Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma
Book 35

Spiritual Powers




This fascicle of the Shôbôgenzô was composed in the winter of 1241, at Kôshôji, Dôgen's monastery on the southern outskirts of the capital, Heian kyô (present Kyoto). It appears as Book 35 in both the seventy-five- and sixty-fascicle redactions of the Shôbôgenzô.

As its title indicates, the theme of the work is the Buddhist teaching of the supernormal powers ascribed to the buddhas, bodhisattvas, and other adepts of the religion. This teaching was widespread throughout both the technical and popular literature of Buddhism and represented one of the common assumptions of the Buddhist community. Discussion of the powers also occurs with some frequency in the texts of the Chinese Zen masters, who tended in one way or another to redefine, dismiss or make light of the traditional understandings of the teaching.

Dôgen's text takes up several of the passages on the powers from the Chinese Zen literature, using them to develop his own vision of the higher meaning of what he calls "the great powers" and "the powers of the buddha." In this vision, the powers become the welling up of the world itself, the fundamental activity through which all things emerge and in celebration of which the Zen masters act out their own eccentric powers. Throughout the text, Dôgen has harsh words for those Buddhists who lack this vision and remain limited to what he calls "the small powers" of the thaumaturgical tradition.

In 1245, after his move from the capital area to Echizen, Dôgen returned to the theme of the powers, in an essay entitled "Penetrating Others' Minds" (Tashin tsû). This text may be interesting to read together with the Jinzû. Readers may also wish to consult my article on the context of Dôgen's treatment of the spiritual powers, also on line, at:

The present translation is based on the text edited by Kawamura Kôdô, in Dôgen zenji zenshû 1 (Tokyo: Shunjûsha, 1991), pp. 392-402; I have revised the paragraphed breaks for ease of reading. Other English versions can be found in Nishijima and Cross, Master Dogen's Shobogenzo, Book 2 (1996); Nishiyama and Stevens, A Complete English Translation of Dogen Zenji's Shobogenzo, vol. 3 (1975); Kazuaki Tanahashi, Enlightenment Unfolds (1999); and Yokoi Yûhô, The Shobo-genzo (1986).

Go to translation