And now we come to the Big Man, Dogen of Eihei Monastery ... who brought Soto Zen from China to Japan.

Recently in talking about the Dogen bio-movie called "Zen" (and really, throughout this book of the legends of our Zen Ancestors ... some more legend than legit) we have discussed the process of "hagiography" ... the making of a religious hero's increasingly idealized image and story after his/her death, until the point of sainthood or more:


That process for Dogen may have begun here, with Keizan. You see, Keizan never met Dogen, and was not even born until 15 years after Dogen left this world. What is more, Dogen ... in none of his known writings ... ever told the story of enlightenment (and the confirmation in his master Ju-Chings's room) described here. Dogen did frequently use the expression "dropping body-mind" (shinjin datsuraku; sometimes translated as "attachments to body and mind dropped away") in his writings, and Dogen sometimes related how Ju-Ching did teach with such words, but there is some historical doubt as to whether Ju-Ching would have ever taught such an expression. The Dogenologist Steven Heine writes ...

As for Dogen, the most famous saying that he attributes to his mentor as the epitome of Ch'an teaching, shinjin datsuraku, was almost certainly not something Ju-ching or Sung Ch'an masters ever uttered. The use of this phrase in sectarian biographies such as various manuscripts of the Kenzeiki and the Teiho Kenzeiki which contain several different versions of the event, must have developed over the years (Did Dogen Go To China, P. 45).

Another noted Dogen historian, Ishii Shudo, writes in a recent academic paper:

The same story is related in various texts ... They are all said to be stories of Dogen's great awakening. The content of the story is a typical tale of changing delusion into awakening ( ....) which is a type of story Dogen actually disliked. ... SUGIO Genyu ....has insisted
that these stories are errors or fiction by the biographers. I also accept this explanation.

In my work Dogen Zen no Seiritsushi-teki Kenkyu I continue warning that the story ... is not to be recognized as historically true and that it aberrates from the core of Dogen's Zen. ... AS2011.pdf

Was Keizan seeking to romanticize, hyperbolize and grandize Dogen's tale, much as we see he has done for most of the Ancestors we have encountered in his other legend tellings? Keizan sure likes to tell a grand, fantastic, exciting story with lots of flash and magic.

In fact, Dogen never felt it worthwhile to tell the story at all any place in his own writings. It first appears here ... in Keizan's telling, filled with extremely worshipful and idealized language. As the centuries passed, and later biographies added elements and heightened drama to previous biographies, the moment became both more "the official story" and larger until, for example, it was as seen in the movie (an animation in which Dogen flies into the sky on a giant pink lotus leaf! Watch from 7:00 to 12:00 here)

[youtube] [/youtube]

Yet, in the movie version ... Ju-Ching soon advises Dogen to get over it, move on, for enlightenment-practice is endless.

That is, anyway, something on which we can all agree.

Cook from p 255
Hixon from p 243

Gassho, J