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Dogen on Zen Sitting (Zazen)

"Dogen teaches us that Buddhism is just to practice Zazen, and to practice Zazen is Buddhism." - Roshi Nishijima.

"Only people who have experienced, in the mountain still state, the Zazen that is different from thinking, are able to grasp it." [Dogen, in Shobogenzo, Vol 4, p 247]

Sitting Zen

Zazen is another word for Zen contemplation (ie meditation), Zazen is the training in sitting and contemplating as hinted at below - and it is a very basic exercise in Zen: "Zazen is Zen, and Zen is Zazen," said Zen roshi Dogen. And:

The Tathagatas [Arrivers] of the past, present, and future and the patriarchs in India and China have also attained enlightenment through zazen. [Dogen in the "Bendowa" chapter of the Shobogenzo]

More of Dogen

Give up even the idea of becoming a Buddha.
Your tongue should be placed against the roof of your mouth,
Your lips and teeth closed comfortably.
Sit firmly as a rock,
Watching, ie "key-thinking", beyond thinking and non-thinking.

There are innumerable ways of understanding Buddhism,
You should do zazen alone.
The [inward] treasure house will then open of itself.
You should be able to enjoy it.

Further Sayings

Having started from his outskirts he joins the way, but he has hardly begun -
Who possesses innate knowledge all the same has to practice awakening.

You may use a sitting posture (zazen) - or a lying posture.
Keep your nose in line with your slender form's navel, and Zazen will be the manifestation of ultimate reality.

Let reality manifest in a daily life. Realism is also for that. And why give up your seat at home to wander in the dust and the dew on the grass?



Sit Down and Get Glad

LoJust the sitting practice and that only

Maybe Soto Zen is thought of as a Japanese tradition, but it was imported from China by Dogen in the early 1200s. Furthermore, it is said to be essentially the same as the Mahamudra (Great Symbol) teachings of Northern Buddhism:

A useful and succinct formula of comparison for Chinese Zen and Tibetan Mahamudra is that Zen is esoteric Mahamudra and Mahamudra is exoteric Zen. - Professor Chen-chi Chang [Tiy xxxix - More on it]

In contradistinction to the Mahamudra, the later Zen provides no 'map' for its students. [...] By offering to the novice a step-by-step guide to one end goal, the Mahamudra is closer to the Indian tradition, and perhaps easier and safer. - Professor Chang [Ibid]

By sitting calmly and comfortably, one is to go beyond thinking by observing serenely. Nothing is sought, not even enlightenment. Just the sitting practice is to be held on to.

For beginners: do it for at least ten to fifteen minutes (preferably 25) every day.

Zen serenity and furtive living stem from recognizing things for what they are - in tune with: "Don't ever let others condition you." [Zuigan]

Dogen wrote an essential guide for Zen training - it is included in the English Shobogenzo translation too. [Shz; Szd; Szi; Szm; Szp] ◊

Zazen gazing can melt away certain mind-forged distances.

LoFrom inside, from deep inside is the best

You had better do the sitting in a quiet room. One session is to last about 30-35 minutes eventually.

Gladness from deep inside is called Giu-Zamhai in Zen. It is happiness from within that warms your heart. It is attuned to the real essence of our life. Buddha thought that Giu-Zamhai was to be reckoned with too. In fact, he taught Giu-Zamhai, gladness of being, a felicity which comes from inside of us. Thus, feel that you are alive and experience how bright the world can seem. ◊

LoTrain yourself in watching the natural flow of breath too

Train and exert yourself in breath-watching, and go on from there - investigate and probe well - and know yourself too.


  1. Stick to your sitting practice.
  2. Go deep inside to find suitable outlets from within.
  3. Train yourself to eventually investigate better what courses around you.
IN NUCETo make life fulfilling and rewarding, sit and rest, go deeper through it, and learn to investigate also. That could improve your odds fairly well.


Eihei Josho Dogen on doing Zen, Literature  

Dog: Masunaga, Reiho, tr. A Primer of Soto Zen. A Translation of Dogen's Shobogenzo Zuimonki. Honolulu: University Press, 1975.

Shz: Cleary, Thomas, tr. Shobogenzo: Zen Essays by Dogen. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1986.

Sth: Nearman, Hubert, tr. Shobogenzo: The Treasure House of the Eye of the True Teaching. Mount Shasta, CA: Shasta Abbey Press, 2007. Online

Szd: Nishijima, Gudo Wafo and Cross, Chodo, trs. Master Dogen's Shobogenzo. Book 1. Woking, Surrey (UK): Windbell Publications, 1994.

Szi: Nishijima, Gudo Wafo and Cross, Chodo, trs. Master Dogen's Shobogenzo. Book 2. London: Windbell Publications, 1996.

Szm: Nishijima, Gudo Wafo and Cross, Chodo, trs. Master Dogen's Shobogenzo. Book 3. London: Windbell Publications, 1997.

Szp: Nishijima, Gudo Wafo and Cross, Chodo, trs. Master Dogen's Shobogenzo. Book 4. London: Windbell Publications, 1999.

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