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.


  1. When I read this Koan excerpted in your Blog about the compassion of the Bodhisattva, I was profoundly moved by the Zen Master's interpretation. The Bodhisattvas, in their myriad manifestations, are supposed to be possessing a hundred thousand hands and a hundred thousand eyes. Such a mythical construct is difficult to imagine. Humanly impossible to comprehend!

    Dogen Zenji comes to the rescue and disentangles the mind by asking through a Koan as to how do I understand it.

    The compassion of the Bodhisattva is so much caring and loving as though He holds me with a hundred thousand hands and always sees me with a hundred thousand eyes. That is the Divine Grace and the Eternal Protection bestowed upon me by Avalokitesvara!

    It gave me goose pimples when I read the interpretation of the Zen Master - such hundred thousand hands and eyes are not all over the body of the Bodhisattva, but they are just through-out the body!

    The whole Being of Boddhisatva becomes the hands and the eyes. And the entire body dissolves into a caring Being in that grand compassion.

    Can there be a more magnificent beauty in language that can describe such a Grace?!

  2. Isn't it surprising that we keep running from one desire to another and live an unfulfilled life even after being told time and again that our true nature is supreme bliss, knowledge and existence beyond time, space and causation(Sat-Chit-Anand swaroop). While our true nature is desirelessness, we still do not respect our own self. This only shows the level of agyan, avidya, maya or whatever we may call it which has permeated our very being. Each one of us has a Buddha inside us but not manifested. I wish some of the words of Dōgen Zenji may get rub on us also which would flower in due course.

  3. First thankfully appreciate for this posting of Buddha..

    The picture of Buddha + Hibiscus Flower + Below Poem is ultimate coherence.

    "A single flower blooms,
    five petals open,
    and fruit ripens by itself".

    Whenever having a chance to see Buddha statue always feel abundant silence within and realise the root for somewhile..

    The lines describing about "Enlightenment" gives profound insight about it.

    As Pankaj said, "Each one of us has a Buddha inside us but not manifested.." is absolutely true.

    That's what the Dogen Zenji's words are able to reach the souls effortlessly.

  4. The picture is marvellous!!