Zen Master Dogen’s


Wholehearted Practice of The Way

Study Guide

with selected commentary by

Uchiyama Roshi

Red Rocks Zen Circle

Winter 2018

Bendowa Overview:    Highlights and Key Themes

– All Buddhas have been transmitting wondrous dharma and actualizing awakening …. the foundation for this is jijuyu zanmai …. and the true gate is practicing zazen.

– Although this dharma is abundantly inherent in each person, it is not manifested without practice.

– The various Buddhist religious practices are not essential;  just sit, dropping off body and mind.

– When one displays buddha- mudra with one’s whole body and mind, sitting upright in samadhi, everything in the entire dharma world becomes buddha-mudra, and all space in the universe becomes enlightenment.

– All things together awaken …. all share and universally unfold the boundless buddha virtue and circulate the inexhaustible buddha-dharma. The grass, trees and earth affected by buddha functioning radiate great brilliance together and endlessly expound the wondrous dharma.  Grasses and trees exalt it for the sake of living beings, and living beings express and unfold it for the sake of grasses and trees.

– Even if only one person sits for a short time, this zazen is one with all existence and completely permeates all time.  We can never reach the limit or comprehend the virtue of one person’s zazen.

JiJuYu Samadhi

Ji:  oneself, natural     – connotation:  spontaneous, natural, even the ground of being

Ju: receives                 – connotation:  perceiving the way things are

Yu:  function or use     – connotation:  confucian term to mean cosmic functioning

                                     – closely related:  yuge, which means ‘playing freely’

Juyu:  to receive for use or enjoyment (what one receives and applies gives enjoyment)

                                      – connotation:  enjoyment activity;  the functioning of the

                                        “Sambhogakaya”, the so-called “bliss body” of Buddha

Samadhi (Sanskrit) or Zanmai (Jap.): yogic term for “union” or “absorption”;  thus meditation

Jijuyu zanmai:  the spontaneous self-receiving enjoyment, circulating, giving and receiving, self-fulfilling, naturally joyous samadhi.   The samadhi of self-fulfillment or self-enjoyment.

– connotation:  the functioning, the flow, the river-flowing sense of life “experiencing”

Shohaku Okumura: ” We can understand this samadhi of self-fulfillment and enjoyment as the samadhi or concentration on the self when it simply receives and accepts.  The important point is that this is not the self that has an object.  There is nothing other than, or outside of, this self.  This is not an experience that is other than here and now, it is not something to be acquired.

In Genjokoan, Dogen says:  To study the buddha way is to study the self;  to study the self is to forget the self;  to forget the self is to be enlightened by myriad dharmas;  to be enlightened by myriad dharmas is to drop off the body and mind.”  This is jijuyu zanmai.  This is zazen.”


Translation 1:  Shohaku Okumura and Taigen Daniel Leighton

Translation 2:  Michael Eido Luetchford

Commentary by Uchiyama Roshi

Bendowa:    All buddha-tathagatas together have been simply transmitting the wondrous dharma and actualizing anuttara samyak sambodhi (supreme enlightenment) for which there is an unsurpassable, unfabricated, wondrous method.

(2) When buddhas — those who live fully in the present moment — realize what the truth is, they achieve it by the best method there is. 

Uchiyama Roshi:    Usually when we begin to practice the Buddha Way, it is with an idea that practice has no meaning unless we attain enlightenment and become great persons.  However, this is completely contrary to the true Buddha Way.  We must see the difference between this kind of worldly idea and the real buddha way.  Then we must put all of our energy into practicing it.  This is the meaning of “ben” in Bendowa.

What is the Buddha Way?  It is jijuyu zanmai (which we will examine shortly.)

The term “wondrous dharma” (myoho, with myo meaning subtle, wondrous, ungraspable) is something we must look at closely.  Dharma can mean the objects or elements of reality, or the teachings about reality, or the Buddha’s teachings.  But in Mahayana Buddhism, and especially in Dogen’s teachings, the meaning of dharma is more profound.  All of us believe that everything exists as objects outside the self.  We usually think that all phenomenal things that appear before our eyes have existence outside our individual self.  We believe that when we are born we appear on this world’s stage, and when we die that we leave that stage.  All of us think this way.  But this is not the whole truth. 

Let me give you an example.  I am looking at a cup now.  You are looking at the same cup.  We think that we are looking at the very same cup, but this is not true.  I am looking at it from my angle, with my eyesight, in the lighting that occurs where I am sitting, and with my own feelings or emotions.  Furthermore, my angle, my feeling and everything else is changing from moment to moment.  This cup I am looking at now is not the same one that I will be looking at in the next moment.  You are also looking at it from your own angle, with your eyesight and your feelings, which are all constantly changing. 

This is the way actual life experience is.  However, if we use our common sense way of thinking, we think that we are looking at the same cup.  This is an abstraction and not the reality of life.  Abstract concepts and living reality are entirely different.  The Buddhist view is completely different from our ordinary thinking. 

What Buddhism is concerned about is not something abstract, but the very concrete and actual reality of life. The life experiences of the self and the myriad beings that we experience are one.  The life experience of the self and the life experience of all beings can never separate into subject and object.  That which experiences, and that which is experienced, cannot be divided into two.  This reality that cannot be differentiated into two is called dharma or mind, and it is the meaning of the expression “dharma and mind are one reality.”

Therefore we cannot say that we appear on the world’s stage when we are born and leave it when we die.  We were born into this world in which we live out our lives as life experience.  We live with this whole world.  When we die, our whole world will die with us also.

People today think that the word “mind” means psychological consciousness.  If you think this way you won’t be able to understand Buddhism.  When the word “mind” is used in Buddhist texts, it often means our vivid life experience, right here and how.  This is what the word “mind” means when Dogen talks about that which has been correctly transmitted.  “One mind is myriad dharmas” means that the one mind includes the myriad dharmas, or my life experience of the world.  This is the meaning of mind and dharma in Buddhism. 

When we hear the word Buddha we usually think of Buddha statues, but those are just dolls.  The real buddha is nothing but the zazen we practice.  The buddha statues are no more than models of zazen.  When you clearly understand this, you should then think once more about the expression, “all buddha-tathagatas together have been simply transmitting wondrous dharma.”  What does it mean?

When people hear “transmitting wondrous dharma”, they think that the dharma is something like a scroll on which some kind of hidden mystery is written.  They imagine that this dharma scroll is transmitted from one person to another secretly, and when one receives it that person becomes great.  This has nothing to do with what Dogen meant by transmitting the wondrous dharma.  In essence, “one mind is the myriad dharmas, and myriad dharmas are the one mind” means that the  life experience of the self is the absolute self.

In spite of the fact that it cannot be transmitted, it is somehow transmitted.  It is called wondrous because the dharma that cannot be transmitted in fact has been transmitted right up to this moment, and is present right now.

There is a verse, “Today, crossing the deep mountains of human fabrication, I am beyond dreaming and intoxication.”  Fabrication refers to basing one’s life on notions created in the human mind.  Lack of fabrication means living out the reality of life as it is, without relying on anything created in the human mind.  This is the ultimate way of life, yet it can never be expressed in words, and so it is called wondrous.

Bendowa:  This wondrous dharma, which has been transmitted only from buddha to buddha without deviation, has as its criterion “jijuyu zanmai.” 

(2):  This method, in which there is no intention of reaching an aim, is subtle, and is only taught by one buddha to another buddha.  It never deviates from this.  It is a practice that balances the active and the passive, and it sets the body-and-mind right.

Uchiyama Roshi:    Dharma is the reality of life, and each and every one of us is living out absolute life, no matter what situation we find ourselves in.  We live out the self that is only the self, and live out the present that is only the present. 

Yet in spite of this we usually think that things existed in the past or that there are things outside of our self.  As long as we think this way we remain separated from reality in an illusion produced in our minds.  Actually each one of us is living out the self that is exactly the self and living out the present that is exactly the present.  This is what jijuyu zanmai, or jijuyu samadhi means.  It is the practice of awakening itself.

Bendowa:  For disporting oneself freely in this samadhi, practicing zazen in an upright posture is the true gate.

(2):  The authentic form of this practice, known as zazen, is sitting in an upright posture.

Uchiyama Roshi:   Practicing zazen is the true gate to playing in this samadhi of the self that is only the self.  We could also say that practicing the zazen of the absolute self and absolute present is jijuyu zanmai.  Yet, if you assume the zazen posture and think that buddha is outside of yourself, it will not be possible to enter jijuyu zanmai.

Bendowa:  Although this dharma is abundantly inherent in each person, it is not manifested without practice;  it is not attained without realization.

(2):   Although we each have the natural state, if we do not return to it in this practice, it does not show itself, and we do not experience it, we do not realize what it is. 

Uchiyama Roshi:  This self that is only the self, the vivid reality of life, is abundantly inherent in all people.  There is no one who lacks it.  No one can do anything but live out the self.

The zazen taught by Dogen is not zazen as a kind of discipline or training.  There is no failure or success in zazen.  We just practice the reality of life that is abundantly inherent in each person.

However, the reality of life is not manifested without practicing zazen, and it is actualized only inasmuch as you practice zazen. 

Bendowa:  When you let go, the dharma fills your hands;  it is not within the boundary of one or many.  When you try to speak, it fills your mouth, it is not limited to vertical or horizontal.

(2):  It (the natural state) comes to us and fills us as soon as we give up our intentions, and is not a discriminative state.  When we speak, this state expresses itself through our mouth in complete freedom. 

Shohaku Okumura:  “It fills your mouth” could be understood in two ways:  the dharma fills your mouth such that you cannot speak; or, the dharma fills your mouth so that whatever you say is the expression of the dharma.

Uchiyama Roshi:   When we practice this zazen that actualizes the reality of life, we become the universal self only when we let go of illusory thoughts that stray from reality.  My expression for “letting go” is “opening the hand of thought”.  When we open the hand of thought, the dharma fills our hands, the universal reality of life is right here.  The reality of life fills your mouth when you speak.  it cannot be limited vertically or horizontally, and it can be expressed in immeasurable ways.

Bendowa:  Buddhas constantly dwell in and maintain the dharma, yet no trace of conceptualization remains.  Living beings constantly function in and use this dharma, yet it does not appear in their perceptions.

(2):  Buddhas live in and maintain themselves in this natural state in which they do not separate reality into two parts.  People who do not separate reality into two parts are buddhas.

Uchiyama Roshi:   All Buddhas are dwelling in and maintaining this jijuyu zanmai.  However, although they are dwelling in and maintaining it, they do not perceive samadhi. 

It is the same as driving a car.  You turn the steering wheel to the right or left, and step on the brake or gas pedal, performing these actions without being conscious of them.  You drive a car just as if you are moving your own body.  When you can drive that way, you drive freely.  There is no trace of conceptions.  We drive freely in jijuyu zanmai.

Bendowa:  The whole-hearted practice of the Way that I am talking about allows all things to exist in enlightenment and enables us to live out oneness in the path of emancipation.  When we break through the barrier and drop of all limitations, we are no longer concerned with conceptual distinctions.

(2):  The way I am teaching now to follow the Buddha’s truth is a way that allows us to really experience everything clearly as it is, and gives us a state of wholeness that brings true freedom.  When you get rid of everything that hinders you and find this freedom, these words that you are reading now will have no relevance.

Uchiyama Roshi:   “Enlightenment” is the reality of life;  “all things” means all the different kinds of scenery in our life.  So the practice of the Way that we are talking about enables all different kinds of situations in our life to exist in awareness of the reality of life. 

“Breaking through the barrier and dropping off limitations” means that we usually build a barrier between ourselves and the outside world.  We separate ourselves and others, subject and object.  When we go beyond this barrier by letting go of thoughts, then all conceptual distinctions and verbal explanations are no longer necessary.

Bendowa:  (Paragraphs 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 describe Dogen’s journey and recount the transmission of the dharma from the time of Shakyamuni Buddha.)

Excerpt:   Finally I met Zen Master Nyojo and completely clarified the great matter of lifelong practice.  After that , I returned home in the first year of Sheting (1227).  To spread this dharma and to free living beings became my vow.  I felt as if a heavy burden had been placed on my shoulders.

Uchiyama Roshi:  Dogen was not satisfied with his practice in Japan and went to study in China.  At the time Zen Buddhism was in full bloom in China.  Dogen visited Master Nyojo, decided to practice under him, and clarified the Way of practice.  He gained the Buddha Way.

When you hear “completely clarified the great matter of lifelong practice”, you probably think this means you don’t have to practice anymore, but it is not true.  Completing life’s great matter, gaining the Way, or attaining satori means only that you have clarified the true meaning of practice, clearly understand in which direction you have to go, and on what you should place absolute value in life.

We usually live our lives without a sense of the true point.  All of us become prisoners of our own desires and wander here and there without any direction.  “Clarifying the Way” means that we determine the point we should aim at throughout our lives, based on the self that is only the self and life that is only life.  This is the sole great matter.  True practice begins at this point.

After he realized the Buddha Way, Dogen returned to Japan.  Spreading this dharma and saving all living beings had become his vow.  This vow is most important for Buddhist practitioners. 

When he wrote Bendowa, Dogen was moving from one place to another.  That was in 1231, when he was 32 years old.   The way of the ancient sages means the way of life of one who does not have a certain place to settle down, and moves from one place to another.   This is the lifestyle of a  cloud or water plant.

Bendowa:  For all ancestors and buddhas who have been dwelling in and maintaining buddha-dharma, practicing upright sitting in jijuyu samadhi is the true path for opening up enlightenment. Both in India and in China, those who have attained enlightenment have followed this way.  This is because each teacher and each disciple have been intimately and correctly transmitting this subtle method and receiving and maintaining its true spirit.

(2):  The sutras say that all the many ancestors and buddhas who lived and practiced the truth that the Buddha taught relied on the practice of zazen, which is sitting upright with both active and passive forces in balance.  They all valued this practice as the right way to find out what reality is.  All the people in India and China who realized what reality is practiced zazen.  This practice, the power of which we cannot fully grasp, is passed on exactly from one teacher to one student.  The student makes the practice their own and through it maintains the essence of the true teachings.

Uchiyama Roshi:  In this part Dogen reiterates what he said in the very beginning.  “All buddhas have been simply transmitting wondrous dharma and actualizing anuttara samyak sambodhi for which there is an unsurpassable, unfabricated, wondrous method.  This wondrous dharma, which has been transmitted only from buddha to buddha without deviation, has as its criterion jijuyu zanmai, or sitting zazen.  Above everything else, this is the point that Dogen is trying to make in Bendowa.

We should not listen to the buddha-dharma in a light way.  We have to listen to the buddha-dharma in a way such that the dharma permeates into the core of our mind and becomes our bone and marrow, so that we won’t forget it no matter what happens to us.  This is a crucial point. 

Although we always think that we are really living, as a matter of fact we are not living out the reality of life.  It is essential to become aware of this fact.  Well then, in what way are we living?  In a word, each and every one of us lives by treating abstract concepts as real.

We treat abstract concepts as if they are real and live in a world created by these abstract concepts.  So I said before, we assume that each one of us sees the very same cup.  But in reality, we do not see the same cup.  Each person sees it from his or her own conditioned viewpoint.  Or take the word “society.”  We assume that we are living in the same society.  But this is far from reality.  Each person has his own picture of society which is different from anyone else’s.  Yet we take it for granted that all of us understand society in the same way.

Each and every one of us lives out the self that is only the self with our own particular way of viewing things in our particular world.  In spite of this fact, we believe that the same cup and same society exist objectively outside of ourselves.  We live treating many layers of abstract concepts as if they were real.

Fabrication of abstract concepts is like clouds in the sky.  The clouds do not exist as we imagine them to exist, yet we cannot say that the clouds do not exist.  They do exist, just as not as we imagine.

Every one of us was born holding our own world.  As soon as we are born, we have a world in which there is nothing but our own self.  We are born and live holding our own world.  When we die the world in which there is nothing but our self also dies with us.

In Buddhism, mind and dharma are never divided into two.  The world that we experience (dharma) and our life experience (mind) are not two, non-dual.  Mind or subject, and dharma or object, are one reality.

This is called jijuyu zanmai.  The self receives and uses the self. 

If we look at it logically, jijuyu zanmai is the self that is only the self, so basically it cannot be transmitted from one person to another.  I am just me. You are just you.  Shakyamuni is just Shakyamuni.  There is no way that the dharma was transmitted from Shakyamuni to Mahakashyapa.  Yet the wonder of zazen is that although Shakyamuni is sitting the self that is only the self, when Mahakashyapa sits zazen in the very same way, he also becomes the self that is only the self.

Zazen itself is the practice of the Buddha.  Zazen is non-doing.  This zazen itself is the real form of the self.  To sit zazen is to stop believing concepts.  This is the real self that you will see when you practice zazen.

From the point of view of the reality of life, the thoughts that we have been caught up in are nothing more than secretions from our brains.  It is just ‘scenery painting’ by the secretions from our brains.  Only when we sit zazen can we understand this clearly.  A person who is caught up with money, status, power or sexuality is actually bound hand and foot … and becomes free as soon as he lets go of thought. 

We should not reify the concept of enlightenment, to think it is something that means we will never be deluded again.  The reality of life is not something fixed, it is vivid and fresh.  We always practice and actualize it right now, right here. 

Bendowa:  According to the tradition, the straightforward buddha-dharma that has been been simply transmitted is supreme among the supreme.  From the time you begin practicing with a teacher, the practices of incense-burning, bowing, repentance and reading sutras are not at all essential;  just sit, dropping off body and mind.

(2):  In true Buddhism, the passing on of this practice of zazen from teacher to student in one direct line is said to be the most valuable thing there is.  After we meet a teacher who passes on this practice to us, we realize that religious practices such as burning incense, doing prostrations, reciting the Buddha’s name, practicing confession, and reading sutras are all unnecessary.  We simply sit in zazen and enter the state where we are no longer conscious of a separate body and mind, and become whole.

Uchiyama Roshi:  Practice zazen single-handedly, simply, and drop off body and mind.  Just to sit wholeheartedly is dropping off body and mind.  When we sit, let go of all thoughts that reify abstract concepts and let all things fall off.  This is dropping body and mind.

Bendowa:  When one displays the buddha mudra with one’s whole body and mind, sitting upright in this samadhi even for a short time, everything in the entire dharma world becomes buddha mudra, and all space in the universe completely becomes enlightenment.

(2):  When someone, even for a short moment, sits up straight in the balanced posture of the Buddha that puts the body right, it becomes apparent that everything in the Universe also exhibits the same balanced state, and that this realization spreads through the whole of space.

Uchiayama Roshi:  This is Dogen’s description of the merit of zazen as jijuyu samadhi.  Displaying the buddha mudra means with one’s three kinds of actions:  physical, verbal and mental.  We sit with our body, stay in silence, and put aside the operation of our intellect.

When we sit in proper form in samadhi, then the whole universe of sitting, the world of zazen, opens.  The world of zazen is completely different from the world of other things.  The self that is only the self is the self letting go of thought.  When we let go of thoughts, we are in the reality of life. This is what is meant by “everything in the entire dharma world becomes buddha mudra.” 

Bendowa:  Therefore, it enables buddhas to increase the dharma joy of their own original grounds, and renew the adornment of the way of awakening

(2):  Practicing thus returns us to the joyful state of buddha and we confirm anew how splendid reality is.

Uchiyama Roshi:  This means that all buddhas naturally exist in the pleasure of being buddhas.  They let go of personal agendas and stand on the ground of life.  When we let go of thought, the reality of life becomes rich. This is the meaning of “increasing the dharma joy of their own original grounds.”

Bendowa:  Simultaneously, all living beings of the dharma world in the ten directions and six realms become clear and pure in body and mind, realize great emancipation, and their own original face appears.

(2):  All the various states of mind and all the different physical conditions that human beings go through in living their lives dissolve immediately, replaced by a state of wholeness that is clear and pure.  We enter the state that is free from all that hinders our acting freely and return to our state of natural balance. 

Uchiyama Roshi:  The dharma world of the ten directions means all worlds.  The six realms are the realms of hell, hungry ghosts, animals, titans, human beings, and heavenly beings.  These six realms are the measurement of how we human beings are involved in delusion and pulled by desires.  As ordinary human beings, each one of us believes that our thoughts are the lord of ourselves, and thus we are firmly bound hand and foot.

“To become clear and pure in body and mind” means to become free from ignorance, defilement.  “To become aware of great emancipation” means to be released from binding thoughts.

“Actualizing original face” is actualizing the true reality of life.  This wonderful reality of life is inherent in every one of us without seeking after it, yet since we are bound up by our thoughts, we put up a fuss. When we sit in zazen, we let go of this. This is dropping off body and mind.

The reality of life is “the one mind is all the myriad dharmas, and all the myriad dharmas are one mind.”  That is, in the reality of life, life experience (mind) and the world that is experienced (dharma) are not two, but one reality. 


Absolute enlightenment (anuttara samyak sambodhi) is Shakyamuni’s enlightenment.  When he attained enlightenment he said, “I and all living beings on the great earth completed the Way together.  Mountains, rivers, grass and trees, all attained buddhahood without exception.”  He did not say that he became enlightened but the rest of the beings still remained in delusion.  When one person attains enlightenment, one mind is all the myriad dharmas, all the myriad dharmas are one mind, and the whole universe of the person’s life experience becomes enlightened.  When we sit in zazen and let go of thought, the whole world suddenly and completely changes. When Shakyamuni attained enlightenment, all the myriad dharmas within buddha’s mind, that is, mountains, rivers, grass and trees, all became buddha.  All are aspects of buddha.

Bendowa:  At the same time, all things together awaken to supreme enlightenment and utilize buddha-body, immediately go beyond the culmination of awakening and sit upright under the kingly bodhi tree.  At the same time, they turn the incomparable, great dharma wheel and begin expressing ultimate and unfabricated profound prajna.

(2):  In this moment, sitting supreme in the same posture as the Buddha under the tree of truth, each thing passes beyond the limits of what can be experienced and understood.  In its balanced state, each thing in this moment is in tune with the teachings of the Universe and is exhibiting the bare and profound state that exists before the world is conceptualized.

Uchiyama Roshi:  When we practice zazen, we realize that what we think in our brain is nothing but secretions from our brain.  Experiencing this is important, for to understand this is “to express ultimate and unfabricated profound prajna.”

Bendowa:  There is a path through which the anuttara samyak sambodhi of all things returns (to the person in zazen) and whereby (that person and the enlightenment of all things) intimately and imperceptibly assist each other.  Therefore this zazen person without fail drops off body and mind, cuts away previous tainted views and thoughts, awakens genuine buddha-dharma, universally helps the buddha work in each place, as numerous as atoms, where buddhas teach and practice, and widely influences practitioners who are going beyond buddha, thereby vigorously exalting the dharma that goes beyond buddha.”

(2):  Because it is dynamic balance between the practitioner and the world, it works in both directions in ways that we cannot fully understand, so that we who are sitting in zazen are freed of the split between body and mind, cut away the various indoctrinations and thoughts we have accumulated from the past, and thus realize in experience the real and pure nature of this world.

Uchiyama Roshi:  To practice zazen as jijuyu zanmai is to sit within the reality of life as “one mind is all the myriad dharmas, and all the myriad dharmas are one mind.”  One mind (my life experience) and the world that I experience are not two, but one reality.  Therefore, the two help each other.

Dropping off body and mind means letting go of thought. 

You may think that personal views or thoughts are a big deal, but they are actually insignificant.  Putting value on such trifling things you go astray.

When we practice zazen, all activities are expressions of the dharma. 

To go beyond buddha means to become buddha and yet never stay in buddhahood.  We must be vividly alive moment to moment, and not stay within a certain state of satori and become like lifeless dried fish of satori.

Bendowa:  At this time, because earth, grasses and trees, fences and walls, tiles and pebbles, all things in the dharma realm in ten directions, carry our buddha work, therefore everyone receives the benefits of wind and water movement caused by this functioning, and all are imperceptibly helped by the wondrous and incomprehensible influence of buddha to actualize the enlightenment at hand.    Since those who receive and use this water and fire extend the buddha influence of original enlightenment, all who live and talk with these people also share and universally unfold the boundless buddha virtue and they circulate the inexhaustible, ceaseless, incomprehensible, and immeasurable buddha dharma within and without the whole dharma world.

(2):  In each of the infinite ways in which the truth of this world demonstrates itself, the practitioner acts as an awakened being, spreading this awakening to people far and wide who are waiting for the key to finding reality.  With the awakening of the practitioner, all things in the universe show their real nature.  Receiving this profound assistance from everything around them, practitioners of zazen directly manifest their state of wholeness.  Practicing and experiencing this state of oneness with the external world, they transmit it to those who interact with them, who are also endowed with the limitless virtue that is the awakened state.  This activity expands and grows until it fills both the inside and outside of the entire Universe with the truth of this world, which is beyond limits and cannot be analyzed or measured.

Uchiyama Roshi:  Once we sit in zazen, our environment actually and completely changes. 

I sit zazen in the moment, but it does not die out.  There may be people who now practice because they were attracted by our practice, and those people will work in the future world.  If zazen permeates into the world in this manner, there must come a day when all human beings on the earth will practice zazen. This is our vow: sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them

Without being pulled by society’s direction, I just sit.  This is the greatest contribution to society.  I have been practicing based on this belief.  My belief comes from the way of Bodhidharma’s life.  He came to China from India and sat facing the wall for nine years.  This was his greatest function.  And now zazen works widely due to his silent and immovable sitting.  I believe that zazen will someday permeate into all parts of the earth. 

Bendowa:  However, those various things do not mix into the perceptions of this person sitting, because they take place within stillness without any fabrication, and they are enlightenment itself.  If practice and enlightenment were separate as people commonly believe, it would be possible for them to perceive each other.  But that which is associated with perceptions cannot be the standard of enlightenment, because deluded human sentiment cannot reach the standard of enlightenment. Moreover, although both mind and object appear and disappear within stillness, because this takes place in the realm of self-receiving and self-employing (jijuyu) without moving a speck of dust or destroying a single form, extensive buddha work and profound, subtle buddha influence are carried out.

(2):  However, the balanced state itself is unaffected by the individual positions from which each of these individuals sees the world, since in its quietness, and with no intentional activity being pursued, the state is the direct experience of reality.  If we divide the result of our practice from the practice itself, as people do in their minds, we observe two distinct things that we think are separate.  But that state, which is a mixture of observing and thinking, is not the state of direct experience, because this, the standard state of experience, does not include any kind of judgment based on feelings. In the quietness of zazen, our separate thoughts and perceptions of the world at one moment disappear into the wholeness which is the direct experience of reality, and at one moment appear together again from the wholeness.  This drifting in and out of wholeness is our experience of natural balance.  So the drifting in and out does not disturb anything at all, it is the working of a buddha in zazen.

Uchiyama Roshi:  The merit of zazen cannot be grasped by our intellects. 

In our thoughts we separate practice and enlightenment into two and think that as the result of a certain amount of zazen practice that we can enter a certain state of mind.  However, for the followers of Bodhidharma and Dogen, zazen practice is not such a thing.  Our zazen is “non-fabrication within stillness” and “zazen itself is enlightenment.”  We do zazen without expectation of some reward;  we just sit, letting go of everything.  Dogen writes that we should “let go of all associations and put all affairs aside.  Do not think either right or wrong.”  Since our just sitting zazen is limitless and boundless, the merit of zazen cannot be measured by perception.

Dogen Zenji’s zazen is not for the purpose of making deluded persons into enlightened ones.  True Buddhism is difficult to understand on this point.  Dogen says that “A practitioner should not practice buddha-dharma for his own sake, to gain fame and profit, to attain good results, or to pursue miraculous power.  Practice only for the sake of the buddha-dharma.”  The buddha-dharma lies as the foundation of zazen, and one’s own life lies as the foundation of the buddha-dharma.  This is the important point.  Therefore we study buddha-dharma on the basis of our own lives, and we practice zazen on the basis of the buddha-dharma.  Having this attitude is a crucial matter. 


Since all human beings are alive, each one of us has our own life, and in thinking about our own life each of us has our own outlook or attitude towards life.  Yet many people do not truly look at their own lives.  Each one of us is living out our own unique life.  Some people think this is a good world as it is, others ask themselves why they must live in such a terrible world.  Even within a single person, actual feelings are always changing moment by moment.  However, we assume that we are living together as members within the same world.  This is reification of abstract concepts.  We never actually live within the common society that we create through reifying abstract concepts, as we usually believe.  We should truly believe that each and every one of us, whether we think so or not, is living out the self that is only the self, and we must thoroughly become a person living out the self that is only the self or we cannot embody the genuine buddha-dharma.

When you clearly understand that this world you see is really the world of the self only, and that when you die you die with this whole world, the conventional system of values will disappear.

We think that to be born means to make an entrance into the common society, and to die means to make one’s exit from this society.  All people firmly believe this, but it is not true.  Common society does not exist at all.  Everyone is born into the world of the self only, lives out life with the original life force of the self that is only the self, and dies with the whole world.  This is an extraordinary idea from the common point of view. You cannot understand it easily, but it is true

In true zazen, enlightenment is not good, delusion is not bad.  We should look equally at both.  Our sitting should be like this.  Zazen is not a means to gradually attain enlightenment.  We sit zazen, which is dropping off body and mind right now, right here.  Practice and enlightenment are not something different.  We should not separate practice and enlightenment into two.  Since zazen is itself enlightenment, there is no way to think that I become enlightened as a result of zazen practice.  Within zazen we cannot see if we are enlightened or not.  Sometimes we feel clear in zazen, sometimes not.  In either condition, zazen is zazen.  We sit right in that place where we can look at both enlightenment and delusion equally.

It is not true that we attain a mental condition of “no thought” and “no imagination” in zazen.  Many and various kinds of thoughts come in and go away.  We may think of food and we usually have fantasies or delusions.  These are merely the scenery of zazen. This is the meaning of “both mind and object appear and disappear within stillness.”  Here, mind means the six sense organs (eye, ear, nose, tongue, tactile body, and mind), which are the subjects that perceive. Then there are six objects (color and shape, sound, odor, taste, tactile objects, and mental objects) that are perceived.  Within zazen there is various scenery, coming and goings of subjects that see and things that are seen. 

Although there is scenery, this takes place within the whole world sitting in jijuyu zanmai, in which the self is only the self.  Since this is scenery inside the world of zazen, it is nothing but enlightenment … appearance and disappearance within enlightenment.    To the extent that we are sitting within jijuyu zanmai, there is nothing good, nothing bad.  This is the meaning of “without moving a speck of dust or destroying a single form.”

In other words, in the stillness of zazen, various thoughts arise and go away when we let them go.  They disappear, and the wall remains in front of our eyes.  We should be grateful to zazen, which teaches us that all kinds of thoughts fall off when we open our hands, and only the wall is left.  We should understand this thoroughly.

Thoughts coming up in our brain are merely scenery.  It’s no good to chase after them.  If you chase them, you are enmeshed in thinking.  No chasing after, and no throwing away.  This is the most important point of zazen.

Bendowa:  The grass, tress and earth affected by this functioning radiate great brilliance together and endlessly expound the deep, wondrous dharma.  Grasses and trees, fences and walls demonstrate and exalt it for the sake of living beings, both ordinary and sage;  and in turn, living beings, both ordinary and sage, express and unfold it for the sake of grasses and trees, fences and walls.  The realm of self-awakening and awakening others is fundamentally endowed with the quality of enlightenment with nothing lacking, and allows the standard of enlightenment to be actualized ceaselessly.

(2):  In this, everything in the natural world radiates the brightness of the present and shows the fundamental and exquisite nature of reality endlessly.  Everything in the natural world is then showing the truth to all people, both ordinary and great, and at the same time, both the ordinary and the great are themselves showing the truth to the natural world.,  In this real experience, there is then no separation between being conscious of ourselves and being conscious of the world around us.  No moment is idle in the balanced state in zazen. 

Uchiyama Roshi: All things in Nature are the reality of life that is at peace and ease beyond discrimination.  To radiate a great light means to be at peace and ease within the self that is only the self.

Since zazen is jijuyu zanmai, all the myriad dharmas lie within the self.  Therefore, the self allows everything to become enlightened, and everything allows the self to be enlightened.  This is true awakening and awakening of others.

Bendowa:  Therefore even if only one person sits for a short time, because this zazen is one with all existence and completely permeates all time, it performs everlasting buddha guidance within the inexhaustible dharma world in the past, present and future.

(2):  Even one person sitting for one moment in zazen becomes whole with all things in the Universe through the whole of time.  In this way, zazen — the work of buddhas — extends through the past, present and future. 

Uchiyama Roshi:  The zazen that each one of us practices is the true teacher.  Even one period of zazen of a single person, if it is practiced mindfully, is one with all things and completely permeates all time.  It is essential to sit with an attitude of being one with the whole world in which the self is living.  Even one person’s zazen has immeasurable influence. 

Bendowa:  Zazen is equally the same practice and the same enlightenment for both the person sitting and for all dharmas.  The melodious sound continues to resonate as it echoes, not only during sitting practice, but before and after striking sunyata, which continues endlessly before and after a hammer hits it. Not only that, but all things are endowed with original practice within the original face, which is impossible to measure.

(2):  Everyone who practices zazen experiences the same.  The practice resonates within us, like a bell.  It resounds within us up to our next practice, and extends on again afterwards.  How could practice be limited to this place?  All concrete things in the world are in their normal state in this practice of the original state, but it is beyond our capacity to understand this intellectually

Uchiyama Roshi:  When a bell is struck, the melodious sound lasts for a while.  Thus the merit of zazen appears within all aspects of the  life of the zazen person.  One should live to revere zazen as a most venerable buddha.  One is being watched over by zazen and led by zazen.  Zazen is not only when we sit on a cushion.

For a true practitioner, there should be no gap between outward appearance and reality.  Yet religionists often pretend to be holy persons in front of their believers.  Eventually a gap arises between actuality and outward appearance.  I believe that if even a slight gap arises, one cannot be a person of living religion.  This is especially important for a person who practices zazen as the self that is only the self.

Bendowa:  You should know that even if all the buddhas in the ten directions, as numerous as the sands of the Ganges River, together engage the full power of their buddha wisdom, they could never reach the limit, or measure or comprehend the virtue, of one person’s zazen.

Uchiyama Roshi:  It is said that there are as many buddhas as grains of sand of the Ganges.  When people practice zazen they are all buddhas.  Since Shakyamuni Buddha, twenty centuries have passed.  During this period, the number of people who practiced zazen is immeasurable, and the merit is incalculable.                       ~   ~  ~