feng looked up and down.
The master said, “It is not that the reverend preceptor lacks the fortunate recompense of [birth among] the men and gods, but he has not yet seen even in his dreams the conferral [of the treasury of the eye of true dharma] on Vulture Peak.”
Feng said, “How about you?”
The master said, “Seven feet or eight feet.”