The Standard Method of Zazen
Gi means a form, or a standard of behavior. Therefore Zazengi means the standard method of Zazen. Master Dogen wrote several treatises about Zazen. First he wrote Fukan-zazengi, (The Universal Guide to the Standard Method of Zazen), in 1227, just after coming back from China. In Shobogenzo he wrote Bendowa (A Talk about Pursuing the Truth), Zazenshin (A Needle for Zazen), Zanmai-o-zanmai (The Samadhi That Is King of Samadhis), and this chapter, Zazengi. Fukan-zazengi was the first text Master Dogen wrote, and thus it was the first proclamation of his belief in Zazen. Bendowa was an introduction to Zazen written in an easy style and format to help us understand the fundamental theories of Zazen. Zazenshin contains a guiding poem on Zazen, and Master Dogen’s interpretation of it. The reason Master Dogen used poetry to interpret the meaning of Zazen is that it is difficult to interpret the philosophical meaning of Zazen in prose, because the ultimate meaning of Zazen is something that cannot be explained with words. Master Dogen felt that it was appropriate to suggest the ultimate philosophical meaning of Zazen in poetry. But in this chapter, Zazengi, Master Dogen explained only the formal method of practicing Zazen. The existence of this chapter indicates how highly Master Dogen revered the formal standard of Zazen.