Nothing in my life has left me a trace of the Path; 
I have lost my way between the true and the false. 
for long lost days the snow has covered the mountain 
This winter I am aware that the snow makes the mountain 

Rempo Niwa

‘In Master Dogen’s Gakudo Yojinshu, he states, “In the buddha way, one should always enter and experience enlightenment through Practice. … one should know that arousing Practice in the midst of delusion, one attains enlightenment even before recognizing so.” This “Practice in the midst of delusion” means while right amid confusion. As Practice advances, this confusion is the place for a Bodhisattva’s merciful and compassionate heart, the kind heart of Buddha, the loving heart of a mother in caring for a child. This is confusion and to be bathed in confusion. A mother may feel that she must do this thing for her beautiful child, or that to help her child, but we might say that each others’ mutual bodies are also in a kind of separation and confusion. This skin, flesh, bones and marrow, the whole body, may be called by the name of confusion.

But that confusion, when one is sitting Zazen with the entire body, is Practice amid confusion. Then, this “attains realization before even recognizing so” is as Master Dogen said in another writing, Gyobutsu YuIgi, “Keep in mind that Buddhas, being within the Buddha’s Way, do not wait for enlightenment.” Because the many Buddhas do not wait for enlightenment, enlightenment is not something in need of waiting for. Already, right now, each intimate act from morning until night whether walking, standing, sitting or reclining, doing just this to help all the people of this world, wishing to do that other thing, just each individual act is already Satori. One is already in Satori even before experiencing Satori. … Continuing action by action, there is no gap, no missing space.’ (On Zen Practice)

This is how I understand Dogen. Can you affirm this ‘no gap, no missing space?


‘Through the merit of practice you may be given the gift of an entire nation, and this may appear to be a great achievement in the world. But do not be blinded; look deeply on such an occasion. Foolish people may rejoice, but they are like dogs licking a dry bone. Wise people and sages reject this just as worldly people are disgusted by excrement. 

In general, when you are a beginner you cannot fathom the buddha way. Your assumptions do not hit the mark. The fact that you cannot fathom the buddha way as a beginner does not mean that you lack ultimate understanding, but it does mean that you do not recognize the deepest point.’ (Shobogenzo Keisei Sanshiki)

Jay Caspian Kang

‘I do not know if there is a way to trick oneself into noticing more of these instances of quality, nor do I know if enlightenment rests on the accumulation of little ecstasies, nor do I believe—at least anymore—that those of us who have sought the path through books, meditation, or study have any more access to “quality” than those who have not.’ (from the New Yorker)

This was an article reflecting on Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which I have not read, so I felt a little disadvantaged. The point of it, though, was a rumination on the quality of “quality,” which I would simply translate as “attention,” (and re-reading the Tenzo Kyokun for the current class reminded me how often that word appears). But, to attempt to answer the questions, yes, meditation helps people access this, though not exclusively of course, and perhaps each of the little ecstasies is actually a moment of enlightenment.

Sojun Mel Weitsman

‘Anyone working in the kitchen long hours needs to find a rhythm for their work. This way they can find their ease within the work itself. This is true of all our activities. It is certainly true of zazen. Usually we work hard, then rest; then work hard again, then rest again. But when you engage in a continuous activity over a long period, you have to find your rest and your ease within the activity itself. Otherwise you can’t sustain yourself. This is the koan of work. It is also the koan of zazen.’

This comes from an article that I use in support of my class on the Tenzo Kyokun, which starts today.


‘In this remote nation in recent days those who genuinely seek buddha dharma are rare—it is not that there are none. Many people leave their households, appearing free from worldly matters, but in fact they use the buddha way to seek fame and gain. What a pity! How sad that they waste their time in unilluminated trades! When will they break away and attain the way? If they meet a true teacher, how will they recognize the true dragon?’ (Shobogenzo Keisei Sanshiki)

We read this passage in the Dogen study group this week; another fine example of Dogen lamenting the state of dharma.


‘When you take care of things, do not see with your common eyes, do not think with your common sentiments. Pick a single blade of grass and erect a sanctuary for the jewel king; enter a single atom and turn the great wheel of the teaching. So even when you are making a broth of coarse greens do not arouse an attitude of distate or dismissal. Even when you are making a high-quality cream soup, do not arouse an attitude of rapture or dancing for joy. If you already have no attachments, how could you have any disgust? Therefore, although you may encounter inferior ingredients, do not be at all negligent; although you may come across delicacies, be all the more diligent. Never alter your state of mind based on materials. People who change their mind according to ingredients, or adjust their speech to the status of whoever they are talking to are not people of the way.’ (Tenzo Kyokun)

One of many deeply resonant passages from Dogen’s instructions to the cook. Just a reminder that I will be starting a three-week course on this text for Zen Center next Saturday; details are here.


‘No one gained the Way by erecting lofty buildings that have gleaming jewels and gold adornments. This merely is a good action that gives blessings by bringing lay treasures into the Buddhist world. Although small causes can have large effects. Buddhism does not prosper if monks engage in such activities. If you learn one phrase of the Buddha’s teaching or practice zazen even for a moment in a thatched hut or even under a tree, Buddhism will truly flourish.’ (Shobogenzo Zuimonki)

I have probably posted this passage before, but it is a good one. I noted from the sleeve of the edition that I have that ‘zuimonki’ means ‘easy for the ears to understand,’ which is certainly true for most of these talks.


‘One time mountains are flowing, another time they are not flowing. If you do not fully understand this, you do not understand the true dharma wheel of the Tathagata. 

An ancient buddha said, “If you do not wish to incur the cause for Unceasing Hell, do not slander the true dharma wheel of the Tathagata.” Carve these words on your skin, flesh, bones, and marrow; on your body, mind, and environs; on emptiness and on form. They are already carved on trees and rocks, on fields and villages.’ (Shobogenzo Sansuikyo)

This holding of two seemingly contradictory views – flowing and not flowing – are at the heart of Buddhist understanding. As Dogen points out, everything else is comfortable with this view, so we can become intimate with it too.

Suzuki Roshi

‘People may say, if the purpose of Zen is to see “things as it is,” then there will be no need to practice. There [laughs] is—there is the great problem. I think the most—in your everyday life, the good practice may be to make your flower garden or raise flower or to make a garden. That is, I think, the best practice. You know, when you sow some seed, you have to wait the seed coming up. And if it comes out, you have to take care of it. That is our practice. Just to sow a seed is not enough. To take care of it day after day is the—very important for the good gardener. Or while some other work like building a house, you know, if you—once you build a house, his work is finished. If someone write a book—if—if someone has written a book, that is enough. But for a gardener, it is necessary to take care of it every day. Even though you make that garden, it is necessary to take care of it. So, I think our way is to make garden—nearly the same as to make your own garden, or to raise some vegetables or flower.

And each seed or each plant has its own character and has its own color and has its—has its own color. And if it is stone, each stone has its own character. Long one has its—has some solemn, profound feeling; and round stone [laughs] has some perfect idea—symbolize or express the perfection; and square one express some rigidness or austerity—austere feeling. And each stone has its own character. And if it has moss on it, it has some deep, profound, mystical feeling to it. Those are, you know, those are the character of each material you use in your garden.

But people may say—if people say, “Whatever we do, that is Zen,” you know, “I am seeing ‘things as it is’” [laughs]. People may see it, you know, individually—one after—one by one, but that is not enough. You see it, actually, you see—maybe you see “things as it is,” you may say, but it is—you are just seeing the each material and each character of the material.’ (from the Suzuki Roshi archive)

I was listening to this transcript from the first summer at Tassajara when I realised I hadn’t added yesterday’s post from Dogen. Turning back to Suzuki Roshi, I thought that this was a perfect commentary on that.