10. Dōgen Studies

Eihei Dōgen Zenji (道元禅師; 1200 – 1253) was a pivotal figure in the history of Japanese Zen and is credited as the founder of the Soto school. After practicing from an early age in Japan with some of the leading Buddhist teachers of his time he traveled to China to study Chan (Chinese Zen) for three years, returning to Japan to found the monastery which to this day is the main training center for Soto Zen monks. Shunryu Suzuki Roshi (鈴木 俊隆 Suzuki Shunryū, dharma name Shogaku Shunryu), founder of San Francisco Zen Center and Zoketsu’s grand-father in the Dharma studied Dōgen extensively and practiced Zen with a similar spirit. Suzuki Roshi’s way is sometimes called “Dōgen Zen.”

Dōgen is unusual among Asian Zen masters for two reasons: first, he wrote and was interested in writing and language; and second, he forthrightly saw the need to re-interpret the Zen tradition based on this sensitivity to language. In a word, his reinterpretation was radically non-dual. That is, he saw that Zen masters, in their effort to go beyond the seeming dualism of normative Buddhism (in which Nirvana and Samsara, enlightenment and ignorance, seem to be opposite states of being) had merely created new dualisms.

You do get the impression in reading Zen literature, for instance, that meditation is good but thought is bad; action is good reflection is bad, and so on. Dōgen saw this as a problem based largely on a naive view of language and how it works to shape thought. The sometimes baffling nature of his writing comes from his refusal to ever “nest” within a dualism.

All of this is characteristic of Dōgen’s masterwork Shōbōgenzō, as read with a modern sensibility. There are other Dōgens as well: Dōgen the delicate waka poet, full of feeling; Dōgen the superintendent of a monastery responsible for training monastics in the traditional style, with the traditional flair; Dōgen the avuncular mentor, giving informal practice advice to his disciples. Though we tend to favor the Dōgen of the Shōbōgenzō, all the other Dogens are also represented by the texts below and the talks that go with them.

Study Guide

Please note: we are currently the process of editing and properly categorizing our teachings library. The teachings will become available here in the study guide as soon as they’re ready, please check back soon.

1. Dogen and the Koan Tradition | A Tale of Two Shobogenzo Texts

By Steven Heine | 1993 | State University of New York Press | ISBN 0791417743

A secondary text for the philosophically/academically minded: Academic discussion of Dogen’s use of the koan tradition.
 

2. Enlightenment Unfolds

By Kazuaki Tanahashi | 2000 | Shambhala | ISBN 1570625700

More translations from Shobogenzo and other Dogen texts.

3. Moon in a Dewdrop | Writings of Zen Master Dogen

By Kazuaki Tanahashi | 1995 | North Point Press | ISBN 086547186X

Translations of Shobogenzo chapters (Dogen’s most important work).
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4. Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist

By Hee-Jin Kim | 2004 | Wisdom Publications | ISBN 0861713761

A secondary text for the philosophically/academically minded: Brilliant philosophical exegesis of Dogen’s thought. First published more than thirty-five years ago.

5. Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo

By Gudo Nashijima and Chodo Cross | 2006 | BookSurge Publishing | ISBN 1419638203

The better of the two currently available translations of all four volumes of Shobogenzo.

6. Beyond Thinking

By Kazuaki Tanahashi | 2007 | Shambhala | ISBN 1590300246

More Dogen, but with an emphasis on meditation practice as theme. Lengthy introduction by Zoketsu.
 

7. Dogen on Meditation And Thinking | A Reflection on His View of Zen

By Hee-Jin Kim | 2006 | State University of New York Press | ISBN 0791469263

Secondary text for the philosophically/academically minded: A sequel to “Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist.” Equally strong.

 
 

8. Did Dogen Go to China? | What He Wrote and When He Wrote It

By Steven Heine | 2006 | Oxford University Press | ISBN 0195305922

More detail than you ever wanted to know about Dogen’s career.
 
 
 
Norman gives his second and final talk to the Dharma Seminar of the Dogen's Bendowa 2021 series.  In this Series Norman references the book "The Wholehearted Way" by Shohaku Okamura
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Norman gives his first talk to the Dharma Seminar of the Dogen's Bendowa 2021 series. In this series Norman references the book "The Wholehearted Way" by Shohaku Okamura and Taigen
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Kathie Fischer gives the second talk of the Dogen's Zuimonki series to the San Francisco Zen Center. > View the pdf
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Norman gives the tenth and final talk to the San Francisco Zen Center Intensive on Dogen's "Zuimonki" which consists of dharma talks of Eihei Dogen recorded by his dharma successor
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Kathie Fischer gives the ninth talk to the San Francisco Zen Center Intensive on Dogen's "Zuimonki" which consists of dharma talks of Eihei Dogen recorded by his dharma successor Koun
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Norman gives the eighth talk to the San Francisco Zen Center Intensive on Dogen's "Zuimonki" which consists of dharma talks of Eihei Dogen recorded by his dharma successor Koun Ejo
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Kathie Fischer gives the seventh talk talk to the San Francisco Zen Center Intensive on Dogen's "Zuimonki" which consists of dharma talks of Eihei Dogen recorded by his dharma successor
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Kathie Fischer gives the sixth talk to the San Francisco Zen Center Intensive on Dogen's "Zuimonki" which consists of dharma talks of Eihei Dogen recorded by his dharma successor Koun
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Norman gives his fifth talk to the San Francisco Zen Center Intensive on Dogen's "Zuimonki"which consists of dharma talks of Eihei Dogen recorded by his dharma successor Koun Ejo Zenjji.
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Kathie Fischer gives the fourth talk to the San Francisco Zen Center practice intensive on Dogen's " Zuimonki" which consists of dharma talks of Eihei Dogen recorded by his dharma successor
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Norman gives the third talk to the San francisco Zen Center on Dogen's "Zuimonki" which consists of dharma talks of Eihei Dogen recorded by his dharma successor Koun Ejo Zenjji.
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Norman gives his first talk to the San Francisco Zen Center practice intensive on Dogen's " Zuimonki" which consists of dharma talks of Eihei Dogen recorded by his dharma successor
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Norman gives an introductory talk on Dogen's Shobogenzo Zuimonki which consists of dharma talks of Eihei Dogen recorded by his dharma successor Koun Ejo Zenjji. > View the pdf
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Norman gives his fourth and final talk on Dogen's "Dharma Blossoms Turn Dharma Blossoms" from Chapter 18 of Kazuaki Tanahashi's "Treasury of the True Dharma Eye" based on Dogen's "Shobogenzo."
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Norman gives his third talk on Dogen's "Dharma Blossoms Turn Dharma Blossoms" from Chapter 18 of Kazuaki Tanahashi's "Treasury of the True Dharma Eye" based on Dogen's "Shobogenzo."
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Norman gives his second talk on Dogen's "Dharma Blossoms Turn Dharma Blossoms" from Chapter 18 of Kazuaki Tanahashi's "Treasury of the True Dharma Eye" based on Dogen's "Shobo Genzo".
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Norman gives his first talk on Dogen's "Dharma Blossoms are Dharma Blossoms" from Chapter 18 of Kazuaki Tanahashi's "Treasury of the True Dharma Eye" based on Dogen's "Shobo Genzo".
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