It is kind speech to speak to sentient beings as you would to a baby…. If kind speech is offered, little by little, kind speech expands… Know that kind speech arises from kind heart, and kind heart from the seeds of compassionate heart. Ponder the fact that kind speech is not just praising the merit of others; it has the power to turn the destiny of the nation.’ (Shobogenzo Bodaisatta Shi Shoho)

In my recent dharma talk at Zen Center, I brought in Dogen’s Bodhisattva’s Four Methods of Guidance towards the end of the talk, as I felt it is a good example of some concrete ways to help people through the ways you think and act towards them, and seemed to fit in with the themes from Sharon Salzberg’s Real Love that made up the bulk of the talk. As I said in relation to the above quote, how much do we need to hear this as a nation at the moment.

I am giving another talk on Monday 22nd at the Dharma Eye group in San Rafael; I expect to offer a remix of the Zen Center talk, and I think I will bring Dogen front and centre this time and see where that takes me. Sometimes I wonder about offering an apology for the amount of Dogen on this site; mostly I know that his teachings are the crux of our practice, and hopefully the pieces I choose can make some of the denser work more accessible.



‘There is a simple way to become a buddha: When you refrain from unwholesome actions, are not attached to birth and death, and are compassionate toward all sentient beings, respectful to seniors and kind to juniors, not excluding or desiring anything, with no thoughts or worries, you will be called a buddha. Seek nothing else.’ (Shobogenzo Shoji)

I may have posted this before, but the utter simplicity can come and smack us in the face every time, in any case. Simple, but not easy, as they say (and as I probably said before)….

Suzuki Roshi

‘I think most of us study Buddhism like something already given to us. We think what we should do is preserve the Buddha’s teaching, like putting food in the refrigerator. We think that to study Buddhism is to take the food out of the refrigerator. Whenever you want it, it is already there. Instead, Zen students should be interested in how to produce food from the field, from the garden, should put the emphasis on the ground. If you look at the empty garden you won’t see anything, but if you take care of the seed it will come up. The joy of Buddhism is the joy of taking care of the garden.’ (Not Always So)

This is a subtle point to grasp, and I certainly did not get it when I started practising. As I was wondering what to say about it, Dogen’s words from the Bendowa came to mind: ‘Although this inconceivable dharma is abundant in each person, it is not actualized without practice.’ It is our own practice that makes the dharma come alive, not whatever we happen to read about it.


‘As the heavenly sky is vacant and clear, oneness attains oneness and is undefiled. The earth is covered with nourishing moisture, penetrating a thousand and soaking ten thousand. How is it right at this time?

After a pause Dogen said: News of spring spreads harmony and the entire world is fragrant. The deity of spring sits immovably in the cloud monks’ hall. On each branch flowers bloom with coral color. The blossoms of the world open, and this is a heavenly realm.’ (Extensive Record, 90, New Year’s Dharma Hall Discourse 1242)



‘Traveling the world, meeting conditions, the self joyfully enters samadhi in all delusions and accepts its function, which is to empty out the self so as not to be full of itself.’ (Cultivating the Empty Field)

The footnote to this sentence points to Hongzhi’s expression pre-figuring Dogen’s exposition of jijuyu zanmai, and observes that ‘the Chinese compound that means enjoyment or fulfillment translates literally as “receive function.”‘ I have noted before how hard it was for me to get my head around jijuyu zanmaibut I think the idea that we can simply accept our function, our place in the world, makes things a lot clearer and smoother – and perhaps then we can enter samadhi in all delusions without thinking that somehow we should be doing something different.



Sekkei Harada

‘We know that Master Dogen did not lie down to rest for three years, yet he tells us not to stand out or go to extremes. How can he say this? He can say this because he made the great effort of not lying down to sleep. Because of his own great effort he was able to instruct us, to tell us, “You needn’t experience the same hardships that I have. I’ve realized that it’s all about now. So the most important thing is to realize that everything is already the way it should be. It isn’t good to look for something special.”
But we should be very careful. Just because Master Dogen said this doesn’t mean that we needn’t do anything. A delicious piece of cake will not simply fall in to our lap by just thinking about it. Cake is not going to fall out of the sky, no matter how long we wait for it to. We won’t fill our stomachs that way. Only after having made great effort is someone able to say, “The practice of the Three Vehicles is totally unnecessary.”  (Unfathomable Depths)

So is Sekkei Harada telling us that if we want to have cake, we don’t need to bake it from scratch, but that, since cake shops exist, it is okay to go and buy a ready-made cake when we want it?
Seriously, though, there is a strong point here that seems hard to grasp at the beginning of practice. I did not go anything like as far as Dogen, or the other stories we read of diligent students poking themselves in the leg with an awl to stay awake; yet I know that my experience of doing a number of practice periods at Tassajara would seem pretty extreme to most people. And I know that it is not essential to do this. It just does seem to take a radical shaking of our conventional world-view, however it comes about, to have us awake to the crucial point expressed above: ‘the most important thing is to realize that everything is already the way it should be.’

Gudo Nishijima

Sho expresses plurality; it means “all,” “various,” or “many.” Ho means “dharmas,” both physical things and mental phenomena. Jitsu means “real.” So means form. The Lotus Sutra teaches the most important and fundamental theory in Buddhism: that “all things and phenomena are real form.” Because Buddhism is a philosophy of realism, its viewpoint is different from idealism and materialism. The idealist sees only phenomena, which cannot be confirmed to be substantially real. Idealists thus doubt that phenomena are real form. The materialist looks at the detail, breaking things into parts, thus losing the meaning and value that is included in the whole. Buddhism says that reality is all things and phenomena existing here and now and reveres them as real substance: reality itself. This teaching is found in the Lotus Sutra, expressed with the words “all dharmas are real form.”‘ (Introduction to Shobogenzo Shoho Jisso)

By way of a commentary, I will perhaps point you back to a post from the other day; there is nothing special beyond what is laid out here, in front of us: the reality of all things. Or, as another translation of shoho jisso has it, all things are ultimate reality.