Dogen Sangha Blog


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Friday, February 29, 2008

Zazen Sensation and Focus

Dear Nishijima Roshi,

First I would like to thank you for always taking the time to respond to questions. It is very helpful, and much appreciated.

My first question is about a certain sensation I have while sitting. Once I have been sitting for about 10 or 15 minutes, I feel a rising sensation in my spine and the crown of my head. It is as if the crown of my head is attached to a bunch of balloons and is being carried upwards. I try not to focus on this sensation and instead observe it. From what I can tell, there is very little if any, change in my posture or how erect I am sitting when I begin to have this sensation. I was curious if this is something natural, something that will pass, or something that indicates there is something wrong with my practice or my posture.

Also, I have a ringing in my ears called tinnitus. I have been to an accupuncturist for treatment and he told me that it would reduce the ringing in my ears if I focus on my dantian while I sit. He is a Taoist practitioner, and does sit regularly. My question to you is, would focusing on my dantian take away from my practice of zazen? Do you believe I should practice each of these two things seperately, or can I practice them together?

Thank you very much,

Dear Jared San,

Thank you for your question. First of all we should notice that our body and mind are not always so normal before we practice Zazen. And so when we begin Zazen, we usually recognize our abnormal habits of our body and mind, which we do not recognize usually. But those strange facts should not be worried about at all.

And in such a situation it is better for you to regulate your posture of Zazen, but if it is impossible for you to correct it, there is no problem. Please continue your Zazen, and you can correct your posture of Zazen by daily practice for so long time. Because your daily practice of Zazen will continue throughout your whole life.

Gudo Wafu Nishijima

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dropping body and mind

Dear Nishijima Roshi,

This is a video of you answering a question about the meaning of the expression "dropping body and mind" (shin-jin-datsu-raku in Japanese) that Master Dogen used to describe what happens when we practice Zazen. This expression comes up sometimes in discussions about Zen Buddhism, but it can be a bit difficult to understand. In the video you also answer questions about the difference between someone who is enlightened and someone who isn't. I think your answers are very helpful, so I hope you won't mind me putting this on your blog for people to watch.

Best wishes,

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Dear Master Nishijima,

In one of your previous answers, you said:
"Following Master Dogen's opinion he denied the existence of life after death in Bendo-wa, or Soku-shin-ze-butsu, and so I do not believe in the existence of the life after death."
How is this not a view of annihilationism? (which was preached against by Shakyamuni Buddha)

I imagine that Dogen meant that we are not the same person in the next life as we are now, and thus there is no "after-life" in that sense. But I'm not sure if this is also your interpretation.

Dear Mr. Thomas Amundsen,

Thank you very much for your valuable question. And unfortunately I have to say "yes." I think that the problem is too much serious, but we should pursue the Truth.

Gudo Wafu Nishijima

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Nature of Things

Dear Nishijima,

I am hoping you might be able to give me your thoughts on a certain passage in "The Nature of Things" chapter of the Shobogenzo. When Dogen states that Shakyamuni Buddha says "Such characteristics, such nature." What is he telling me? Is the nature of something revealed by the characteristics it presents? From my interpretation of what he states later about "thought fallen out according to pattern" is that the nature of something exists in how we think of it, and somehow also outside of any notional space?


Sitting with eyes closed

What is the reason for sitting with your eyes open and staring at a wall? Is is acceptable to sit with eyes closed? Is this about remaining connected to reality and not wandering into an oblivious state of mind?

Thank you

Dear vineger-daoist San,

Thank you very much for your questions.

The reason why we open our eyes during Zazen.
1) Master Dogen teaches us that the eyes should be open during Zazen in Fukan-zazen-gi and Shobogenzo Zazenigi.
2) In Soto Sect it is the authentic method for us to practice Zazen facing the wall in the case of students.
3) When we close our eyes during Zazen, usually we feel sleepy. At the same time when we close our eyes during Zazen, we are prone to think miscellaneous things in our brain, and so it is much better for us to open eyes during Zazen.
4) During Zazen it is better for us to look at Reality in front of us, and avoid miscellaneous thoughts.

Gudo Wafu Nishijima

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Karma Theory & Science.

Dear Nishijima Roshi,

I'm sorry for this sudden rush of questions, but I thought you might be interested in this question which I posted to Ven. Jundo's website forum where there is presently some interesting discussion on the concept of karma and the realities it describes:



In chapter 84 of Shobogenzo, Sanji-No-Go ('Karma in Three Times') Dogen presents the Buddhist theory that addresses the occurence of "accidents" or the 'wild card' element of phenomena. As a theory it may be applicable to the 'chance occurence' element now identified as a facet of the workings of the universe identified at sub-atomic level. [It would, of course, suggest an ordered universe which I think Mr. Einstein would approve of greatly... he had warm compliments for Buddhism!]

The Buddhist theory states that things seem to occur in a random way due to karmic potentialities ripening over three times: immediately, after a short time, and after a long time (including in subsequent lives).

Nishijima Roshi's comment at the start of this chapter contains:

"In the second and third cases [of the three times], it is often difficult to believe that the whole world is governed completely by the law of cause and effect. But if we affirm that there are three kinds of time lag between conduct and its effect, we can affirm the validity of the law of cause and effect in all cases without exception." (My emphasis added)

But can we affirm the validity of this theory?




Also, Doesn't this theory seem a little 'one dimensional' and simple compared to Master Dogen's description of the condition/movements of Time-Existence in "Uji"?


Question on Genjo-koan [89]

Dear Nishijima Roshi,

I hope you are keeping well.

Can you please offer any insight into the meaning of Genjo-koan section [89] where Dogen recommends in relation to realization that "The longness and shortness of its moment should be investigated in large [bodies of] water and small [bodies of] water, and observed in the width and the narrowness of the sky and moon" ?

Many thanks,


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

On the nature of "second enlightenment"

Dear Nishijima:

I remember on Brad's first book when he mentioned something like "second enlightenment".
I understand that the Soto sect does not make distinctions on enlightenment and not-enlightenment, which I suppose is so because all that exists is inherently enlightened in nature.
So, because of this, the Soto sect does not gives any emphasis on attaining enlightenment, since it is already our nature and doing so would be like trying to achieve the quality of having two eyes.
So, first enlightenment is when one is in zazen, but also when one eats, one sleeps, one breathes.

Having that in mind, what do you mean when you refer to "second enlightenment" ? Are you refering to whether one is currently aware of this "already enlightened" state or not ? Does one "attain" the "second enlightenment" when he sees with his own eyes that he always "had" enlightenment in the first place ?

Thank you very much for your being here with us !

Monday, February 18, 2008

mixing meditation practices

Gassho Nishijima Sensei _||_

What is your opinion on mixing different meditation practices?

I have been practicing Shikantaza for about 15 months now. But I've moved to a new area and found that the temple that best fits my schedule on a regular basis practices vipassana. What do you think are the benefits and/or negative consequences of combining these two practices?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

3P1R Shobogenzo

Nishijima Roshi:

Please allow me to start by thanking you for saying something. I'm reading through Shobogenzo, with the intent of finishing it, rather than understanding it. The reading goes much faster that way, and I have a life time to study it. I've read your "Understanding Shobogenzo" and Brad
but I'm left with questions concerning it and your three philosophies/one reality teaching.

Is there a way to easily understand whether a sentence reflects idealism, materialism, buddhism, or reality? Or do you have to penetrate Shobogenzo first, before the nature of the sentence becomes readily apparent?

Dear Smoggyrob San,

Thank you very much for your question about three philosophies and one Reality. Because the theory of three philosophies and one Reality is the most important theory in Buddhism.

In the western philosophy there are two fundamental excellent philosophies, which pervade almost the whole world already today, that is, the one is idealism and the other is materialism, but those two kinds of fundamental philosophies existed even in the ancient India, when Gautama Buddha lived. And Gautama Buddha worried about the existence of the two so-called truth, that is, idealism and materialism. Therefore he made so enormous efforts to solve the existence of two kinds of false truth, and at last he was successful to solve the problem relying upon the theory, that is, the three philosophies and one Reality.

First Gautama Buddha noticed the existence of the two false philosophies, which were thought as if they were truth. But he could never be affirmative to the existence of the two kinds of Truth, because it was very comical for us to affirm the existence of the two truth in the Universe. And thinking such a problem, Gautama Buddha found that the reason, why we, human being, have to think the existence of the two kinds of truth, came from the fact that we, human beings, had considered the problem relying upon our intellectual consideration. And if we considered the problem of the Truth relying upon our intellectual consideration, it is possible for us to consider the existence of limitlessly many so-called truth logically. Because, whether it is happy, or not, our human consideration relying upon our brain can has perfect ability to consider everything freely. Therefore relying upon our intellectual consideration it is perfectly impossible for us to find the Truth limitlessly.

Gautama Buddha has found such a mystical but true situations of human consideration for the first time in human history. Therefore he noticed that if he wanted to consider the problem, he had to leave human consideration, and enter the philosophy of Action. And so he found the theory of three philosophies and one Reality. He found that if we wanted to know the Truth, we should throw away our intellectual consideration, and think the probem on the basis of philosophy of Action. And so he relied upon his fundamental basis of realistic consideration, that is the three philosopies and one Reality.

Therefore Gautama Buddha preached the theory of three kinds of philosophies and one Reality in his first lecture at Mrigadaava. This facts suggest that the theory of three philosophies and one Reality is the fundamental basis of the whole Buddhist philosophy, and so we can say that people, who understood the meaning of the four philosophies, can understand the true meaning of Gautama Buddha's teachings, but poeple haven't had understood the meaning of the four truth, can never understand the meaning of the Gautama Buddha's teachings at all.

Gudo Wafu Nishijima

Friday, February 15, 2008

Sitting zazen and time limits

I've read it is not recommended to sit zazen for more than 40 to 45 minutes. I'm curious why that is the case. Why only 40 to 45 minutes at each sitting? I know there are retreats where you sit for successive 40 minute periods but why not sit for an hour or more if you are able?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Important principles in Shobogenzo (14) Sansuigyo

San means "mountains," sui means "water" – rivers, lakes, and so on. Sansui suggests natural scenery, or Nature itself. Kyo or gyo means Buddhist sutras. So Sansuigyo means mountains and water, or Nature, as Buddhist sutras. Buddhism is basically a religion of belief in the Universe, and Nature is the Universe showing its real form. So to look at Nature is to look at the Buddhist truth itself. For this reason Master Dogen believed that Nature is just Buddhist sutras. In this chapter he explains the real form of Nature, giving particular emphasis to relativity in Nature.

(1) The mountains and water of the present are the realization of the words of eternal buddhas. Both [mountains and water] abide in place in the Dharma, having realized ultimate virtue. Because they are in the state be-fore the kalpa of emptiness, they are vigorous activity in the present. Because they are the self before the sprouting of creation, they are real libera-tion. The virtues of the mountains are so high and wide that we always re-alize moral virtue which can ride the clouds by relying on the mountains, and we unfailingly liberate the subtle effectiveness which follows the wind by relying on the mountains.

(Mountains and rivers in front of us are just the realization of speaches by eternal Buddhas. They are manifesting themselves in the order of the Universe, and have realized themselves as the ultimate virtue of the Universe. Because they are the real situations of eternal past, they are just the perfectly vigorous activity at the present moment. Because they are just ourselves before the first sprout of the Universe, and so they are the perfct transparency of Reality. Miscellaneous virtue of mountains are so lofty and wide, that morals over the highest clouds are inevitably transparent from mountains. The delicate virtue of favorable wind decisively transparent from mountains.)

The mountains and rivers in front of us have been tranmitted to us since the eternal past, and so they are manifested themselves in front of us just at the present moment. Therefore we can say that the mountains and rivers, or Nature, is Reality itself.


(2) Master Kai of Taiyo-zan mountain preaches to the assembly, "The Blue Mountains are constantly walking. The Stone Woman bears children by night." Mountains lack none of the virtues with which mountains should be equipped. For this reason, they are constantly abiding in stillness and constantly walking. We must painstakingly learn in practice the virtue of this walking. The walking of mountains must be like the walking of human beings; therefore, even though it does not look like human walking, do not doubt the walking of the mountains. The words preached now by the Buddhist Patriarch are already pointing to walking, and this is his attain-ment of the fundamental. We should pursue to the ultimate his preaching to the assembly about constant walking: it is because [the mountains] are walking that they are constant.

(Master Fuyo Dokai in the Taiyo-zan mountain preaches to the assembly, "The Blue Mountains are constantly walking. The Stone Woman bears children by night." Mountains lack none of the virtues with which mountains should be equipped. For this reasen, they are constantly abiding in stillness and constantly walking. The walking of mountains must be like the walking of human beings; therefore, even though it does not look like human walking, do not doubt the walking of the mountains. Now the words of the Buddhist patriarchs have indicated the walking of mountains, and this is the first example of a Patriarch's words, which have manifested the walking of the mountain for the first time. We should perfectly understand the Patriarch's preaching of constantly walking mountains, and we should understand that because of the constant walking of everything we can be constantly stable.)

Reading this paragraph, I have some personal supposition that at the time when Master Fuyo Dokai lived (1043~1118), some Buddhist Masters have noticed the royation of the earth, not scientifically, but intuitively.

(3) The walking of the Blue Mountains is swifter than the wind, but beings in the mountains do not sense it or know it. Being in the mountains describes the opening of flowers in the [real] world. People out of the mountains never sense it and never know it – people who have no eyes to see the mountains do not sense, do not know, do not see, and do not hear this concrete fact.

(Even though the walking of the Blue Mountains is swifter than the wind, people, who are living in
the mountains, do not sense it or know it. The expression of "in the mountain" suggests the gorgeous phenomena of opening flowers in this world. (However,) people, who are living outside this world fantastically, do not sense and do not know (that they are just living in this world.) People, who do not have ability to look at the real situations actually, do not sense, do not know, do not look at, and do not listen to. That is just the fundamental principle.)

The blue mountains are always moving much more faster than the swift wind because of the rotation of the earth, people, who are living on the surface of the earth, do not sense and know such a situation. On the surface of the earth there are so gorgeous civilizations flowering so brilliantly, but many people, who are impossible to look at the real civilization, do not notice that they are just living in the so beautiful mountains.

(4) If we doubt the walking of the mountains, we also do not yet know our own walking. It is not that we do not have our own walking, but we do not yet know and have not yet clari-fied our own walking. When we know our own walking, then we will surely also know the walking of the Blue Mountains.

(If we do not know the walking of the mountains, the facts suggest that we do not know the real fact of our own walking. It is not true that we do not have our own walking, but it is true that we do not have realized the real situation of our real walking yet. We do not have understood the real situations of our walking yet. And if we have understood the real situations of our own walking, it is inevitable for us to know the real walking of the blue mountains without fail.)

To know the real walking of blue mountains, does not mean to understand the intellectual meaning of blue mountains' walking, or to perceive the perceptive image in the sense organs, but it is just the realization of walking in the real action.

(5) The Blue Mountains are already beyond the sentient and beyond the insentient. The self is al-ready beyond the sentient and beyond the insentient. We cannot doubt the present walking of the Blue Mountains. [Though] we do not know how many Dharma-worlds we should use as a scale when taking in the Blue Mountains, we should investigate in detail the walking of the Blue Mountains as well as our own walking. There should be investigation both of backward steps and of stepping backward.

(The blue mountains are neither mental beings, nor physical being, but they are just something real. We, ourselves, are neither mental beings, nor physical being, but we are just something real. And at the present moment it is impossible for us to doubt the walking of blue mountains. Because it is not clear that how many Universes shall we use for reflecting the blue mountains.
Therefore we should clearly examine the walking of blue mountains and our own walking too on the basis of real action, and we should also examine the two kinds of step, positive backward step and negative backward step too.)

Real walking can never be ideal walking or perceptive walking, but it is just the real walking at the present moment as action. Therefore when we think about the real philosophy of Buddhism, we should always make our efforts to consider all kinds of Buddhism on the basis of real act itself.

(6) We should investigate the fact that just at the moment before the sprouting of creation, and since be-fore the King of Emptiness, walking – in forward steps and backward steps – has never stopped even for an instant. If the walking ceased, the Buddhist patriarchs could not manifest themselves in reality. If there were an end to the walking, the Buddha-Dharma could not reach the present day.

(We should clearly and precisely examine that in walking forward and in walking backward the walkng hasn't stopped since the moment before sprouting the Universe, or the far beyond before the King of Emptiness. And if it were true that the walking had stopped even a moment, the Buddha hadn't manifested himself at all. If there were any end in the walking, Gautama Buddha's teachings had never arrived at today.)

Because the Universe has been walking endlessly even today, we can enjoy our daily life as usual. If the walking had been stopped, Gautama Buddha hadn't been born at all. If the walking had stopped already, Buddhism had never arrived at today.

(7) Forward walking never ceases, and backward walking never ceases. The moment of forward walking does not oppose backward walking, and the moment of backward walking does not oppose forward walking. We call this virtue the mountains flowing, and we call it the flowing mountains.

(Walking forward has never stopped, and walking backward has never stopped. The moment of forward walking does not oppose backward walking, and the moment of backward walking does not oppose forward walking. We call the virtue of mountains situations, sometimes mountains' flow and sometimes flowing mountains.)

Walking forward and walking backward have never stopped even for a moment sice the eternal past, but at the same time walking forward does never hinder walking backward, and walking backward does never hinder walking forward. And those kinds of virtue are sometimes called mountains flow, and sometimes called flowing mountains.

(8) The Blue Mountains master in practice the act of walking and the East Mountain learns in practice the act of moving on water; therefore, this learning in practice is the mountains' learning in practice. The mountains, without changing their body-and-mind, with the face and eyes of mountains, have been traveling around The Blue Mountains master in practice the act of walking and the East Mountain learns in practice the act of moving on water; therefore, this learning in practice is the mountains' learning in practice. The mountains, without changing their body-and-mind, with the face and eyes of mountains, have been traveling around The Blue Mountains master in practice the act of walking and the East Mountain learns in practice the act of moving on water; therefore, this learning in practice is the mountains' learning in practice. The mountains, without changing their body-and-mind, with the face and eyes of mountains, have been traveling around them by saying that the Blue Mountains cannot walk or that the East Mountain cannot move on water. It is because of the grossness of the viewpoint of the vulgar that they doubt the phrase "the Blue Mountains are walking." It is due to the poorness of their scant experience that they are astonished at the words flowing mountains.

(Blue mountains actually practice walking, and eastern mountains actually learn going on water, therefore those practice and learning are just practice and learning by mountains themselves. Mountains, without changing their body and mind, keeping their own face and eyes, intentionally practice and learn mountains themselves. Don't blame and slander the blue mountains that they can never walk at all, or eastern mountains can never walk on the water at all. Because of their view- points being so low vulgarly, it is inevitable for them to doubt the words that blue mountains actually walk. Because of being so poor in their small amount of knowledge, it is necessry for them to surprise hearing the words of flowing mountains.)

Almost all people in the world have habit to understand everything on the basis of intellectual consideration, or sensitive perception, therefore usually it is impossible for them without the doubt in listen to the words of walking blue mountains, or talks of flowing mountains. Therefore if we want sincerely to study Gautama Buddha's Realism, it is absolutely necessary for us to study
all kinds of philosophies on the basis of action, which always exists at the present moment.

(9) Now, not even fully understanding the words flow-ing water, they are drowned in prejudice and ignorance. This being so, they esteem as defining concepts, and esteem as lifeblood, their enumeration of the accumulated virtues [of mountains]. The act of walking exists, the act of flowing exists, and moments in which mountains give birth to mountain children exist. By virtue of the fact that mountains become Buddhist patri-archs, Buddhist patriarchs have manifested themselves in reality like this.

(Nowadays, because the word of "flowing water" has not been understood well, it has been drowned being misunderstood by the small scale of view or knowledge. Therefore they count up the forms and names of miscellaneous virtues to manifest the lives and blood vessels. There are walkings and flowings, and there is a time when mountains bear the children of mountains. Relying upon the priciple that even mountains can become Buddhist Patriarchs, Buddhist Patriarchs have been able to manifest themselves actually.)

In such a situation even the words of "flowing water" have been pervaded, and so in the case of mountains there are walking or flowing, bearing babies. Even mountains can becoome Buddhist Patriarchs, and so many Buddhist Patriarchs have been manifested hemselves like this.

(10) Though there may be eyes in which grass, trees, soil, stones, fences, and walls are realized, that moment is beyond doubt and beyond disturbance; it is not "total realization." Though moments are realized in which [the mountains] are seen to be adorned with the seven treasures, [those mo-ments] are not "the real refuge." Though visions are realized [of the moun-tains] as the area in which buddhas practice the truth, [those visions] are not necessarily something to be loved. Though some have got the brains to real-ize a vision [of the mountains] as the unthinkable merit of the buddhas, reality is not merely this. Every "realization" is an instance of object and subject. We do not esteem such ["realizations"] as the Buddhist patriarchs' action in the state of truth: they are one-sided and narrow views.

(Even though there is a chance, in which we can really look at grass and trees, soil and stones, or fences and walls, the situations are different from having doubt, having agitation, or the whole realization of everything. Even though we have realized the moment, in which we were experiencing as if we were looking at a gorgeous building decorated with the seven kinds of jewels, such a scenary can not also be seen as if it were what we belong to actually. Even if we have actually realized that it is just the circumstances for many Buddhas to realize their actual Truth, however such a situation is not always the place, which we love so enormously. Even though we have got excellent thinking ability, which is actually realized as if it were excellently manifested as many Buddhas' mystical virtue, but the real Truth is not always like that, and each manifestation is the each subjet and the each object. However those are not always just the total moral virtue of Buddhist Patriarchs, but those are also very narrow viewpoint inside a very narrow corner.

In conclusion, even though it seems that we Buddhists can meet so gorgeous and so valuable experiences day by day, those excellent experiences in our daily life are very small parts of
our human life in the Universe.

(11) The moving of circumstances and the moving of mind are criticized by the Great Saint. Explanations of mind and explanations of the nature are not af-firmed by the Buddhist patriarchs. Seeing the mind and seeing the nature is the animated activity of non-Buddhists. Staying in words and staying in phrases is not the speech of liberation. There is [a state] which has got free from states like these: it is expressed "the Blue Mountains are constantly walking" and "the East Mountain moves on water." We should master it in detail.

(The attitudes of changing circumstances or refreshing our own mind are what Gautama Buddha scoldes. To explain mind and to explain original substance are what Buddhist Patriarchs do never affirm. Manifesting mind or manifesting original substance is vigorous activity of non-Buddhist, and hesitating talks or hesitating words is never expression of perfect freedom. However there are examples, which have been transparent through those circumstances, and that is discribed as "blue mountains are always walking," or "the eastern mountains are going on the water." So we should be
careful in actual experience in detail.)

Gautama Buddha scolded easy attitudes to change the circumstances or mind, and Buddhist Patriarchs do never affirm superficial verbal explanations of mind or substance. Manifesting mind and manifesting substance are vigorous activity of non-Buddhists. Hesitating talks or hesitating words can never be clear expression of peerfect freedom. But there are miscellaneous expressions, which are transparent through miscellaneous circumstances, that is, the expression of "blue mountains are always walking" and "eastern mountains are going on the stream." Let us research the situations by experience in detail.


(12) [In the words] "The Stone Woman bears children by night" Time, in which the Stone Woman bears children, is called night.

(The time, when the Stone Woman bears children, is called night.)

In Buddhism we usually think everything on the basis of mutual relations. Therefore we can say that "the stone woman bears children at night," and at the same time we can say "the time, when the stone woman bears children, is called night."

Reading Mastr Fuyo Dokai's words, we should never think that a Buddhist Master sometimes speaks his joke, but words, which the Master says, are just the eternal Truth for ever. Because even a big hard rock, when it meets an enormously cold weather at night, has to meet possibility that the natural temperature goes down under zero, and a tiny little volume of water inside the rock has to freese, and the small volume of water inside the rock becomes a much bigger mass of ice than water. And such a natural process of Nature sometimes make a big rock into grains of sands during so long ages actually.

(13) In general, there are male stones and female stones, and there are neither male nor female stones, whose practical function supports the heavens and supports the earth. There are heavenly stones and there are earthly stones – as the secu-lar say, but few people know.

(Generally speaking, there are stones, which are called male stones, or called female stones, and furthermore there are stones called none-male stones or none-female stones. And those kinds of stones support the heaven, and support the earth. At the same time there are heavenly stones and earthly stones. And even though those insistences are discussed among secular people, it is very rear for anyone clearly notice this fact.)

In Japan, specialists as gerdeners usually distinguish stones among male, female, and non-male-or-female.

(14) We should know the facts of childbirth: At the time of childbirth, are parent and child both transformed? How could we learn in practice only that childbirth is realized as [the parent] becoming the parent of a child? We should learn in practice, and should penetrate to the end, that the Time of [the child] becoming the child of the parent is the practice-and-experience of the reality of childbirth.

(We should know the fundmetal principle of childbirth. At the time of childbirth, are parent and child both transformed? How is it only the case of realizing the childbirth for father and mother to become parents? We should also experience and understand that the fact that a baby has become a baby of parents is the practice and experience of realizing childbirth, and such a fact should be
studied too.)

In Buddhism all things and phenomena are always in mutual relations with each other.


(15) Great Master Unmon Kyoshin says, "The East Mountain moves on water." The point realized in these words is that all mountains are an East Mountain, and every East Mountain moves on water. Thus [mountains] such as the nine mountains of Mt. Sumeru have been realized, and they have practiced and experienced. This state is called "the East Mountain."

(Master Unmon Kyoshin says, "The East Mountain moves on water." And the main meaning of those realized words are that miscellaneously many mountains can be called eastern mountains, and the all eastern mountains can be described that they are going on the river. Therefore the nine mountains around the Sumeru have been realized, and they are acting and experiencing as mountains, which are called also the east mountainn.)

Therefore we can call all mountains as eastern mountains, which are also acting and practicing.


(16) At the present time in the great Kingdom of Sung, there is a group of unreliable fellows who have now formed such a crowd that they cannot be beaten by a few real [people]. They say that the present talk of the East Mountain moving on water, and stories such as Nansen's sickle, are sto-ries beyond rational understanding. Their idea is as follows: "A story which involves images and thoughts is not a Zen story of the Buddhist patriarchs. Stories beyond rational understanding are the stories of the Buddhist patri-archs. This is why we esteem Obaku's use of the stick and Rinzai's shout, which are beyond rational understanding and which do not involve images and thoughts, as the great realization before the sprouting of creation. The reason that the expedient means of many past masters employ tangle cut-ting phrases is that [those phrases] are beyond rational understanding." Those fellows who speak like this have never met a true teacher and they have no eyes of learning in practice; they are small dogs who do not deserve to be discussed. For the last two or three hundred years in the land of Sung there have been many such demons and shavelings [like those] in the band of six. It is pitiful that the great truth of the Buddhist Patriarch is going to ruin. The understanding of these [shavelings] is inferior even to that of ßråvakas of the small vehicle; they are more stupid than non-Buddhists. They are not lay people, they are not monks, they are not human beings, and they are not gods; they are more stupid than animals learning the Buddha's truth. What the shavelings call "stories beyond rational under-standing" are beyond rational understanding only to them; the Buddhist patriarchs are not like that. Even though [rational ways] are not rationally understood by those [shavelings], we should not fail to learn in practice the Buddhist patriarchs' ways of rational understanding. If ultimately there is no rational understanding, the reasoning which those [shavelings] have now set forth also cannot hit the target. There are many of this sort in all di-rections of Sung China, and I have seen and heard them before my own eyes. They are pitiful. They do not know that images and thoughts are words and phrases, and they do not know that words and phrases transcend images and thoughts. When I was in China I laughed at them, but they had nothing to say for themselves and were just wordless. Their present nega-tion of rational understanding is nothing but a false notion. Who has taught it to them? Though they lack a natural teacher, they have the non-Buddhist view of naturalism.

(Nowadays in the great Sun China there are some kinds of groups, which are governed by unreliable people, and recently they have become many big groups, therefore it has become impossible for us as a small group, which is true in our opinion, but our group is too much small to destroy them actually.
They say that the stories, which insist that eastern mountains walk on a river, or a story of Master Nansen's sickle, and so force, are originaly incomprehensible stories. The meaning of such insistences are that stories, which are related with miscellaneous human intelligence, can never be Buddhist Patriarchs' stories on Zen, and only incomprehencible stories can be just Buddhist Patriarchs' stories. Therefore Master Obaku's bar, which was used for striking his students, and Master Rinzai's shout "KATSU!" are difficult for human intellectual understanding to grasp the meaning. And such kinds of their incomplehensible behaviors are called the great enlightenments, which belongs to the eternity before any sprout of this world hasn't sprouted yet. The facts that the teaching methods of former instructors have used desicively strong words for cutting the complicated, comes from that the Buddhist teachings are originally incomplehensible.
However, those instructors, who say like this, have never met with a true Masters yet, and so they do not have any eyes for experience and learn the Truth. Therefore they were as if they were small children, who do not have any worth to be discussed. However, in Sung China for two or three years recently, those kinds of bold-headed-people, who belong to spiritual demons or six kinds of materialists, are very many.
It is very pitiful that the great Truth of Gautama Buddha has been degenerated so enormously. Those kinds of interpretations for Buddhism, haven't arrived at the level of Hinayana or Shravaka Buddhism yet, and are much more stupid than non-Buddhists. They are not secular people, but not Buddhist monks, not human beings, not gods, and they are much stupid than animals, which are studying Buddhism.
The incomplehensible stories, which they call so, are incomplehensible only for them, but in the case of Buddhist Patriarchs the situations are completely different, therefore even though those stories, which are impossible to understand for those non-Buddhists, we, Buddhists, should study the way of understanding by Buddhist Patriarchs. And if it were truly impossible for everyone to understand the meaning of the stories, even the people's insistences to decide that the stories are imcomplehensible, are also unreliable.
Those kinds of unreliable people were so many in miscellaneous districts of Sun Chine, therefore I have looked at them or listened to their rumors actually when I was there.
They were so pitiful that they do not know the important facts that our mental considerations directly identified with our verbal expressions, and our verbal expressions completely pass through our mental consideration. When I was in China I laughed at them, but there was no expression of their oppinion, and they had kept only their silence. Therefore it was very clear that their actual insistence of being incomplehensible was completely wrong. Who has taught to you
such wrong idea. Even though you do not have any natural teacher, your ideas are just a naturalism, which can never be Buddhism.

In Buddhism many people think that the Buddhist stories, which are called Koan, are illogical, but those kinds of interpretations are completely wrong. In Buddhism we have a fundamental philosophical system, which is called Four Philosophies, and the theory of Four Philosophies includes the four kinds of philosophies, which includes the dimentionally different four philosophical viewpoints.
Therefore if we do not understand the fundamental philosophical meaning of Four Philosophies, we can never understand the true meaning of Buddhist philosophy. Therefore Gautama Buddha explained the meaning of Four Philosophies at his first Buddhist lecture to his first five students.
And the structure of Koans includes usually includes the system of Four Philosophies, and so it is absolutely important for us to study the theory of Four Philosophies at the beginning of Buddhist study sincerely.

(17) Remember, this "The East Mountain moves on water" is the bones and marrow of the Buddhist patriarchs. Waters are realized at the foot of the East Mountain; thereupon mountains ride the clouds and walk through the sky. The crowns of the waters are mountains, whose walking, upward or downward, is always on water. Because the mountains' toes can walk over all kinds of water, making the waters dance, the walking is free in all directions and practice-and-experience is not nonexistent.

(Remember that the expression that "The Mountain moves on water" is the bones and marrow of the Buddhist Patriarchs. Rivers are realized at the foot of eastern mountains, and so those mountains
stand on clouds and walk through the sky. The heads of those rivers are the mountains, and walkings of the mountains are on the rivers. The toes of the mountains can walk on the rivers, and because the walks make the water spring out, the walks can be done in all directions. Therefore we can say that even the mountains can do practice and realization.)

In Buddhism we can combine human minds and substancial Nature completely together, and so we can understand and describe human beings and Nature so freely like this.


(18) Mountains have been the dwelling places of great saints since beyond the past and present. All the sages and all the saints have made the moun-tains into their inner sanctum and made the mountains into their body-and-mind; and by virtue of the sages and the saints the mountains have been realized. We tend to suppose, with respect to mountains in general, that countless great saints and great sages might be gathered there; but after we have entered the mountains there is not a single person to meet. There is only the realization of the vigorous activity of mountains.

(Mountains have been the dwelling places of great saints eternally transcending the past and the present. All sages and all saints have made mountains into their inner sanctum and made the mountains into their body-and-mind. Because of residences by the sages and the saints the mountains have been realized actually. In general we are prone to suppose that so many saints and so many sages might be living, but since having entered into the mountains, actually speaking, it is impossible for us to meet only one person at all. There is only the realization of the vigorous activity of mountains.)

In fact our supposition is usually so different from the real situations of facts. Therefore it is usually so different between our mental supposition and The Real Facts.


(19) An eternal Buddha says, "Mountains are mountains. Water is water." These words do not say that "mountains" are "mountains;" they say that mountains are mountains.

(An eternal Buddha says, "Mountains are mountains. Water is water." These words do not say that the real mountains are the same as the words of mountains, but the real mountains are just the real mountains.)

Concepts and Reality are dimensionally different completely.


The Ethics of Eating Meat

Dear Nishijima Roshi,

Previously someone asked you about the importance of a vegetarian diet in Buddhism, and you responded that the importance lies in whether your diet is healthy for your body or not. I had a question regarding the ethics of eating meat.

I do not see anything wrong in killing an animal to eat and sustain yourself. I see this as being very natural, and it is apparent through the way our bodies are designed that we have the capability to eat both plants and animals. But I am a vegetarian and have been for about 2 years. The reason I decided to become a vegetarian is because I believe the way animals are treated in slaughterhouses is disrespectful of the animal that gives its life so that we may continue ours. I agree that any food source we have takes life from something and I accept this, but many animals are being crammed together in small living quarters with disgusting conditions as well as being force-fed and abused to yield the highest portion of meat. The way the "meat industry" is set up means that you can never know where your meat comes from or how those animals are treated.

What I would like to know is, which do you think is more important: eating the diet that our body is designed for, or eating a diet that abstains from meat that comes from a disrespectful death?

Also, because I enjoy the taste of meat I frequently find myself wanting to eat it, even after two years. Is this craving/temptation an indicator that I need to eat meat, or is it a sign that I am "addicted" to meat and should stay vegetarian?

Thank you,

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Important principles in Shobogenzo (13) Den-e

When we read Shobogenzo (13) Den-e, we can find that the contents of (13) Den-e is almost the same as the contents of (12) Kesa-kudoku. Furthermore, at the end of Den-e we can find the date of having written Den-e, which is completely the same as the date of of written in the case of (12) Kesa-kudoku. In short, the date of the written in the case of (13) Den-e is completely the same as the date of the written as (12) Kesa-kudoku.

In the case of (12) Kesa-kudoku, the date of preaching is as follows.

Preached to the assembly at Kannon-
dori-kosho-horin-ji temple, on the
1st day of winter (164), in the 1st year of
Ninji. (165).

(164) The 1st day of winter means the 1st day of the 10th lunar month.
(165) 1240

In he case of (13) Den-e, the date of writing is as follows.

The 1st day of winter, in the 1st year of Ninji.(45)

Written at Kannon-dori-kosho-
horin-ji temple - a Shuramanya who
entered Sung [China] and received
the transmission of Dharma, Dogen.

(45) The 1st day of the 10th lunar month, 1240.

Reading those descriptions of the preaching dates and the date of writing, the actual dates of writing draft and preaching are completely the same.

And supposing the real situations, I decided that it might be sufficient for me to check only one chapter between the two. Because we can think that Master Dogen finished writing the draft on the 1st day of the 10th lunar month, 1240, and just on the same day he preached the lecture of (12) Kesa-kudoku. Therefore I thought that it was permissible for me to pass through the explanation of the one between the two.

In Shobogenzo we can find an almost the same example between the two chapters of (18) Shin-fukatoku [The former] and (19) Shin-fukatoku [The latter].

The End of (13) Den-e

Friday, February 8, 2008

Makahannya haramitsu

Dear Nishijima Roshi,

Thank you for this wonderful blog opportunity.

Reading the second chapter in Shobogenzo I would like to ask you for further explanation of the poem of master Tendo Nyojo about the windbell. Do I understand it right that the wind of the four directions have nothing to do with the ringing of the bell? Does it mean the bell would ring anyway or the bell is not influenced by wind that might blow somewhere?

And after the mentioning of the four dhyanas there are listed four states of balance (shi mushiki jo). Would you explain these, please?

Thank you in advance and best regards

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Zazen and enlightment stuff

Dear master Nishijima

thank you very much for your writings and efforts. I appreciated them a lot.

I would like to ask a question about enlightment, satori, nirvana, what ever word we like to use. In my opinion I don't care about enlightment or stuff like that because it's something that lies somewhere in the future, in our minds. It's not real. What is real is this present moment and practising zazen. Sometimes people who practise zazen are trying to achieve satori etc and as I see it they are losing this present moment where realization is; not in the past, not in the future but here, right now, right here.

Zazen and enligthment are the same so practising zazen is practising realization.

I think most important is to practise zazen, to help yourself and others, to live normal and calm life, simple life. And that's it. We can't know anything about death and future etc. so why to think stuff like those? Life is in here, in this present moment.

Dōgen wrote in Shobogenzo:

To think practice and realization are not one is a heretical view. In Buddhism, practice and realization are one equivalence… Being the realization of practice, there is no boundary of realization, being the practice of realization, there is no beginning of practice.

What is your opinion about this matter?

Thank you very much.

With best wishes,
Markus Laitinen

How does Zazen carry over?

Nishijima Roshi,

I appreciate your teachings and the logical manner in which yo present buddhism.

I have a question. When we keep our spine erect in Zazen and create balance in the Autonomic Nervous System, how exacly does this carry over into everyday activity? During most activities we are in disadvantagous positionsfor keeping the spine erect.

Thank you kindly,


Monday, February 4, 2008

Dear Nishijima Roshi,
on Saturday we held our first meeting with Judo Jürgen Sensei giving lectures onShobogenzo chapter Bendowa here in Frankfurt. 20 participants took part and used this wonderful occasion to get a basic introduction into buddhism.
His profound knowledge gripped the audience and this whole afternoon flew past in no time. Especially the opportunity to ask questions created a dharma dialogue being inspiring for us all.
Traditionally used to formal Teisho an private Dokusan this form of dialogue will open up a new vivid zen-understanding and we are looking forward to meeting him the next time.
Best regards

Dear Zushi San,

There is no question, and so there is no answer. It is a losing time.

Gudo Wafu Nishijima