Shobogenzo: Bendowa (Translated by Rev. Hubert Nearman)

Translator Rev. Hubert Nearman’s introduction: Bendowa, the earliest dated work in the Shobogenzo, begins with a long introductory section which places seated meditation (zazen) within the context of what has been transmitted through the ages as the practice of Buddhism, as well as giving Dogen’s reasons for writing the present discourse. This is followed by an imaginary dialogue between a disciple and Dogen as Master, which forms the core of the discourse. While this discourse superficially resembles a catechism in that the disciple asks questions to which Dogen supplies answers, the nature of the questions and the attitude of the questioner imply that more is transpiring. Essentially, the imaginary disciple, filled with mistrust, raises various objections to the method of serene reflection meditation which Dogen was engaged in introducing into Japan, and presents concerns that Dogen’s actual disciples were probably encountering from others or might even be holding in their own minds. The obvious expressions of doubt which the questions voice are bypassed by Dogen, who replies from the mind of meditation, and thereby keeps to the task of clarifying the misunderstanding that lies at the heart of the questioner’s doubt. Although Dogen’s writing style in this work, particularly in his introductory section, is clearly literary, he often intersperses this more formal manner of communication with conversational expressions and colorful figures of speech, which lend a compassionate warmth and gentle humor to his discussion.

You can download Rev. Nearman’s complete translation of the Shobogenzo in PDF format from Shasta Abbey.