Dogen’s Fukanzazengi

Dogen’s Fukanzazengi is one of his best known texts, however much of it is copied almost verbatim from a text written 100 years previously. Here, it is interesting to note what Dogen chooses to add to the origional text, and also perhaps more so, what he leaves out. In this short video we examine a particular passage Dogen chose to leave out, namely “When the water of mediation is clear, the pearl of the mind will appear of itself”.

This video is related to Kusen No. 274.


References: Kusen 273

‘It is not entirely without reason that Zen Buddhism is known as the Meditation School. Visitors to the modern Zen monastery, even if they are prepared to find meditation there, cannot but be struck by the extent to which the practice dominates the routine. The novice monk spends his first days almost entirely within the meditation hall, and, although he is expected during this period to learn some rudimentary features of clerical decorum, it is primarily his willingness to submit to the discipline of long hours of meditation in the cross-legged posture that will determine his admission into the community.’


Jinjippoukai shinjitsunintai – poem by Dogen Zenji

盡十方界真実人體 Jinjippoukai shinjitsunintai, waka poem by Dogen Zenji, with some translations and our notes.

yo no naka ni
真 のひとや
makoto no hito ya
kagiri mo mienu
oozora no iro 

True person manifest throughout the ten quarters of the world

The true person is
Not anyone in particular;
But, like the deep blue color
Of the limitless sky,
It is everyone, everywhere in the world.

Translation: Steven Heine, The Zen Poetry of Dogen

everywhere in ten directions world the true person manifests expresses

in the society
the person of the teaching
isn’t there
the limits can’t be seen
of the big blue sky

Translation: Shogen Blair

The True Person is
Everyone in particular
The blue silk of the whole sky
Is pulled through each open face

Translation: John Fraser


“Like an electron”

More from Kusen 268.


Zen documentary with Issho Fujita and Takafumi Kawakami

Are you interested in bodywork, preparation for zazen sitting, or the differences between Japanese and Western mindfulness? In this NHK film Soto zen monk Issho Fujita and Rinzai monk Takafumi Kawakami discuss letting go and listening to the body in the age of information.

Link to the documentary at the NHK website. (No longer available)

Watch Takafumi Kawakami talk on YouTube:


About the Robe Verse Takkesage

The verse for draping on the Okesa (kasaya – dull colour) robe, or the smaller portable robes such as Rakusu. Chanted usually in the morning at the end of the zazen period (slowly). Repeated three times. At some groups practitioners will keep their Rakusu folded during the first zazen and place on their head during the chanting (so that it is higher physically than their body) then put it on.

The robe of ‘freedom’ – gedatsu – can mean the robe of freedom from suffering or illusions – and therefore the robe (puku) of meditation practice which is the way to nirvana. Datsu means undressing or getting rid of – letting go of ego attachments and greed. In zazen we let go of being tightly gripped by distraction and return to open our awareness. The okesa design is based on rice field paddy shapes. It was pieced together by Buddha’s disciples from used rags. In it are teachings of impermanence and ‘form or emptiness’, ‘non material reward’ or ‘no forms/marks’ (musō). With practice and the expression of all things together we cultivate the ‘lucky/virtuous field’. The harvest is enlightenment rather than physical reward.

Wearing it we are wrapped (hibu) in the Tathāgata’s teachings (nyorai kyō). But by draping it on, freedom is not only for the wearer but spreads the robe out widely (kōdo) to embrace all other beings (sho shujō).

Read the verse here, with the English and Japanese/Chinese characters.


Master Nasen Cuts a Cat in Two

Blue cliff record Case 63. Video teach adapted from a Kusen given on 7th April 2020


Zazen as enactment Ritual

Zazen is not a means to something, but rather the expression of something. Here John discusses the point of spiritual practice and ritual in Zazen. Indeed, Zazen itself as an enactment ritual.


Good Posture for Sitting Zazen Joyfully

Zazen is the dharma gate of ease and joy, yet for so many of us it can often feel very different to this, it challenges us both physically and psychologically. In this video John discusses the importance of good posture in Zazen and how the physical position of the body can influence awareness and through this, ease and joy



Video teaching adapted from Kusen given on 4rth April 2020:
A monk asked master Yaoshan,
‘what are you thinking when your sitting in Zazen’?
The master replied ‘I’m thinking not thinking’
the monk, puzzled, replied, ‘how are you thinking not thinking?’
the master replied ‘hishiryō’.
This famous encouter pivots around the final reply of Yaoshan, ‘hishiryō’. However hishiryō does not easily translate into English, and consequenlty it is easily open to mininterpretation. In this video John discusses this Koan and how we can understand thinking, not thinking