About this Site
This site was created to bring Master Dogen’s work, analysis of his work (from both Buddhists and non-Buddhists), and modern teachings related to his work together in one place. You can find free PDF translations and articles, recommended translations and analysis in book form, entry level material for those new to Dogen, material for those new to Soto Zen Buddhism, podcasts and other audio, quotes, a small sampling of Dogen’s poetry, and a collection of Wikipedia entries on Master Dogen, Soto Zen, and related topics. You can check the “Editor’s Notes” page for updates on changes to the site.
About Zen Master Dogen
Great Master Dogen (1200 – 1253), the Japanese founder of the Soto school of Zen, is revered by Buddhists, philosophers, and more than a few scientists for the depth of his insights into the nature of reality. His work ranges from sublime and accessible poetry, to practical instructions for seemingly mundane tasks, to religious/philosophical texts that can seem anything but accessible. Many of those who study his work in depth, particularly Buddhists, will find their relationship to it transforming greatly over time. Some struggle with it for decades. For some, it never resonates, even if they do grasp the underlying truth. In the end, Dogen can point to your true self (and he does so quite forcefully) but you will ultimately have to achieve that realization on your own, at a level beyond intellectual understanding, to fully appreciate Dogen and why his work still resonates today.
“To study Dogen is to study your daily life, basically, as a koan.” – Sojun Mel Weitsman
Steven Heine’s The Man Who Redefined Zen captures the enormity of Dogen’s impact and is a good starting point if you are new to Dogen and his work: “On a theoretical level, his masterwork, the Treasury of the True Dharma Eye (Shobogenzo), is considered one of the greatest examples of worldwide religious writings…As a philosopher, Dogen has been ranked with Aristotle and Augustine, Hegel and Heidegger, and as a poet with Walt Whitman and Gary Snyder, as well as, in the Japanese context, Kukai, Saigyo, and Basho.”
About Soto Zen
Master Dogen is one of the two 13th century founders of Soto Zen. Soto emphasizes the practice of Shikantaza or “just sitting” mediation. Soto didn’t migrate to the west until the 20th century but the first generation of Japanese teachers in the west and their Dharma heirs were immensely influential; Shunryu Suzuki (Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind), Dainin Katagiri, Taizan Maezumi, Houn Jiyu-Kennett (who trained in Japan and became the first western female Soto Zen priest), John Daido Loori, Tetsugen Bernard Glassman, Dennis Genpo Merzel, and Charlotte Joko Beck among others. Many of the talks featured in the Related Teachings section of this site are by Soto priests.
About the Site’s Creator
Like many others, I stumbled across a copy of Zen Mind, Beginners Mind in a Half Price Books store. That event, in 1995, kicked off years of voracious reading across multiple Buddhist schools and traditions, tons of outreach to teachers and practitioners around the world, and (eventually) actual Zen practice. That period of intense seeking, exploring, and questioning passed many years ago but I created this site with that self in mind. If that is where you are, I hope you find this helpful. Feel free to reach out if you have questions, suggestions, or just want to chat.
A Word of Caution
“When we read someone like Dogen, that should be a starting point. That’s an excuse to ask ourselves certain questions. Among them “Is this true or not, but also if it is true where does it take me?” So when we read that quotation by Dogen, when we read that text by Dogen, it should be like walking into a space that is very very big. The danger is that we read the text, we read the quotation, and it becomes an end point vs. a starting point.” – Koun Franz