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 Genjokoan Study

The essence of Zen can be found in Zen master Dogen’s essay, “Genjokoan.” We have studied this text during our Tuesday Study Series and now offer this here as a resource to those wanting to study Dogen’s essay.

Genjokoan Text – Translated by Shohaku Okumura

Domyo’s Zen Studies Podcast Study of the Genjokoan

Bright Way Zen Class Series 2022

Below is a past study schedule from our Tuesday Evening Study Series, led by our teacher Rev. Domyo Burk. We went through the text phrase by phrase.

1. The First Three Lines: The Dharmas, No Fixed Self, The Buddha Way (First link is to Video; click here for Just Audio)

“When all dharmas are the Buddha Dharma… there is arising and perishing, delusion and realization, living beings and buddhas.” – Zen and radical non-duality

2. “Therefore Flowers Fall Even Though We Love Them” (Just Audio)

“Therefore flowers fall even though we love them … carrying out practice-enlightenment through the self is realization.” – Intimacy

3. Delusion and Enlightenment (Just Audio)

“Those who greatly realize delusion are buddhas… and they continue actualizing buddha.” – What is the nature of awakening? Genjokoan Kanji + Translations 2

4. When All Buddhas Are Buddhas (Just Audio)

“When buddhas are truly buddhas they don’t need to perceive they are buddhas… When one side is illuminated, the other is dark.” – What is the experience of living an awakened life? Genjokoan Kanji + Translations 3

5. To Study The Buddha Way (Just Audio)

“To study the Buddha Way is to study the self… We endlessly express this ungraspable trace of realization.” – Why does “self” figure so centrally in our practice, and how should we relate to it? Genjokoan Kanji + Translations 4

6. When one first seeks the Dharma (Just Audio)

“When one first seeks the Dharma, one strays far from the boundary of the Dharma. When the Dharma is correctly transmitted to the self, one is immediately an original person.” – What is the nature of spiritual seeking, and how do you avoid getting trapped by it? Genjokoan Kanji + Translations 5

7. When We Intimately Practice (Just Audio)

“If one riding in a boat watches the coast, one mistakenly perceives the coast as moving… When we intimately practice and return right here, it is clear that all things have no [fixed] self.” – What do we mean by the “emptiness” of self, and how to we correct our misperceptions about it? Genjokoan Kanji + Translations 6

8. Firewood Becomes Ash. Ash Cannot Become Firewood Again (Just Audio)

“Firewood becomes ash. Ash cannot become firewood again… We don’t think that winter becomes spring, and we don’t say that spring becomes summer.” – What is the nature of birth and death? Genjokoan Kanji + Translations 7

9. The Moon Reflected In A Drop Of Water (Just Audio)

“When a person attains realization, it is like the moon’s reflection in water… we should consider whether the water is great or small, and understand the size of the moon in the sky.” – How is a limited, ordinary capable of something as profound as realization? What does awakening mean to a person’s humanity? Genjokoan Kanji + Translations 8

10. The Inexhaustible Characteristics Of The Ocean (Just Audio)

“When the Dharma has not yet fully penetrated body and mind, one thinks one is already filled with it… This is true not only in the external world, but also right under our feet or within a single drop of water.” – True understanding includes realizing the limits of what you can see and know. Genjokoan Kanji + Translations 9

11. For a fish water is life. For a bird, sky is life (Just Audio)

“When a fish swims, no matter how far it swims, it doesn’t reach the end of the water… Although complete enlightenment is immediately actualized, its intimacy is such that it does not necessarily form as a view. [In fact] viewing is not something fixed.” – How is it possible to experience what is universal when we are inevitably limited by our human perceptions and viewpoint? Genjokoan Kanji + Translations 10

12. The Ever Present Nature Of Wind (Just Audio)

“[The] Zen Master of Mt. Magu was waving a fan… Since the wind’s nature is ever present, the wind of the Buddha’s family enables us to realize the gold of the great Earth and to transform the [water of] the long river into cream.” – Why is practice necessary if we already have everything we need? Genjokoan Kanji + Translations 11 – Waving a Fan