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Posts Tagged ‘Soto School of Zen Buddhism’

Eihei Dogen lived from 1200-1253 and although he died very young he left a vast amount of words to help us on our journey in life.  Whether you are a Buddhist or not his teachings can provide you with a map to living a life of peace, joy, love, and compassion.  They are time tested principles that may be outright impossible to understand, or simple maxims for life, or a star too far to reach. Whatever they appear to you at first glance I believe that when you practice them regularly soon you’ll see a positive difference in your life.

The editors of  The Essential Dogen Writings of the Great Zen Master, Kazuaki Tanahashi and Peter Levitt, have divided their book into six sections: Practical Instruction, History, Gates of Dharma, Philosophical View, Students and Teachers, and Expression.  My plan is to take some of Dogen’s quotes and share them with you to show you that practicing Dogen’s teachings can be a practical and effective way to live your life based on the principles of peace, joy, love, and compassion.  It might help to quote the book:

Dogen initiated a lifetime of teaching and writing in one of the most unique and provocative styles the world has seen, so that others might also clarify the great matter of birth-and-death; self might have a bridge to self; wholeness in human form might be expressed as wholeness; and sentient beings might be saved from the unforgiving rigors of delusion, anguish, and needless suffering—the burden of dissatisfaction—in all of its forms (page xx).[1]

If you are one of those people who would like to release your burden of dissatisfaction in any part of your life this journey is for you.  If you do not already have a practice of “zazen” or “sitting” or “meditation” then today is the day to begin. “One of Dogen’s ‘Rules of Zazen’ admonishes students of the way to be mindful of time’s swift passage and ‘engage yourself in zazen as though saving your head from fire’ (page xvii-xviii).”  There have been times in my life when I felt as though my head was on fire even though it actually was not!  When I encountered one of those events or days it sure was a wake up call that something needed to change in my life.

If you have felt that way recently I hope you will join me on this journey.  I begin each day with sitting (zazen) anywhere from 20 to 35 minutes depending upon the day. In doing so I create a time of peace, quiet, and joy in my life.  It fills me with the energy to move forward with my busy day. It enables me to bring that peaceful, calm, and loving feeling with me throughout the day.  It helps me show compassion to myself and all others.  It clears my mind and creates space for new and creative energy to emerge. It fills me with the joys of living rather than the pains of living—regardless  of how large or small each one may be.

The authors encourage us with these words:

While for Dogen all beings are ‘fundamentally enlightened,’ it is reasonable to ask, as he did during his travels in China: If this is the case and we are whole from the beginningless beginning, why do we practice? To answer, I’d like to offer a response based on Dogen’s teaching: We practice because we do not yet know who or what we are.  But as a result of many causes, including the suffering we experience and the longing engendered by that suffering, we aspire to know.  That aspiration leads many people to begin the practice of zazen (page xxvi).[2]

It is my desire that these short lessons in the essential teachings of Dogen will help you minimize your suffering and your longing to “know” will be answered.  Let us begin the journey today and continue every day!

“Simply say, ‘Just this!’ (page 177).”[3]

Travel lightly, Shokai



[1] Tanahashi, K. Levitt, P. (2013) The Essential Dogen, Writings of the Great Zen Master. Shambhala: Boston, MA

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

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