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The clearest and most approachable teachings from Dogen, the most famous thinker and writer in Zen Buddhism.
Discover the teachings of the preeminent Zen Master Dogen in his own words, written down by his Dharma successor, Koun Ejo. This edition includes both the Shobogenzo Zuimonki and translations of and commentary on Dogen’s luminously evocative waka poetry.
Distinct from Dogen’s similarly titled magnum opus (simply called the Shobogenzo), the Shobogenzo Zuimonki can be read as a highly practical manual of Buddhist practice. Consisting of straightforward and accessible teachings and making more limited use of the allusion, wordplay, and metaphor that characterize the essays in the Shobogenzo, this work is an essential read for any student of Zen Buddhism. Among the many topics covered, Dogen especially emphasizes the following points: seeing impermanence, departing from the ego-centered self, being free from greed, giving up self-attachment, following the guidance of a true teacher, and the practice of zazen, specifically shikantaza, or “just sitting.” Additionally, this translation of the Shobogenzo Zuimonki has extensive notes, which help to provide you with a new way of approaching the text.
The collection of waka poems included in this volume are a beautiful artistic expression of the Dharma. Rarely seen in this large of a collection or with commentary, this poetry offers unique insight into an important expression of Dogen’s teachings.
By the spring wind
my words are blown and scattered
people may see them
the song of flowers
These teachings, which have informed teachers and practitioners alike throughout the centuries, will deepen your knowledge, understanding, and experience of the Soto Zen tradition.
About the Author
Eihei Dogen founded the Japanese Soto School of Zen, and is renowned as one of the world’s most remarkable religious thinkers. As Shakespeare does with English, Dogen utterly transforms the language of Zen, using it in novel and extraordinarily beautiful ways in his voluminous writings. Born in 1200 to an aristocratic background, he was ordained a monk in the Japanese Tendai School in his early teens, but became dissatisfied with Japanese Buddhism. After traveling in China from 1223 to 1227, he returned to introduce to Japan the Soto lineage and the large body of Chan teaching stories, or koans, which he had thoroughly mastered. From 1233 to 1243 he taught near the cultural capital of Kyoto, then in 1243 moved to the remote northern mountains and founded the temple Eiheiji, still one of the headquarter temples of Soto Zen. There, until his illness and death in 1253, he trained a core group of monks who spread Soto Zen throughout the Japanese countryside. Dogen’s writings are noted for their poetic and philosophic depth, though aimed at spiritual practitioners. His two major, massive works are Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye Treasury) and Eihei Koroku (Dogen’s Extensive Record). Although not studied for many centuries aside from Soto scholars, in modern times Dogen’s writings, through translation, have become an important part of the spread of Buddhism in the West.
Shohaku Okumura is a Soto Zen priest and Dharma successor of Kosho Uchiyama Roshi. He is a graduate of Komazawa University and has practiced in Japan at Antaiji, Zuioji, and the Kyoto Soto Zen Center, and in Massachusetts at the Pioneer Valley Zendo. He is the former director of the Soto Zen Buddhism International Center in San Francisco. His previously published books of translation include Shobogenzo Zuimonki, Dogen Zen, Zen Teachings of Homeless Kodo, and Opening the Hand of Thought. Okumura is also editor of Dogen Zen and Its Relevance for Our Time and SotoZen. He is the founding teacher of the Sanshin Zen Community, based in Bloomington, Indiana, where he lives with his family.
“Shohaku Okamura’s ongoing work of translation and commentary has for many years shaped my understanding of Dogen’s teaching. A deeply devoted Zen priest, his careful scholarship is matched by the modesty, straightforwardness, and thoroughness of his interpretations. Shobogenzo Zuimonki is two important volumes in one: part 1 is the Zuimonki itself, Dogen’s informal instructions to his close disciples, freshly translated with lucid comments and notes; and part 2 is the first full translation of Dogen’s waka poems to include extensive Buddhist commentary, referencing a range of Dogen’s other writings. I am thrilled and grateful to have both these important new additions to Dogen in English; they will give readers a much fuller appreciation of the range of this great master’s expression.”
— Norman Fischer, poet and Zen priest, author of When You Greet Me I Bow, The Museum of Capitalism, and Selected Poems
“I offer profound praise for Dogen’s Shobogenzo Zuimonki and for this wonderful new translation and commentary by Shohaku Okumura Roshi. For many Zen students of my generation these inspiring words were our first extensive experience of the writings of Dogen Zenji. Now we have a fresh translation of this masterpiece, along with insightful commentary, to inspire and guide our practice in the twenty-first century. May Dogen’s Dharma wheel continue to turn for the welfare of this world.”
— Tenshin Reb Anderson, student of Dogen
“This translation is not only Dogen’s instructions, handwritten by his successor Ejo and transmitted to us. It’s as if the reader were there over and over again with the myriad examples and instructions straight from Dogen. With the combination of Dogen’s poetry, this gives a light and creative quality. I was struck by the simplicity of Okumura-roshi’s presentation, which is the profundity of Zen. This book will stand and speak as a classic—openly shared and digested for the true Zen student.”
— Jakusho Kwong-roshi, author of No Beginning, No End; Breath Sweeps Mind; and Mind Sky
“This book is a long overdue new translation of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Zuimonki, his informal Dharma talks, and perhaps his most accessible teachings, as recorded by his disciple Ejo. Shohaku Okumura brings extensive Zen practice and scholarship to this translation offering footnotes, biographies, and commentary. An added bonus to this book is the addition of Okumura’s evocative translations and commentaries on Dogen’s waka poems. If you are a Dogen fan, this book is a must for your library.”
— Shinshu Roberts, author of Being-Time: A Practitioner’s Guide to Dogen’s Shobogenzo Uji
“For those who endeavor to negotiate wholeheartedly the Way of Dogen Zen, a new work by the incomparable scholar-practitioner Shohaku Okumura is cause for celebration and gratitude. This superb edition of the Shobogenzo Zuimonki, based on the 1644 Choen-ji version of the informal talks that Dogen’s celebrated disciple Ejo recorded after joining Kosho-ji in 1234, consummately expresses the treasures of the true Dharma eye. Dogen counsels us only to speak when we have something to say that ‘is beneficial to both yourself and others,’ and Okumura and his editor Doju Layton demonstrate that this is a jewel that exceeds all commerce.”
— Tetsuzen Jason M. Wirth, Seattle University
“Shohaku Okumura Roshi has produced a tremendously useful and easily understandable translation of this important work about the teachings of Dogen Zenji. It’s accessible and practical. In the Shobogenzo Zuimonki we get to see a different side of Dogen from the one Dogen presents in his own writings. This is Dogen the way one of his closest students saw him. Dogen’s student, Ejo, asks Dogen the kinds of questions I would like to have asked Dogen. The answers are often surprising and illuminating. Having the Japanese text to refer to is a wonderful addition for those of us nerds who like to check the original language.”
— Brad Warner, author of Hardcore Zen and Letters to a Dead Friend about Zen