|Born||19 January 1200|
|Died||22 September 1253 (aged 53)|
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Dōgen Zenji (道元禅師; 19 January 1200 – 22 September 1253), also known as Dōgen Kigen (道元希玄), Eihei Dōgen (永平道元), Kōso Jōyō Daishi (高祖承陽大師), or Busshō Dentō Kokushi (仏性伝東国師), was a
Originally ordained as a monk in the
He eventually broke relations completely with the powerful Tendai School, and, after several years of likely friction between himself and the establishment, left
Dōgen is known for his extensive writing including his most famous work, the collection of 95 essays called the
Dōgen was probably born into a noble family, though as an illegitimate child of
At some later point, Dōgen became a low-ranking monk on
As I study both the exoteric and the esoteric schools of Buddhism, they maintain that human beings are endowed with
Dharma-natureby birth. If this is the case, why did the Buddhasof all ages — undoubtedly in possession of enlightenment— find it necessary to seek enlightenment and engage in spiritual practice?
This question was, in large part, prompted by the Tendai concept of
The Kenzeiki further states that he found no answer to his question at Mount Hiei, and that he was disillusioned by the internal politics and need for social prominence for advancement. Therefore, Dōgen left to seek an answer from other Buddhist masters. He went to visit Kōin, the Tendai abbot of
In China, Dōgen first went to the leading Chan monasteries in
Under Rujing, Dōgen realized liberation of body and mind upon hearing the master say, "Cast off body and mind" (身心脱落 shēn xīn tuō luò). This phrase would continue to have great importance to Dōgen throughout his life, and can be found scattered throughout his writings, as—for example—in a famous section of his "
To study the Way is to study the Self. To study the Self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things of the universe. To be enlightened by all things of the universe is to cast off the body and mind of the self as well as those of others. Even the traces of enlightenment are wiped out, and life with traceless enlightenment goes on forever and ever.
Myōzen died shortly after Dōgen arrived at Mount Tiantong. In 1227, Dōgen received
Dōgen returned to Japan in 1227 or 1228, going back to stay at Kennin-ji, where he had trained previously. Among his first actions upon returning was to write down the Fukan Zazengi (普観坐禅儀; "Universally Recommended Instructions for Zazen"), a short text emphasizing the importance of and giving instructions for
However, tension soon arose as the Tendai community began taking steps to suppress both Zen and
Hatano Yoshishige (波多野義重) offered to relocate Dōgen's community to
His followers built a comprehensive center of practice there, calling it Daibutsu Temple (Daibutsu-ji, 大仏寺). While the construction work was going on, Dōgen would live and teach at Yoshimine-dera Temple (Kippō-ji, 吉峯寺), which is located close to Daibutsu-ji. During his stay at Kippō-ji, Dōgen "fell into a depression". It marked a turning point in his life, giving way to "rigorous critique of Rinzai Zen". He criticized
Dōgen spent the remainder of his life teaching and writing at Eihei-ji. In 1247, the newly installed
At Hatano Yoshishige's invitation, Dōgen left for Kyōto in search of a remedy for his illness. In 1253, soon after arriving in Kyōto, Dōgen died. Shortly before his death, he had written a