‘This very body and mind are not merely the five skandhas. Our wondrous existence is most excellent, and should not be an object of desire. Without coming or going, we simply respond to sounds and colours. Further, we turn around from our center, and move out in the eight directions. Negating all dualities, our feet are on the ground. How could there be arising and perishing, as our magnanimous energy pierces the heavens? Although it is like this, do not say that killing Buddha after all has no results. The genuine cause of attaining buddhahood is zazen.’ (Extensive Record, 286)




‘When you realize buddha dharma, you do not think, “This is realization just as I expected.” Even if you think so, realization inevitably differs from your expectation. Realization is not like your conception of it. Accordingly, realization cannot take place as previously conceived. When you realize buddha dharma, you do not consider how realization came about. Reflect on this: what you think one way or another before realization is not a help for realization.
Although realization is not like any of the thoughts preceding it, this is not because such thoughts were actually bad and could not be realization. But since you were seeking elsewhere, you thought and said that thoughts cannot be realization.
However, it is worth noticing that what you think one way or another is not a help for realization. For this reason, you become cautious not to be small-minded. Indeed, if realization came forth by the power of your prior thought, it would not be trustworthy.’ (Shobogenzo Yuibutsu Yobutsu)

This is what the monk in last week’s story needed to hear. I found this passage very helpful myself, as it let me shed any last lingering hope that I would think my way to enlightenment. That in itself made a nice difference to my practice…

Reb Anderson

‘To sit without delving into existence or nonexistence is called wholeheartedly sitting.’ (The Third Turning of the Wheel)

Perhaps this quote might seem a little scary – how can we not be delving into existence – or nonexistence. It brings to mind the phrase from Dogen, ‘no longer concerned with conceptual distinctions.’ I remember how long that line was debated when we studied it at Tassajara in 2004; now I see it very simply. There are conceptual distinctions, just as there is existence and nonexistence. It is the delving into, or being concerned with – or getting bogged down in your ideas about, to put it more bluntly – these things that causes the problems.


A monk asked Xuedou, “What is your manner of teaching?”
Xuedou replied, “When guests come, one should see them.” (quoted in Zen Essence)

If you have been reading this blog from the very beginning, and have a good memory, or if you have read the Tenzokyokun a fair number of times, the name Xuedou will ring a bell. Dogen quotes his wonderful poem in that piece, and I recently dug out the three translations I have to look at with my students. I think what he is saying in this exchange is very much in line with the poem, though perhaps easier to grasp.


Sansheng asked Xuefeng, “The golden fish that’s passed through the net – what does it use for food?”
Xuefeng said, “When you come out of the net, then I’ll tell you.”
Sansheng said, “The teacher of fifteen hundred people, yet you don’t even know a saying.”
Xuefeng said, “My tasks as abbot are many.” (Book of Serenity, case 33)

Xuefeng throws some serious shade at the end, and rightly so. The point is that if you ‘pass through the net’ – or the ‘gateless gate’, to use an analogous expression – you no longer worry about the things you worried about before, and if you have not passed through, then why waste time being concerned with what is in the future? It will not, as Dogen pointed out in Shobogenzo Yuibutsu Yobutsu, be the way you thought of it at all (I am surprised that I don’t seem to have quoted that passage, and I shall rectify it soon…)
It is also worth considering the Xuefeng is not letting on whether he has ‘passed through’ or not (we assume, as the monk does, that he has), but in either case, he still has work to do as abbot.


‘Going to the seashore to count grains of sand vainly wastes one’s strength. Polishing a tile to make a mirror is a meaningless use of effort. Don’t you see that the clouds above the tall mountains naturally wind and unwind around each other, so how could they be intimate or estranged? The water of a deep river channel follows along the straight stretches and curves without preferring this way or that. The daily activity of living beings is like clouds and water. Clouds and water are like this, but people are not. If they could be like this, how could they ever transmigrate in the triple world?’ (Extensive Record, 281)