To Study the Way of Buddha, by Harada Sekkei

Ashikaga Yoshimasa's (足利義政 1436-90) Ginkaku-ji (銀閣寺 'Temple of the Silver Pavilion') epitomizes Higashiyama Bunka (東山文化-East Mountain Culture). Photo © @KyotoDailyPhotoTo study the Way of Buddha is to study the Self. To study the Self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things. To be enlightened by all things is to cast off the body and mind of the self as well as all others. All traces of enlightenment disappear and this traceless enlightenment continues on and on endlessly.’ In this teaching of Eihei Dogen Zenji, everything is thoroughly stated about the nature of human life and the world.

Practice (studying the Way of Buddha) is to ascertain the essence of things (Self). This is to realise that there is no separation between self and things (forgetting) and that everything is part of one’s body (enlightened by all things). Seikyo Zenji said, ‘Sentient beings are deluded by the self and chase after things.’ However, when there is the realisation that there is nothing to compare outside of one’s functioning right now (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, thinking), seeking mind ceases, great loving mind flows forth, and the true nature of the Self is manifested. Seeing that self and other are the same body is expressed in Zen as ‘Self and other are not two’ and the condition where self and all things are one is called ‘the Dharma (causality)’. However, this is a realm that does not permit the intervention of any viewpoint arising from the ego-self.

The habit (viewpoint arising from the ego-self) of dividing the essential nature of oneness into self and other, life and death, pain and pleasure, rising and falling, and so on, is the source of all delusion and anxiety. However, when the source of this delusion disappears completely, this condition is called liberation. It is also called ‘essentially there is no substance to anything’, ‘nirvana’, and ‘the moment now’.

Shikantaza (just sitting) is the quickest way to forget the ego-self and verify this matter for yourself. When the self is forgotten, then the joyous activity that is free of the ego-self is born (all traces of enlightenment disappear) and verifies yourself at every moment, in every place, in any situation (continues on and on endlessly).

It is from this that the Buddhist precepts originate. It is the only way that mankind can make great progress, reach great peace. Long ago a Chinese poet called Tufu wrote ‘These days, people reject this Way (of Buddha) as if it were dirt.(1)’ If there is no awakening to the Way of Buddha, won’t human beings continue to wander endlessly in this chaotic world?

1: ‘Friendship in Times of Poverty’

Turning the hand up, clouds form; turning the hand down, rain falls.

Many are the fickle and insincere who turn their hands this way or that.

Don’t you remember the devoted friendship of Kan and Po when they were poor?

These days, people reject this Way as if it were dirt.

More Zen teachings from Harada Roshi.

Buddhism Now May 2004

[Harada Roshi is the Head Priest of Hosshinji in Japan, is the author of The Essence of Zen, and General Director of the Soto Zen sect’s European Office for Administration and Teaching in Italy where he is based. This article is taken from the Spring 2001 issue of Hosshinji Newsletter and reprinted with their kind permission.]

Read some more Zen teachings from Dogen.

Categories: Buddhist meditation, Chan / Seon / Zen, Harada Sekkei Roshi

Tags: , , , , , ,

9 replies

  1. This article is an eye opener.A rich and comprehensive piece of work.
    Thank you so much.

  2. Good point. Thank you for clarifying that for me!

    In gassho,

  3. I recently started studying the Genjokoan, and I find it pretty amazing that this post is right along the lines of my studies. There are many translations of the genjokoan available at if you’re interested in further reading.

    • Thanks T K,

      The Genjo is an interesting Koan. These are two of my favourite lines:

      Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water. The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken. Although its light is wide and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide. The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in dewdrops on the grass, or even in one drop of water.


      When you ride in a boat and watch the shore, you might assume that the shore is moving. But when you keep your eyes closely on the boat, you can see that the boat moves. Similarly, if you examine myriad things with a confused body and mind you might suppose that your mind and nature are permanent. When you practice intimately and return to where you are, it will be clear that nothing at all has unchanging self.

      Both by Tanahashi.


      • I guess I didn’t realize that this would show up as a comment on the post. I thought it would just show up on my blog for my readers. I did not mean to suggest further reading to you, but to my blog followers instead. I meant no disrespect, but thank you for sharing your favorite parts of the Genjokoan with me!

        Out of curiosity, I have seen it called both Genjokoan and Genjo Koan now. I would like to be accurate when I refer to Master Dogen’s teachings, so would you mind clarifying this for me?

        Thank you,

      • I don’t see it matters much TK, or that Dogen would mind ether way. However, as Shohaku Okumura calls it ‘Genjokoan’, I’d go with that.



Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: