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Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma

Penetration of Other Minds
(Tashin tsû)

Introduction

The Tashin tsû is one of the later essays in the Shôbôgenzô, composed according to its colophon, in 1245, while Dôgen was residing at Daibutsuji (the monastery he would rename as Eiheiji). The title theme of the essay concerns mental telepathy, one of the supernormal powers (abhijñâ) regularly said in Buddhist literature to be accessible to those who have mastered the four basic levels of meditation (dhyâna). Here, Dôgen takes up the famous story of a Zen master's test of the mind-reading powers of an Indian monk. The story well reflects the Chinese Zen masters' doubts about the Indian tradition of such powers, and Dôgen's comments well reflect his own doubts about the understanding of some of the Chinese masters.

This translation reflects the version published in Dharma Eye, vol. 11 (spring 2003). In order to avoid overloading the text with technical detail, annotation is limited to a few notes on the more obscure passages. A more fully annotated version will appear here when available. An earlier version of this translation appeared as "Reading Others' Minds," in D. Lopez, ed., Buddhism in Practice (1995), pp. 69-79.

Some readers may also wish to consult my discussion of this text, and the general issue of the supernormal powers in Zen, which appeared in "Disarming the Superpowers: The abhijñâ in Eisai and Dôgen," in Dôgen zenji kenkyu ronshû, edited by Daihonzan Eiheiji Daionki Kyoku (2002), pp. 1018-1046.