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The Poetics of Perception
Dogen's Use of Chiasmus in Shobogenzo




Numerous and Numinous:

Dogen’s Use of Chiasmus in His Masterwork




Hyatt Carter



“Ask not what your country can do for you,

ask what you can do for your country.”


That sentence, spoken by President John Kennedy in a famous speech, is a good example of chiasmus, a rhetorical figure that reverses the terms of the two clauses that make up a sentence, or a part of a sentence.


Chiasmus is thus a linguistic twist or turn that you can use to express a crosswise mode of thought. Chiasmus (ky-AZ-mus) means “a crossing,” from the Greek letter chi, X, a cross. You “cross” the terms of one clause by reversing their order in the next.


The Greek letter chi ( χ ), the “chi” of chiasmus, is my symbol for chiasmic structures, or crosswise modes of thinking and expression. A memorable line by Dogen, shimmering with chiasmicity, can be represented as:


He seems only to understand the many, forgetting the one,


or to realize only the one, forgetting the many.


As I have demonstrated in other essays, the concept of “chiasmus” can be generalized so that it is not only a figure of speech but also, and more importantly, a figure of thought and a figure of reality. Indeed, Dogen, who was especially keen on chiasmus, spices his writings frequently with this figure and turns to it to express some of his most penetrating insights.


The frequency of this figure in his masterwork, Shobogenzo, reveals that the structure of his thought is deeply chiasmic. A complete listing of his use of chiasmus that I found in a recent reading of Shobogenzo fills 57 pages of a MS Word document.


Dogen’s Shobogenzo is a big book. The Nishijima-Cross translation, a four-volume set, runs over a thousand pages and consists of 95 chapters.


My list of chiasmi in Shobogenzo follows their order of appearance in the book, chapter by chapter. For ease of comparison, the English translation of each chiasmus is followed by Dogen’s original Japanese. The list is arranged in sections according to chapter, and the heading before each section, indented and placed on three separate lines, provides this information:


 (1) the transliterated Japanese title of the chapter,

 (2) the chapter in kanji, or Chinese characters, and 

 (3) an English translation of the title.


Unless otherwise noted, the English translations are from Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo (four volumes) by Gudo Nishijima and Chodo Cross. My source for the Japanese text is the Shomonji website online at:




And so, without further ado, here is the list of Dogen’s use of chiasmus in Shobogenzo:



Book One




 A Talk about Pursuing the Truth


Grass, trees, fences, and walls become able to preach for all souls, [both] common people and saints; and conversely, all souls, [both] common people and saints, preach for grass, trees, fences, and walls.





As it is already realization in practice, realization is endless;

as it is practice in realization, practice is beginningless.






Still more, those who think that worldly affairs hinder the Buddha-Dharma only know that there is no Buddha-Dharma in the world; they do not know that there are no worldly dharmas in the state of Buddha.






 The Perfection of Wisdom


When this principle is preached and realized, it is said that matter is just the immaterial and the immaterial is just matter. Matter is matter, the immaterial is the immaterial.





So researching prajna is space itself. Space is the research of prajna.




[Because] the prajna-paramita is no different from the buddha-bhagavats, and the buddha-bhagavats are no different from the prajna-paramita.






 The Realized Universe


Conveying oneself toward all things to carry out practice-enlightenment is delusion.

All things coming and carrying out practice-enlightenment through the self is realization.

Those who greatly realize delusion are buddhas.

Those who are greatly deluded in realization are living beings.








When one side is illumined, the other is darkened.





There is a trace of realization that cannot be grasped. We endlessly express the ungraspable trace of realization.





Birds are life, and fish are life. It may be that life is birds and that life is fish.





When we find this place, this action is inevitably realized as the Universe. When we find this way, this action is inevitably the realized Universe [itself].






 One Bright Pearl


“The whole of the ten directions” describes the ceaseless [process] of pursuing things to make them into self, and of pursuing self to make it into something.





 Mind Here and Now Is Buddha


The title, “Mind Here and Now Is Buddha” (即心是佛), is a famous saying in the Zen tradition. In this chapter, Dogen performs a most ingenious feat—he takes the saying apart and then puts it back together, changing the order of the four characters in various ways to yield new linguistic units of meaning.


Here is the saying, followed by  permutations he presents for our inspection:



  Soku shin ze butsu

  “mind here and now is buddha”


  Shin soku butsu ze

  “the mind which is buddha is this”


  Butsu soku ze shin

  “buddha actually is just the mind”


  Ze butsu shin soku

  “this buddha-mind is now here”


  Soku shin butsu ze

  “mind-and-buddha here and now is true”


  Ze butsu soku shin

  “concrete buddha is mind here and now”


The different meanings are made possible because, with a change of order, the same word can function in different ways grammatically, such as adjective, verb, or conjunction. For more about this see my essay, “Dogen’s Foreplay with Hartshorne’s Doctrinal Matrices,” available on this site.




The mind that has been authentically transmitted means one mind as all dharmas, and all dharmas as one mind.





 Prostrating to Attainment of Marrow


Long ago, in the Tang dynasty, Great Master Shinsai of Joshu established the mind and set off as a wayfarer. In the story he says, “I shall question anyone who is superior to me, even a child of seven. And I shall teach anyone who is inferior to me, even a man of a hundred.”






 Voices of the River-Valley, Form of the Mountains


A monk asks Zen Master Chosa [Kei]shin, “How can we make mountains, rivers, and the Earth belong to ourselves?” The Master says, “How can we make ourselves belong to mountains, rivers, and the Earth?”






 Not Doing Wrongs


There is the Buddhist truth of taking up at one moment, and letting go at one moment. At just this moment, the truth is known that wrong does not violate a person, and the truth is clarified that a person does not destroy wrong.






When we cause even the moun­tains, rivers, and the Earth, and the sun, moon, and stars, to do practice, the mountains, rivers, and the Earth, the sun, moon, and stars, in their turn, make us practice.





The buddhas and the patriarchs have never made the teachings, practice, and experience tainted, and so the teachings, practice, and experience have never hindered the buddhas and the patriarchs.





The seeds of buddhahood arise from conditions and, this being so, conditions arise from the seeds of buddhahood.




Learning in practice like this is the realized Universe and it is Universal realization—we consider it from the stand­point of the subject and we consider it from the standpoint of the object.





[The re­lation between] wrongs and not committing is not only “a well looking at a donkey;” it is the well looking at the well, the donkey looking at the donkey, a human being looking at a human being, and a mountain looking at a mountain. Because there is “preaching of this principle of mutual accordance,” wrongs are not committing.





“It is just like space:” it is the clapping of hands to the left and the clapping of hands to the right. “It is like the moon [reflected] in water:” and the water restricted by the moon.





The many kinds of right are real dharmas, but real dharmas are not many kinds of right.








Time is already none other than beings,

and beings are all none other than time.






The arousing of aspiration [in different] minds at the selfsame time

is the arousing [at different] times of the selfsame mind.






A full being-time half known

is a half being-time fully known.




[The three preceding English translations are by Steven Heine.]




What Daijaku says is not the same as [what] others [can say]. [His] eyebrows and eyes may be the mountains and the seas, because the mountains and the seas are [his] eyebrows and eyes.





Neither is not being right the same as not making himself [act], nor is not making himself [act] the same as not being right. All these [situations] are Existence-Time.




Sometimes the will is present but the words are absent,

Sometimes the words are present but the will is absent,

Sometimes the will and the words are both present,

Sometimes the will and the words are  both absent.






 The Sutra of Mountains and Waters


There should be investigation both of backward steps and of stepping backward.





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.




This does not mean that there is water within Buddha-lands, and does not mean that there are Buddha-lands inside water.





Wherever Buddhist patriarchs go water goes, and wherever water goes Buddhist patriarchs are realized.





It is not only that there is water in the world; there are worlds in the world of water.






 The Certificate of Succession


It is pitiful that though they appear to be the Buddha’s progeny, they are not the Buddha’s children, and they are not child-buddhas.





 The Dharma Blossom Turns the Dharma Blossom


Herein, all the buddhas of the ten directions and the three times, and beings of anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, have [times of] turning the Flower of Dharma, and have [times of] the Flower of Dharma turning.





It is to turn the Flower of Dharma; it is the Flower of Dharma turning.





When the mind is in delusion, the Flower of Dharma turns.

When the mind is in realization, we turn the Flower of Dharma.




Hereafter the Flower of Dharma began to be expounded as the Flower of Dharma turning and turning of the Dharma-Flower.





When we look at atoms that does not mean we fail to see the world of Dharma. When we are experiencing the world of Dharma, that does not mean we fail to experience atoms.





There is turning the Flower of Dharma as “matter just being the immaterial,” which is beyond either disappearance or appearance. There is turning the Flower of Dharma as “the immaterial just being mat­ter,” which may be absence of life and death.





Vulture Peak exists inside the stupa, and the treasure stupa exists on Vulture Peak.





Some, moreover, have attained the Dharma-state of an eminent person by relying on this Sutra. But no-one has grasped the point of the Flower of Dharma turning, or mastered the point of turning the Flower of Dharma, in the manner of our founding Patriarch, the eternal Buddha of Sokei.





The dharma blossom turns the deluded mind,

The awakened mind turns the dharma blossom.

When practice is fully realized like this,

The dharma blossom turns the dharma blossom.








 Mind Cannot Be Grasped [I]


Tokuzan might ask the old woman, “Present mind cannot be grasped, past mind cannot be grasped, and future mind cannot be grasped. Which mind do you now in tend to refresh with rice-cakes?”


If he questions her like this, the old woman should say at once to Tokuzan, “The Master knows only that rice-cakes cannot refresh the mind. You do not know that mind refreshes rice-cakes, and you do not know that mind refreshes mind.”  









 The Eternal Mirror


Was the great round mirror born with the child, or was the child born with the great round mirror? It may also be possible that the births took place before or after [each other].





Saying that this mirror has no blurs on the inside or the outside neither describes an inside that depends on an outside, nor an outside blurred by an inside. There being no face or back, two individu­als are able to see the same. Minds, and eyes, are alike.





Is there eternity in the clear mirror, or not? Is there clarity in the eternal mirror, or not?





To speak tentatively, the backs of monkeys might be backed with the eternal mirror. Is the back of the eternal mirror backed with monkeys?





This being so, we learn in practice that flaws appear even on the eternal mirror and that even [mirrors] on which flaws have appeared are the eternal mirror; this is learning the eternal mirror in practice.





This is neither polishing the self nor the self polishing; it is polishing the eternal mirror.






 Reading Sutras


The words into which the Venerable One has now put his total effort [mean] not only that the out-breath does not follow circumstances, but also that circumstances do not follow the out-breath.





Thus, it is beyond the calculation of wise intelligence, it is beyond the estimation of intelligent wisdom; it is beyond the consideration of non-wise intelligence, and it is beyond the reach of non-intelligent wisdom.



Reformatted to reveal a pattern:










Evidently, the recitation of the whole of the sutras or half of the sutras amounts to three scrolls of sutras in the old woman’s case. “I have finished reciting the sutras” is the whole of Joshu’s sutra. In brief, the situation of his reciting the whole of the sutras is as follows: There is Joshu going around the Zazen chair; there is the Zazen chair going around Joshu, there is Joshu going around Joshu, and there is the Zazen chair going around the Zazen chair. At the same time, all instances of reciting the sutras are neither limited to going around a Zazen chair, nor limited to a Zazen chair going around.




The words “I just need to shade my eyes” spoken now are words naturally spoken by shaded eyes themselves. Shading the eyes describes getting rid of eyes and getting rid of sutras, it describes complete eye shading and completely shaded eyes. Shading the eyes means opening the eyes in the shaded state, invigorating the eyes within shade, invigorating shade within eyes, adding an extra eyelid, utilizing the eyes within shade, and eyes themselves utilizing shade. This being so, the virtue of shading the eyes is never [mentioned] in any [sutras] other than Eye-sutras. “You would surely pierce holes even in ox-hide” describes complete ox-hide and a complete-hide ox, it describes utilizing the ox to become a hide. This is why [possession of] the skin, flesh, bones, and marrow, and horns on the head, and nostrils, has been seen as the vigorous activity of bulls and cows In copying the Master, the ox becomes the Eyethis is described as shading the eyes. It is the Eye becoming the ox.



Book Two





 Buddha Nature


We understand, and we transcend the understanding, that all rely means total reliance, and reliance on the total.




In the fourth patriarch’s words, What name is it?”What means This, and he has dealt

with This as What, which is a name. The realization of What is based on This, and the realization of This is the function of What. The name is This, and is What. We make it into mugwort tea, make it into green tea, and make it into everyday tea and meals.





The fifth patriarch says, “The Buddha-nature is emptiness, so we call it being without.”


This clearly expresses that emptiness is not non-existence. To express that the Buddha-nature is emptiness, we do not say it is half a pound and we do not say it is eight ounces, but we use the words “being without.” We do not call it “emptiness” because it is void, and we do not call it “being without” because it does not exist; because the Buddha-nature is emptiness, we call it “being without.” So real instances of being without are the standard for expressing “emptiness,” and emptiness has the power to express “being without.” This emptiness is beyond the emptiness of “matter is just emptiness.” [At the same time,] “matter is just emptiness” describes neither matter being forcibly made into emptiness nor emptiness being divided up to produce matter. It may describe emptiness in which emptiness is just emptiness. “Emptiness in which emptiness is just emptiness” describes one stone in space. This being so, the fourth patriarch and the fifth patriarch pose questions and make assertions about the Buddha-nature being without, about the Buddha-nature as emptiness, and about the Buddha-nature as Existence.






Further, I would like to say to Dai-i, “Although you have expressed the truth that ‘All living beings are without the Buddha-nature,’ you have not said that ‘All the Buddha-nature is without living beings,’ and you have not said that ‘All the Buddha­-nature is without the Buddha-nature.’ Still more, you have never seen even in a dream that all buddhas are without the Buddha-nature. Let us see you try [again].”





For example, one sound preaching Dharma is the mo­ment having arrived, and Dharma-preaching as one sound is the arrived momentfor Dharma is one sound, and one sound is Dharma.





 The Dignified Behavior of Acting Buddha


Acting buddha’s departing and arriving instantaneously cause buddha to act, at which time buddha is just causing action. Here there is giving up the body for the Dharma, and there is giving up the Dharma for the bodynot begrudging body and life, and solely begrudging body and life.





We should utterly realize dignified behavior, and be­havioral dignity, as the body, in the great truth, being relaxed.





This attaining of truth is the state of transcending the buddhas and transcending the patriarchs which is the extremely large equaling the small, and the extremely small equaling the large.





Blazing flame covers the cosmos: Buddha preaches Dharma.

The cosmos is in blazing flame: Dharma preaches buddha.




Turning the great wheel of Dharma may include turning the self and turning the moment. It is making things progress and throwing oneself into the moment. It may include turning the Dharma and the Dharma turning.





Now Engo, in addition, has an expression which is not the same as Gensa and not the same as Seppo: namely, that blazing flame covering the cosmos is Buddha preaching Dharma, and that the cosmos in blazing flame is Dharma preaching buddha.





That “buddha preaches Dharma” we had heard, but with regard to the fact that Dharma preaches buddha, how deeply enmeshed were we in ignorance?

In summary, the buddhas of the three times are preached in the three times by the Dharma, and the Dharma of the three times is preached in the three times by buddha.





In sum, Dharma preaches Buddha, Dharma practices buddha, and Dharma experiences buddha; buddha preaches Dharma, buddha practices buddha, and buddha becomes buddha.






 The Buddha’s Teaching


For this reason, the Buddha’s teaching is just teaching a buddha. It is the perfectly realized virtue of a Buddhist patriarch.





The reason they say that [buddhas] authentically transmit only the one mind, without authentically transmitting the Buddha's teaching, is that they do not know the Buddha-Dharma.


Not knowing the one mind as the Buddha’s teaching and not hearing the Buddha’s teaching as the one mind, they say that there is the Buddha’s teaching outside of the one mind.


Their “one mind” never having become the one mind, they say that there is a “one mind” outside of the Buddha’s teachings.


It may be that their “Buddha’s teachings” have never become the Buddha’s teaching.


Although they have transmitted and received the fallacy of “a separate transmission outside the teachings,” because they have never known inside and outside, the logic of their words is not consistent.













仏教 (BUKKYO), “Buddha-teaching,” is just 教仏 (KYOBUTSU), “teaching-Buddha.” The eternal teaching of the Buddha, and the concrete fact of a Buddhist being taught in the present, are one.


教外別傳 (KYOGE-BETSUDEN) is the first line of a four-line poem attributed to Master Bodhidharma. The other three lines are: 不立文字 (FURYU-MONJI), non-dependence on writings; 直指人心 (JIKISHI NINSHIN), direct pointing to the human heart; and見性成佛 (KENSHO-JOBUTSU), seeing one’s nature and becoming buddha.


Four-phrases summary of Zen:





Outside the teaching, apart from tradition.

Not founded on words or letters.

Directly pointing to the human mind.

Seeing into one’s nature and becoming a Buddha.   




To meet the twelve divisions of the teaching is to meet the Buddhist patriarchs. To speak of the Buddhist patriarchs is to speak of the twelve divisions of the teaching.




An extended chiasmic passage:


To enter is the basis, and the basis is right from head to tail.



Buddha preaches Dharma, and Dharma preaches Buddha. Dharma is [naturally] preached by Buddha, and Buddha is [naturally] preached by Dharma.



Flame preaches Buddha and preaches Dharma. Buddha preaches flame, and Dharma preaches flame.


In this Sutra, already there is good cause for the preaching of purpose, and there is good cause for purposeful preaching.



Even if [the Buddha] intends not to preach this Sutra, that is impossible.



Therefore he says, “Purposefulness preaches this Sutra.” Purposeful preaching covers the cosmos, and the cosmos is purposeful preaching.






 Mystical Power


The great mystical power entertains small mystical powers, [but] small mystical powers do not know the great mystical power.






 Great Realization


From their great realization onwards, Buddhist patriarchs inevitably master learning in practice that is actualized like this; at the same time, great realization which is totally realization is not seen as a “Buddhist patriarch,” and a Buddhist patriarch who is totally a Buddhist patriarch is not “total great realization.”





Thus, recognizing a bandit as a child does not define returning to delusion, and recognizing a child as a bandit does not define returning to delusion.






 A Needle for Zazen


Remember, the words of Daijaku are that to sit in Zazen is, in every case, aiming to become buddha. To sit in Zazen is, in every case, becoming buddha as aiming.





Nangaku then picks up a tile and starts to polish it on a stone. Daijaku eventually asks, “What is the Master doing?” Truly, who could fail to see that he is polishing a tile? But who can see it as polishing a tile? Rather, the polishing of a tile has [always] been questioned like this: “What are you doing!” The doing of what is always the polishing of a tile. In this land and other worlds, different though they are, polishing a tile may possess an import that has never ceased.





Even if human sitting naturally appears to be sitting buddha, or a buddha sitting, it may be a case of a human being becoming buddha, or a case of a human being of becoming Buddha There are human beings of becoming buddha, but all human beings are not of becoming buddha. Buddha is not a state of all human beings. All buddhas are not simply all humanity. Therefore, a human being is not always a buddha, and buddha is not always a human being.





Therefore, sensing is beyond touching things, and that which is beyond touching things is sensing.





Flying in the sky is the whole Universebecause the whole Universe is flying in the sky.



When the sky is flying away, the birds also are flying away; and when the birds are flying away, the sky also is flying away.








They are like a stone enveloping a jewel, the jewel not knowing that it is enveloped by a stone, and the stone not knowing that it is enveloping a jewel.





A passage on the chiasmicity of “it”—


The Great Master says, “To be like that is impossible. Not to be like that is impossible. To be like that or not to be like that is altogether impossible. What do you make of it?”



These are the words spoken by the Great Master for Yakusan.



Truly, because to be like that or not to be like that is altogether impossible, to be like that is impossible and not to be like that is impossible.



“Like that” describes it.



It is not [a matter of] the limited usefulness of words and not [a matter of] the unlimited usefulness of words:



we should learn “it” in the state of impossibility, and we should inquire into “impossibility” in the state of it.



It is not that this concrete it, and the impossible, are relevant only to the consideration of buddhas.



To understand it is impossible. To realize it is impossible.






 [Pure] Conduct and Observance [of Precepts] — Part One


Master [Goso Ho-]en once preached, “Conduct is not on a level beyond thinking, and thinking is not on a level beyond conduct.”




Great Master Gohon of Tozan mountain said, “I explain what I am unable to practice and practice what I am unable to explain.” This is the saying of the founding Patriarch. The point is that practice illuminates a way through to explanation, and there are ways in which explanation leads through to practice. This being so, what we preach in a day is what we practice in a day. The point is, then, that we practice what is impossible to practice and preach what is impossible to preach.


Great Master Kokaku of Ungo-zan mountain, having totally penetrated this teaching, said, “In the time of explanation there is no trace of practice; in the time of practice there is no trace of explanation.” This expression of the truth is that practice-and-explanation is not nonexistent: the time of explanation is a lifetime without leaving the monastery, and the time of practice is washing the head and going before Seppo. We should neither disregard nor disarrange [the words that] “In the time of explanation there is no trace of practice, and in the time of practice there is no trace of explanation.”







Time is swifter than an arrow, the dew-drop life more fragile than a body. There is the anguish of having a teacher but being unable to partake in [the teaching], and there is the sadness of being ready to partake in [the teaching] but being unable to find a teacher—I have personally experienced such matters.






 [Pure] Conduct and Observance [of Precepts] — Part Two


 [Monks in] all directions praised Tendo with one voice, but Tendo did not praise [the monks of] all directions.








The Buddha said, “There are many kinds of affirmation, but if I now briefly summarize them, there are eight kinds, as follows:


1) the subject knows, others do not know;

2) everybody else knows, the subject does not know;

3) both the subject and everybody else know;

4) neither the subject nor everybody else knows;

5) the near realize it, the far do not realize it;

6) the far realize it, the near do not realize it;

7) both [the near and the far] realize it;

8) neither [the near nor the far] realize it.”


Another sutra says, “[There are] those [affirmations] that the near know, those that the far know, those that both far and near know, and those that neither near nor far know.”



二者 衆人盡知、自己不知。
五者 近覺、遠不覺。




The realization of buddha expressed here inevitably follows one [moment] after another. Through tiny intervals that follow one after another, we realize buddha.





Furthermore, because the body everywhere pervades the mind and the mind everywhere pervades the body, the [Sutra] says, “body-and-mind everywhere.”






 Kannon, the Bodhisattva of Compassion


When Ungan says “The whole body is hands and eyes” he is not saying that hands and eyes are a body which is everywhere. Being everywhere is the whole world, but the very moment of the body-hands and body-eyes cannot be pervaded by “being everywhere.”






 The Arhat


The principle here is having just said that a foreigner’s beard is red, there also being the fact that a red-beard is a foreigner.





We must learn in practice the principle of calling arhat the state of buddha, and we must also learn in practice the principle of calling the state of buddha arhat.








The aforementioned “brightness of the Buddhist patriarchs” is the whole Universe in ten directions; it is the whole of buddhas and the whole of patriarchs; it is buddhas alone, together with buddhas; it is the Buddha’s state of brightness and the bright state of Buddha.





This light is the Buddha’s light. Illumination of the East is the East’s luminance.





We must painstakingly learn in practice the words spoken by Chosa that “The whole Universe in ten directions is the brightness of the self.” We must learn the self which is brightness, as the whole Universe in ten directions.





The whole Universe in the ten directions is the concrete self, and the concrete self is the whole Universe in ten directionsthere is no scope for evasion.





The present seven feet of skull and bones is just the form and the image of the whole Universe in ten directions. The whole Universe in ten directions that we practice and experience in Buddhism is the skull and bones, the physical body, the skin, flesh, bones, and marrow.




So remember, the brightness that each individual human being totally possesses is the realized individual human being, and is the individual human being that each individual state of brightness totally possesses.



 Shinjin Gakudo

 Learning the Truth with Body and Mind


In learning the truth like this—whether acclaim has naturally accrued to the effective or whether effectiveness has yet to accrue to the acclaimed—secretly to borrow the nostrils of a Buddhist patriarch and let them expel air, or to use the hooves of a horse or a donkey to stamp the seal of real experience, is just a signpost for ten thousand ages.




The earth is not always soil, and soil is not always the earth.





It neither arises from circumstances nor arises from wisdom; it is the bodhi-mind arising and is establishment of the bodhi-mind.





 “The mind of eternal buddhas:” long ago a monk asked the National Master Daisho, “What is the mind of eternal buddhas?” Then the National Master said, “Fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles.” So remember, the mind of eternal buddhas is beyond fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles; and fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles are not to be called “the mind of eternal buddhas.” This is how we learn the mind of eternal buddhas.





 “The body learning the truth” means learning the truth with the body, learning the truth with a mass of red flesh. The body derives from learning the truth, and what de­rives from learning the truth is, in every case, the body.





Because the eighty-four thousand aggregates of Dharma-preaching are the turning of the wheel of Dharma, a place where the wheel of Dharma turns is all the world and is all of Time.





The reason [we need not fear life-and-death] is that even before we are through with life, we are already meeting death in the present. And even before we are through with death, we are already meeting life in the present.





We should quietly consider and examine these words. Although Zen Master Engo has spoken like this, he still does not know that life-and-death is beyond all functions. When we learn going-and-coming in practice, there is life-and-death in going, there is life-­and-death in coming, there is going-and-coming in life, and there is going-and-coming in death. Going-and-coming, with the whole Universe in the ten directions as two wings or three wings, goes flying away and comes flying back, and with the whole Universe in the ten directions as three feet or five feet, steps forward and steps backward. With life-and-death as its head and tail, the real human body which is the whole Universe in ten directions can turn somersaults and turn around its brain. In turning somersaults and turning around its brain, it is as if the size of a penny, or like the inside of an atom. The flat, level, and even state is walls standing a thousand feet high. And the place where walls stand a thousand feet high is the flat, level, and even state. Thus the real features of the southern continent and the northern continent exist; examining their [real features], we learn the truth. The bones and marrow of non-thought and non­-non-thought exist; resisting this [idea], we solely learn the truth.




When we learn going-and-coming in practice, there is life-and-death in going, there is life-­and-death in coming, there is going-and-coming in life, and there is going-and-coming in death.





The flat, level, and even state is walls standing a thousand feet high. And the place where walls stand a thousand feet high is the flat, level, and even state.






 Preaching a Dream in a Dream


Preach­ing the dream-state in the dream-state is eternal buddhas, who, “riding in this precious carriage, arrive directly at the place of truth.” Direct arrival at a place of the truth is in the riding of this precious carriage.





There is centering on dreams, there is dream-preaching, there is preaching of the dream-state, and there is being in the dream-state. Without being in the dream-state there is no preaching of the dream-state, and without preaching of the dream-state there is no being in the dream-state. Without preaching of the dream-state there are no buddhas, and without being in the dream-state, buddhas can never appear in the world to turn the wondrous wheel of Dharma.


This wheel of Dharma is of buddhas alone, together with buddhas, and it is preaching of the dream-state in the dream-state. It is solely in preaching the dream-state in the dream-state that the supreme-bodhi-multitude of buddhas and patriarchs exists.








 [Preaching of a dream in a dream] is just one strike of the clapper making a thousand hits or ten thousand hits, and is a thousand strikes or ten thousand strikes of the clapper making one hit or half a hit.






 Expressing the Truth


So the present expression of the truth is furnished with the insights of former times, and the insights of former times were furnished with the present expression of the truth.






It is sitting away hundred thousands of buddhas, and it is hundred thousands of buddhas sitting away you.





 A Picture of Rice Cake


Because a picture of buddha has [always] been drawn like this, all the buddhas are picture-buddhas, and all picture-buddhas are buddhas.





They are the workings of yin and yang and at the same time they make yin and yang work, wherein they experience years and months as the long  bamboos.





When we learn this principle in experience, we begin to master, throughout the body-and-mind, the virtue of changing things and being changed by things.






 All Functions


Realization is life, and life is realization.





Life in the present exists in this pivot-state, and this pivot-state exists in life in the present.




So life is what I am making it, and I am what life is making me.





What has been described like this is that life is the self, and the self is life.





Thus, life does not get in the way of death and death does not get in the way of life.





It is not a matter of unity, but neither is it a matter of variance; it is not variance, but neither is it identity; it is not identity, but neither is it multiplicity.





Therefore, in life there are miscellaneous real dharmas which are the manifestation of all functions, and in death there are miscellaneous real dharmas which are the manifestation of all functions. And in the state beyond “life” and beyond “death,” there is the manifestation of all functions. In the manifestation of all functions there is life and there is death.





And here is Dogen’s penultimate sentence, followed by eight translations:





Although there has been previous manifestation of all functions, it does not get in the way of the present manifestation of all functions.

Gudo Nishijima


Although there is previous manifestation of the whole works, it is does not block the present manifestation of the whole works.

Thomas Cleary


Although there was a previous presentation of complete activity, this does not obstruct the display of complete activity as the present.

Anzan Hoshin


But undivided activity manifested previously does not hinder the present realization of undivided activity.

Kazuaki Tanahashi


Even though such a person may say that he had some previous manifestation of his True Nature, it has not inhibited the present appearance of his True Nature.

Hubert Nearman


Bien qu'il y ait "une manifestation de la totale activité" d'avant, celle-ci n'empêche pas "la manifestation de la totale activité" de maintenant.

Éric Rommeluère


Aber auch wenn von der Vergegenwärtigung des vorigen allumfassenden Wirkens gesprochen wird, so steht das doch der Vergegenwärtigung des jetzigen allumfassenden Wirkens nicht im Weg.

German Translation


Había el manifestarse del integro funcionamiento de antes, pero no obstaculiza el manifestarse del integro funcionamiento de ahora.

Roberto Poveda Anadón



Book Three





 The Moon


The reality as it is in this “is like the moon in water” may be the [oneness of] water-and-moon, or it may be the water’s reality, or the moon’s reality, or being in reality, or the reality of being in.





Because we see the moon as the mind, it is not the mind unless it is the moon, and there is no moon which is not the mind.





The mind is the moon itself, and this moon is naturally the mind.





An eternal Buddha says, “One mind is the whole Dharma, and the whole Dharma is one mind.” So the mind is the whole Dharma, and the whole Dharma is the mind.






A step of the moon is the round realization of the Tathagata, and the round realization of the Tathagata is the action of the moon.






 Flowers in Space


The composition of a flower is five petals, and the opening of five petals is a flower.





The world has causes, and the world has effects. We enact the cause-and-effect that is this world, and we accept the cause-and-effect that is the world.





Every flower and fruit has maintained and relied upon a moment of time, and every moment of time has maintained and relied upon flowers and fruit.





Spring brings in flowers, and flowers bring in spring.




This “brightness” has clearly realized the monks’ hall, the Buddha hall, the kitchen hall, and the temple gate. The “whole sands-of-the-Ganges world” is realized by brightness, and is brightness realized.




 “Worldly circumstance” and “worldly circumstance follow” each other, and “following” and “following” is “worldly circumstances.” This state is called “without hindrances.” We should learn the state beyond hindrance and no hindrance as that which is obstructed by the eyes.




With cloudedness they make eyes real. Flowers in space are realized in eyes, and eyes are realized in flowers in space. It may be that “When flowers in space are there in the eyes, a single instance of cloudedness tumbles down,” and “When an eye is there in space, all instances of cloudedness tumble down.”





For this reason, Great Master Kosho of Royasan says:

 How wondrous are the buddhas in the ten directions!

 They are originally just the flowers in our eyes.

 And if we want to know the flowers in our eyes,

 They are originally just the buddhas in the ten directions.

 If we want to know buddhas in ten directions,

 They are other than the flowers in our eyes.

 If we want to know flowers in eyes,

 They are other than the buddhas in the ten directions;














Flowers in space exist on the basis of unfolding from the ground, and the whole ground exists on the basis of the opening of flowers.





 The Mind of Eternal Buddhas


Clearly, an eternal buddha is present in the house of Tendo, and Tendo is present in the house of an eternal buddha.




Furthermore, there may be instances of the eternal mind practicing buddha, there may be instances of the eternal mind experi­encing buddha, there may be instances of the eternal mind making buddha, and there may be instances of the eternity of buddha making up a mind.





Are fences and walls caused to appear through a process of production, or is production caused to appear on the basis of fences and walls?






 Four Elements of a Bodhisattva’s Social Relations


Dharma can be a treasure, and material gifts can be dharma . . .




But there are times when mind changes things, and there is free giving in which things change mind.




There may be a principle of, after letting others identify with us, then letting ourselves identify with others.






 Entangling Vines


Remember, there are cases of “you have got me” and there are cases of “I have got you.” There are cases in which “getting me” is “you” and there are cases in which “getting you” is “me.”





When we reflect exactly the moment in which Mahakasyapa gives the transmission to Ananda, Ananda is concealing his body in Mahakasyapa and Mahakasyapa is concealing his body in Ananda.




 Sangai Yuishin


 The Triple World Is Only the Mind


Seeing it as the triple world is the realized triple world, is the triple world’s realization, and is the realized universe.





Because this triple world here and now is the Tathagata’s own possession, the whole Universe is the triple world. Because the triple world is the whole Universe, here and now is the past, present, and future.





That the state in the moment of the present is beyond the father being former and the child being latter, beyond the child being former and the father being latter, and beyond father and child being aligned together, is the truth of “my children.”





Sometimes a father is young and a child is old; sometimes a father is old and a child is young; sometimes a father is old and a child is old; and sometimes a father is young and a child is young. One who imitates the maturity of a father is not being a child, and one who does not pass through the immaturity of childhood will not be a father.





Though not restricting the compassionate father, we are realized as “my children,” and without restricting “my children,” the compassionate father is realized.





All such children—“my children and “childlike me’s”—are true heirs of the compassionate father Shakyamuni.






 Expounding the Mind and Expounding the Nature


As a result, because he understands that the mind is only thinking, sensing, mindfulness, and realization but does not understand that thinking, sensing, mindfulness, and realization are the mind, he speaks like this.





Even before experience of the state, expounding the mind and expounding the nature is the Buddha-way; at the same time, it is by expounding the mind and expounding the nature that we experience the state.





The principle under discussion now is that [the unity of] in and side, and [the unity of] the existence of a human and a human’s existence, is expounding the mind and expressing the nature





We learn the expounding of the-mind-in-which-there-is-no-person, we learn the-state-in-which-there-is-no-person expounding the mind, we learn expounding the mind as the concrete human state, and we learn a concrete human being expounding the mind.




The total effort that Rinzai expresses is only “a true human being without rank,” but he has never mentioned a true human being who has a rank.





Brother Somitsu says, “That state of expounding the mind and expounding the nature is who.” Comparing the previous “Who is it?” and the present “it is who,” while the name is still the third son of Chang, the man is the fourth son of Lee.





 The Buddhist Truth


From Shakyamuni Buddha to Sokei there are thirty-four patriarchs.

Each of the transmissions between these Buddhist patriarchs is like Kasyapa meeting the Tathagata and like the Tathagata getting Kasyapa.






Why should the World-Honored One necessarily call the mind a sect? And why should a sect inevitably be related to the mind?






 All Dharmas Are Real Form


The realization of the Buddhist patriarchs is perfectly realized real form. Real form is all dharmas. All dharmas are forms as they are, . . .

佛祖現成究盡實相なり。實相諸法なり。諸法如是相なり. . .




Because learning in practice is in the state of total equilibrium, buddhas alone, together with buddhas, are the real form of all dharmas; and the real form of all dharmas is buddhas alone, together with buddhas.





The state they indicate is, for example, like a pearl spinning around a bowl and like the bowl spinning around the pearl.




If we take hold of the person and force it to leave or to enter the gate, the gate becomes more and more distant. If we take hold of the gate and get it to enter the person, there are chances for departure and entry.




In sum, the supreme truth of bodhi of the forty buddhas and forty pa­triarchs totally belongs to this Sutra. It belongs to this Sutra and this Sutra belongs to it.



“Mind” cannot come into the reality of the twelve hours, and “twelve hours” do not enter the reality of the mind of the [concrete] twelve.





Do images exist in the reality of the twelve hours? Do the twelve hours exist inside the image of reality?





Remember, real form is the right lifeblood that has been transmitted and received from rightful successor to rightful successor; all dharmas are the perfectly realized state of buddhas alone, together with buddhas; and the state of buddhas alone, together with buddhas, is the loveliness of form as it is.





 Secret Talk


It is, in every case, the World-honored One’s existence, and the existent World-honored One.






 The Buddhist Sutras


The tools accord with the master, and the master uses the tools.





There are skin-bags and fists who get eyes then get the sutras, and there are wooden dippers and lacquered tubs who get the sutras then get eyes.





The time of deci­sively getting this Sutra is beyond past and present; because past and present are moments of getting the Sutra, what is manifested before our eyes as the whole Universe in ten directions is just the getting of this Sutra.





Because it is the reciter and the recited, reciting sutras and sutras recited, it may be total knowing and total seeing.





Because the right-Dharma-eye treasury which is being realized in the present is itself the Buddhist sutras, all things that exist as Buddhist sutras are the right-Dharma-eye treasury.





He seems only to understand the many, forgetting the one, or to realize the one, forgetting the many.





A past Master says, “You delude yourself with the sutras, the sutras do not delude you.”





 The Non-Emotional Preaches the Dharma


This preaching the dharma is the Dharma preaching.





Do not learn only that preaching the Dharma has been orchestrated by Buddhist patriarchs; Buddhist patriarchs have been orchestrated by preaching the Dharma.





When we hear the words of the ancestral Patriarch Ungan and listen to the words of the National Master Daisho, if we truly evaluate them, the saints expressed in “The saints are able listen” may be the non-emotional, and the non-emotional expressed in “The non-emotional are able to hear” may be the saints.





Thus, the non-emotional is the preaching of Dharma and the preaching of Dharma is the non-emotional.





In this very moment, virtue is present which covers the body, which covers the moment before the body, which covers the mind, which covers the moment before the mind, which covers the moment after the mind, which covers causes, conditions, results, actions, forms, natures, substance, and energy, which covers buddhas, which covers patriarchs, which covers self-and-others, and which covers skin, flesh, bones, marrow, and so on.





Relying upon the truth that all Dharma-preaching is in the non-emotional state, the non-emotional preach the Dharma, which is the ancient standard, and the non-emotional preaches Dharma to the non emotional.

一切說法無情なる道理によりて無情說法なりいはゆる典故なり。無情爲無情說法なり. . .



說法無情 (SEPPO-MUJO). The reversal of 無情 (MUJO) and 說法 (SEPPO) makes the non-emotional the object preached as the Dharma instead of the subject that preaches the Dharma.




Such [preaching] as the non-emotional preaching the Dharma, and Dharma-preaching of the non-emotional is, in short, not to speak abusive language.






 Dharma Nature


A good counselor is the Dharma-nature and is the self. The Dharma-nature is a good counselor and the Dharma-nature is the self.





The Dharma-nature expressed by Baso is the Dharma-nature expressed by the Dharma-nature. It experiences the same state as Baso, and he is in the same state as the Dharma-nature.





People eat meals, and meals eat people.





That being so, this place here and now is the Dharma-nature, and the Dharma-nature is this place here and now.






 Dharani (Invocations)


Remember, prostration is the right-Dharma-eye-treasury, and the right-Dharma-eye-treasury is the great dharani.






 The Face-to-Face Transmission


In this way the true ancestral masters of successive generations have each passed on the face-to-face transmission through the disciple regarding the master and the master seeing the disciple.





It is the Buddha’s eyes and the Buddha’s countenance which have done prostrations to the Buddha-face of Shakyamuni Buddha, which have moved the Buddha-eyes of Shakyamuni Buddha into our own eyes, and which have moved our own eyes into the Buddha’s eyes.





One who never in a lifetime meets a master is not a disciple, and one who never meets a disciple is not a master.





In conclusion, the great truth of the Buddhist patriarchs is nothing other than a face giving and a face receiving, and the reception of a face and the giving of a face, beyond which there is nothing sur­plus and nothing lacking.






 Plum Blossoms


Its instant mystical changes and mystical wonder are unfathomable: even the great earth and the high heavens, the bright sun and the pure moon, have established their merits relying upon the tree-merits of the old plum tree, [whose state] is entanglement knotting and entwining with entanglement.





Though there are differences in the views of human beings and gods, and though the sentiments of the common and the sacred diverge, “the boundless expanse of snow” is “the earth,” and “the earth” is “the boundless expanse of snow.”





They are all five petals opening on a single twig, and are a single twig of five petals.





. . . [at which time] each face fills the picking up of a flower, and every flower fills the smiling face.





 “The past-and-present being naturally there” is the plum blossom; the plum blossom is called “the past-and-present.”





 The Ten Directions


We should clearly learn in practice the truth that because everyday speech is the whole Universe in the ten directions, the whole Universe in the ten directions is everyday speech.






 Meeting Buddha


the many forms are already beyond non-form, and non-form is just the many forms.





Clearly, if one is meeting Buddha one is keeping the Sutra, and one who is keeping the Sutra is one who is meeting buddha.






 Thorough Exploration


In sum, land is beyond east and west, and east and west are not connected with land.





Thus, we can conclude that the whole human being is mind, and the whole of mind is a human being.








What is expressed here is that the buddhas in the ten directions are the Eye, and flowers in the Eye are the buddhas in the ten directions.





Pursuing the object we should pursue eliminates realization as an object of pursuit, and there is also nothing to pursue in non-realization.





 Everyday Life


So we should clearly maintain and rely upon [the teaching that] a Buddhist patriarch’s ideas and words are a Buddhist patriarch’s everyday tea and meals. Coarse tea and plain food in everyday life are the ideas and words of a Buddhist patriarch. Buddhist patriarchs make tea and meals, and tea and meals maintain Buddhist patriarchs. That being so, we rely on no tea and meal energy outside of these [tea and meals], and we never waste the Buddhist patriarch energy in these [tea and meals].





The patra is used for eating meals and what is used for eating meals is the patra.





After satisfaction, there is recognition of meals. After completely eating a meal, there is satisfaction. After recognition, there is satisfaction with meals. And after satisfaction there is still eating meals.





This instant, we should already have seen through the heavy burden. “The golden and fine form” describes getting dressed and eating meals. Getting dressed and eating meals are the golden and fine form.






 Spring and Autumn


A bowl rolls around a pearl, and the pearl rolls around the bowl.

The absolute in the relative, the relative in the absolute.

Of the antelope, carrying its horns, there is no trace.

Hunting hounds circle the forest and emptily skulk.







偏中正 (HEN-CHU-SHO) and正中偏 (SHO-CHU-HEN) are the first two of Master Tozan’s five positions. The other three are正中來 (SHO-CHU-RAI), “the absolute coming to the middle,” 偏中至 (HEN-CHU-SHI), “the relative arriving at the middle,” and兼中到 (KEN-CHU-TO), “both having arrived at the middle.”




Amid the relative exists the absolute; amid the absolute, the relative.

Thousands of centuries floating downstream in the human world.

How many times I have hoped to return, but to return has been impossible.

Before my gate, as ever, weeds are growing in abundance.





 The Ancestral Master’s Intention in Coming from the West


Thus, the whole mouth is the branch, the whole branch is the mouth, the thoroughly realized body is the mouth, and the thoroughly realized mouth is the body.





Unless the mouth is biting the branch, there can be no asking, no voice that fills the mouth, and no mouth full of speech.






 The Udumbara Blossom 


Indeed, forget the World-Honored One’s twirling of a flower! When, just now, a flower-twirling world-honored one appears, that is the succession of the World-Honored One.





My possessing it is the transmission, and the transmission is my possessing it.






 Establishment of the Will to the Supreme


Thus, one undivided mind is all dharmas, and all dharmas are one undivided mind, which is the whole body.





Despite this, to hear only that bringing forth the mind is one bringing forth without further instances of bringing forth the mind, or that the practices are innumerable while the fruit of verification is one verification—this is not hearing the buddha dharma, is not knowing the buddha dharma, is not encountering the buddha dharma. 


The bringing forth the mind of a thousand million instances of bringing forth is definitely bringing forth one instance of bringing forth the mind. A thousand million people’s bringing forth the mind is bringing forth one bringing forth the mind; one bringing forth the mind is a thousand million instances of bringing forth the mind.  Practice and verification, turning the dharma are also like this.  Were they not grass, trees, and the rest, how could there be body and mind?  Were they not body and mind, how could there be grass and trees?  This is so because, were they not grass and trees, they would not be grass and trees. [English translation by Carl Bielefeldt]








To go deep into the mountains to consider the Buddha’s truth may be easy, [but] to build stupas and to build Buddhas is very difficult. Although each is accomplished through diligence and tirelessness, actively grasping the mind and being grasped by the mind may be much different.






 Establishment of the Bodhi-mind


This mind is not innate and it does not now suddenly arise; it is neither one nor many; it is not natural and it is not formed; it does not abide in our body, and our body does not abide in the mind.






 The Whole Body of the Tathagata


Even if we know that volumes of the Sutra are the bones, if we do not know that bones are volumes of the Sutra, that is not yet the Buddha’s truth.






 The Samadhi That Is King of Samadhis


Very few people realize that the act of sitting is the Buddha-Dharma and that the Buddha-Dharma is the act of sitting.





This being so, there is sitting with the mind, which is not the same as sitting with the body. There is sitting with the body, which is not the same as sitting with the mind.





Book Four




 Thirty-seven Elements of Bodhi


Reflection on the body is the body’s reflection: it is not that, by means of the body’s reflection, something else reflects. Reflection itself, in the very moment of it, is the superlative having arrived.





It is like the method of washing a robe, for example: water is dirtied by the robe and the robe is permeated by the water.





The reflection that feeling is suffering: Suffering is feeling.






Thus, “It has been said that living beings suffer; at the same time, there are suffering living beings.”





All living beings are without the Buddha-nature. All instances of Buddha-nature are without living beings.





Mindfulness as a root is a withered tree as a mass of red flesh. We call a mass of red flesh “a withered tree,” and a withered tree is mindfulness as a root.





There can be many people in one state of mindfulness and many states of mindfulness in one person.





People do not always have mindfulness, and mindfulness is not necessarily connected with people.





Diligence as a power is explaining what cannot be practiced and practicing what cannot be explained.





Mindfulness as a power is a great brute, pulling a person’s nostrils. Thus, it is nostrils pulling a person, it is to throw away a jewel and get back a jewel, and it is to





Balance as a power is like a child getting its mother, or like a mother getting her child.

定力は、或者如子得其母なり、或者如母得其子なり、. . .




Wisdom as a power is of deep and long years, and is like a ferry coming to a crossing. For this reason, it was described in ancient times as “like a crossing getting a ferry.”





In the Buddhist state of truth is there movement and stillness, or is there no movement and stillness? Do we contact movement and stillness, or are we contacted by movement and stillness? Painstakingly research it in practice.






 Turning the Dharma Wheel 


So this phrase has already been turned in the Dharma wheel of Buddhist patriarchs; it is the Buddhist Patriarch’s Dharma wheel turning.

So this phrase has already been turned . . .





By reason of being preached by Buddhist patriarchs and preaching Buddhist patriarchs, even if a sutra is forged, once Buddhist patriarchs have preached and quoted it, it is truly a sutra of buddhas and a sutra of patriarchs, and it is the intimately-experienced Dharma wheel of the Buddhist Patriarch.






 Samadhi as Experience of the Self


We receive this state from others and we impart this state to others; at the same time, it is just the lively springing out of eyes themselves, which gets free of self and others . . .





It is listening and preaching in which self and self experience the same state. One ear is listening and one ear is preaching, one tongue is preaching and one tongue is listening; and so on for eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind; for the sense organs, their consciousness, and their objects.




In other words, the subjective self that receives stimuli through the senses, and the objective self that preaches or manifests itself in the external world, become one undivided whole.





 Great Practice


The Master claps his hands and laughs, and says, “You have just expressed that a foreigner’s beard is red, but it is also a fact that a red-beard is a foreigner.





The Hyakujo mountain of the past has not become the Hyakujo mountain of the present. The present Hyakujo mountain was not formerly the Hyakujo mountain of Kasyapa Buddha’s time.





When someone says that a wild fox knows five hundred lives by using a wild fox’s intelligence, then the wild-fox-intelligence has not yet completely known the facts of one life, and a life has not yet rammed into a wild fox’s skin.








Now, let us learn in practice that Shakkyo has put his body into Seido’s nostrils. From the other side, realization is present of the words that “nostrils pull in Shakkyo.” And although it is like this, space is a unity, and it is jostling.




The mutual encounter and mutual realization in the moment of the present between a person facing a wall and the wall facing the person; the mind as fences and walls; and the mind as a withered tree: these are just the concrete world of space.






 The Patra


With regard to the patra: only of real dharmas is the patra composed; only of the patra are real dharmas composed.






 The Retreat


Because the Buddhist patriarchs come and practice the retreat through us, each person’s practice of the retreat is the retreat‘s practice of each person.