Zazen shin Notes
1. The temple name does not appear in the Kenkon'in ms; it is
supplied from the Kôfukuji text.
Master Hongdao": The posthumous title of Yueshan Weiyan
Yueshan's expression "not
thinking" (fu shiryô tei) here might also be
understood as "what cannot be thought" (fu ka shiryô),
but Sôtô treatment of the expression typically takes
it as a mental state; the expression "nonthinking"
(hi shiryô) can as well be read "it is not
thinking". For more on these terms, see glossary: "shiryô";
for discussion of the passage as a whole, see supplemental note 1.
3. "Although he is not alone in "thinking fixedly",
Yueshan's saying is singular": Usually interpreted to mean
that, while the practice of thinking fixedly in zazen is the
common heritage of the buddhas and patriarchs, Yueshan's words
are the best (or ultimate or only true) expression of it. (See,
e.g., SBGZ MG.4,67; SBGZ KT.2,521.) The
translation "singular" here attempts to span something
of the range of Dôgen's term sono (or sore) itsu,
which carries the senses of "one of them" and "the
first (best) of them", but may also suggest (in a usage
based on Chapter 7 of the Zhuangzi) the "oneness"
of the great sage.
"Thinking is the very 'skin,
flesh, bones and marrow' (hi niku kotsu zui); 'not thinking'
is the very skin, flesh, bones and marrow": Usually interpreted
to mean that, in zazen, both thinking and not thinking are the
entirety of the practice (or of the practitioner). (See, e.g.,
SBGZ KT.2,522-523.) While the terms "skin, flesh,
bones and marrow" have a common abstract sense of "essence"
or "entirety" (for which, see glossary: "hi niku
kotsu zui"), as SBGZS (SBGZ CKZS.4,70) points
out, we should probably not overlook the possibility that Dôgen
is here identifying thinking and not thinking in zazen with the
physical body of the practitioner.
while 'not thinking' may be old, here it is [the further question]
'how do you think'?": Most commentators take "old"
here to mean "well known" (e.g., SBGZ KT.2,523).
The antecedent of "it" (kore) here is unclear;
the most common reading identifies it as "not thinking"
(e.g., SBGZ KT.2,523) and thus understands the second
clause to be identifying "not thinking" with "how
do you think" (ikan shiryô) (for this type
of interpretation, see supplemental note 1).
"How could [it] fail to
penetrate beyond sitting 'fixedly'?": A tentative translation;
"If we are not the sort
of fool that 'despises what is near' (sengon no gu)":
From the old Chinese saying, "The ordinary person values
what is distant and despises what is near."
"We ought to have the strength,
we ought to have the 'thinking', to question sitting 'fixedly'":
Here, as below, the translation loses Dôgen's play on the
element ryô ("measure") in the expressions
shiryô ("thinking") and rikiryô
is one of the more obscure passages in the text; for a possible
interpretation of its argument, see supplemental note 3.
"Although the employment
(shiyô) of 'nonthinking' is crystal clear (reirô),
when we 'think of not thinking', we always use 'nonthinking'":
Usually interpreted to mean that the enlightened state of nonthinking
is always operating in the practice of thinking of not thinking.
"There is someone (tare)
in 'nonthinking', and this someone maintains (honin) us
(ware)": Interpretators often follow SBGZS (SBGZ
CKZS.4,74) in associating "someone" here with thinking
and not thinking, and "us" with nonthinking; thus,
thinking and not thinking maintain nonthinking.
"It presents itself as sitting
'fixedly'": The translation here attempts to preserve something
of the grammatical play in Dôgen's sentence, in which gotsugotsuchi
is both subject and object of the predicate. In the predicate,
"present", the graph tô in kotô
(usually "to lift the head") should probably be taken
as a colloquial nominalizer.
"Measure of the buddha (butsuryô),
measure of the dharma (hôryô), measure of
awakening (goryô), measure of comprehension (eryô)":
Dôgen is here again playing with the graph ryô
("measure") in shiryô ("thinking"),
beginning with the common Buddhist term butsuryô
(for which, see glossary: "butsuryô"), and then
extending this to other possible authorities, or "measures".
6. Yueshan Weiyan is listed as the thirty-sixth ancestor in the
lineage of Rujing given in Dôgen's SBGZ Busso
7. The translation follows the usual reading of this passage;
it could also be read, "Once you attain [the state in which]
the breast is without concerns through concentrated effort at
seated meditation, this is peace and tranquility." The passage
has not been identified as a direct quotation from any known
source. A similar passage appears in Dahui's letters, where he
criticizes those who make concentrated effort (kufû)
in a quiet place: "If they happen to achieve a state in
which the breast is without concerns (kyôchû buji),
they think this is the ultimate ease and joy (anraku).
They don't realize it is simply like a stone pressing down grass."
("Letter to Councilor Fu", Dahui yulu, T.48.921c;
8. "Walking is Zen, sitting is Zen; whether in speech or
silence, motion or rest, the substance is at ease (tai annen)."
From the Zheng dao ge, attributed to the early eighth-century
figure Yongjia Xuanjue (JDCDL, T.51:460b16).
9. A slightly
different version of this same passage occurs in the Himitsu
Shôbô genzô text of the Butsu kôjô
ji (DZZ.1:233-34), where it serves to define what
Dôgen calls there "studying [the buddha way] with
the body" (mi ni shite narafu). For a possible interpretation
of the passage, see supplemental note 4.
"Entering into Mâra
[The Evil One]" (ma ni iru) is used to express the
spiritual freedom of advanced Zen practice, as in the saying,
"You can enter into Buddha, but you cannot enter into Mâra.
(See, e.g., Dahui's Zongmen wuku, T.47.950a15.)
"Filling the ditches and
clogging the gullies" (mizo ni michi tani ni mitsu):
See Glossary: "Kôgaku".
10. Chan Master Daji is the posthumous title of Mazu Daoyi (709-788);
Chan Master Dahui is Nanyue Huairang (677-744). Their conversation
can be found at JDCDL, T.51.240c18ff; but note that Dôgen's
introduction to the conversation here (as in his SBS, DZZ.2.202)
includes elements from Mazu's biography (JDCDL, T.51.245c26f)
to make it appear -- as the original version does not -- that
Mazu had already received his master's certification when the
conversation took place. A similar version of the story appears
in SBGZ kokyô.
not 'value what is far away'": see above, note 4.
"Do not 'take the eyes lightly'":
From the old Chinese saying, "To give weight to the ears
and take the eyes lightly is the constant failing of the common
The "carved dragon"
(chôryû) alludes to the ancient Chinese story
of the Duke of She, who loved the image of the dragon but was
terrified of the real thing. For interpretation of the two dragons
here, see supplemental note 5.
12. "Sloughing off" (datsuraku): no doubt an
ellipsis for "sloughing off body and mind (shinjin datsuraku),
Dôgen's famous term for Zen awakening.
"Entangled" here renders
kattô su, Dôgen's verbal form of the "vines
and creepers" used in Zen to express the spiritual complications
of language -- including the language of Zen discourse on the
basis of which the meditator "figures to make a Buddha."
See Term Glossary: "kattô".
our body and lose our life" (sôshin shitsumyô):
From the famous problem, posed by the tenth-century figure Xiangyan
Zhixian, of the man hanging by his teeth over a thousand-foot
cliff who is asked the meaning of Bodhidharma's arrival from
the west: "If he opens his mouth to answer, he will destroy
his body and lose his life". (JDCDL, T.51.284B23ff.)
The notion of entertwining entanglements
here is probably from a saying of Rujing, that the bottle gourd
vine intertwines with itself (Nyojô goroku, T.48.128b20),
a remark praised as unprecedented in SBGZ kattô. There
Dôgen interprets kattô as succession to the
dharma (shihô) and claims that true Buddhist practice
is not merely, as is usually thought, to cut off the roots of
entanglements but to interwine entanglements with entanglements.
For an interpretation of this
passage, see supplemental note 6.
14. Or, "What are you making?" (sa somo).
15. Dôgen discusses the difficulty of knowing water and
mountains in his SBGZ Sansuikyô.
"This land and the other
world (shido takai)": Some commentators take this
to indicate all the various realms in all directions, including
the various buddha lands. (See, e.g., SBGZ MG.4,101.)
16. The "old mirror" (kokyô) and "bright
mirror" (meikyô) are venerable symbols for
the Buddha nature, or Buddha mind, which are by definition unproduced,
and by standard Chan account quite unaffected by polishing. Dôgen
seems to be saying here that, while the tile cannot become the
mirror, there is no mirror apart from polishing the tile; i.e.,
the act of polishing is itself the mirror. Cf. his similar remarks
on this line in SBGZ kokyô (DZZ.2:43.5ff).
17. Mazu's question here (ikan sokuze) might be more naturally
put, "Then, what should I do?" But (as in his earlier
treatment of "how do you think" and "not thinking")
Dôgen seems to be reading the question as a declarative
sentence and suggesting that the interrogative term "what"
(ikan; often taken here to indicate the practice of zazen)
is itself what is "right" (sokuze; usually understood
here as "making a buddha"), or that, like the relationship
between the effort of "figuring" and the goal of "making
a Buddha", the two are interdependent.
"'What' and 'right' emerge
simultaneously": Literally, "'what is right' is a simultaneous
appearance." The translation takes apart the expression
ikan sokuze in keeping with the above interpretation.
he beat the cart?" (tasha sokuze): The translation
here loses the syntactical parallel to Mazu's question (and Dôgen's
analysis of it); literally, "to beat the cart is right?"
For the metaphor of the cart,
19. In this passage, Dôgen is doubtless playing on the
Buddhist paradox of impermanence: that, while all things are
changing and hence always "going" even when seemingly
at rest, each dharma is momentary -- or, as is said, "abides
in its own position" (jû hôi) -- and
hence does not "go" through time.
"Water's flowing (suiryû)":
The notion of water's "not flowing" is best known from
the line attributed to Fu Dashi (497-569): "The bridge flows
and the water doesn't" (JDCDL, T.51.430b7). Dôgen
explores this and other notions of water in his SBGZ sansuikyô.
"For it is time (toki)":
There are two lines of interpretation of this cryptic remark:
(a) that, whether the cart is going or not going, it is [present
in] time; (b) that both going and not going are present in each
time. SBGZ MG (4.115): "Impermanence (mujô)
is itself permanence (ujô)"; SBGZS (4.116):
"The kôan is realized (kôan genjô)
in each time (ichiji) as this 'going' and 'not going';
SBGZKT (2.564): "Both 'going' and 'not going' are
the cart" here is most often interpreted to refer to the
physical practice of zazen, and "beating the ox" to
the mental process of "making a buddha". (E.g., MG.4.115;
KT.2.559.) The distinction here is perhaps akin to that
made in the SBGZ shinjin gakudô, where Dôgen
speaks of "studying with the mind" (shin o mote
gaku [su] and "studying with the body" (mi o
mote gaku su). (1:27.8-9)
su): This odd English expression seeks to retain something
of the style of Dôgen's use here of the double accusative
in such forms as suikogyû wo dagyû su.
For more on bovines and beating,
21. "Throwing out a tile to take in a jade" (hôsen
ingyoku): In Chinese literary usage, a polite way to ask
another for a capping verse for your poem; used in Chan for the
give and take of Chan repartee (as, e.g., by Zhaozhou, at JDCDL,T.51).
"Turning the head and reversing
the face" (kaitô kanmen): A common expression
in Chan literature suggesting the notions both of a spiritual
reversal and of the inseparability of awakening and delusion
-- or, as probably in this case, of master and disciple.
22. "Sitting still" zaga: The translation follows
the interpretation of most commentaries, which treat this term
in reference to the "four postures": walking, standing,
sitting and reclining (gyô jû za ga); hence,
"sitting and reclining". The element ga here
could also be interpreted as an intensive; hence, "sitting
still" or "repose".
and distant 'familial lines'" (shinso no meimyaku):
Usually interpreted as referring here to the relationship between
(our human) sitting and (the Buddha's) seated meditation.
"Wisdom and eradication"
(chidan): The acquisition of enlightened knowledge and
elimination of the "defilements" (bonnô; klesa)
that are the two primary accomplishments separating a Buddha
from an ordinary human.
See supplemental note 9 for an interpretation
of this passage.
24. "No fixed mark" (hijôsô): The
phrase might be more colloquially put, "not a fixed form".
The translation here tries to preserve the technical sense of
the "mark" (sô; laksana) of the Buddha's
body, with which Dôgen will play in his comments. The discussion
of this mark draws on the famous doctrine in the Diamond Sûtra
that the true mark of a Buddha is not his thirty-two major marks
and eighty minor physical signs of spiritual excellence but precisely
his transcendence of all "marks", or phenomenal characteristics.
The translation here loses the
play on the term jô ("fixed", "settled",
"determined", etc.), used in the Buddhist lexicon for
"meditation" (from samâdhi: "to hold
[the mind] steady"); hence, the secondary sense here, "buddha
is not marked by meditation".
25. Dôgen is here alluding to a sentence from Nanyue's
answer to Mazu that he does not bother to quote: "In a nonabiding
dharma, there should be no grasping or rejecting (shusha)".
26. Dôgen is no doubt alluding here to one of the most
famous sayings of Chan, attributed to the Tang-dynasty master
Linji: "If you meet the buddha, kill the buddha; if you
meet an ancestor, kill the ancestor." (LJL, T47:500b22)
"Killing buddha" (setsubutsu):
Dôgen's treatment of this binome plays on the syntatical
parallel with zabutsu ("seated buddha"), to
suggest that buddha is subject as well as object of the
predicate. A similar play is possible with "killing people"
(setsujin), the common term for "murderer".
27. In his commentary on this difficult passage, Nishiari Bokusan
advises us to take the verb "grasp" (shû)
here to mean complete identification with seated meditation,
and to understand the expression "not reaching its principle"
to mean "has already reached its principle." (SBGZ
KT. 2:574.) He is probably right that, to make sense of this
passage in its context, we must assume that here again Dôgen
wants to give a positive connotation to both clauses of Nanyue's
sentence, though clearly in this case we shall have to reach
quite far for his principle.
28. The "radiance of the buddha" (butsu kômyô)
refers to both the "physical" aureola said to emanate
from his body and the inner effulgence of his perfect wisdom
that "illumines" the world. In his SBGZ kômyô
(DZZ.1:116-17), Dôgen identifies this radiance with
the spiritual tradition of Bodhidharma and, as here, criticizes
those who think of it as visible light. In this, he may well
have had in mind the mystical visualization of such light (bukkô
zanmai) popularized in his day by the Kegon master Kôben.
"Light from a pearl or fire"
(juka no kôyô): Following the usual interpretation
of juka as "pearl and fire". But note SBGZ
STR (4:215), which suggests that it may refer to the light
of the "fire pearl" (kaju) known from ancient
29. The last roll of the JDCDL, compiled in 1004, includes
a "Zuochan zhen" by Wuyun (Zhifeng) Heshang (909-85)
(T.51:459c-60a); the Jiatai pudeng lu, compiled in 1204,
records a "Zuochan ming" by Foyan (Longmen Qing) Yuan
Chanshi (1607-1120) (ZZ.2B, 10:214b).
30. Taza sude ni nanji ni arazu kufû sara no onore to
sôken se [zu]. A tentative translation of a passage
variously interpreted. Some take the point to be simply that
they never properly sit and hence do not engage in true practice;
some would prefer to read the second clause to mean that, in
their practice, they never encounter their (true) selves. Note
that here and in the following sentence Dôgen has personified
Zen practice as a conscious agent that encounters and chooses
31. "Reverting to the source" and "returning to
the origin" (gengen henpon, more often in reverse
order, henpon gengen) both suggest a notion of spiritual
practice as the process of recovering the "original mind";
the expression is best known in Zen as the title of the ninth
of Kuoan's famous Ten Oxherding Pictures (Jûgyû
and "congealing in tranquility" (sokuryo gyôjaku)
suggest calm transic states free from all thinking; a similar
expression, "suspending considerations and forgetting objects
(xi lü wang yuan)," appears in Wuyun's "Zuochan
zhen" (T.51:459c27), though the text itself also warns against
attachment to the cultivation of samâdhi.
infusion, cultivation" (kan ren kun ju): a set of
terms, taken from the Dazhidu lun and used especially
in Tiantai systems for the various "undefiled (muro;
anâsrava) meditations; they are identified by Tiantai
Zhiyi as the second of his three levels of meditation -- the
"transmundane" (shutsu seken; lokottara) practices
that rank above the "mundane" but below the "supreme
(jôjô) transmundane" (see, e.g., his
"The ten stages and virtual
enlightenment" (jûji tôgaku): The final
phases of the bodhisattva path according to the fifty-two stage
system, the latter being the penultimate state, just preceeding,
but virtually equivalent to, buddhahood.
32. The text appears in the Hongzhi guanglu, T48:98a29-b5.
Zhenjue received his title, "Chan Master Spacious Wisdom
(Hongzhi chanshi)," from the Sung emperor Gao Zong.
33. A series of classical allusions to Chan expressions of wisdom,
seen here as medical "lancets".
"Manifestation of the great
function" (daiyô genzen): See Yuanwu's commentary
to the Biyan lu, T.48:142c5.
"Comportment beyond sight
and sound" (shôshiki kôjô igi):
After a line by Xiangyan Zhixian (d.898), Liandeng huiyao,
"Juncture before your parents
were born (or, in some interpretations, "before your parents
gave birth")" (fubo mishô zen): After
a question to Zhixian by his master Gueishan, ibid., 283b15.
"You had better not slander
the buddhas and ancestors" (maku bô busso kô):
Here probably after a remark of Guangxiao Huijue (dates unknown),
"Do not avoid destroying
you body and losing your life" (mimen sôshin shitsumyô):
Again from Zhixian (see note 13); also see Linji lu, T.47:496.
"A head of three feet and
a neck of two inches" (zuchô sanjaku keitan nisun):
From Dongshan Liangjie (807-69), JDCDL, T.51:323a8.
34. "My master had no such words" (senshi mu shi
go): From a remark of Huijue, LDHY, ZZ.2B,9:279a16;
usually understood to mean that the true ancestory lies beyond
"The dharma and robe are
transmitted": A reference to the bequest of the teaching
and robe of Bodhidharma that marks the Chan ancestral lineage.
and "functioning essence" translate yôki
and kiyô, respectively. As binomes, both terms mean
roughly what is pivotal, or essential; but it seems clear from
his association of them with the head and face (for which see
note 21) that Dôgen wants to understand the two component
graphs in each case as expressing the classical metaphysical
categories of "substance" (tai, the "head")
and "function" (yô, the "face"),
or essence and expression -- hence the rather forced translation.
35. Zaha jô shô hi: In colloquial usage, the
term zaha may be read simply as "breaking" (as
in expressions like zakyaku); the translation here reflects
the Zen tradition of associating the element za with zazen.
"When they come in the light...":
From a saying attributed to the wild Chan monk Puhua in the Linji
lu (T.47:503b20); though its interpretation is much debated,
it is usually taken here to suggest the detached spontaneity
of the mind in meditation.
36. Ego fu ego: From a line in the Can tong qi,
of Shitou Xiqian (700-791), JDCDL, T.51:459b10; usually
interpreted to mean that [subject and object] are both independent
"Never hidden throughout
the world" (henkai fu zô zô): From a
saying of Shishuang Qingzhu (807-88), JDCDL, T.51:321a4;
usually glossed here as [the object] is always manifest.
"It does not emerge when
you break the world" (hakai fu shuttô): source
to be identified.
ichinin: From Dongshan Liangjie's "definition"
of the trackless path of his famous "way of the birds"
(niao dao), on which one is said not to "meet anyone."
The "Yu Gate" (umon)
refers to Longmen (present-day Shansi Province), the rapids on
the Yellow River beyond which the climbing carp is said to change
into a dragon; here, taken as a metaphor for the point of awakening.
"Brisk and lively (kappatsupatsu):
The translation loses the piscine imagerey of this term, an onomatopoeic
expression, much favored in Chan, for the leaping of the carp
as it climbs upstream.
"Buddhas of previous 'discrimination'"
(isô funbetsu naru butsubutsu): For an interpretation
of this rather obscure passage, see supplemental note 10.
38. Dôgen's "doubts" (gijaku) here are
usually taken in the sense, "there is more to this than
meets the eye."
A "portent", or indication of what is to come; hence
Hongzhi's mysterious illumination is usually taken as knowledge
of that which "precedes" all things.
"It is not yet brought out"
(imada shôrai se[zu]): sometimes identified as an
allusion to a question posed to the Chan master Zhaozhou by his
disciple Yanyang Shanxin: "How is it when nothing's been
brought out?" (Zongrong lu, no. 57, T.48:263a25).
"Without peer" (mugû),
"rare" (ki): The translation loses the play
in Honzhi's verse on "odd" (gû) and "even"
(ki); hence, the additional sense, "its knowing is
'singular', not 'dual'".
39. Kotai no fugyô chôdô: an allusion
to Dongshan's remark that "[the original face] does not
follow the path of the bird" (JDCDL, T.51:322c26).
The "vessel world"
(kikai, bhâjana-loka) refers to the natural world,
seen as the container of sentient beings.
Dôgen's commentary here
takes advantage of Hongzhi's expression, tettei, which
conveys both a literal and a figurative sense of "getting
to the bottom of something."
40. Shi zai shari: Dôgen is here alluding to a conversation
between the Tang-dynasty masters Bochang and Mazu over a passing
flock of wild geese. When Mazu asked where the birds were going,
Bochang said they had flown away. Mazu twisted Bochang's nose
and said, "You say they've flown away, but from the beginning
they're right here." (Shôbô genzô sanbyaku
soku, DZZ.2:233. Dôgen's text seems to conflate the
original story [see Liandeng hui yao, ZZ.2B,9:247b] with
the interlinear comments in the Biyan lu [T.48:187c21].)
"You should go off..."
(jiki shu sokka mu shi ko: from Dongshan's "explanation"
(JDCDL, T.51:322c23) of how one is to follow his "path
of the bird"; usually interpreted to mean one should go
without leaving a trace (of his sandal strings).
The translation, of course, misses the play throughout this passage
on the Buddhist use of this graph to represent sûnyatâ,
41. That is, in Hongzhi's (and Dôgen's) Caodong lineage
descended from the Tang master Dongshan Liangjie.
"My former master"
(senshi): I.e., Tiantong Rujing. Dôgen's appeal
to his Juching's appreciation of Hongzhi is repeated in the SBGZ
ô saku sendaba (DZZ.1:595); in the context there, it
seems clear that Dôgen had in mind in particular a remark
in the Nyojô goroku (T48:127a25). Hongzhi, of course,
had been the most famous abbot of Rujing's Tiantong monastery.
"Know the music" (chi
in): The translation tries to preserve the etymological sense
of this expression meaning "to know another's true heart",
"to be a true friend"; from the ancient Chinese story
of Zhong Zi Qi, who is said to have known the state of mind of
his friend Bai Ya from the sound (in) of his music.
42. "Third year of Ninji": I.e., 1242.
"Twenty-seventh year of
Shaoxing": I.e., 1157, when Hongzhi died.
43. "Present" (gen) and "completed"
(jô): The two elements of the binome, genjô,
translated earlier as "realization".
and "verification" (shô): From the
term, shinshô, "intimate verification,"
an expression for enlightened understanding much favored by Dahui.
"Stain or defilement"
(senna): Famous in the saying, "The way does not
depend on cultivation; only don't defile it" -- words often
directed against meditation (as by Dahui, at Dahui yulu,
"Upright or inclined"
(shôhen): Terms for absolute and relative used in
the famous schema of five ranks (wu wei) developed by
Dongshan and Caoshan (on which Hongzhi wrote an appreciative
verse [Hongzhi guanglu, T.48:99a]).