on December 20, 2003
I found this book to be a useful presentation of some of Dogen's core ideas. All-too-often teachers emphasize the ineffability of Dogen's thought to the exclusion of his ideas. Dogen had important ideas about time, space, and how things exist, which he repeatedly emphasized in his writing as critical for understanding the Buddha way. This book deals explicitly with the philosophical basis of Dogen's thought, as expressed in his core writings such as Shobogenzo Genjokoan, Uji, and Bussho.
I myself found Abe's use of Heidegger to be appropriate. There are clear parallels that Abe explains and motivates well. He does not overstate the case as many authors do. Furthermore, for the most part this book is lucid and clear and does not resemble Heidegger's tortured prose.
I find this book to be an excellent corrective to the misbelief that Dogen did not write in order to be understood, but rather was entirely attempting to convey a meditative state of mind through contradictory images and bewilderment. Abe's book is one of the first in English to tackle Dogen as a philosopher. It is not the final word but it is a good starting place.
on October 3, 2008
This is a fascinating and important collection of essays by Masao Abe on the works of the 13th century Zen master, Eihei Dogen, the founder of Soto Zen in Japan.
Selected from over twenty years of research and scholarship, the editor, Steve Heine, has done a great job in formatting and outlining the work of this important Dogen scholar.
Abe's work on Dogen (1200-1253) is second only to Hee-Jin Kim's essential studies. After Watsuji Tetsuro pried Dogen's work from sectarian concealment in 1926, the scholarly community, astounded by the depth and extensive nature with which this great Zen master treated the philosophy, religion, and tradition of Buddhism, have been mining its treasures ever since.
These essay of Abe offer some the most refined gold, as well as suggestions for future study. Popular for his efforts in Christian/Buddhist and West/East dialogues, Abe offers the traditional view of Dogen's works, as well as suggesting possible parallel ideas in the West.
This book offers studies on a wide range of Dogen's teachings, including life/death, practice/enlightenment, the meaning of Buddha Nature, and the nature of Space/Time.
on April 27, 2005
Prof. Abe is a devoted interpreter of Dogen - and, he surely brings out the lucid, lyrical qualities of Dogen's thought. My reservations about this book concern two things (a) the Heideggerian inferences read into much of Dogen's ideas - and (b) the failure to address or even acknowledge the problematic side of the 'later' Dogen (post 1243) - from which point on, he began to vilify other Buddhists (e.g. Lin-chi, Ta-hui).I hate to spoil the sense of immaculate purity, but Dogen was downright 'cranky' and unjust with such comments.
Read Carl Bielefeldt's 'Recarving the Dragon' (which presents, verbatim, from Dogen's work, these less than respectful remarks). You cannot read such things, without puzzling over Dogen's motives. I agree with the reviewer, who stated that we ought to take stock of Dogen's Tendai background. Dogen says much about the harrassment suffered through the deeds of Tendai followers. I wouldn't paint them white either, in Kamakura Japan, but one wonders why Dogen felt obliged to leave the Koshoji at Fukakusa over such matters, when Enni Benen - who set up at the Tofukuji around the same time, seems to have experienced little opposition. Did Dogen pay the price for being intolerant? The only tentative conclusion to be drawn here, is that Dogen suffered from a persecution complex.
on June 4, 2002
This book is definitely something of a disappointment. Dogen can be a difficult author, but this is not the book we need to clarify Dogen's thought. Abe's primary influence seems to be Heidegger, and he has contracted some of that philosopher's worst tendencies. He announces conclusions, but instead of motivating them with reasons, he tends to just repeat the same thing in three or four different ways. He also seems to think that abstruse terminology serves as insight and explanation. Another noticeable defect in this book is Abe's apparent lack of knowledge concerning Dogen's Tendai background. He accepts without reservation the hagiographical legend of Dogen's doubt concerning the need for practice in the context of Tendai original enlightenment doctrine, as if no one had ever thought of this before and no answers had been proposed. He also frequently presents views Dogen inherited from medieval Tendai as original and new insights. Overall, a disappointing effort.