‘Is the Way attained through the mind or through the body? The teaching schools say that, since body and mind are identical, it is attained through the body. Yet since they say that body and mind are identical, it is not explicitly stated that the Way is attained by the body. In Zen the Way is attained with both body and mind. If you contemplate Buddhism with the mind alone, not for ten thousand kalpas or a thousand lives can you attain the Way. But if you let go the mind and cast aside knowledge and intellectual understanding, you will gain the way. Those who gained enlightenment by seeing blossoms or hearing sounds achieved it through the body. Therefore, if you cast aside completely the thoughts and concepts of the mind and concentrate on zazen alone you attain to an intimacy with the Way. The attainment of the Way is truly accomplished with the body. For this reason, I urge you to concentrate on zazen.’(Shobogenzo Zuimonki)

Shohaku Okumura

‘Our practice is not a means to get rid of delusive thoughts. Being mindful of true reality is not a method to eliminate delusions. In fact, when we sit in zazen, we sit squarely within the reality before the separation of delusion and enlightenment. We usually think of ourselves as deluded human beings and of buddhas as enlightened beings. We imagine that our practice is a method to transform a deluded being into an enlightened one by removing delusion. This idea is itself dualistic and contrary to the reality before separation.

So should we give up practice and pursue our delusions? No, what we must do is sit in zazen and let go of all dualistic ideas. In doing so, true reality manifests itself. Delusion and enlightenment are both here.

Neither is negated or affirmed; neither is grasped. We sit on the ground of letting go. This is the meaning of Dogen Zenji’s expression “Practice and enlightenment are one.” There is no state to be attained other than our practice of letting go. We practice within delusions and manifest enlightenment through sitting practice and day-to-day activities based on zazen. These practices enable us to settle our whole existence on that ground.’ (Living By Vow)

It takes a long time, in my experience to accept this, but doing so is the key to practice.


Everyone admires
A graceful horse
Galloping past the streaming sunlight,
But few realize that this fleeting image
Is itself the way of Dharma.


‘Even the self does not know where the self will settle down; how could others determine where others will settle down? How could it not be a mistake to find others’ faults with our own faults? Although there is a difference between the senior and junior and the wise and stupid, as members of the sangha they are the same. Moreover, the wrong in the past may be right in the present, so who could distinguish the sage from the common person?’ (Tenzo Kyokun)

This quote came to mind recently, and I posted the first half of it on Instagram – another kind of sangha, but still a sangha.


‘That which allows one part of a buddha’s awesome presence is is entire universe, the entire earth, as well as the entirety of birth and death, coming and going, of innumerable lands and lotus blossoms. Each of these innumerable lands and lotus blossoms is one part.

Students may think that “the entire universe” refers to this southen Continent of Jambudvipa, or all the Four Continents. Some may think of it as China or Japan. Regarding “the entire earth,” they think it is one billion worlds, or simply one province or prefecture. When you examine “the entire earth” or “the entire universe,” investigate them three or five times without stopping, even though you already see them as vast.

Understanding these words [about the entire universe] is going beyond buddhas and ancestors by seeing that extremely large is small and extremely small is large. Although this seems like denying that there is any such thing as large or small, this [understanding] is the awesome presence of active buddhas.’ (Shobogenzo Gyobutsu Iigi)

Similarly to the last Dogen post, this passage may scramble your brain about large and small, and that is what it is designed to do, so that you don’t get stuck in your thinking – if you do that, you will never be an active buddha with awesome presence.


‘Hearing the term “buddha nature,” many students mistakenly regard it as the self explained by Shrenika, a teacher outside the way. They think this because they have not met a true person, the true self, a true teacher, They mistakenly regard the conscious mind, which is caused by the movement of air and fire, as the awareness and understanding of buddha nature. But who says that buddha nature has awareness or understanding? Even though those who are aware or understand are buddhas, buddha nature is neither awareness nor understanding.

Furthermore, the buddhas awareness, of which they speak, is not the same awareness they mistakenly regard as awareness. The movement of air and fire is not the cause of buddha’s awareness. It is just that the awareness is one or two buddha faces, ancestor faces.

A number of ancient masters and early sages went to India and returned to China to guide humans and devas. They have been as common as rice, flax, bamboo, and reeds from the time of the Han and Tang dynasties until the time of the present Song Dynasty. Many of them regard the movement of air and fire as the awareness of buddha nature.

What a pity! They make this kind of mistake because their study of the way is coarse.’ (Shobogenzo Bussho)

We were studying this passage in the Dogen study group this week. There was much talk of the elemental understanding of ‘air and fire’ at that time and in that culture (and I regrettably misquoted its appearance in the Gyojikihan, the Standard Observances). I was also thinking of the passage in the Mountains and Waters Sutra, which, equally regrettably, I do not seem to have posted here, where Dogen lists different ways you can consider a mountain, before concluding along the lines of “it is not just this.” This is how Dogen encourages continual investigation, and the ability to reside peacefully in the awareness that things are always beyond our conceptual boxes and our wish to put everything in a conceptual box. As he says elsewhere, it’s not that this is wrong, but it is not the only story.


‘Who are beginners? Are there any who are not beginners? When do you leave the beginner’s mind? Know that in the definitive study of the buddha dharma, you engage in zazen and endeavor in the way. At the heart of the teaching is a practicing buddha who does not seek to become a buddha. As a practicing buddha does not become a buddha, the fundamental point is realized. ‘ (Shobogenzo Zazenshin)


‘In the swift march of transiency, birth and death are vital matters. During this short life, if you want to practice and study, just practice and study. Writing prose and poetry is, in the long run, useless; this it should be given up. When studying and practicing Buddhism, do not take up too many outside things. Be sure to keep away from the scriptural teachings of the sects of esoteric and exoteric Buddhism. Even the Records of the Zen Patriarchs should not be studied on too wide a scale. The dull and inferior person finds it hard to concentrate even on one thing. How much more difficult is it for hime to do many things at the same time and still keep his minds and thoughts in harmony.’ (Shobogenzo Zuimonki)


‘Mountains, rivers, and earth mind are just mountains, rivers, and the earth. There are no extra waves or sprays [in this mind]. The sun, the moon, and stars mind is just the sun, the moon, and stars. There is no extra fog or mist. The coming and going of birth and death mind is just the coming and going of birth and death. There is no extra delusion or enlightenment. The walls, tiles, and pebbles mind is just the walls, tiles, and pebbles. There is no extra mud or water. Four great elements and five skandhas mind are just four great elements and five skandhas. There is no extra horse or monkey. The chair and whisk mind is just the chair and whisk. There is no extra bamboo or wood.’ (Shobogenzo Sokushin Zebutsu)


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