The term Genjo Koan — actualizing
the fundamental point —only appears twice in
the Genjo Koan.
Genjo Koan in always in front of
Reflect on how Dogen's teachings in
Genjo Koan relate to your practice;
to zazen and practice.
Genjo Koan is, to a large extent, a kind of song — an
expression of confidence and faith. It’s not
an expression of confidence and faith that you can
grab on to. It’s something that’s beyond
that. When you are engaged with everything, then
everything is a practice.
Dogen is talking about an attitude receptivity and
activity in each moment. It’s about participating
with things in a real way. It’s not about “If
only I had this set of conditions I could practice” or “If
only this were happening things would be really good.” Setting
up conditions can certainly be useful — not
because the conditions are useful, but rather because
we’re clarifying our minds and opening to meeting
The Genjo Koan is always before you. It's always, "Aha!" And
can you meet it?
Only Buddha and Buddha
Another fascicle of Dogen's Shonbogenzo, "Only
Buddha and Buddha" (Yuibutsu yobutsu),
has many of the same elements — birds and fishes,
time and ash, the seasons... — as the Genjo
Koan. If you found the Genjo Koan engaging, reading "Only
Buddha and Buddha" may help you understand what
Dogen is after.
you realize buddha-dharma, you do not
think, "This is realization just
as I expected.". Even if you think
so, realization invariably differs from
your expectation. Realization is not
like your conception of it.
There's a section that completes some
of the ideas introduced in Genjo Koan:
Both Genjo Koan and Only Buddha and Buddha are found
in Moon in the Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master
Dogen, edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi.
Michael Wenger is Dean of Studies of San Farncisco
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