Menju 面授 Face to Face Transmission


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Shōbōgenzō (正法眼蔵, lit. “Treasury of the True Dharma Eye”) is the title most commonly used to refer to the collection of works written in Japanese by the 13th century Japanese Buddhist monk and founder of the Japanese Sōtō Zen school, Eihei Dōgen. Several other works exist with the same title (see above), and it is sometimes called the Kana Shōbōgenzō in order to differentiate it from those. The term shōbōgenzō can also be used more generally as a synonym for the Buddha Dharma as viewed from the perspective of Mahayana Buddhism.

Shōbōgenzō as a General Term

In Mahayana Buddhism the term True Dharma Eye Treasury (Japanese: Shōbōgenzō) refers generally to the Buddha Dharma, and in Zen Buddhism, it specifically refers to the realization of Buddha’s awakening that is not contained in the written words of the sutras.

In general Buddhist usage, the term “treasury of the Dharma” refers to the written words of the Buddha’s teaching collected in the Sutras as the middle of the Three Treasures of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. In Zen, however, the real treasure of the Dharma is not to be found in books but in one’s own Buddha Nature and the ability to see this Correct View (first of the Noble Eightfold Path) of the treasure of Dharma is called the “Treasure of the Correct Dharma Eye”.

In the legends of the Zen tradition, the Shōbōgenzō has been handed down from teacher to student going all the way back to the Buddha when he transmitted the Shobogenzo to his disciple Mahākāśyapa thus beginning the Zen lineage that Bodhidharma brought to China.

The legend of the transmission of the Shōbōgenzō to Mahākāśyapa is found in several Zen texts and is one of the most referred to legends in all the writings of Zen. Among the famous koan collections, it appears as Case 6 in the Wumenguan (The Gateless Checkpoint) and Case 2 in the Denkoroku (Transmission of Light). In the legend as told in the Wumenguan, the Buddha holds up a flower and no one in the assembly responds except for Arya Kashyapa who gives a broad smile and laughs a little. Seeing Mahākāśyapa’s smile the Buddha said,

    I possess the Treasury of the Correct Dharma Eye, the wonderful heart-mind of Nirvana, the formless true form, the subtle Dharma gate, not established by written words, transmitted separately outside the teaching. I hand it over and entrust these encouraging words to Kashyapa.


Here is an extract of the Shōbōgenzō by Dōgen which is reported as being a part of a lecture at Yoshimine Temple in 1243.(!) This comes from “Moon in a Dewdrop” edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi

Buddha Twirls a Flower

When Buddha was in Grdhrakuta mountain he turned a flower in his fingers and held it before his listeners. Everyone was silent. Only Maha-Kashapa smiled at this revelation, although he tried to control the lines of his face.

Buddha said: “I have the eye of the true teaching, the heart of Nirvana, the true aspect of non-form, and the ineffable stride of Dharma. It is not expressed by words, but especially transmitted beyond teaching. This teaching I have given to Maha-Kashapa.”

 Mumon’s comment: Golden-faced Gautama thought he could cheat anyone. He made the good listeners as bad, and sold dog meat under the sign of mutton. And he himself thought it was wonderful. What if all the audience had laughed together? How could he have transmitted the teaching? And again, if Maha-Kashapa had not smiled, how could he have transmitted the teaching? If he says that realization can be transmitted, he is like the city slicker that cheats the country dub, and if he says it cannot be transmitted, why does he approve of Maha-Kashapa?

At the turning of a flower
His disguise was exposed.
No one in heaven or earth can surpass
Maha-Kashapa’s wrinkled face

The Heron, The Moorhen and The Kingfisher

After the rain, grass grows.

This is not a Zen kōan but a fact of life. As a consequence, I am officially knackered. I have been out doing strimmer frenzy in preparation for mowing. I haven’t done this since before the wife’s accident, the drought has meant no need, I am not strimmer fit.

If you have a UK garden, you might think what a wuss…

But I strimmed for over an hour with a 15kg quasi-industrial petrol strimmer walking well over half a kilometre up and down. The pinecones, fallen because of the drought are a tad lethal underfoot.

I have been trying to stalk the heron in order to get a good photo. This means that I creep up on the pond all ninja like. This morning I got to within a few meters of the moorhen. She took off in haste. It looks as though she is back for autumn. There were eggs last year. No heron.

Next time out Mr electric blue the kingfisher flew from plughole corner to his hunting tree. He seems to have recovered from the bang on his head.

Here he is off his face with concussion.

The heron normally hides in reeds by the greenhouse. This afternoon he was on the bank by Le Jaudy so I was, although silent, in plain sight. He took off before I saw him…

Here he is…flying by the soldiers, les soldats, who guard the northern perimeter…

Eventually I will get a photo of him in the water!!

In the fridge there is a bottle of San Pellegrino and some flat water. There is some plain cake flour and corn-starch chilling. There are ice cubes. The veggies have all been prepped. This means tempura.

In the previous century I was taken by a friend / colleague Mieko to a famous Tempura restaurant in Tokyo. She explained to the chef that I was vegan {at the time and before it was trendy} and he knocked up an eggless batter to pander to my needs. He presented me with a symphony of crispy yumminess.

I have been a fan ever since.

My home made teriyaki sauce is waiting…

Soon it will be Tempura time…

Oh, I nearly forgot. Over the past few days I have seen two new species of butterflies…

The Sword of Taia – the unfettered mind.

The Unfettered Mind (不動智神妙録, Fudōchi Shinmyōroku) is a three-part treatise on Buddhist philosophy and martial arts written in the 17th century by Takuan Sōhō, a Japanese monk of the Rinzai sect. The title translates roughly to “The Mysterious Records of Immovable Wisdom“. The book is a series of three discourses addressed to samurai but applicable to everyone who desires an introduction to Zen philosophy, the book makes little use of Buddhist terminology and instead focuses on describing situations followed by an interpretation. Its contents make an effort to apply Zen Buddhism to martial arts.


Takuan died in Edo in 1645. In the moments before his death, he wrote the kanji 夢 for (“dream”), and laid down his brush. He also left behind a will stating that a “tombstone must not be built” and that he should be buried without any ceremony in an unmarked grave. His disciples promptly erected gravestones at the temple of Tōkai-ji (東海寺) and also at the temple of Sukyō-ji (宗鏡寺) in Izushi. His grave at Tōkai-ji was proclaimed a National Historic Site in 1926.

Zen – better than mine?

One day a travelling Zen master came upon a hermit’s cell. It was a bitterly cold night and he asked of the hermit; “may I tarry a while?”

The hermit agreed and boiled some rice, for them both to share.

Sat on their mats a ball of string fell out of the Zen master’s cloak and the hermit noticed.

The hermit asked the Zen master; “Why, venerable one, do you carry this ball of string?”

The Zen master replied, “Mind is a labyrinth and to enter in without a string, is to be lost forever. It is wise to carry string.”

The hermit asked the master; “Is your Zen, better than mine?”

Even though the gate was opened, the Zen master walked out into the storm, though his belly sorely missed the rice he might have eaten.

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

I am currently reading l’étranger by Albert Camus which is one of the books in his Nobel Prize citation. I am reading it in French, and he is a darn good storyteller. The other book of his I read was essays.  He is a better novelist. I am enjoying it.

The main protagonist ends up in jail and he describes how after a time he forgets life outside and gets accustomed to the rhythm of prison life. He says that the days of the week lose their meaning and that all he is concerned with is yesterday, today, and tomorrow. These comprise his temporal horizon.

It is a bit like that here on the compound. The outside world does not impinge overly and I am, for now, pretty busy taking care of things for the wife and about the house and garden. One day blends softly causal into the next. There is a sense of eternal now. But I do know that tomorrow I will go up to the supermarket for supplies and petrol for the garden implements.

There are two other external appointments next week, the osteopath for me and the haematologist for the wife. The nurses will come here twice to take blood.

This is my temporal horizon, supermarkets and medical.

Ryōkan Taigu (良寛大愚) (1758–1831) was a quiet and unconventional Sōtō Zen Buddhist monk who lived much of his life as a hermit. Ryōkan is remembered for his poetry and calligraphy, which present the essence of Zen life.”

In some ways our way of life is hermitic too. Ryōkan had his hut on the hill and would from time to time go down to the village for alms, rice.

I have heard it said that all true paths are “filled with emptiness”. I have been much influenced by Ryōkan. I have a T-shirt with one of his poems on the back.

It kind of links to a concept that I have, and the idea is what I call “liberation in and by the mundane”.

Lusting after the highfalutin, the glamorous and kudos laden, causes suffering. Concentrating and absorbing into the mundane with a mind bereft of any thinking, any internal dialogue, has much more equanimity. In reality human beings do not need anywhere near as much stuff as they imagine. Nor do they need quite so many pass times.  People are greedy and afraid.

People are very scared of the silence; this pervades here aside from the birdsong. To be alone in one’s mind with only one’s self for company is a terror for most. Some people have radios and TV on all the time for company!! What a nightmare!!

To have the ‘phone umbilical severed is terror beyond imagination.

In a couple of hours’ time, I will probably make a hot chocolate for the wife, then sort out her medication.

Now while she sleeps exhausted on the sofa I will go and dead head the ginormous yellow rose which climbs up the side of the house and which the wife has fixed to the balcony using cable ties.

Yeah, I like that: “liberation in and by the mundane”.