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Thread: Dogen's Shobogenzo and Koroku

  1. #1

    Dogen's Shobogenzo and Koroku

    Hi all treeleafers,

    I sent a mail to Jundo and he asked me if I can post my message, some of you might have an interest

    "I've ordered The koroku by Leighton

    I wanted to know what are the differences between the Shobogenzo and the Koroku.
    I know the first one his the first part of this life, and the second one the second part of his life, and that the Shobogenzo was written to develop the theory of what he learnt in China to bring it in Japan, and The second Koroku is a collection of Dharma talks, when Soto was well implanted.

    So the questions are:
    1. What I wrote is correct?
    2. In those two books, do we have the entiere teaching, philosophy of Dogen?
    3. What part of his teachings do his other books have to add to the Shobogenzo and The koroku?

    Thank you for your answer


    Last edited by Myoshin; 02-05-2013 at 12:09 AM.

  2. #2
    Hi Myoshin,

    You are talking about the Shobogenzo (The Treasury of the True Dharma Eye) and Eihei Koroku (The Extensive Record of Eihei Dogen). In a nutshell, the Shobogenzo primarily consists of a series of longer talks that Dogen wrote largely early and mid-career ... while still rather starry eyed in Kyoto after his return from China, and before and after he was booted out of town (probably by pressure from other more well connected Buddhist sects in the capital city) into the "boondocks", and then while waiting for his new temple (the future Eiheiji monastery) to be built. These essays tend to be in a style of longer, stream of Buddha-consciousness, free associating compositions riffing Jazzlike on Dogen's almost encyclopedic knowledge of old Koans, obscure Sutra Passages, traditional Teachings and the like. I have riffed myself on Dogen's style here:

    SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Dogen - A Love Supreme


    How to Read Dogen

    Although there is some overlap in time period with Shobogenzo, the Eihei Koroku is a large collection of talks in a shorter, somewhat more formal and structured style (plus some other materials such as his poems) written generally later in his career until his death at age 53. Maybe during this period we see a more conservative Dogen, more focused on monastic training for his monks than lay folks, a bit more conservative in his views. Nonetheless, one still finds even in these more formal-style talks that same stream of Buddha-consciousness, free associating riffing Jazz and encyclopedic knowledge. It may be true that Dogen, more concerned with the training of his monks at Eiheiji, even gave up the "experiment" of the Shobogenzo during his later career in favor of these shorter, more formal-style short talks. He did add 12 essays to Shobogenzo later in his career (including "Doshin" which was mentioned recently on another thread about hand copying the Lotus Sutra), but these later 12 essays (and later writings in Eihei Koroku too) may reflect a Dogen who was older (53 was old back then), ill and nearing his own death, rather more hard bitten, and in a bit more conservative in approach, tough "football coach" in style, and "kids, get off my lawn" in personality than his early "bright eyed" works perhaps. But his humor, humanity and warmth peek through too in equal measure.

    Taigen Leighton, the translator of the Koroku into English (with Shoaku Okumura) has a good essay here introducing Koroku with some comparisons to Shobogenzo.

    That essay concludes ...

    The Dharma hall discourses of Eihei Kōroku reveal how Dōgen actually trained his monk successors in his final decade of teaching at Eiheiji, including how he understood the function of this training. Apparent are aspects of Dōgen's personality, his sense of his own limitations, his humor and warmth, and his deep teaching commitments. The discussion provided here is just a slight peek into the richness of this source. But this selection of Dharma hall discourses demonstrate his emphasis on practice in everyday activity; the essential role of precepts and ethical conduct; the importance in Dōgen's teaching of bodhisattva intention and practices; the sense of wholeness available in zazen; and his emphasis on sustainable, continuous practice.

    The are some other works by or recording Dogen, such as his "Eihei Shingi", essays written to his Temple officers and monks on how to comport themselves in the monastery. It is also mostly in Dogen's jazzy way, and includes the famous essay (my most special Dogen writing) Tenzo Kyokun, Instructions for the Cook.

    Here is Uchiyama's commentary on Instructions for the Cook, highly recommended ...

    There is also the Shobogenzo Zuimonki (not to be confused with the Shobogenzo itself), a collection of short diary notes of Dogen's Talks at Eiheiji by his student and secretary Eijo. There are some wonderful parts to that, but also the grumpy and tough Dogen peaks out now and then. That is available online, and we did read it in our Treeleaf "beyond words and letters" bookclub a few years ago ...

    A lovely little writing by Dogen, not part of the Shobogenzo, is the Gakudo Yojinshu, available online here. Only a few pages, well worth a read. It is the younger Dogen, just seven years back from China. (Also available in Spanish, French and some other languages online if you search)

    A little footnote is that Dogen's writings were largely unread and forgotten even within the Soto Sect in Japan for 600 years, even among the priests, until a revival of their popularity especially in the 20th century. Dogen was respected as the "Founder", but nobody particularly studied his writings.

    Ultimately, none of these books contain Dogen. Putting it all into Zazen and Practice-Enlightenment in life is where "Dogen" is truly revealed.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-05-2013 at 04:41 AM.

  3. #3
    This is some great info Jundo, thank you for this.


  4. #4
    Hi Myoshin,

    Almost nothing to add to my Bro s eloquence.The Shobogenzo is generally revered as the great collection of Dogen early teachings, the main chapters are the following: Genjokan is essential ( originally a letter written to a layman, it puts in a nutshell the very essence of Dogen' s teaching), then Bendowa ( a Dokusan form written in the hermitage before creating Koshoji), Uji the great window into being-time, Bussho, mountains- rivers sutra, den-e and kesa kuoku in praise of the robe of sitting, Zazenshin a needle for Zazen, Inmo, Tsuki the moon, Baike, Zazengi, Koku, Yui Butsu yo Butsu...and one should come back again and again to the Fukanzazengi.

    You may read at random, any chapter.

    The body, flesh, bones and marrow of Dogen are to be found on your zafu, hands in mudra, skull up and floating thoughts. That is where to find the good old guy.


    Last edited by Taigu; 02-05-2013 at 10:06 PM.

  5. #5
    Wow - this is a great thread. Thanks Jundo and Taigu - and thanks Myoshin for bringing the questions


  6. #6

  7. #7
    Thanks for that Jundo! I remember some time back hearing a talk by Daido Roshi discussing "Instructions for the cook", wonderful stuff.

  8. #8
    the EXTENSIVE RECORD is my favorite Dogen Zenji reading. Always new.
    Great post Jundo.

    The Poem, Reading the Record of Eihei Dogen by Ryokan (1758-1831

    On a somber spring evening around midnight,
    Rain mixed with snow sprinkled on the bamboos in the garden.
    I wanted to ease my loneliness but it was quite impossible.
    My hand reached behind me for the Record of Eihei Dogen.
    Beneath the open window at my desk,
    I offered incense, lit a lamp, and quietly read.
    Body and mind dropping away is simply the upright truth.
    In one thousand postures, ten thousand appearances, a dragon toys with the jewel.
    His understanding beyond conditioned patterns cleans up the current corruptions;
    The ancient great master’s style reflects the image of India.

    I remember the old days when I lived in Entsu Monastery
    And my late teacher lectured on the True Dharma Eye.
    At that time there was an occasion to turn myself around,
    So I requested permission to read it, and studied it intimately.
    I keenly felt that until then I had depended merely on my own ability.
    After that I left my teacher and wandered all over.
    Between Dogen and myself what relationship is there?
    Everywhere I went I devotedly practiced the true dharma eye.
    Arriving at the depths and arriving at the vehicle—how many times?
    Inside this teaching, other’s never any shortcoming.
    Thus I thoroughly studied the master of all things.

    Now when I take the Record of Eihei Dogen and examine it,
    The tone does not harmonize well with usual beliefs.
    Nobody has asked whether it is a jewel or a pebble.
    For five hundred years it’s been covered with dust
    just because no one has had an eye for recognizing dharma.
    For whom was all his eloquence expounded?
    Longing for ancient times and grieving for the present, my heart is exhausted.

    One evening sitting by the lamp my tears wouldn’t stop,
    and soaked into the records of the ancient Buddha Eihei.
    In the morning the old man next door came to my thatched hut.
    He asked me why the book was damp.
    I wanted to speak but didn’t as I was deeply embarrassed;
    My mind deeply distressed, it was impossible to give an explanation.
    I dropped my head for a while, then found some words.
    “Last nights’ rain leaked in and drenched my bookcase.”
    Translated by Daniel Leighton and Kazuaki Tanahashi
    Copied from Moon in a Dewdrop, edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi
    Last edited by Ed; 02-08-2013 at 03:55 PM.
    "Know that the practice of zazen is the complete path of buddha-dharma and nothing can be compared to is not the practice of one or two buddhas but all the buddha ancestors practice this way."
    Dogen zenji in Bendowa

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