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Moon In a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dogen Paperback – October 31, 1995
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“Moon in a Dewdrop is empty and clear at the same time, like the reflection of the moon in a drop of water.” ―San Francisco Chronicle
“Kazuaki Tanahashi and his colleagues at the San Francisco Zen Center...have given us an accessible and comprehensive Dogen in English.” ―Vajradhatu Sun
“Kazuaki Tanahashi...has preserved Dogen's spirit and character in his careful and comprehensive translations.” ―East West
Text: English, Japanese
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It seems paradoxical that, revolutionary as he is, Dōgen nonetheless strictly abides by the teachings of "Buddha ancestors". Throughout the book, Dōgen criticizes and laments the absurdity of contemporary thoughts, and praises and advocates the value of ancient teachings. Considering this, it may be implied that perhaps Dōgen's writing was not extremely original and critical; it is just a commentarial expansion of the teachings he received. But this is not so, as it is crucial to the transmission of the undefiled Buddha Way, as he knows.
For example, Dōgen writes: "To be enlightened by all things is to be free from attachment to the body and mind of one's self and of others." This suggests that one should be free from attachment even to enlightenment in order to experience the Buddha way. But if immersing oneself in something is attachment, then immersing in practice-enlightenment is attachment to it. How can we not attach to something we are attached to? At first this poses a serious logical question. It seems that Dōgen totally misses the point by being self-contradictory. But Dōgen wants us to know that it is us who miss the point. "The illogical stories...are only illogical for you, not for [the enlightened]." Indeed, to penetrate the Way we have to think in "the logic of enlightenment", that is, in a non-dualistic way. "How do you think not-thinking? Nonthinking." When you practice, neither attach to it nor not-attach to it. Just non-attach to it. Just let the Dharma turn your body and let your body turn the Dharma. Thereby, you enter the realm of the Buddha.
Not only does Dōgen's writing possess a unique logic, it also focuses and expands in great detail on things that ordinary people would plainly ignore. For example, he quotes in "Uji": "For the time being stand on top of the highest peak; ... for the time being the earth and sky." The phrase "the time being", to us lay people, means no more than a colloquial indicator of time. However, by expounding just that phrase, Dōgen has deconstructed and reconstructed the meaning of language and Zen. What he wants to emphasize here is that "time itself is being, and all being is time". By equating time with existence, moment with eternity, past with present, he reminds us that the fundamental point is to realize the world is inherently non-dualistic, and to act in a way to accord with it. This idea is again present in "Mountains and Waters Sutra": "'A stone woman gives birth to a child at night' means that the moment when a barren woman gives birth to a child is called 'night'." We normally would be much more curious on why a barren woman could give birth than when; but Dōgen, by emphasizing this happened at "night", simply says that everything is possible in the realm of non-duality, and the moment is all that matters.
Dōgen's numerous insights on enlightenment are truly engaging, but their audience is mainly monks seeking the Way; for us, it is often his more approachable pieces that appeal better. In "Instruction for the Tenzo", we are told about the life of a chef in a Zen monastery; besides just cooking meals, a Tenzo assumes much more responsibility as a Buddhist. Dōgen writes in great detail on what a Tenzo should do when preparing and serving the meal. "When you boil rice, know that the water is your own life;" "Do not arouse disdainful mind when you prepare a broth of wild grasses; do not arouse joyful mind when you prepare a fine cream soup." This kind of utmost sincerity toward food is what the modern society severely lacks. In a world where food production has become an industrialized process and fast food has become a culture, Dōgen's words of wisdom constantly resounds like a ringing bell.
Dōgen's treatises reflect an immensely rich spiritual world of a true Zen master. Contemplating on such subjects as time, Buddha Way, and Enlightenment with philosophical depth and poetic imagery, Dōgen embraces, elaborates, and enhances a tradition that to today remains its freshness and vitality. As one reader comments, "this book is worth reading for a lifetime." Through Dōgen's eyes, we see our world differently every time, just the way it is.
Moon in a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dogen
i can say i enjoy his poetry though.
the book gets four stars because it is what it says it is: a collection of dogens writings. very good ones at that. my opinion of dogens teachings would be one star, but that's not fair to the book as i'm not rating him as the author, i'm rating a translation of an ancient work. the same as one wouldn't give the bhagavad gita a one star review because the story didn't grip them, one would only rate it one star if the translation or format were poor. these are books already accepted as ancient treasures, we don't need to rate them as works, only editions and translations.
it lost one star for being kind of annoying. there are asterisks next to words that are in the glossary or other appendices of the book. sounds good, but there are these asterisks next to like every tenth word, so it's distracting and you feel like you're missing something every time you don't go and look for what it's leading you to. it's over notated basically which can be good if the book is very easy to navigate, but this one is not. for example an asterisk next to a word like "links" will lead you to the glossary where you look up "links" and it will say "see dependent origination" so you go there and it says "see causation" and finally under "causation" you find the information. as opposed to books that have numbered notes that correspond directly with a notes section, this book has that too, but many more asterisks than notes.