Dogen Zenji & His Teachings
Updated: Sep 25
Written by No Expectations
Zen master Dogen, also known as Dogen Zenji, was a Japanese Buddhist monk, writer, and philosopher who lived from 1200 to 1253. He is widely regarded as one of the most important figures in the development of Zen Buddhism in Japan, and his teachings and writings continue to influence Zen practitioners around the world.
Born into a noble family in Kyoto, Japan, and was educated in the Tendai school of Buddhism. However, he became dissatisfied with the teachings of Tendai and began searching for a deeper understanding of Buddhism. In 1223, he traveled to China to study Zen under the guidance of the master Rujing. He spent several years in China, studying and practicing Zen, and upon his return to Japan, he founded his own school of Zen, which became known as Soto Zen.
Dogen's teachings emphasize the importance of zazen, or seated meditation, as the means of realizing the true nature of reality. He taught that this realization is not something that can be achieved through intellectual understanding or theoretical knowledge but only through direct experience. In his famous work, the Shobogenzo, Dogen writes, "To study the Buddha Way 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 of the universe."
His teachings also emphasize the interconnectedness of all things and the importance of compassion and empathy for all beings. He believed that the practice of Zen was not just for one's own benefit but for the benefit of all beings. In his essay "Bendowa," Dogen writes, "To study Buddhism is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind, as well as the bodies and minds of others, drop away."
Dogen's influence on Zen Buddhism in Japan and beyond has been profound. His teachings continue to be studied and practiced by Zen practitioners around the world. His emphasis on the importance of direct experience and his emphasis on compassion and empathy for all beings continues to resonate with people today.
In conclusion, Zen master Dogen was a visionary thinker and teacher whose teachings have had a profound impact on Zen Buddhism and beyond. His emphasis on zazen as the means of realizing the true nature of reality, his emphasis on the interconnectedness of all things, and his emphasis on compassion and empathy for all beings continue to inspire and challenge people today.