‘Some people think that buddha nature is like seeds of grass and trees: when dharma rain is abundant, sprouts and stems grow; branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit mature; and their fruit contains seeds. Such a view is an assumption of ordinary people. If you come up with such an assumption, investigate thoroughly that each and every seed, flower, and fruit is itself pure mind.

A fruit has seeds that are not visible but develop roots, stems, and so forth. The elements of the plants are not assembled from outside, but branches and twigs grow. Not limited to inside or outside, the growth of plants is not in vain, past and present. Thus, even if you take up the view of ordinary people, the roots, stems, branches, and leaves are the all are of buddha nature that rises and perishes simultaneously with all things.’ (Shobogenzo Bussho)

Shohaku Okumura

‘In the reality of Buddha’s life, we are connected with and supported by all things. The self is not the subject of reality and other things are not its objects; we are in fact one with all things in the entire universe, and this reality is itself enlightenment. Enlightenment is not something that we can possess or experience. We cannot, because of a certain experience that happened under certain circumstances, say, “I am an enlightened person.” If we judge and experience and say “I had an enlightenment experience,” we have already separated “I” from the reality of all things, when in fact there is no “enlightenment” that is separate from this reality. Rather than striving for a particular experience or goal, we should simply keep practicing without judgment or evaluation. This means approaching all that we do without selfish desire, without even the desire for enlightenment; to practise in this way is to manifest universal reality. This is difficult, of course, because even when we are helping others or making sacrifices for them, we can usually find, if we search our hearts and minds deeply enough, an ego-centered motivation for our activity. This is true even in our zazen practice.

What complicated beings we are! It is impossible to make simple judgments about the egocentricity of our actions. Yet as the Buddha’s children practicing with our bodhisattva vows, we must keep trying to help others and free ourselves of selfishness. Try as we may, however, we will never be able to declare, “Now I am completely free from selfish desires.” All we can do is to try in each moment, to practice the Buddha Way; we just keep opening the hand of thought and continuing to practice. There is no time when one can say, “I’m finished – now I have finally reached the level of an enlightened person.” As Dogen Zenji says, our practice is endless.’ (Realizing Genjokoan)

Brad Warner

‘My teacher Gudo Nishijima Roshi wrote a book called Understanding The Shobogenzo. Shobogenzo is a famous book by the 12th century Japanese Buddhist philosopher Dogen Zenji. In his book about Dogen’s book, my teacher says, “We generally feel that a book in which the writer contradicts him/herself is of little value. This is largely because our modern civilization has grown to be vast and powerful from the thousands of years over which human beings have developed logical and exact ways to process and control their environment. The intellect has become king. Human beings have used their powers of reasoning to develop a whole field of intellectual and moral studies to guide our progress through history. And in recent times, we have applied our reasoning powers to exact scientific study of our world, based on belief in causal laws. So in today’s world, in both philosophy and science, anyone who puts foreword contradictory propositions is soon passed over. Writings that are not logically consistent are disregarded by scholars and serious students. They are unacceptable to our finely-tuned intellects.”

Nishijima Roshi then says, “From our common intellectual viewpoint, logical contradiction can never be permitted. But Master Dogen seemed to have two viewpoints: the normal intellectual viewpoint of the philosopher, and another viewpoint; one that looked at problems based on something outside the intellectual area. Now whether philosophical thought should admit the existence of an area other than the intellectual area as a basis for debate is perhaps the crux of the problem with Buddhist philosophy and the Shobogenzo.”’ (from Hardcore Zen)

I have been thinking about this approach to Dogen ahead of the upcoming Zen Center class, but also in terms of how we think about just about everything – which will be the subject of tomorrow’s post.


The true person is
Not anyone in particular;
But, like like the deep blue colour
Of the limitless sky,
It is everyone, everywhere in the world

Suzuki Roshi

‘Soto way is to use everything in right purpose and to put everything [in] its own– its own place. What should be put on high place should be put on high place, and what should be put on floor should be on floor. In America, you know, you put scriptures [laughs] on the floor where you walk. We don’t, you know. But I don’t know how to do it– how to treat those scriptures in your way of life. So until I find out [laughs] some way, I don’t say, “Don’t put scriptures on the floor.” But this is not supposed to be put on– supposed to be treated as a rubbish, you know– as rubbish. This is not rubbish. Scripture should be put on table, or altar, or in your hand. Those small things is very important.’ (from the Suzuki Roshi Archives)

I don’t feel bad about having another Suzuki Roshi post relatively soon after the last one – perhaps one day this blog will be all Suzuki Roshi and Dogen…

In any case, I have been working very hard to polish up parts of the archive prior to a more public unveiling of the work we have been doing on the audio side of things. On Friday, since we had an unusual thunderstorm and some rain early in the morning, I didn’t bother to go out on my bike after my early teaching, but just got my teeth into archive work, and by the end of the day my eyes were square.

Also, in this case, from the first recorded sesshin at Sokoji, in 1965, Suzuki Roshi is quoting Dogen (who was also quoting someone else, if I recall correctly – I’m not sure I have the brainpower to go and look for the lines in the Tenzokyokun), and giving his students a reminder of how to practise. It’s the kind of thing that you don’t think about until you do start formal practice, and then you realise that the so-called ‘small things’ are very important.

Instructions To The Cook

‘After the noon meal the tenzo should go to the tsūsu and kansu to get the rice, vegetables, and other ingredients for the following morning and noon meals. Once he has these, he must handle them as carefully as if they were his own eyes. Renyong of Baoneng said, “Use the property and possessions of the community as carefully as if they were your own eyes.” The tenzo should handle all food he receives with respect, as if it were to be used in a meal for the emperor. Cooked and uncooked food must be handled in the same manner. 

Next, all the officers meet in the kitchen or pantry and decide what food is to be prepared for the following day, for example, the type of the rice gruel, the vegetables, the seasoning. In the Chanyuan Qinggui it says: “When deciding on the amount of food and number of side dishes for the morning and noonday meals, the tenzo should consult with the other officers. They are the tsūsu, kansu, fūsu, ino, and shissui. When they have chosen the meals, the menus should be posted on the notice boards in front of the abbot’s room as well as in front of the study hall.” When this has been done, preparations for the next morning’s meal may begin. You must not leave the washing of rice or preparation of vegetables to others, but must carry out this work with your own hands. Put your whole attention into the work, seeing just what the situation calls for. 

Prepare those vegetables that will be used in a side dish for the following morning’s meal. At the same time, clean up the rice and leftover soup from the noon meal. Conscientiously wash out the rice container and the soup pot, along with any other utensils that were used. Put those things that naturally go on a high place onto a high place, and those that would be most stable on a low place onto a low place; things that naturally belong on a high place settle best on a high place, while those which belong on a low place find their greatest stability there. 

Clean the chopsticks, ladles, and all other utensils; handle them with equal care and awareness, putting everything back where it naturally belongs. Keep your mind on your work and do not throw things around carelessly. After this work has been done it is time to prepare for the following day’s noon meal. First of all, check to see whether there are any insects, peas, rice-bran, or tiny stones in the rice, and if so, carefully winnow them out. When choosing the rice and vegetables to be used, those working under the tenzo should offer sutras to the spirit of the kamado.  

Then, begin preparing the ingredients for whatever side dish and soup there might be, cleaning everything thoroughly of any dirt or insects. When the tenzo receives the food from the kusu, he must never complain about its quality or quantity, but always handle everything with the greatest care and attention. Nothing could be worse than to complain about too much or too little of something, or of inferior quality. 

Both day and night, allow all things to come into and reside within your mind. Allow your mind (Self) and all things to function together as a whole. Before midnight direct your attention to organizing the following day’s work; after midnight begin preparations for the morning meal. After the morning meal, wash the pots and cook the rice and soup for the noon meal.’ (Dogen, from the Tenzokyokun)

‘Climbing into a taxi on Broadway, I decide that the fish special will be grilled tuna livornaise with roasted potatoes and grilled asparagus. It’s a layup. My overworked grill man can heat the already cooked spuds and the blanched asparagus on a sizzle platter; the tuna will get a quick walk across the grill; and all he’ll have to do is heat up the sauce at the last minute. For the appetizer special, I’m thinking cockles steamed with chorizo, leeks, tomatoes, and white wine—a one-pan wonder. The meat special is more problematic. The tuna will be taking up most of the grill’s time, so the meat will have to be prepared at the sauté station. Not easy. Les Halles features classic French bistro food, and at any one time the sauté station has to be ready to turn out moules à la marinièreboudin noir with caramelized apples, filet au poivre, steak au poivre, steak tartare, calf’s liver persillé, cassoulet Toulousain, magret de moulard with quince and sauce miel, the ridiculously popular mignon of pork, pieds de cochon, and a navarin of lamb that comes with baby carrots, pearl onions, niçoise olives, garlic confit, tomato concassée, fava beans, and chopped fresh herbs. But I’ve got a leg of venison and twelve pheasants coming in. I decide on the pheasant. I can par-roast it ahead of time, so that all my sous-chef will have to do is take it off the bone and sling it into the oven to finish, then heat up the sauce and the garnishes before serving….

Before noon, I cut and pepper pavées and filets; skin and slice calf’s liver; caramelize apples; blanch baby carrots; make garlic confit; produce a livornaise sauce for the tuna and start a currant sauce for the pheasant; and assemble the navarin. Then I write up the specials so that Camélia can enter them into the computer and set the prices. At eight-thirty, my butcher, Hubert, arrives, looking as if he’s woken up under a bridge. He unloads the meat order—côtes de bœuf, entrecôtes, rump steaks, racks of lamb, lamb-stew meat, merguez sausages, saucisson de Toulouse, rosette, pork belly, onglets, scraps, meat for steak tartare, pork tenderloins larded with bacon and garlic, pâtés, rillettes, galantines, and chickens.’ (Anthony Bourdain, from the New Yorker)

Tonen O’Connor

‘I’ve been reading Shohaku Okumura’s new book, The Mountains and Waters Sutra, a Practioner’s Guide to Dōgen’s Sansuikyo,and I came across the following :
There is actually no such thing as what we call “water”: it is merely a collection of two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen. When electrolyzed it becomes a vapor of hydrogen and oxygen. Just as a bubble is an event within the interaction between air and water, water is an event in which hydrogen and oxygen are connected. There is no fixed entity called water. 
Every once in awhile I have a reaction to a statement that is a sudden sense of realization, a sort of “Wow!,” a sense of profound awareness. I suppose I could say of “getting it.” That is what happened when I read the words above. Water is not a THING; water is an EVENT. Suddenly my whole understanding of interdependent origination took on clarity. What surrounds me are not “things.” They are “events.” I am an event. The universe is a vast event to which everything contributes.’ (from The Ancient Way Journal blog)

I thought this was worth a repeat viewing.


‘Do not regard great enlightenment as becoming a buddha, returning to the source, and manifesting a buddha body. Do not regard becoming deluded as returning to be a sentient being. People with mistaken views talk about breaking great enlightenment and returning to be a sentient being…

Great enlightenment is limitless, delusion is limitless, and delusion does not hinder great enlightenment; take up threefold great enlightenment and turn it into a half-fold minor delusion. Thus the Himalayas are greatly enlightened to benefit the Himalayas. Wood and stone are greatly enlightened taking the forms of wood and stone.’ (Shobogenzo Daigo)


‘Direct hearing is not merely observing. It is true observation. It is not at the moment of direct hearing that talking goes away and is confined somewhere. It is not at the time of talking that direct hearing hides its body in the eye of talking and resounds like thunder. It is just that you do not hear at the time of talking; you directly hear at the time of not-talking.’ (Shobogenzo Bukkojo Ji)


‘Monks’ actions are endeavor in the cloud hall [monks’ hall], bowing in the buddha hall, and cleansing in the wash house. Further, putting palms together, greeting, burning incense, and boiling water are all right actions. It is not replacing the tail with the head, but replacing the head with the head, replacing the mind with the mind, replacing the buddha with the buddha, and replacing the way with the way. This is the right action path limb.

If you go astray and try to fathom buddha dharma other than this, your eyebrows and beard will fall out and your face will break up.’ (Shobogenzo Sanjushichi Hon Bodai Bumpo)

This Thirty-Seven Wings of Enlightenment fascicle mostry reads like pro-monastic propaganda, but this notion of right action can apply anywhere.