Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Those Still Wild Places

When you’ve lived in one place long enough you notice how it changes over time. You see the revitalization of some previously downtrodden neighborhoods even as others slip into decline. You see old farms paved over for the sake of car dealerships and strip malls, and vacated railroad rights-of-way transformed into linear parks or public transportation lines. Progress is like that, isn’t it? Some good things, some not so good things; it’s hard to say in balance where we’re headed (although climate change is a pretty good indicator). One thing is certain right here and now, however, wild places are disappearing and with them something that we don’t even yet know how to value. Every patch of woods that’s cut down in order to build up a subdivision of new homes is a loss of connection to the natural world. Every open space that’s filled up with some new development or other is a loss of spaciousness in our minds.

The effect of this so-called “march of progress” has been like a wound deep inside of me that has never quite healed ever since the woodsy paradise of my childhood was destroyed for the sake of a sprawling apartment complex. It’s a wound that aches to this day each time I witness something natural getting cut down or plowed under. But this post isn’t meant to be a lamentation. Rather, it’s meant to be a celebration of those still wild places in our midst: the swaths of tangled brush that you just know are hiding something; the stands of volunteer trees that are almost, almost, little patches of woods; and those places where the mowing and maintenance have ceased and the process of becoming wild again has begun. You see them down in the hollows of the cloverleaf interchanges and in the little triangles of unmarketable land sitting at the intersections of irregularly shaped properties. They’re in alleyways and vacant lots and at the bottoms of back yards. They’re in easements and behind dumpsters and under train trestles and highway overpasses. But the still wild places that intrigue me most of all are down in the culverts and drainage ditches and catchment basins that have been left alone for years to do their job of carrying away whatever nature dumps on top of us. It’s here that you’ll find little ecosystems unto themselves – revealing their nature, expressing their wildness, acting as little outposts in a wasteland of development, reminding us (if indeed we allow ourselves to be reminded) of that which can never completely be contained.

I think of the human mind in similar terms. Just as nature has been paved over and built up and “improved” upon all over our urban centers, so the nature of the human mind is routinely “covered over” and “improved upon” with all of the various and sundry tasks and pastimes that we feel compelled to occupy it with: television, radio, the internet, and iPhones; gaming, sports, and puzzles; gossip magazines and diversionary literature; social media, mindless exercise, mindless work, etc. Sure, all of these have the potential to enrich our lives – if engaged in mindfully and in moderation – but as with so many things they have a sneaky way of taking over the lion’s share of our attention, paving over that which is our truest nature.

Now, some readers might perceive an inconsistency in my thinking. After all, it was only a few posts ago that I wrote about living with an untamed mind; now I’m writing about minds that are overly tamed. What gives? Actually, I don’t think there’s any inconsistency at all. We can tranquilize a wild beast, but we’ve not tamed it. We can throw a feral dog a piece of meat and keep it subdued for a time, but we’ve not tamed it. In the same way that we pave over huge swaths of the natural world without ever taming it, so we tranquilize or preoccupy the mind with an endless variety of diversionary activities without ever having tamed it. No, truly taming the mind would mean that we’ve subdued our wild beasts of boredom, impatience, anxiety, fear, isolation, loneliness, grief, depression, meaningless, and powerlessness, without relying on tranquilizer darts and chunks of dripping meat.    

I was sharing a restaurant breakfast the other day with my woman friend and her two youngest daughters. They’re truly a joy to be around, and for most of the meal the girls complied with our request to keep their iPhones tucked away. As time wore on, though, their gazes began more and more frequently to be directed downward into their laps where their thumbs and minds had become preoccupied with texting messages to their friends. Anyway, we ended up having a conversation about how such constant connectivity with people all hours of the day and night potentially hinders them from practicing the very important skill and art of being alone, of being truly present with what is. True peace of mind and well-being come from our ability to be with those feelings of boredom, anxiety, fear, etc., instead of pushing them away the very instant they arise.

But such “negative” feelings are not all that we push away when we push way the “wildness” of our minds. We push away the solitude that is the wellspring of our creativity. We push away wonder for the sake of routine stimulation. We push away timelessness for the sake of fleeting and inconsequential babble. We push away the real world for the sake of that which is contrived; and as we do we push away true knowledge of the depths of who we are.

So, please, we can all do ourselves and each other a favor. Whenever we encounter one of those still wild places – whether it be somewhere in our midst or deep within – let's take the time to attend to it, study it, appreciate it, and embrace it. Those still wild places outside speak of the very nature that is our birthplace. Those still wild places within speak of that which refuses to be subdued without truly being known. Let's get to know them and come to realize that we’ve been mistaking our own face for that of an enemy. It is the face of our deepest yearning to be free.

Image Credits
Railway culvert by BJ Smur via:
  Cropped and edited image of girl texting by JohnnyMrNinja via:
Copyright 2013 by Maku Mark Frank

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Dogen's 'Being-Time' - Part 2

This post is the second of two exploring Uji, that fascicle of Dogen’s Shobogenzo known to many as Being-Time. 'Being-Time' - Part 1 introduced Dogen’s primary thesis, that we are time, by thinking of “it” from an all-encompassing, cosmological perspective and then scaling back down to that of our human experience. This follow-up post will examine some of the examples Dogen uses to convey the nature of this reality that we are time. The following passage is a great place to start:

[Being-time] is the actualization of being. Heavenly beings like gods and celestials are being-time. All the things in the water and on land are being-time. The world of life and death and everything in them is being-time; it continually exists, actualizing itself in your present experience. Everything exists in the present within yourself.

Continuous existence is not like the rain blown by the wind east and west. Continuous existence is the entire world acting through itself. Consider this illustration: When it is spring in one area, it is spring everywhere in the surrounding area. Spring covers the entire area. Spring is only spring; it does not presuppose winter or summer. It is the actualization of the wind and sunshine of spring. Continuous existence is like this. But continuous existence is not spring; rather, the continuous existence of spring is spring (Nishiyama, 1975, p. 70).

Cherry blossom viewing in a Yokohama, Japan park

We are presently experiencing a cold snap here in my hometown, after being teased with a spate of warmer weather – an occurrence that certainly has many yearning for the arrival of spring. But that which we call ‘spring’ neither arrives nor departs. To think of the coming and going of spring, and time, is to think of time in the ordinary way – as something that passes. But if spring is something that passes, it must go somewhere. If time is something that passes, and we are time, then we must go somewhere – and yet we remain.

“Continuous existence is the entire world acting through itself.” What we call ‘spring’ is the entire world acting through itself. The entire world is neither arriving nor departing. The entire world is the sun and earth actualizing being-time, engaging in a spinning dance of nearness and farness. The entire world is the earth actualizing its being-time, now showing this face to the sun and now another. The entire world is life in all of its forms actualizing being-time in the present moment as all of life has actualized being-time in the present moment for eons and eons. The actualization of being-time includes warmth and rain and rising sap, buds and blossoms and birds building nests. The actualization of being-time includes the emotion and wonder of human beings gathering to enjoy that which we call ‘spring.’ But continuous existence cannot be contained or constrained by the word and concept of ‘spring’. Only “the continuous existence of spring is spring.”

Elsewhere in Uji, Dogen invokes a variation on the now well-known koan related to a monk asking his teacher, Joshu, the reason for Bodhidharma having come from the west. Bodhidharma, by the way, was the monk of Indian birth who is considered the first patriarch of Chinese Zen, or Ch’an. In the more well-known version, Joshu responds: “Cypress tree in the garden.” In Dogen’s telling of the story, however, we have a conversation between two Zen Masters, Yakusan and Daijaku, the latter with an apparently deeper realization than the former.

[Yakusan] asks, “I have more or less clarified the import of the three vehicles and the twelve divisions of the teaching. But just what is the ancestral master’s intention in coming from the west?”

Thus questioned, Zen Master Daijaku says, “Sometimes I make him [Daijaku refers to himself] lift an eyebrow or wink an eye, and sometimes I do not make him lift an eyebrow or wink an eye; sometimes to make him lift an eyebrow or wink an eye is right, and sometimes to make him lift an eyebrow or wink an eye is not right.”

Hearing this, Yakusan realizes a great realization and says to Daijaku, “In Sekito’s order I have been like a mosquito that climbed onto an iron ox.” (Nishijima, 2009, pp. 147-148).

Given the context, I think we can safely conclude that Dogen considers Daijaku’s response to have conveyed his understanding of being-time – as does, for that matter, “cypress tree in the garden.” Just as the being-time of the cypress tree reflects the deepest truth of the entirety of the universe, and just as the being-time of the sun and earth and all that lives in or on it or rains down upon it encompasses that which we call ‘spring,’ so the being-time of Bodhidharma and all those who intently practiced the Dharma with him in China encompassed that which we might call a Zen ‘spring’ on the Asian continent. But if that is what Daijaku intended to convey, why didn’t he just say it? What’s with all of this raising of eyebrows and winking – or not? My understanding is that Daijaku is conveying his understanding of Bodhidharma’s being-time by relating the truth of his own being-time, and by doing so, relating the truth of being-time in general. If he’d replied by saying “cypress tree in the garden” (someone else’s answer), Yakusan would not have understood Daijaku’s response as the deepest expression of his own understanding which, itself, is always changing, always evolving, never absolute – being-time. And so it is that Daijaku sometimes “make[s] him lift an eyebrow or wink an eye.” Daijaku is conveying the reality that being-time is the moment-to-moment “actualization of being.” He is conveying the reality that “continuous existence is the entire world acting through itself.”

But that is not quite all there is to Daijaku’s understanding of being-time. By his own admission, that answer is sometimes correct and sometimes incorrect. Being-time encompasses enlightenment as well as delusion. Perhaps Bodhidharma himself, if we could ask him why it was that he came from the west, would respond very much as did Daijaku: “Sometimes I head east, and sometimes I head west;  sometimes to head east is right, and sometimes to head east is not right.” Such is being-time.

Sometimes spring arrives ‘right on time’ and sometimes spring is ‘late.’ Sometimes spring comes ‘early’ and with it the awakening of myriad beings which then freeze or whither or starve. This, too, is being-time. To say that spring has made a mistake or that all of those myriad beings have been mistaken is to not understand being-time. Arriving early is being-time. Arriving late is being-time. Heading east with the intention of heading east is being-time Heading east with no intention whatsoever is being-time as well.

And yet, even after all of this discussion of being-time, and how we and all things are time, and how what we call ‘the passage of time’ is just the ordinary way of thinking about time, and so on and so forth, we might still say to ourselves: “It’s Monday morning and my glorious weekend is over; now I’m back at work. Yesterday was fun, but yesterday is not today – time has passed.” Indeed, Dogen is not denying this ordinary view of time, for even the ordinary view of being-time is still being-time. Here is Dogen once again:

Ordinary people, unlearned in Buddhism, think that being-time sometimes takes the form of a demon, sometimes the form of Buddha. It is like the difference between living in a valley and then wading through a river and climbing a mountain to reach a palace. That is, the mountain and river are things of the past, left behind and have no relation to living in the present. They are as separate as heaven is from earth.

That is not true, however; when you cross the river or climb the mountain, you are (time). We cannot be separated from time. This means that because, in reality, there is no coming and going in time, when we cross the river or climb the mountain we exist in the eternal present of time; this includes all past and present time. Crossing the river, climbing the mountain, living in the palace exist together, interrelated, in being-time. Demons and Buddhas are yesterday’s time, a tall Buddha image is today’s. Yesterday’s time is experienced in our present existence. It appears to be passing but the past is always contained in the present. Like this, the pine tree is time, the bamboo is also time (Nishiyama, 1975, p. 69).

Perhaps a climb to the top of Pikes Peak will help us understand the subtle but radical point that Dogen is making here. Pikes Peak is a mountain in the Rockies that is over fourteen thousand feet tall. From its summit you can see the Plains stretching eastward to the horizon as far as the eye can see. Of course, that is not so very unique; all Colorado fourteeners have exquisite views stretching as far as the eye can see. What is unique about Pikes Peak, however, is that there is a road on which one can drive one’s vehicle right to the top! Imagine, then, three people standing at the summit and drinking in the “very same” view: one has completely exerted him or herself, hiking miles and miles of rugged trails into the thinning air to get there; another has driven up the well-maintained, but still vertigo-inducing roadway, gradually experiencing ever more sweeping vistas along the way; yet another, after a breathtaking ten minute helicopter ride from Colorado Springs, lands in the parking lot and strolls up to the summit. The resulting view for each of them is “exactly the same,” and yet it is not. Each of them will experience the summit in entirely different ways. Everything…, everything…, is manifested in the present moment of being-time. The journey to the summit, no matter how long or short, easy or trying, enjoyable or scary, can only be experienced in the present moment. ‘Yesterday’ can only be experienced in the present moment. ‘Last year’ can only be experienced in the present moment. ‘My childhood’ can only be experienced in the present moment. And so it is that what we call ‘the passage of time’ is but the blossoming of being-time ever and always in the present. The three people standing at the summit are sharing being-time, but each has his or her “own” being-time as well.

As an aside, I should point out the subtle difference between what Dogen is saying and the well-worn aphorism that happiness and well-being are related to our ability to “stay in the present moment.” The notion of “staying in the present moment” does not preclude our ordinary way of thinking about ‘the passage of time.’ A complete understanding of being-time does indeed include the possibility that the blossoming of the present moment is manifested with a mind immersed in thoughts of yesterday or tomorrow, or a mind that firmly believes in ‘the passage of time.’ Being-time encompasses delusion and enlightenment alike.

Now, at least one reader must be thinking to him or herself: “Yes, this discussion has been intriguing, but what does the correct understanding of being-time have to do with the way I live my life?”

First and foremost, I think, is the fact that the understanding of being-time (or even movement towards an understanding of being-time) helps shake us out of our ordinary way of looking at “our” life. Our ordinary way of looking at life involves the view of ourselves as almost completely autonomous entities moving through space and time, but not so completely enmeshed in either as to preclude from coming true such fantasies as time-travel, or the transmigration of our soul to another world, or its being raised up to a heavenly realm (another space-time dimension, perhaps?). The flower of being-time, with its blossoming forth of all things in a seamlessly integrated whole, is not the sort of flower upon which the petals might be so rearranged!

Which brings us to the Buddhist concept of emptiness – sunyata. Our understanding of being-time fosters the deepening of our understanding of emptiness by nudging us toward the realization that emptiness is more than just the fuzziness of the boundaries between things – emptiness of the material; rather, emptiness encompasses the temporal as well.

Thirdly, I think our deepening understanding of being-time is accompanied by a deepening understanding of karma. When we view each moment as the totality of all moments that have ever been the immediacy and unwavering and unequivocal nature of karma becomes clearer. Every thought, every emotion, every action, and every word ever spoken is ever present within the blossoming forth of being-time. When seen in this way, the precious nature of each moment is realized. This present moment is the entire world. Thus, what we do with this present moment is of utmost importance. Will we squander it or use it in some detrimental way, or will we use it to reflect the entirety of being in the best way that we might actualize it, e.g., “cypress tree in the garden”?  

Finally (at least with respect to what I have to convey), the reality of being-time sheds light on one of Dogen’s most intriguing teachings: that practice and enlightenment are one. The idea that practice leads to enlightenment is the product of our ordinary (and dualistic) way of thinking about ‘the passage of time.’ That yesterday’s demon might become tomorrow’s buddha implies that the demon will depart and the buddha will arrive. But where will the demon go and from whence will the buddha come? In being-time all things are present.

Here is one more quote from Dogen’s Uji:

“Each moment is all being, is the entire world. Reflect now whether any being or any world is left out of the present moment” (Welch & Tanahashi, 1985, p. 77).

May each of us actualize ‘springtime,’ and all of time, with the entirety of our being…


Cleary, T. (2001). Shobogenzo: Zen essays by Dogen. In Classics of Zen Buddhism: The collected translations of Thomas Cleary, Vol. Two. (T. Cleary, Trans.) Shambhala Publications by special arrangement with University of Hawaii Press (Dogen’s original work from 1240.)

Nearman, H. (2007). Shobogenzo: the treasure house of the eye of the true teaching (H. Nearman, Trans.) Published by Shasta Abbey Press. (Dogen’s original work from 1240.)

Nishijima, G. W., Cross C. (2009). Shobogenzo: the true Dharma-eye treasury, Vol. I. (G. W. Nishijima & C. Cross, Trans.) Published by Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research. (Dogen’s original work from 1240.)

Nishiyama, K. (1975). Shobogenzo: the eye and treasury of the true law, Vol. I. (K. Nishiyama, Trans.) Published by Nakayama Shobo Buddhist Book Store. (Dogen’s original work from 1240.)

Welch, D., Tanahashi, K. (1985). The time-being: Moon in a dewdrop – writings of Zen master Dogen. (D. Welch & K. Tanahashi, Trans.; K. Tanahashi, Ed.) North Point Press. (Dogen’s original work from 1240.)

Image Credits

Cherry blossoms in Mitsuzawa-park at Yokohama, Japan by Kounosu via:

Temple cat amongst cherry blossoms by Tanakawho via:

Cherry blossoms and koi fish design and tattoo by Joey Pang via:

Copyright 2013 by Maku Mark Frank

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dogen's 'Being-Time' - Part 1


From my first ponderings as a young child intrigued by the deep time of both the fossil record and the cosmos alike, to the graduate level coursework in Einstein’s theory of relativity that I managed to survive on my way to deciding against an advanced degree in physics, I’ve always been interested in the nature of space and time and the answers “out there” waiting to be found. Of course I now know that space and time are not two separate entities at all; rather, they are so inextricably linked as to only meaningfully be referred to as space-time. Ah, but I risk getting ahead of myself.

Dogen gazing at the moon

I suspect that Dogen Zenji, the 13th century monk so prominent in Japanese Zen, was likewise interested in what answers might be found “out there.” What else could have motivated him to embark upon a dangerous maritime journey to China in the hopes of assuaging his greatest doubt? In time, however, Dogen came to realize (as did this author) that all of our searching “out there” only leads to more and more questions. The examination of what is “in here,” however, provides a truly timeless answer:

To study the Buddha Way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be verified by all things. To be verified by all things is to let the body and mind of the self and the body and mind of others drop off. There is a trace of realization that cannot be grasped. We endlessly express this ungraspable trace of realization (from Dogen’s Genjokoan, a fascicle of the Shobogenzo, as translated by Okumura, 2010, p. 2).

In my entire life there have been only two books that intrigued me enough, were unavailable enough (or so it seemed at the time), and were deemed important enough to “my search” that I was prompted to photocopy the entirety of their contents from the only copies I could find in order to study them at my leisure. The first of these was Hans Reichenbach’s The Philosophy of Space and Time – copied at a nickel per page on a coin operated machine at my old alma mater after my professor cited it in one of his lectures on the philosophy of science. The other was the four-volume set of Kosen Nishiyama’s translation of Dogen’s Shobogenzo: The Eye and Treasury of the True Law – discovered as if a diamond in the coal mine of a local seminary library. (No offense intended to any readers who might relish getting lost amongst stacks of Christian theology texts!)

At this point it should come as no surprise that Uji is one of my favorite fascicles of Dogen’s Shobogenzo. Variously translated as Being-time (Nishiyama, 1975), The Time-Being (Welch & Tanahashi, 1985), and Existence-time (Nishijima & Cross, 2009), amongst others, Uji is a treatise on the nature of time, our experience of it, and the ramifications of our understanding (or lack thereof) of our true relationship to it. Let’s see, then, if any of my scientifically oriented explorations of the nature of space-time might be of assistance in making sense of a 13th century Zen monk’s exposition of the nature of existence and time – being-time. Here goes…

Dogen’s ‘Being-Time’

There are many ways to think about time, one of which is to think of it as something that passes, or as something that we pass through. This is the way that we commonly think of life and time – dualistic, though it may be. Dogen’s realization, however, is that in addition to this everyday way of thinking about time there is the reality that we are time:

“Being-time” means that time is being; i.e., “time is existence, existence is time.” The shape of a Buddha statue is time. Time is the radiant nature of each moment; it is the momentary, everyday time in the present (Nishiyama, 1975, p. 68 – all subsequent translated passages from Uji are also from this source).

The Universe Is Time.

So, what are we to make of this “we are time” way of thinking about reality? Let’s veer into the scientific realm in order to apprehend the big picture. Think of the Big Bang, if you will. If you’re like me, when you think of the Big Bang you imagine something similar to the image below. Actually, the image below is of a supernova, but that’s also how I imagine the Big Bang to have happened – despite my recognition that neither viewer nor vantage point could have then existed. Indeed, how can a viewer, one who exists, precede all of existence; and how can a vantage point, an existent point in space, precede the Big Bang’s creation of any and all points in space?

Hubble telescope image of a supernova

If a void were to have existed into which the universe then flowered into existence, then that void would have been devoid of space and time (in addition to being devoid of everything else), for space exists only in relation to things, and time only to their movement. Within such a conceptualized void there would be no things, and thus no space to exist between them. Within the void there is no time. For time to exist there needs to be something happening, things moving – interstellar gas collecting into nebulae and then condensing into stars; continents colliding and thrusting mountains into the air; water raining downward, forming rivers and carving canyons; a mind lost in concentration one moment, becoming bored the next. Neither time nor space existed until the universe exploded into existence – until the universe came into being. Thus, the existence of the universe and the time of the universe are one. This is the being-time of the universe.

At this point an unconvinced reader might be eager to suggest that we do away with the vantage point “outside of” the Big Bang and focus only on the “inside”. Okay, let’s conceptualize a vantage point “inside of” the unimaginably dense, undifferentiated unity that was the pre-explosion seed of our universe, the seed which has since blossomed into our universe. Keep in mind that there is no “outside” – that is why we’re imagining ourselves “inside,” after all. The “inside” of this thingless, spaceless unity that we are imagining would likewise be absent of time for the same reasons that the void is absent of time. Thus, existence and time are one.  

We Are Time.

Regular readers of this blog, in addition to many other Buddhist practitioners, will be familiar with the teaching of no-self. The teaching of no-self is essentially the recognition of the emptiness (the lack of fixed and independent existence) of all phenomena, including the collection of phenomena that we commonly refer to as ‘the self.’ Now, the Heart Sutra’s insistence that ‘form is emptiness and emptiness is form’ might prompt us to focus on emptiness as something that applies to the realm of materiality (existence, being). Dogen’s Uji, however, invites us to explore what emptiness means in the temporal realm as well. Please keep this in mind as we continue unraveling what Dogen means when he says “being-time.”

Okay, if the universe in its entirety is being-time, then everything contained herein is being-time. Just as the universe blossomed into being and with it, time, so we arise in form, each with our own time. This is Dogen’s being-time. However, just as the Heart Sutra encourages non-attachment to form (being), we should likewise refrain from attachment to being-time. With that in mind let’s explore another couple of pertinent passages:

Every thing, every being in this entire world is time. No object obstructs or opposes any other object, nor can time ever obstruct any other time (p. 68).

The central meaning of being-time is: every being in the entire world is related to each other and can never be separated from time (p. 69).

If We Are Time, Then Where Does The Time Go?

We’ve gotten very good at measuring ‘the passage of time.’ With ‘the passage of time’ we came to refer to some periods of time as ‘years’, and fragments of those years as ‘months’ and ‘seasons’. With ‘the passage of time’ we went from measuring time as the transition of daylight to darkness and back again, to measuring time in hours and minutes and seconds. Note that all of these periods of time are based upon the relationship between things – between the sun and the earth, between the moon and the earth, and increasingly refined increments thereof. At the present time we have atomic clocks that define a ‘tick of the clock’ to be "the duration of 9,192,631,770 cycles of microwave light absorbed or emitted by the hyperfine transition of caesium-133 atoms in their ground state undisturbed by external fields" (General Conference on Weights and Measures of 1967 as quoted in the preceding Wikipedia link). By the way, caesium-133 atoms are merely collections of “things” that we are making use of in order to track ‘the passage of time.’

But if time passes, where does it go? If time passes and we are time, where do we go? It is the seemingly universally shared experience that time is something that passes us by that inhibits us from enquiring more deeply into its nature. As Dogen says:

Even though we have not calculated the length of day by ourselves, there is no doubt that a day contains twenty-four hours. The changing of time is clear so there is no reason to doubt it; but this does not mean that we know exactly what time is (p. 68).

Do not think of time as merely flying by; do not study the fleeting aspect of time. If time is really flying away, there would be a separation between time and ourselves. If you think that time is just a passing phenomenon, you will never understand being-time (p. 69).

Why don’t we leave it right here for now – even though we’ve only made it through two pages of what is actually a much longer fascicle! Indeed, Dogen’s writing can be like a bramble, dense and thorny; so let’s back away for a bit before trying to make further headway. After all, we’re pushing the limits of our ability to comprehend – if only for the time-being!

Please note: Though I’ve primarily quoted from just one source translation, Nishiyama (1975), the reader might want to check out others listed in the reference section below. At least a couple of them are available online – links provided. I’ve made use of all of them at one time or another as I’ve read and reread this piece. Be forewarned, though, comparing any two translations line by line can yield some surprises. Furthermore, due to the fact that Dogen was frequently writing from a place of understanding that is difficult to put into any words at all, let alone words that are easily understood, it behooves us to approach his writings from the vantage point of a solid meditative practice. Until next time!


Cleary, T. (2001). Shobogenzo: Zen essays by Dogen. In Classics of Zen Buddhism: The collected translations of Thomas Cleary, Vol. Two. (T. Cleary, Trans.) Shambhala Publications by special arrangement with University of Hawaii Press (Dogen’s original work from 1240.)

Nearman, H. (2007). Shobogenzo: the treasure house of the eye of the true teaching (H. Nearman, Trans.) Published by Shasta Abbey Press. (Dogen’s original work from 1240.)

Nishijima, G. W., Cross C. (2009). Shobogenzo: the true Dharma-eye treasury, Vol. I. (G. W. Nishijima & C. Cross, Trans.) Published by Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research. (Dogen’s original work from 1240.)

Nishiyama, K. (1975). Shobogenzo: the eye and treasury of the true law, Vol. I. (K. Nishiyama, Trans.) Published by Nakayama Shobo Buddhist Book Store. (Dogen’s original work from 1240.)

Okumura, S. (2010). Realizing genjokoan: The key to Dogen’s shobogenzo (S. Okumura, Trans.). Wisdom Publications. (Dogen’s original work from 1233)

Welch, D., Tanahashi, K. (1985). The time-being: Moon in a dewdrop – writings of Zen master Dogen. (D. Welch & K. Tanahashi, Trans.; K. Tanahashi, Ed.) North Point Press. (Dogen’s original work from 1240.)

Image Credits

Hubble telescope image of a supernova (slightly retouched by author in order to remove extraneous "things") courtesy of Nasa via:

Image of Dogen looking at the moon courtesy of Shii via:

Copyright 2013 by Maku Mark Frank