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Thread: How to shobogenzo

  1. #1

    How to shobogenzo

    Hello guys, so I decided that I'm about to study the Shobogenzo. I don't have any goals about getting anywhere with this, or to get any great understandings or things like that. I just want to start reading it....

    So I noticed there are a couple of free versions out there, are they recommended? I don't have a lot of money..

    Any other tips or suggestions how to approach this master piece?


  2. #2
    Hi Neo

    Personally, I have just started at the beginning and am working my way through fascicle by fasicle, letting the words wash over me. I have no goal to get everything on the first read through as I imagine that is pretty much impossible. So, some bits speak to me, others are more impenetrable. Sometimes I read fascicles out of sequence if they are referred to somewhere (like Taigu's Koku poem or the Ango chapter).

    Anyway, Jundo posted a helpful thread on how to read Dogen: He also has a thread comparing the different translations too but I can't find that at the moment.

    Although Shobogenzo is a large work with many layers I have been surprised at how engaging and accessible it is. Also very moving in parts and prescriptive in others. There is much depth still to penetrate.



  3. #3
    Hi karasu, thx for all info about the subject. I saw to the post of how to approach dogen, what I missed about that post was if there was any good free translation out there, like in .pdf or something.

    Which translation are you reading?

  4. #4
    Instead of tackling the entire Shobogenzo, I've been reading some if the many collections of excerpts. Right now, I'm reading How to Raise an Ox, and I have several others by different translators. (Search for Dogen on Amazon and you'll find more than a dozen.)

    These books are interesting because they select the most useful fascicles, and also have introductions that I find helpful.



    (Posted from my iPhone; please excuse any typos or brevity.)

    I know nothing.

  5. #5
    Understand that shobogenzo, wether you get it or not, is not the point.
    Jundo has written deeply about this and how to read Dogen.

    My teacher's translation, Mike Cross , and Kaz's are the best rendering of this whirling flow.

    if you cannot read the whole thing, if you only have one chapter, go for Genjokoan.

    The whole shobogenzo is in your mudra when you sit. It is open in kids 's eyes. In cities of glass and steel. In deep mountains and in your very kitchen.

    go empty handed and trust.



  6. #6
    *Edit: (oh was very slow in typing this up and Taigu covered it all perfectly!)

    I would agree, rather than tackling the whole show, take in some by picking it up, reading a section and setting it down.
    Genjokoan is a wonderful one and the for translations there is the Nishijima/Cross translation which is wonderful, very detailed footnotes, very carefully translated (you can purchase or the pdf files of the 4 books are available for download) and the Tanahashi translation of it which is equally well done in a bit of a flowing/poetic way. A third option is the Shasta Abbey version (also available for download as a pdf) which is again a different flavour.


  7. #7
    Let me also drop this in the fire ...

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

    Some comments on the various versions out there are here, also in the "How to Read Dogen" thread. I second what everyone has expressed above too.


    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 12-19-2013 at 01:54 AM.

  8. #8
    Thank you for the insight comparing Coltrane and Dogen. I was into Coltrane (especially A Love Supreme) way before I knew anything about Zen. I can see how Dogen may be riffing on known themes, like JC did on "My Favorite Things." JC's brilliant improvs were the result of hours of practice - often >10 hours per day. We could say the same of Dogen.


  9. #9
    Neo, I have the Tanahashi translation and like it a lot. Is expensive, though, especially when compared to the freely downloadable Nishijima/Cross version.

    I am a beginner when it comes to Dogen and what Taigu and others say is true that it is good to concentrate on certain fascicles that are the cornerstone of Dogen's thinking - Bendowa, Genjokoan, Being Time (Uji) and (not in Shobogenzo) Fukanzazengi. However, I am so glad I am working through Shobogenzo methodically as there are many parts not considered so important that I have got a great deal from.

    Do take it slow, though. I have had my copy for nearly a year and have only read about 20 fascicles as find one needs to sink in before starting another. To rush would seem like having a whole cake and eating it all at once.

    One last thing - reading Okamura's 'Realizing Genjokoan' was very helpful in introducing me to how Dogen thinks.


  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu View Post

    My teacher's translation, Mike Cross , and Kaz's are the best rendering

    I have heard this many times but ignored until now. I downloaded a free copy and indeed found it the most approachable version for a knuckle head like me thus far. :-)

    Gassho, John

  11. #11

    just my two cents. Studying the Shobogenzo cannot be done in any meaningful way without a regular practise of Zazen.
    If you don't rub the two wooden sticks of sitting practise and dharma study together, the one will not "enlighten" or even inflame the other.
    One refers to the other, the other to the one. In the end both are perfect expressions of each other, without ever having be seperate.


    Hans Chudo Mongen

  12. #12
    I'm just reading part of a book called Beyond Thinking, which is a selection of texts about meditation from the Shobogenzo. It made me realize that it would be very useful if someone made a list of all the chapters of the Shobogenzo and graded them, similar to the way Jundo has graded books on the Treeleaf book list.

    There are some chapters that are not very difficult to understand, and others that are quite dense and confusing. It could make it easier to approach the Shobogenzo if people knew where to begin.

    Perhaps there's some way that we can do this as a group?

    (Posted from my iPhone; please excuse any typos or brevity.)

    I know nothing.

  13. #13

    Taigu recommended the Genjokoan, if you like I can send you a copy of my book, the translation by Okumura on PDF,


    Taigu made a kind of list on one thread of the most important chapters, I can try to find if interested the link, or the list I copy.

  14. #14
    Hey Myoshin, I would like that very much! How to send it?

    I've started to study the Mike Cross version now, still @ the first chapter.

  15. #15
    I recently borrowed Kim's Mystical Realist from our uni library. Awesome book. Things are finally making sense.

    Gassho, Ben

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Myoshin View Post
    Taigu made a kind of list on one thread of the most important chapters, I can try to find if interested the link, or the list I copy.
    Taigu wrote this awhile back, and goes for me too ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu View Post
    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.



  17. #17
    Perhaps there's some way that we can do this as a group?
    Kirk, I started up a thread on this earlier in the year but after a lot of initial enthusiasm there were few comments. Would be great if you wanted to try again and I would certainly appreciate it.


  18. #18

    shobogenzo is not meant to be read the way we usually do, taking in information or to form an educated opinion on a subject. When I read it I always have that quote from Confucius in mind: "If I give you one corner, its up to you to come up with the other three" Hardly anything Dogen writes is meant to be taken literally. It is written and read as a guide to contemplation and reflection. The reader has to do the work. Like said earlier in this thread, you cannot read and try to understand anything Dogen writes without sitting and practicing Zen in life too. You will find that these texts change or rather "fold open in a different way" every time we study them. One day you read it and you feel Dogen must have been some kind of babbling nutcase and the next day the same passage opens up like a flower, expressing what is in your heart in a way you could never manage yourself. In my opinion, this has to do with maturing, the self and what you project or are ready for at that particular moment of reading. Taigu often says " read a passage and just let it ring your bell" It is not an intellectual exercise and it is an intellectual exercise at the same time, the reader has to dig deeper, study, look things up in other texts or imagine the situation a lively as possible, like a koan. A practice that must follow the pace of your Zen practice. That is the mysterious miraculous and baffling quality of Dogens Shobogenzo. Dogen does not seek to be entertaining while we sit comfortably (although this can be very nice too) , but gets you moving, puts you to work the hard way saying what? WHAT!!!!

    Stop reading and start to Shobogenzo. This is the key.



  19. #19
    Hi Neo,

    Jundo answered before me, thank you Jundo for this reminder.

    No rush, even if it's difficult to understand, let the Shobogenzo read you.



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