Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Dōgen Zenji, The Zen Master

A single flower blooms,

five petals open,

and fruit ripens by itself.


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 one dewdrop on the grass.


Yunyan asked Daowu: “How does the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion use so many hands and eyes?”

Daowu said: “It’s just like a person in the middle of the night reaching back in search of a pillow.”

Yunyan said: “I understand.”

Daowu said: “How do you understand it?”

Yunyan said: “All over the body are hands and eyes.”

Daowu said: “What you said is all right, but it’s only eighty percent of it.”

Yunyan said: “I’m like this, senior brother. How do you understand it?”

Daowu said: “Throughout the body are hands and eyes.”


Dōgen Zenji is a Zen Master who lived during the 13th Century in Japan and travelled extensively in China. Shōbōgenzō (Treasury of the True Dharma Eye) is considered to be his masterpiece, which is an elaborate philosophical treatise on Buddhism. The first two Zen poems and the last Koan excerpted above are attributed to this Zen Master, who is associated with the Sōtō sect of Japanes Buddhism. Dōgen Zenji emphasised that the practice of Zazen and the very experience of enlightenment are both one and the same. Zazen (by the method of Shikantaza) is one of the fundamental Zen Buddhist meditative practice which means "just sitting"! In such a seated meditation, one gradually suspends all judgmental thinking and let the words, ideas, images and thoughts pass by without getting involved in any of them. It makes one realise one's true Buddha nature and enlightenment.


Just before he passed away into the sands of time in 1253, Dōgen Zenji wrote this beautiful poem :

Fifty-four years lighting up the sky.

A quivering leap smashes a billion worlds.


Entire body looks for nothing.

Living, I plunge into Yellow Springs.