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Thread: Is it possible to focus just on Dogen?

  1. #1

    Is it possible to focus just on Dogen?

    I have realized that there are at least 12 dense books on Dogen that I wish to read + the Shobogenzo. I have no idea how long this might take, since my main focus right now would be zazen, but I wish to take it one step at a time. He is fascinating to me. Do other people out there focus in their Zen path on Dogen for a long time, or am I just a weirdo in this sense? Will receive Jundo's book on Sunday, that's the first one in the series .

    Gassho, Tomás
    Sat&LaH

  2. #2
    Member Seikan's Avatar
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    Hi Tomas,

    I'm right there with you in wanting to take a deeper dive into Dogen. I wouldn't say that I want to exclude the teachings of others, but I do feel that I could benefit from a more focused course of study in 2021 that centers on Dogen. I'm reading Jundo's book now, and it is excellent! As always, he has a way of making the teachings more accessible to a modern student of Zen.

    This isn't my first time delving into Dogen, but I'm using it as a platform to kick off a new round of study once Ango/Jukai is over. I have a sneaky feeling that a future book club selection may focus on Jundo's book too...

    Perhaps we can pull a group of folks together for some sort of informal Dogen study group in 2021? It could be as simple as agreeing on a reading list/order and discussing as we go. Although, having the input of some more experienced folks here at Treeleaf to guide us would be ideal. There's been some chatter on this here and there, but perhaps now is the time to start planning? I'm certainly happy to help in any way.

    Sorry for running long. I've been thinking about this a lot lately myself...

    Gassho,
    Rob

    -stlah-



    Sent from my Pixel 2 XL using Tapatalk
    聖簡 Seikan (Sacred Simplicity)

  3. #3
    Hi Rob, that would be awesome! A study group on some book about Dogen's teachings for 2021 sounds excellent. Here are some of the titles that I would like to read at some point:

    1. The Zen master's dance: A guide to understanding Dogen and who you are in the universe (Jundo).

    2. Realizing Genjokoan: The Key to Dogen's Shobogenzo (Shohaku Okumura).

    3. How To Cook Your Life: From the ZEN Kitchen to Enlightenment (Kosho Uchiyama).

    4. Deepest Practice, Deepest Wisdom: Three Fascicles from Shobogenzo with Commentary (Kosho Uchiyama).

    5. Wholehearted Way: A Translation of Eihei Dagen's Bendowa (Kosho Uchiyama, translation by Shohaku Okumura).

    6. The Mountains and Waters Sutra: A Practitioner's Guide to Dogen's "Sansuikyo" (Shohaku Okumura).

    7. Readings of Dogen's "Treasury of the True Dharma Eye" (Steven Heine).

    8. Visions of Awakening Space and Time: Dōgen and the Lotus Sutra (Taigen Dan Leighton).

    9. Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist (Hee-Jin Kim).

    10. Leighton, T: Dogen's Extensive Record: A Translation of the Eihei Koroku (Taigen Dan Leighton).

    11. Dogen's Manuals of Zen Meditation (Carl Bielefeldt).

    12. Don't Be a Jerk: And Other Practical Advice from Dogen, Japan's Greatest Zen Master (Brad Warner).

    (Sorry for going over 3 sentences).

    Gassho, Tomás
    Sat&LaH

  4. #4
    Member Onka's Avatar
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    If you want to get more familiar with Dogen then it's Zazen or more specifically Shikantaza you should stay focused on as this is what Dogen taught. As one of the founders of our school it's natural that we study his works as well but at the end of the day all roads lead back to Shikantaza and the source of our practice Siddhartha.
    Gassho
    Onka
    ST
    Last edited by Onka; 11-12-2020 at 08:53 PM.
    aka Anna Kissed
    Pronouns She/Her They/Them
    No Gods No Masters

  5. #5
    I completely agree Onka. Zazen is my priority and the first thing I do in the morning. And yet a key aspect of the eightfold noble path is right view. I feel joy as I read through the teachings of the masters. It helps me stay inspired, especially when I struggle with my practice.

    Gassho, Tomás
    Sat&Lah

  6. #6
    Hmmm.

    Speaking as a certified Shikantaza-fanatic , and the fellow who "literally wrote the book (or "a" book) on Dogen," ... even I would say that it is best not to make Dogen's writings the main, or only, source of information and teachings on Soto Practice. The reason is that his style of writing and expressing was too arcane. Neither would I neglect him, and his words are a constant inspiration ... and I encourage someone to eventually make deep study on Dogen if Dogen inspires you so much (as he does me), by reading all those excellent books (that is certainly an excellent, comprehensive list of some of the best Dogen books out there) ...

    ... but to ONLY read Dogen is a bit like ONLY reading the Bible directly in hopes of understanding Christianity, or only reading the U.S. Constitution in order to understand U.S. government etc. etc. Yes, it is all in there, and is indispensable, but is only a key facet ... not the last word.

    So, at most, maybe read 1/3 or 1/4 Dogen pure, and 1/3 or 1/4 explanations of Dogen, and 1/3 or 50% other texts about Soto and Zen practice ...

    ... AND ALSO ALWAYS 3/3rds and 4/4ths Shikantaza Zazen too!

    Sorry to run long.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 11-12-2020 at 11:02 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  7. #7
    1. The Zen master's dance: A guide to understanding Dogen and who you are in the universe (Jundo).

    2. Realizing Genjokoan: The Key to Dogen's Shobogenzo (Shohaku Okumura).

    3. How To Cook Your Life: From the ZEN Kitchen to Enlightenment (Kosho Uchiyama).
    Those three are really worth reading (well I haven't actually received a copy of Jundo's book yet but have it on good authority from the man himself ) and Okumura's book on The Mountains and Waters Sutra. It is not that the others are not good, but I don't think they are as essential, and you would (in my opinion) be better dipping into the Shōbōgenzō itself before reading some of the others.

    Another book I really like is Receiving the Marrow which is a collection of short commentaries on Shōbōgenzō fascicles by modern women Zen teachers.

    My approach has been as Jundo suggests in mixing Dōgen studies with other things such as Zen history, Mahayana Sutras, early Buddhist scripture and classic science fiction.

    I really like the idea of a Dōgen study group too but maybe that is for after the book club study of The Zen Master's Dance. I have an idea based on a combination of a tea house and book club based on what another sangha does, but need to talk to Jundo about that.

    Apologies for length.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday-
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  8. #8
    Member Seikan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kokuu View Post
    Those three are really worth reading (well I haven't actually received a copy of Jundo's book yet but have it on good authority from the man himself ) and Okumura's book on The Mountains and Waters Sutra. It is not that the others are not good, but I don't think they are as essential, and you would (in my opinion) be better dipping into the Shōbōgenzō itself before reading some of the others.

    Another book I really like is Receiving the Marrow which is a collection of short commentaries on Shōbōgenzō fascicles by modern women Zen teachers.

    My approach has been as Jundo suggests in mixing Dōgen studies with other things such as Zen history, Mahayana Sutras, early Buddhist scripture and classic science fiction.

    I really like the idea of a Dōgen study group too but maybe that is for after the book club study of The Zen Master's Dance. I have an idea based on a combination of a tea house and book club based on what another sangha does, but need to talk to Jundo about that.

    Apologies for length.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday-
    Kokuu,

    Count me in for a Dogen study group regardless of format. And thanks for the info on "Receiving the Marrow". Perhaps that could be a part of our Dogen curriculum?

    Gassho,
    Rob

    -stlah-

  9. #9
    Great thread everyone!

    Gassho, Chris satlah

  10. #10
    Yes, we will be dancing with my "The Zen Master's Dance" as our next book selection in the book club, sometime early next year.

    Let me add to this:

    ... AND ALSO ALWAYS 3/3rds and 4/4ths Shikantaza Zazen too!
    ... AND ALWAYS ALSO 3/3rds and 4/4ths practice through all of life too, on and off the cushion.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  11. #11
    Thank you very much for the suggestions Jundo and Kokuu, I think I got a bit carried away with the excitement! 1/3 Dogen, 1/3 commentary, 1/3 other texts, 200% Shikantaza Zazen sounds like a much more balanced and comprehensive approach. Count me in the reading discussions of "The Zen Master's Dance". Combining it with a Tea House sounds like an excellent idea.

    Gassho, Tomás
    Sat

  12. #12
    My first Zen book was Master Torei "They undying Lamp of Zen" which convinced me that Zen is my path. That lead to Master Hakuin's writings, and the need of establishing sitted practice with intrest in Koans. However the Rinzai way proved to be impractical at this time in my life. Fortunately I bumped into Jundo online and Treeleaf and that's how Dogen creeped in my life. I enjoyed Uchiyama's writings, I'm going through Realising Genjokoan now. However I wouldn't say that I'm reading Shobogenzo or The complete Poison from a Thicket of Thorn. (please forgive me Jundo for my weakness to Rinzai) I rather taste it every other day, like coffee. These writings are for life, always to be returned to.
    "The Zen Master's Dance" will arrive next week and I can't wait for the book forum to open again!
    I'm sorry for writing more than 3 sentences.
    Gassho
    Sat

  13. #13
    I think I might be a Dogen dude too as I've read some of those books and the rest are on my wishlist. I like Jundo's suggestion of splitting reading into 1/3s though. Horin and I have been reading a chapter a week of Shobogenzo together since last ango and I seem to be working my way through Okumura's back catalogue a the same time so I could probably do with branching out into the wider soto world.

    Gassho

    Heiso

    StLah

  14. #14
    I have most of the books about Dogen cited above. I try to read a few a year; I've read many of them once or twice, and there was a spate of new books last year that I haven't gotten to yet. I think it's good to read Dogen, and books about Dogen, but not exclusively. And I'd certainly be interested in a study group.

    Gassho,

    Kirk

    sat
    -----
    I know nothing.

  15. #15
    Well, I am really looking forward to receiving Jundo's book and studying it in the book club.

    I have a fair few of the books on that comprehensive list but have to confess to being a bit of a 'dipper'. I can only take Dogen in small chunks as his writing is stylistically difficult and there's
    a heck of a lot of philosophy if you're that way inclined (I am - which might be a minus rather than a plus)

    I think the Hee-Jin Kim book is a really good introduction and helped me to place Dogen within his time - which seems to be important despite the timeless nature of his words. I read a lot of other stuff as well but the balance is more weighted towards sitting these days.

    Would enjoy a study group though.

    Gassho

    Jinyo

    sat today

    sorry - went a bit over.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Jinyo View Post
    I think the Hee-Jin Kim book is a really good introduction and helped me to place Dogen within his time - which seems to be important despite the timeless nature of his words. I read a lot of other stuff as well but the balance is more weighted towards sitting these days.
    Hee-Jin Kim and Steve Heine's book are wondrous, brilliant, filled with insightful insights ... BUT dense, very intellectual (sometimes overly so), sometimes too analytical for all their value. I might put those, while great books, at the end of the reading list for Dogen students, as wonderful as they are.

    Steve Heine's new book, by the way (Readings of Dogen's "Treasury of the True Dharma Eye" ), is BRILLIANT (except for two parts where we disagreed, and I wrote to explain why to him), but I would say that one already needs some good handle on Dogen to really get through and appreciate it. The disagreement was about his interpretation of the Opening lines of Genjo Koan, and his finding "4 stages" of Zazen somewhere in a line of Genjo, which he admits is just his musing.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  17. #17
    Member brucef's Avatar
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    Thanks to the Soto Zen group on Facebook, I’m now guilty of an impulse Kindle purchase - How to Raise an Ox: Zen Practice as Taught in Master Dogen's Shobogenzo by Francis Cook. I hope to read it soon. Apparently it’s supposed to be quite good.

    Gassho
    Bruce
    Stlah

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by brucef View Post
    Thanks to the Soto Zen group on Facebook, I’m now guilty of an impulse Kindle purchase - How to Raise an Ox: Zen Practice as Taught in Master Dogen's Shobogenzo by Francis Cook. I hope to read it soon. Apparently it’s supposed to be quite good.

    Gassho
    Bruce
    Stlah
    Yes, it is one of the easier to read and well stated explanations of Dogen Dharma. His other books too, such as Sounds of Valley Streams: Enlightenment in Dogen's Zen. I cannot recall now if I agreed with all the interpretations, and it is a bit on the scholarly side, but they are classics for Dogen folks.

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Yes, it is one of the easier to read and well stated explanations of Dogen Dharma. His other books too, such as Sounds of Valley Streams: Enlightenment in Dogen's Zen. I cannot recall now if I agreed with all the interpretations, and it is a bit on the scholarly side, but they are classics for Dogen folks.

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    Jundo, I'm not you, and your opinions, like everything else, are subject to change, but here's a few places where you've talked about the book "How to Raise an Ox" on Treeleaf:

    Treeleaf media list

    How to Raise an Ox AND Sounds of the Valley Streams, both by Francis Cook (translations of Shobogenzo sections, both books with essays by the author that are excellent introductions to Dogen and his teachings)
    You asked some folks in the Soto Zen Buddhist Association about it - a dozen or so said that they like it and use it from time to time. ( Thread from 2014 )

    Best place to start with Dogen thread from 2018

    I want to say THANK YOU for reminding us of Prof. Cook's book. I spend a few hours this afternoon with his Introduction and short essays (first 50 pages or so) before his translations. I had not read the book since 15 years ago. It really is good. I cannot attest for the translations themselves, as I have not looked that closely. I think they are solid, if I remember correctly (they are not that widely quoted compared to Nishijima, Tanahashi and others). However, the short essays explaining Dogen's teachings on aspects of practice are excellent. So much so, that I will move the book to highly recommended for folks new to Dogen and Soto Practice on our Sangha reading list.

    So good, that I am considering making it a future selection in our book club.

    ...

    I feel he had a superb understanding of Dogen and a great ability to explain the same in relatively easy to understand terms. If there is one comment on the book, it is that he touches only on selected topics about Dogen, although the most important (such as "practice enlightenment" and the ordinary as sacred). Wonderful.

    Yes, for anyone interested in the "best place to start with Dogen," this is one of the best (the Taigen Dan Leighton books mentioned, and Okumura Roshi's Genjo Koan are also indispensible). Lovely.

    ...

    I can also recommend enthusiastically his treatment of "Hua-Yan" (Flower Garland) Buddhism, which had such an important influence on Dogen and other Zen masters. In Hua-yan understanding, Prof. Cook has passed away yet gone no place at all.

    "Hua Yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra"
    https://www.amazon.com/Hua-Yen-Buddh.../dp/027102190X
    Based on that enthusiastic recommendation a couple years back I obtained a copy and have found it very helpful ever since. If these don't represent your opinion now I'm happy to remove them from this post to reflect your new understanding.

    Gassho,

    Nanrin

    Sat today
    Last edited by Nanrin; 11-24-2020 at 01:10 PM. Reason: fixed formatting
    南 - Southern
    林 - Forest

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Nanrin View Post
    Jundo, I'm not you, and your opinions, like everything else, are subject to change, but here's a few places where you've talked about the book "How to Raise an Ox" on Treeleaf:



    You asked some folks in the Soto Zen Buddhist Association about it - a dozen or so said that they like it and use it from time to time. ( Thread from 2014 )



    Based on that enthusiastic recommendation a couple years back I obtained a copy and have found it very helpful ever since. If these don't represent your opinion now I'm happy to remove them from this post to reflect your new understanding.

    Gassho,

    Nanrin

    Sat today
    Yes, that's what I said: They are classics, and "one of the easier to read and well stated explanations of Dogen Dharma."

    Of course, that was all back in the distant dark ages before that "Zen Master's Dance" book was available!

    Gassho, J

    STlah
    Last edited by Jundo; 11-24-2020 at 01:53 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Yes, we will be dancing with my "The Zen Master's Dance" as our next book selection in the book club, sometime early next year.

    Let me add to this:



    ... AND ALWAYS ALSO 3/3rds and 4/4ths practice through all of life too, on and off the cushion.

    Gassho, J

    STLah

    Congratulations. Glad this will be a book club selection.

    Doshin
    St

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Yes, that's what I said: They are classics, and "one of the easier to read and well stated explanations of Dogen Dharma."

    Of course, that was all back in the distant dark ages before that "Zen Master's Dance" book was available!

    Gassho, J

    STlah
    Silly me! I've taken a simple statement and made it complex

    Nanrin

    Sat today
    南 - Southern
    林 - Forest

  23. #23
    Just a heads up for those who live in the United States and Canada, if you have a library card there's a resource where I've found a suprisingly large number of Buddhist books, particularly Dogen and Zen, and some of the books mentioned in this thread (I'm reading "Don't Be a Jerk" on there right now). It's free with e-books and audiobooks. If anyone is interested it's:

    https://www.hoopladigital.com/

    Gassho,

    Josh
    SatToday/LaH

    Sent from my SM-N986U using Tapatalk

  24. #24
    I was introduced to the writings of Dogen 40-some years ago and I am just now thinking of buying a translation of the complete Shobogenzo. Yes, it took me a few years to decide ��. Is there a particular version that you recommend please?
    In Gassho
    Al
    Stlah

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by Allister View Post
    I was introduced to the writings of Dogen 40-some years ago and I am just now thinking of buying a translation of the complete Shobogenzo. Yes, it took me a few years to decide ��. Is there a particular version that you recommend please?
    In Gassho
    Al
    Stlah
    Hi Allister,

    In a nutshell, the Tanahashi Sensei version is probably the most readable, with the greatest sense of the musicality and poesy of Dogen's language style, although Tanahashi sometimes has to sacrifice literal translation to achieve that. My Teacher, Nishijima Roshi, with Chodo Cross (I have been told by academic Dogen scholars) is probably the most faithful in tracking Dogen's language, although sometimes loses some of the stylistic and musical sense of the language in doing so. The Order of Buddhist Contemplatives version, in my experience, often is a very free translation that wanders from what Dogen actually said sometimes (at least when I have looked closely at it), and goes for a "King James" biblical style that may be distracting. The Soto Zen Text Project is not yet fully available (you can still find many chapters online if you hunt around), but will be soon I hear and (while expensive) has the best footnoting tracing down and explaining the sourcing and Zen teachings that Dogen was working from. Those are the full versions. Probably Tanahashi is the best choice, but I also recommend to read two or three side-by-side to triangulate where Dogen was coming from as expressed in varied translations.

    The partial translations by Tanahashi (such as Moon in a Dewdrop) and the Cook books are also excellent as a first purchase.

    Nishijima and OBC are available for free online. Scroll down for "Shōbōgenzō: The True Dharma-Eye Treasury - Vol. I Vol. II Vol. III Vol. IV" here for Nishijima:

    https://bdkamerica.org/tripitaka-list/

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 11-25-2020 at 01:11 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Hi Allister,

    In a nutshell, the Tanahashi Sensei version is probably the most readable, with the greatest sense of the musicality and poesy of Dogen's language style, although Tanahashi sometimes has to sacrifice literal translation to achieve that. My Teacher, Nishijima Roshi, with Chodo Cross (I have been told by academic Dogen scholars) is probably the most faithful in tracking Dogen's language, although sometimes loses some of the stylistic and musical sense of the language in doing so. The Order of Buddhist Contemplatives version, in my experience, often is a very free translation that wanders from what Dogen actually said sometimes (at least when I have looked closely at it), and goes for a "King James" biblical style that may be distracting. The Soto Zen Text Project is not yet fully available (you can still find many chapters online if you hunt around), but will be soon I hear and (while expensive) has the best footnoting tracing down and explaining the sourcing and Zen teachings that Dogen was working from. Those are the full versions. Probably Tanahashi is the best choice, but I also recommend to read two or three side-by-side to triangulate where Dogen was coming from as expressed in varied translations.

    The partial translations by Tanahashi (such as Moon in a Dewdrop) and the Cook books are also excellent as a first purchase.

    Nishijima and OBC are available for free online. Scroll down for "Shōbōgenzō: The True Dharma-Eye Treasury - Vol. I Vol. II Vol. III Vol. IV" here for Nishijima:

    https://bdkamerica.org/tripitaka-list/

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    Thank you Jundo. I have seen the OBC version and wondered at the choice of language style. Thank you.
    Al.

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