October 01, 2009

Dogen Zenji on how to become a Buddha

In birth there is nothing but birth and in death there is nothing but death. Accordingly, when birth comes, face and actualize birth, and when death comes, face and actualize death. Do not avoid them or desire them.

This birth and death is the life of buddha. If you try to exclude it you will lose the life of buddha. If you cling to it, trying to remain in it, you will also lose the life of buddha, and what remains will be the mere form of buddha. Only when you don’t dislike birth and death or long for them, do you enter buddha’s mind.

However, do not analyze or speak about it. Just set aside your body and mind, forget about them, and throw them into the house of buddha; then all is done by buddha. When you follow this, you are free from birth and death and become a buddha without effort or calculation. Who then continues to think?

There is a simple way to become a buddha: When you refrain from unwholesome actions, are not attached to birth and death, and are compassionate toward all sentient beings, respectful to seniors and kind to juniors, not excluding or desiring anything, with no designing thoughts or worries, you will be called a buddha. Do not seek anything else.

- Eihei Dogen from "Birth and Death," Tricycle Fall 2000

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armando's picture

I so needed to read this lesson and I thank the Universe for sending it my way. May all sentient beings benefit from reading it and sharing it with others.

Mark's picture

Any of you Japanese scholars out there know what word is translated in Dogen as "actualize," and what alternative meanings for it might be? I love the word -- it has this taste of selfless action -- but it seems so abstract. Enlighten me, please.