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Buddhadharma : Winter 2005
Japanese master eihei Dogen is best known for his comprehensive and pro- found masterwork, the Kana, or Japanese, Shobogenzo. this monumental achievement, a collection of ninety-five discourses and essays composed in Japanese between 1231 and 1253, is a unique expression of the buddhadharma based on Dogen’s profound religious experience. a lesser-known work of Dogen’s is his Mana Shobogenzo, or Shobogenzo Sambyakusoku (Treasury of the True Dharma Eye: Three Hundred Cases), a collec- tion of three hundred case koans written in Chinese. this seminal work, which was to influence all of Dogen’s other teachings, remained in obscurity for many centuries. Dogen culled the three hundred case koans collected in the Mana Shobogenzo from Zen texts of the song era during his travels in China between 1223 and 1227. and, unlike the classic collections of the period, these cases are not accompanied by either a title or a commentary. in writing commentaries for these koans, i have tried to embody Dogen’s unique perspective, applying it to situations that modern day practitioners face. every one of the elements of the commentary – the commentary itself, the verse, and the notes – chal- lenges the student to see the koan broadly and deeply, rather than just the main point as in the wato style of koan study. they are also an invitation to reflect upon the koan’s relevance to everyday life situations so that the dharma can come down from the top of the mountain where enlightenment occurs and be manifested in the world. the commentaries are short, in the style of the Gateless Gate, and they take up the different points – both primary and secondary – that need to be dealt with if the koan is to be understood in its entirety. the capping verses, used extensively in Zen, are in effect dharma words. they are a poetic expression of the heart of the koan. the notes act as footnotes to help clarify what is being said in each line of dialogue. and finally there is kyogai, the way in which a koan affects your consciousness – in other words, the effect that it has on your life. this is ultimately where it counts. Because no matter how many hundreds of koans you pass through, if they do not change the way you relate to the rest of the world, then they are nothing but intellectual exercises. and as i’ve said before, koan introspection is not about gaining information; it is about transforming your life. For me, the comparative use of the two Shobogenzos and of Dogen’s other writings, in conjunction with the traditional koans, in koan study and introspection, is of more than just theoretical interest. it is very practical. this kind of study has opened up new possibilities in the training of Western students of koan study in a way that addresses their natural philosophical and psychological inclinations, without abandoning the heart of the dharma that was transmitted from sakyamuni Buddha to the present. seen within the context of Dogen’s outstanding body of work, the Mana Shobogenzo will, it is hoped, enable readers to appreciate the endless breadth and depth inherent in the teachings of this incomparable Zen master. — John Daido Loori, roshi John DaiDo Loori, roshi, is the founDer anD Director of the Mountains anD rivers orDer anD abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery in Mt. treMper, new york. this is froM the forthcoMing book, the true DharMa eye: Zen Master Dogen’s three hunDreD koans, with coMMentary by John DaiDo Loori anD transLation by kaZuaki tanahashi anD John DaiDo Loori. pubLisheD by shaMbhaLa pubLications. Side View Daruma hakuin ekaku, 1685–1768 hanging scroll, ink on paper gitter-yelencollection is there a Zen person around here? John Daido loori comments on koans 7–15 from Dogen’s Treasury of the True Dharma Eye winter 2005| 32 |buddhadharma