Kokyo Henkel

‘In Dōgen’s monastery Eiheiji, during his time, there was a study hall (shuryō) equipped with individual reading desks. Dōgen wrote, “In the study hall, read the Mahayana sutras and the records of the Zen ancestors; in this way you can accord with our tradition of illuminating the mind with the ancient teachings.” At Tassajara Zen Monastery, there is a Dharma study period in the daily schedule during the 90-day ango. On the other hand, at Bukkokuji Zen Monastery in Japan, where I practiced with Tangen Harada Rōshi, the resident sangha was not allowed to study any Dharma, much less read the newspaper. The temple guideline was to not read any print smaller than a street sign – thus, on the rare occasion when someone went into town, he could find his way around. Tangen Rōshi, who had practiced this way himself in his early monastic days, said that anyone who made it to Bukkokuji to practice must have already heard enough Dharma and now just needed to put it into practice wholeheartedly. Understanding Dharma was still important, but in such a case, it only needed to come through the living teacher.

In my own case, I was very drawn to Dharma study from the beginning, with a strong intention to study everything about Buddha-Dharma and especially Sōtō Zen. After a few years of reading many sutras and Zen texts, and a year at Bukkokuji where I heard of the practice of refraining from reading, I asked my teacher if I should go on a reading “fast” for some months or years. He discouraged me from such a fast, and when I look back now, I feel that this was good advice. Over the years of deepening Dharma study, I came to learn that my earlier views were not so clear and accurate, and as my understanding deepened my zazen practice deepened accordingly. Dharma study is endless, and thus the depth of practice-and-verification during zazen is endless.’ (from Treasure the Road)

This is another fascinating article from Catherine’s new website. I would definitely concur with the concluding lines: re-reading texts and sutras over the years, different aspects revealed themselves to me – they were always there, but as Dogen says “You see and understand only what your eye of practice can reach.”

2 thoughts on “Kokyo Henkel

  1. I am still very new to the dharma, relatively speaking, but I’m finding this to be true. I do a lot of driving, so a lot of my studying is coming in the firm of listening to audio books and podcasts, and I’m finding certain teachings, koans, and aspects of the sutras being repeated over and over again in different sources, and each time, I recognize it, but then take something new from it in the context it’s provided. I think that there is such a vast amount of information out there, part of me is afraid to over saturate, but I’m beginning to realize that yeah.. It’s possible to discern what’s useful or what’s not. But I am actually enjoying the process… It’s making a difference in my life. 💜


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