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31.03.2014 г.

Do:gen on correlation of common and monastic ways

Babkova M.V. (New Humanitarian School)

This essay analyses statements on correlation of common and monastic ways of the japanese contemplation master Do:gen (道元, 1200-1253) recorded in his works called "Treasury of the True Dharma Eye" (正法眼蔵, Sho:bo:genzo:) and some other sources. Analysis is done taking into account such factors of each statement as circumstances, the audience and the goal of each statement, as well as the position the statement holds within the japanese Master's conception of a subject. Gender problem is viewed separately: as Dogen draws distinction between male and female monks.

In his work «A Talk about the distinguish of the way» (辨道話, Bendo:wa) Dōgen directly argues on the possibility for common people of practicing of sitting meditation and achievement of the enlightenment. To the question «whether sitting meditation is accessible only for monks or it can be practiced by common men and women as well?» [1]. Dōgen answers, referring to the ancient patriarchs, that «Buddhist Dharma can be understood by all people whether men or women, noble or mean». Moreover the text is rich with messages acknowledging that common people can follow the Way and reveal their true nature just as most dignified monks do. «A Talk about the distinguish of the way » is one of the early Dōgen writings. It dates back to 1231 the very period when Dōgen who was 27 having just received Dharma Transmission from his master Rujing (如浄, 1163-1228) in China, returned to Japan aiming to spread archetypal Buddhism and seemed to be full of enthusiasm.

As opposed to that stands a statement from the work «On the Merits of Leaving Home» (出家功徳, Shukke kudoku), edited after Do:gen death (in 1255) by his student and Dharma successor Ejo: (懐奘, 1198-1280): «In the Holy Teaching words, saying that is possible to realize the word of Buddha, staying in worldly life, is not considered as true [Dharma] transmission» (聖教のなかに在家成佛の説あれと, sho:go:-no naka-ni zaike jo: butsu-no setsu are to sho:den ni arazu)[2]. And in the next sentence Do:gen says in a similar manner about women's possibility for Dharma understanding.

Supporters of a so-called «decline theory» among Dōgen's researches such as Carl Bielefeldt, Furuta Shokin, Imaeda Aishin etc., considered that the breaking point in Dōgen's destiny came in the year 1243 when he abandoned the Ko:sho:-ho:rinji Temple (興聖宝林寺), he had previously founded, and left for Echizen province under extremely mysterious circumstances and reasons that are still not evident. The researchers believe that Do:gen passed through a crisis that led to a change of perspective to a certain range of questions. In particular Do:gen gave up his concept of universal access to the teaching of Buddha and leaned toward the idea that any seeker of enlightenment should strictly keep just monastic commandments.

On the contrary Do:gen's heritage research now tends to a more detailed and specific overview. Kagamishima Genryu, Kawamura Kodo, Steven Heine etc. indicate that Do:gen found necessary to adjust his messages to specific audience that caused the illusion of change in his conceptions. The researchers believe that different statements regarding same issues are rather complementary than colliding.

[1] Hereinafter quotations from «A Talk about the distinguish of the way» refer to: «Do:gen. Selected works». Ed. Fesyun A.G. Moscow, Serebryanye Niti,, 2002. pp. 42-62,
[2] Quotations from Do:gen provided by The SAT Daizo:kyo: Text Database (

For full text see: IOCS Works («Orientalia et Classica» Series) History and culture of traditional Japan. 7 / Ed. A.N.Mesheryakov, RSUH. Moscow, 2014.
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