Dogen, Japanese Texts, Texts

“When you release it, it fills your hand; when you speak it fills your mouth” – Dogen’s Bendowa

Last week we published the Jijuyu Zanmai, which is the second part of the first half of Master Dogen’s Bendowa, the first text to be written in casual Japanese to explain the Zen Dogen had learned in China under Master Rujing. This text is the very first part of the Bendowa that precedes the Jijuyu Zanmai and which chronicles the benefits of zazen as well as Dogen’s own journey in discovering The Way. This translation of the text is by Kazuaki Tanahashi.

 

All buddha tathagatas, who directly transmit inconceivable dharma and actualize supreme, perfect enlightenment, have a wondrous way, unsurpassed and unconditioned. Only buddhas transmit it to buddhas without veering off; self-fulfilling samadhi is its standard. Sitting upright, practicing Zen, is the authentic gate to the unconfined realm of this samadhi. 

Although this inconceivable dharma is abundant in each person, it is not actualized without practice, and it is not experienced without realization. When you release it, it fills your hand—how could it be limited to one or many? When you speak it, it fills your mouth—it is not bounded by length or width. 

All buddhas continuously abide in it, but do not leave traces of consciousness in their illumination. Sentient beings continuously move about in it, but illumination is not manifest in their consciousness. 


“Passing through the barrier and dropping off limitations, how could you be hindered by nodes in bamboo or knots in wood?”


The concentrated endeavor of the way I am speaking of allows all things to come forth in enlightenment and practice, all-inclusiveness with detachment. Passing through the barrier and dropping off limitations, how could you be hindered by nodes in bamboo or knots in wood?

After the thought of enlightenment arose, I began to search for dharma visiting teachers at various places in our country. Then I met priest Myozen of Kennin Monastery, by whom I was trained for nine years. Thus I learned a little about the teaching of the Rinzai School. Priest Myozen alone, asa senior disciple of ancestor Eisai, correctly transmitted the unsurpassable buddha-dharma; no one can be compared with him. 

Later I went to Great Song China, visited masters on both sides of the Zhe River, and heard the teaching of the Five Schools. Finally I studied with Zen master Rujing of Taibo Peak and completed my life’s quest of the great matter. 

Then at the beginning of Shaoding Era [1228—33] of Great Song, I came back to Japan with the hope of spreading the teaching and saving sentient beings—a heavy burden on my shoulders. However, I will put aside the intention of having the teaching prevail everywhere until the occasion of a rising tide. I think of wandering about like a cloud or a water-weed, studying the wind of the ancient sages. 


“I wish to leave for students of the way the teaching of the buddha’s house. This is indeed the essence.” 


Yet there may be true students who are not concerned with fame and gain and who allow their thought of enlightenment to guide them, and they may be confused by incapable teachers and obstructed from the correct understanding. Indulging in smug self-satisfaction, they may sink into the land of delusion for a long time. How can they nourish the correct seed of prajna and have the opportunity to attain the way? If I am wandering about, which mountain or river can they call on? Because I feel concerned for them, I would like to record the standards of Zen monasteries which I personally saw and heard in Great Song as well as the profound principle which has been transmitted by my master. I wish to leave for students of the way the teaching of the buddha’s house. This is indeed the essence. 

Now, the great master Shakyamuni entrusted dharma to Mahakashyapa at the assembly on Vulture Peak; it was then correctly transmitted from ancestor to ancestor down to venerable Bodhidharma. Bodhidharma himself went to China and entrusted dharma to the great master Huike; this was the beginning of dharma transmission in the eastern country. In this way, by direct transmission, it reached the Sixth Ancestor, Zen Master Dajian. Then the true Buddhist teaching spread in China, and the teaching that is not concerned with theories took form. 


“When Bodhidharma came from India, the root of twining vines was immediately cut off and the pure, single buddha-dharma spread. We should hope that it will be like this in our country.”


At that time there were two outstanding disciples of the Sixth Ancestor, Nanyue Huairang and Qingyuan Xingsi. They both equally received the buddha’s seal, as masters of human beings and devas. Their two lineages spread, and later the Five Gates opened: the Fayan School, the Guiyang School, the Caodong School, the Yunmen School, and the Linji School. At present in Great Song China only the Linji School prospers throughout the country. But in spite of their different styles, each of the Five Houses holds the single seal of the buddha mind. 

In China after the Later Han Dynasty, the teachings of Buddhist scriptures were introduced and spread all over the land, but there was no conclusive teaching as yet. When Bodhidharma came from India, the root of twining vines was immediately cut off and the pure, single buddha-dharma spread. We should hope that it will be like this in our country. 

 

Eihei Dogen (1200-1253)
From – Moon in a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dogen

 

 

 

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