Dogen Zenji’s Standards for Community Practice
I am very honored to be one of the speakers on this auspicious occasion of the 800th anniversary of Dogen Zenji’s birth. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all the people who made contributions to make this happen and also to all of you who are here today.
In all traditions of Buddhism, sila (precepts), samadhi (meditation) and prajna (wisdom) are the three basic studies (sangaku). Although Dogen Zenji said that his zazen practice was not one of the three basic studies but was the Buddha Dharma itself, these three aspects can still be found in his teachings and practice. Zazen is, of course, the practice of samadhi. Dogen Zenji’s teachings written by himself and recorded by his disciples, such as Shobogenzo and Eihei-koroku, are expressions of prajna — his insight into the Buddha Dharma. This is what his students have to study. This morning, Rev. Zenkei Hartman has spoken about her zazen practice. Dogen Zenji’s philisophy was discussed by Prof. Carl Bielefeldt, and this afternoon, Rev. Daido Loori will address the two Shobogenzos.
I will discuss Dogen Zenji’s teachings about the precepts (kaigaku). The precepts are the guidelines of day-to-day life as a Buddhist. In Soto Zen Buddhism, both priests and lay people receive sixteen Bodhisattva precepts as guidelines for daily life. In addition to the precepts, there are shingi (standards for the pure assembly), which are more concrete guidelines for community practice. While Dogen Zenji’s teaching about the bodhisattva precepts is very important, my presentation will focus on the group of his writings that discuss guidelines for community practice.
Eihei-shingi (Pure Standards for Eiheiji Monastery) is a collection of six independent essays written in Chinese: Instructions for the Tenzo (Tenzokyokun), The Model for Engaging the Way (Bendoho), The Dharma for Taking Food (Fushukuhanpo), Regulations for the Study Hall (Shuryo Shingi), The Dharma when Meeting Senior Instructors of Five Summer Practice Periods (Taitaiko Gogejariho), and Pure Standards for the Temple Administrators (Chiji Shingi). In these writings, Dogen Zenji prescribed forms and procedures for the various activities of the monks’ daily life in his community. He put emphasis on community work (fushin-samu) following the Chinese Zen tradition. He also described the kind of attitude a monk needed to maintain as a member of his community.
Today, I would like to talk about how the Eiheishingi has influenced American Zen practice and also talk about the fact that some American practitioners have difficulty with or questions about Japanese formality. Then I will talk about the basic spirit of community practice focusing on community work (fushin-samu). Next, I will address the significance of the Community Standards (shingi) in Dogen Zenji’s teachings and his life. Finally, I will discuss the significance of Dogen’s standards for community practice for the present and future of Soto Zen.
2. Influence of Eiheishingi in American Zen Practice
From 1993 to 1996, I was the head teacher at Minnesota Zen Meditation Center founded by the late Katagiri Dainin Roshi. Each year during that time, I led a summer practice period for four to six weeks from August through September at MZMC’s country practice center, Hokyoji. Hokyoji is located on two hundred and eighty acres amidst farmland and is close to the Mississippi River near the borders of Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. It is very beautiful and peaceful there, and it is a wonderful place to practice zazen.
During the practice period, we usually woke up at four thirty in the morning and sat two periods of zazen beginning at five o’clock. Then we had a morning service and breakfast. This was followed by one period of sitting, a lecture or a discussion group and another period of zazen before a noon service and lunch. The practice in the zendo such as zazen, chanting, eating and so on was led by the ino.
There was a work period in the afternoon. The work leader (shissui) assigned jobs to everyone. We did carpentry work to build living quarters for teachers and resident practitioners. We built a stone wall to protect the building. We took care of walnut trees planted during a past practice period. Other work projects including cleaning the zendo, mowing the lawn, splitting firewood used for heating in the winter, taking care of the vegetable garden, repairing the dirt access road, and weeding the paths and around the buildings. The kitchen crew worked under the instruction of the tenzo, who sometimes went into town to do grocery shopping during the work period. After work, we had a short break and a shower followed by one period of zazen before evening service and supper. After supper, we sat another two periods until nine in the evening. It was a very impressive sight to see the stars in the sky when I walked back to my cabin after evening zazen. I never had seen so many stars in such a clear night sky in my life. I felt very close to nature.
This was a typical daily schedule for the practice periods at Hokyoji. We had formal traditional oryoki meals in the zendo as Dogen Zenji prescribed in The Dharma for Taking Food (Fushukuhannpo) except on the 4th and 9th days, which were our days off (shikunichi). I gave lectures on Instructions for the Tenzo (Tenzokyokun) in the first year and Pure Standards for the Temple Administrators (Chiji Shingi ) in the following two years. The names of the positions such as ino, tenzo, work leader (shissui), came out of Tenzokyokun and Chijishingi. Since Hokyoji was used as a retreat center only in the summer, we didn’t have a kansu (director).
Katagiri Dainin Roshi put a lot of emphasis on traditional monastic practice when he founded Minnesota Zen Meditation Center, and our practice during the practice period was mainly based on Dogen Zenji’s teachings in the Eiheishingi.
Most of practitioners were lay people, and there were a few of Katagiri Roshi’s dharma heirs who had trained in Japanese monasteries. One year, a few Japanese priests visited Hokyoji during the practice period. They all admired the way the Americans there practiced based on the Japanese monastic tradition.
Since Hokyoji has no dormitory for visitors, many practitioners set up tents for sleep and rest in, while others slept in the zendo. Sometimes, there were heavy rains with strong winds. At other times, we had very hot and humid summer days. Later, in the middle of September, we had cold nights with frost in the morning. The practice there was basically formal Japanese monastic style and people had some hardships, but still they practiced very sincerely for as many days they could. Since most practitioners were lay people, they also had work and family responsibilities. They used their vacations for such practice, which was not easy for them at all. People came from all over the Midwest: Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas, Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, and Indiana. A few people came from places even further away, such as South Carolina, Florida, and California.
I admired those practitioners, and I really appreciated the hard work Katagiri Roshi had done to introduce Japanese monastic forms, translate sutras and verses for chants, and explain the meaning of each activity in order to train American practitioners. In addition to his own traning of his students, in the 80’s, Katagiri Roshi invited Narasaki Ikko Roshi and Narasaki Tsugen Roshi from Zuioji monastery in Japan to lead Bendo-e, in which they practiced based on the very formal way prescribed in Dogen Zenji’s The Model for Engaging the Way (Bendoho), a part of the Eiheishingi.
When Suzuki Roshi established Tassajara, he invited Tatsugami Roshi, who was the ino at Eiheiji, to introduce formal, traditional Japanese monastic practice and train American practitioners. I believe other Japanese teachers, such as Maezumi Hakuyu Roshi, also made similar efforts. There have been many other Japanese teachers and priests who visited various Zen centers and made contributions in order to transplant Japanese forms. I also admire those American practitioners who have patiently studied and accepted the Japanese forms, maintained them after their Japanese teachers’ deaths, and then transmited those forms to their own students. The practice at American Zen centers is the result of all those people’s precious efforts.
Since my teacher, Uchiyama Kosho Roshi, focused on just sitting zazen, I had not been familiar with this formal style of practice until I went to Minnesota. I am very grateful for having the opportunity to study Japanese formal monastic practice in America.
At Antaiji, in Kyoto, where I practiced with Uchiyama Kosho Roshi, the focus of our practice was zazen, studying Buddha’s and Dogen Zenji’s teachings, samu, or community work, and takuhatsu (begging). We didn’t have morning service, and we had almost no ceremonies except ordination ceremonies (tokudoshiki). During sesshin, we sat fourteen fifty-minute periods of zazen. There was no morning service, no lecture, no work period, and no personal interviews. We used oryoki bowls and ate our meals in silence without meal chants. Uchiyama Roshi called this the “sesshin without toys” in his book Opening the Hand of Thought. Except while practicing at Zuioji with Narasaki Ikko Roshi, I practiced in Uchiyama Roshi’s style for more than twenty years, until I went to Minnesota Zen Meditation Center.
I began with a description of my experience of the Hokyoji practice period as an example of the influence of Dogen Zenji’s teachings about community practice as taught in the Eiheishingi, and how American practitioners have accepted and made an effort to follow them. I am pretty sure that Tassajara and other monastic centers follow a basically similar style. At non-residential centers, basic practice is similar but much more simplified in form. When they have a sesshin, the schedule is pretty much the same as Hokyoji practice but with more periods of zazen.
As is clear from my previous examples, the Eiheishingi has greatly influenced American Soto Zen practice. I would like to mention though, that many American practitioners have had difficulty with Japanese formality. I have heard many Americans say that they want to study and practice the formless Dharma that is beyond any ethnicity.
Although quite a few westerners stayed at Japanese monasteries in the seventies, many of them experienced cultural difficulties mainly with the rigid formalism and the vertical structure of Japanese community life. Some were so disappointed that they just quit their practice, while others developed negative feelings about the Japanese mentality.
Also in the seventies, many young Americans who were interested in Zen thought it was a religion of individual freedom. They had a tendency to negate any rules, moral codes, or system of values. They liked the iconoclastic Zen masters’ koan stories, such as the tale of Tanka Tennen, who burned a buddha statue in order to warm himself in the winter. Some people expected to have the same experience through zazen as they did when they took LSD. Consequently, it is no surprise that many American practitioners resisted Zen teachers’ attempts to introduce a formal, monastic style practice. I think, in a sense, it is very natural to have such resistance.
The issue of formality is important. As long as we are human beings with our physical bodies, we need some forms. Japanese monastic form is an expression of Japanese spirituality influenced by Buddhism born in India and transmitted through China. I feel American practitioners do not need to follow Japanese forms to study the Dharma. But in order to create some American forms for American people practicing Soto Zen, I feel that Japanese forms are the only foundation on which American forms can be developed.
As well as the matter of formality, there are many more important points we should consider about Dogen Zenji’s standards for community practice. Two of them are the spirit of community and the significance of community work. Dogen Zenji’s zazen and his philosophy were supported by his community practice — which is another way of saying that zazen and wisdom must manifest themselves in daily life as concrete actions. And if we carefully study Dogen’s community standards (shingi), we find wonderful, pertinent guidance that deepens and enriches our day-to-day lives. When compared with other community standards (shingi) written in China and Japan, Dogen Zenji’s shingi is different, in that he discussed the profound spiritual meaning of each and every activity of ordinary daily life, from waking up to going to bed. Even sleeping was a practice for Dogen Zenji.
Forms should change depending upon time, location, and/or culture. Still, Dharma practice manifested in the performance of daily activities is a very important point of Dogen Zenji’s teachings and one that has meaning for us even if we don’t live in a monastic setting. Each of our activities at home and at work provides an opportunity for deepening our understanding of the Dharma.
3. Origin of the spirit of community work in Zen community: Hyakujo Shingi
Since the time of Shakyamuni Buddha, the sangha has been one of the Three Treasures of Buddhism. All Buddhists take refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. In the early tradition, monks practiced in communities and were supported by lay people. The community of monks followed a collection of regulations called the Vinaya.
In China, Zen Buddhists developed their own standards of community practice, called shingi, which were suitable to the climate and culture in China. In the Zen tradition, Hyakujo Ekai (Baizhang Huihai, 749--814 CE), has been considered to be the first Zen Master to establish precise rules, called the Hyakujo Shingi. Although some present-day scholars question whether or not a written text entitled Hyakujo Shingi was ever compiled and published, it was still true that Dogen Zenji thought Hyakujo was the person who established community standards (shingi ), and he tried to follow Hyakujo’s spirit. In the earlier version of Fukanzazengi, called Tenpukubon, Dogen Zenji wrote, “We should value and follow Hyakujo’s standards and penetrate Bodhidharma’s teachings.”
According to the Zenmon kishiki in Keitokudenntoroku, Hyakujo’s community had three pillars of community practice: studying Dharma through the abbot’s lectures (jodo), including questions and answers between abbot and students, zazen practice, and communal work (fushin-samu). As the expression of his fundamental attitude, Hyakujo said, “My principle is not limited to either Hinayana or Mahayana and yet it is not different from either Hinayana or Mahayana.” In this saying, Hinayana refers to the Vinaya established in India and Mahayana refers to the Bodhisattva precepts. This saying shows that Hyakujo’s attitude was flexible but did not deviate from the spirit of Buddhist tradition. Dogen Zenji maintained this attitude.
Hyakujo’s community didn’t have a buddha hall, and the dharma hall was the most important building, in which the abbot expounded the dharma on behalf of the Buddha. Having questions and answers on the abbot’s dharma expression was the way monks studied the Dharma. They practiced zazen on the platform in the monks hall (sodo) where they sat zazen, slept and ate. And they had community work, called fushin in Japanese, which literally means “universal invitation” — i.e., all people in the monastery, including the abbot, were expected to work together as a community. This is the source of the practice of community work in the American sanghas today.
Fushin included community work such as cleaning the temples, carrying water, collecting firewood, caring for temple facilities. Traditionally, scholars have thought that Chinese Zen monks began to cultivate the land and grow their own food to support their practice. This conduct was radically different from the regulations that were established in India. In the Indian Vinaya, farming was prohibited for monks because, in the process of farming, living beings were killed.
Hyakujo’s community had ten officers under the abbot to govern the practitioners and manage monastery affairs. The names of those ten officers are not known. Later, they were called chiji (administrators) such as kansu (director), tenzo (cook), ino (practice leader), shissui (work leader) and choshu (heads of the monastic department) shuso (head monk), as well as shoki (secretary), zosu (librarian), shika (guest manager).
One of the most famous sayings from Hyakujo’s community is “one day of no work is one day of not-eating.” In Shobogenzo Gyoji (Continuous Practice), Dogen Zenji praised Hyakujo’s practice: “Zen Master Daichi (Dazhi) of Mt. Hyakujo (Baizhang), from the time when he was the attendant to Baso (Mazu) until the evening he passed away, did not have a single day without working for the assembly or serving others. He graciously gave us the model of ‘One day of no work is one day of not-eating.’”
Unfortunately, Hyakujo’s spirit did not endure throughout the history of Chinese Zen monasteries. The history of the monastic standard (shingi) is the history of the secularization of Zen monasteries versus the resistance to secularization.
Particularly after the Song Dynasty (960--1278), Zen monasteries became a part of the worldly establishment and were supported by the Emperor, the government, and upper-class officers. Prayers for the Emperor and various supporters, as well as many other ceremonies became important functions of monastic practice. Zen monasteries grew large and wealthy. They possessed a lot of property and owned many businesses that made money, so that monks no longer had to support their practice through their own labor. Even though they stopped supporting their practice by their own labors, the spirit of community work (fushin-samu) was maintained as an essential aspect of community practice. Dogen Zenji was greatly influenced by those practitioners who devoted themselves to community work, as he described in the Instruction to the Tenzo (Tenzokyokun).
4. The basic spirit of Dogen’s Standard for Community Practice
In the first section of the Gakudo-Yojinshu (Points to watch in practicing the Way) Dogen Zenji discussed the nature of bodhi-mind. He said that to arouse bodhi-mind is to see the impermanence of all things in the world and to become free from the self-clinging that desires fame and profit. In Shobogenzo Hotsubodaishin (Arousing Bodhi-mind), he talked about the second aspect of bodhi-mind — having a compassionate heart and working for all living beings’ attainment of the Way. And in Chiji-shingi (The Pure Standards for the Temple Administrators), Dogen discussed the third aspect of bodhi-mind — that is, valuing and maintaining the practice style established by the buddhas and ancestors and transmitting that style to later generations.
These three aspects of bodhi-mind are the attitudes Dogen Zenji requested of the people who wanted to practice with him. I think the most important characteristic of Dogen Zenji’s standards for community practice was that his shingi was not simply a collection of “shoulds” and “should-nots” but an articulation of the deep meaning that each activity in our daily lives has as the practice of Dharma, and as an expression of the three aspects of bodhi-mind: wisdom, compassion, and devotion to maintain and transmit the Buddhist tradition. This is why Dogen described practices such as how to cook, eat, wash the face, use the toilet, walk in the sodo, do gassho, and sleep.
In the opening words of the Tenzo-kyokun, Dogen said, “From the beginning in Buddha’s family there have been six temple administrators. They are all Buddha’s children and together they carry out Buddha’s work.” He clearly said that the tenzo’s work in the kitchen was also Buddha’s work.
This concept was the first thing Dogen Zenji learned in China through his meeting with living examples such as the tenzo from Ayuwan monastery and the old tenzo at Tientong monastery.
Dogen Zenji tried to follow Hyakujo’s original intention — that of keeping zazen, Dharma study, and community work as the three pillars of Zen monastic practice. The monastic regimen of working together, sitting and living together in the zendo and studying together in the dharma hall embodied the basic spirit of community practice described in Dogen’s Eiheishingi. I think the spirit of community work (fushin) is one of the most important distinctions between Zen Buddhism and other Buddhist traditions. This is one of the most important points that Soto Zen practice has to offer.
5. Dogen Zenji as a Founder of a Practice community
Dogen Zenji was not only a great Zen master but also a philosopher and a poet who is greatly respected by many people today, including Zen practitioners, Buddhist scholars, and philosophers. However, he was the founder of a practice community and the spiritual leader of that community. He had over all responsibility for the whole community’s activities. It is important to remember that Dogen’s profound, unique and powerful thoughts and his beautiful, poignant poems came out of his community practice with his disciples and lay students, and his relationship with the larger Japanese society of his time.
In the postscript of the Chiji-Shingi, Dogen Zenji wrote:
On the 15th Day of the Sixth month, summer in the first year of Kangen (1246)
Written by Monk Dogen, the founder of Eiheiji monastery in Echizen
And on that very day, June 15, 1246, according to the Eiheikoroku (Extensive Record of Eternal Peace, the record of Dogen’s formal lectures, or jodo), Dogen Zenji changed the name of his monastery from Daibutsuji (Great Buddha Temple) to Eiheiji (Eternal Peace Temple) and gave a formal speech (jodo). I don’t think it was simply a coincidence that he finished writing Chiji-shingi and changed the name of his monastery on the same day. In his speech on that occasion, he said:
Heaven has the Way so that it is high and clear. The earth has the Way so that it is rich and serene. Human beings have the Way so that we are peaceful and calm. Therefore, when the World-honored One was born, he took seven steps and, with one hand pointing to heaven and the other hand pointing to the earth, he said, “In the heaven above and on the earth below, I alone am the honored one.” The World-honored One had the Way like this. And I (Eihei) have the Way. Great assembly, please verify it.” After a pause, Dogen went on, “In the heavens above and on the earth below, this very place is where eternal peace (eihei) abides.”
The “Way” is the key word in this speech, that is, the Buddha Way. The Buddha Way is both practice and enlightenment (verification, or realization). Because of the practice of all beings (shohojisso), heaven is high and clear, the earth is rich and serene, and human beings can be peaceful. Dogen Zenji interpreted the Buddha’s statement, “In heaven above and on the earth below, I alone am the Honored-one,” as an expression of the reality of interdependent origination.
This “I” is not a self separate from all other beings, as Dogen Zenji explained in Shobogenzo Yuibutsu-yobutsu: “The self buddhas talk about is the whole great earth.” And yet, as the Buddha said, “I alone am the Honored one,” each of us has to live out our own life with our own responsibility. Community practice is the practice of interdependent origination. Nothing in heaven or on the earth can exist independently by itself. Everything exists within the relationship of causes and conditions. Since we are supported by all beings we need to support all beings — to appreciate them, be grateful to them, and live together with all of them. At the very least, we should try to be helpful instead of harmful. This is the practice of the Bodhisattva vow. And according to Dogen, community practice allows us to live in that way. He urged his students to maintain community practice as the way of gratitude and fulfillment of the vow to save all beings. He believed this ideal to be attainable through the practice of zazen, community work and Dharma study. It was not difficult for monastics to understand the significance of zazen and Dharma study, but until Dogen Zenji’s time community work (fushin-samu) that supported practice life had not been valued in Japanese Buddhism. Such works were done by humble low-class monks in the monasteries. Since Dogen Zenji was from a high-class noble family, I suppose, he had never engaged in such works but concentrated on the practice of meditation, studying Buddhist philosophy and doing ceremonies. In the Chiji-shingi, Dogen Zenji collected the stories of many great Chinese Zen masters whose work as officers in a practice community was their Dharma practice as well as the expression of their awakening to the reality of interdependent origination.
I think the renaming of his monastery from Daibutsuji to Eiheiji was one of the most significant moments in Dogen Zenji’s life. For eight months after writing Shobogenzo Osakusendaba (A king asked for Sendaba) on October 23, 1245, until that day (June 15, 1246) he had written nothing. I suppose that, during those eight months, he was concentrating on writing Chiji-Shingi and training his disciples to work following its spirit. Just writing standards (shingi) was not enough, Dogen needed to create a system and train his monks to work and practice according to the regulations and the spirit. It was not enough to just write his ideal picture of the practice community. All the monks had to understand Dogen’s spirit of community work and function sufficiently in the day-to-day actual affairs at Eiheiji. It was not enough to just write his ideal picture of the practice community. This is why I said that Dogen Zenji was not simply a thinker or a poet. When the Chiji-Shingi was finished, he felt his community was ready to change its name from Daibutsuji to Eiheiji.
Eihei (eternal peace) was the name of an era of the Later Han Dynasty in China, thought by Chinese Buddhists to be when the Buddha Dharma was first officially introduced from India to China in 67 CE. By the time he finished writing Chiji-Shingi, Dogen Zenji thought the first true Buddhist monastery had now been established in Japan.
After renaming Eiheiji, Dogen wrote Shobogenzo Shukke (Leaving Home, Becoming a Monk) and probably began to write the 12-volume version of Shobogenzo in order to formulate guidelines for community practice at Eiheiji for later generations. It is certain that Dogen Zenji changed his method of instruction for his students from writing the Shobogenzo to giving Dharma talks in the Dharma hall. This means that he followed the traditional way in China. From this, we can understand that Dogen Zenji put his energy into creating the true monastic community following Hyakujo’s spirit. As for the Shobogenzo, he had intended to rewrite some of the chapters in it, and write some new chapters to make a 100-volume Shobogenzo. Unfortunately, however, he didn’t have time to do so. He was only able to write twelve more chapters, some of which were still in draft stage. Today the set of the newly written volumes is called the “12-volume version of Shobogenzo.” I think Dogen Zenji wrote the 12-volume version of Shobogenzo in order to enable his students in the later generations to continue to practice in the spirit of his shingi. As the founder and spiritual leader of a practice community, he had planned to establish a genuine community practice, following in the tradition of Chinese Zen monasteries, where practitioners with bodhi-mind could practice with genuine spirit.
From the time Dogen Zenji returned to Japan from China until his death, his determination to create a practice community where people who had aroused bodhi-mind could practice together with others sharing the same aspiration never changed. I believe his dedication to community practice is the key to understanding Dogen as a Buddhist teacher. His philosophy did not come from his world of thinking alone. He always walked together with his students as the leader of his practice community.
6. Significance of Dogen Zenji’s Standards for the present and future of Soto Zen.
Dogen Zenji’s standards have a major role to play in 3 key areas for the present and future Soto Zen. These areas are: 1) Practice for the self that is not others, 2) The relationship between lay practice and monastic practice, 3) The creation of new traditions for both East and West.
(1) Practice for the self that is not others
In the Instructions for the Tenzo, Dogen Zenji recorded his conversation with an old tenzo named Yong at Tendo Monastery. One hot summer day after lunch when Dogen was walking through a corridor, he saw the tenzo drying mushrooms in front of the buddha hall. The tenzo carried a bamboo cane, but had no hat on his head. He was drenched with sweat. The tenzo’s spine bent like a bow and with his shaggy eyebrows he looked like a crane. Dogen asked the tenzo’s age. The tenzo said, “Sixty-eight.” Then Dogen asked, “Why do you not have an attendant or lay worker do this?” The tenzo said, “Others are not me.” Dogen said, “Esteemed sir, you are truly dedicated. The sun is so hot. Why are you doing this now?” The tenzo replied, “What time should I wait for?”
Dogen wrote, “I immediately withdrew. Thinking to myself as I walked away, I deeply appreciated that this job expresses the essential function.”
This is a famous story among Dogen’s followers in Japan. Particularly the tenzo’s expression, “Others are not me” is well known. We should consider what this “me” that is not others means to us as Buddhist practitioners.
One of the essential teachings of the Buddha is “no-self.” It is taught that there is no such thing called “me” or “I”. In that case what is the “me” in “others are not me”? Also, in Zen, teachers often talk about the universal-self that is one with everything and beyond separation of self and others. Dogen also said that “the self that buddhas talk about is the whole great earth,” so that the self is not the ego (atman) separate from others. Then what is this “me” that is not others? If there is no self, the self is zero. If the self is universal and one with everything, then the self is infinite. And the “self that is not others” is one individual person living in the relationship with many other people. So, according to Buddhism and Zen, zero equals one and one equals infinity. Between zero and infinity, there is the self that is one of many.
I think Buddhist and Zen teachings too often put emphasis on no-self and universal-self and forget about the self that is not others. And the actual self that is in a community is one that is not others. How can we manifest “no-self” and “universal self” through the self that is not others? We need to realize that I am responsible for doing what I should do. No one else can practice for me. This is the most important point when we practice as a member of the community. Through studying Buddhist teachings, we study “no-self”; when we practice zazen, we study the “universal self” that is beyond separation of self and others. And within our day-to-day lives, we must study how this individual person that is not others can manifest the reality of “no-self” and “universal self”. This is the most important and difficult koan in our day-to-day practice. This is where precepts and ethics come into our practice. This is the point Dogen Zenji wanted to teach us in Tenzokyokun , Chiji-shingi, Genjo-koan and other writings regarding community practice.
People often ask about the relationship between zazen practice in the zendo and their day-to-day life at home, and at work and in the larger society. I think the key to this question exists in Dogen’s teachings in the Eiheishingi. This point of Dogen’s teaching is significant to our practice even if we don’t live in a monastery.
(2) Lay practice and monastic practice
In its short, 100-year history, American Buddhism has basically been lay Buddhism. Most Zen centers are mainly practice centers for lay practitioners. With the exception of places like Tassajara Zen Mountain Center and Zen Mountain Monastery, not many monasteries have been established. And, from my experience as the head teacher of the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center, many lay practitioners are not interested in developing monastic practice.
Lay Buddhist practice is important to make the Buddha Dharma accessible for members of the larger society and to allow it to function as a spiritual principle in society. But monks’ practice in a monastic setting is also important in order to deepen American Buddhist spirituality. Lay practice would benefit greatly from monastic practice. Future leaders could study the nature of Dogen Zenji’s teachings, develop a deep understanding of dharma, thorough experience of zazen, and appreciate and understand community practice. A monastery could also function as a training center for leaders of lay practice centers as well as a retreat center for lay practitioners. In this way, lay practice and monastic practice would support each other. This scenario is closer to the original model of Buddhist sangha than is current practice. In order to establish monastic practice, Dogen’s Standards for the Community is very important as a guideline of basic community spirit.
(3) To create a new tradition for both East and West
By continuing to work and practice with Asian tradition, the American sangha is in a good position to create new traditions without losing the genuine spirit that has been transmitted from the ancient Buddhist teachers. Once a model is established in the West, it will be influential to the Asian Buddhist traditions as a stimulus and inspiration to renew and adjust its forms and spirit for contemporary society. I believe that maintaining a friendly relationship based on the Dharma between Soto Zen Buddhists in Japan and America is important for both Japanese and Americans. As the Director of Soto Zen Education Center, I believe it is one of our responsibilities to be a bridge between East and West.
I have heard that the community of Japanese Soto Zen scholars is trying to create a new shugaku (Soto-shu Study). I too, think it is important to create something new for the future. We are turning the corner toward the 21st century and a new millennium. The structure of human society has been rapidly and thoroughly changing. The entire world is becoming one community through the development of transportation and communication. And throughout the entire world, so many problems are created by the three poisonous minds (greed, anger/hatred, and ignorance). I am not sure whether the next century is an age of hope for a new and better type of community for all living beings, or if it is the beginning of the downfall of human civilization. In any case, since many of the serious problems we are facing have been created by human beings, it seems we can change the outcome by transforming our attitudes toward life. In order to do so, however, we will need to use both scientific knowledge and the spiritual wisdom that has been transmitted through various traditions in many parts of the world.
As far as I know, one thing that is missing in the efforts of creating new Sotoshu study in Japan is that those scholars do not put emphasis on zazen practice. Dogen Zen without zazen is Dogen Zen with neither “Dogen” nor “Zen.” I expect that the really new Sotoshu study is being created in the West, where people practice zazen, put emphasis on social activities, and have a logical, critical way of thinking. I think it would be the best if Japanese and Westerners work together.
Uchiyama Roshi thought that Instructions for the Tenzo (Tenzokyokun) and Pure Standard for the Temple Administrators (Chijishingi) were very important religious texts to make our zazen practice function in our daily lives outside the zendo. Uchiyama Roshi’s commentary on Tenzokyokun was translated into English by one of his disciples, Daitsu Tom Wright, and published with the title Refining Your Life. That book has been appreciated by many American practitioners for more than ten years. As far as I know, this is the only book with commentary on a part of the Dogen’s Eiheishingi available in English except for the English translations of the Eiheishingi text. Uchiyama Roshi thought that the essence of the Eiheishingi was not the forms but Dogen’s teachings about our attitudes toward our own life with emphasis on the three-minds: joyful-mind, parental-mind, and magnanimous-mind, as Dogen mentioned at the end of the Instructions for the Tenzo. (Tenzokyokun)
I think to live and work together with others in a community with these three mental attitudes is the way our zazen practice functions in our daily lives.
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