Dogen

‘Students of the Way should neither read the scriptures of other Buddhist teachings nor study non-Buddhist texts. If you do read, examine the writings of Zen. Other works should be put aside for a while.
Zen monks are fond of literature these days, finding it an aid to writing verses and tracts. This is a mistake. Even if you cannot compose verse, just write what is in your heart. Grammatical niceties do not matter if you just express the teachings of the Buddha. Those who lack the mind that seeks the Way may complain that someone’s writing is bad. Yet no matter how elegant their prose or how exquisite their poetry might be, they are merely toying with words and cannot gain the Truth. I have loved literature since I was young and even now recall beautiful phrases from non-Buddhist works. I have been tempted to take up such books as the Wen-hsuan, but I have come to feel that it would be a waste of time and am inclined to think that such reading should be cast aside completely.’ (Shobogenzo Zuimonki 2,8).

I love this collection of Dogen’s short talks from his early days of running a monastery in Japan. They are less formal than the fascicles of the main Shobogenzo, and more straightforward in their encouragement; I try to picture his assembly of confused but sincere beginners and how they would respond to such words. Interestingly, looking up the Wen-hsuan (sticking to the spelling in the translation), I discover that it was compiled by the son of Emperor Wu of Liang, and we all know how he responded when he met a master (never thought I would be linking to Reddit…)

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