The concept of union of practice and enlightenment is another important component of Dogen’s teaching. This concept, which made the basis of Dogen’s writing called Shushogi, became a distinctive feature of his school of Soto Zen. Dogen regarded constant practice of Zazen as a necessary condition for further enlightenment. He believed that only in this way true enlightenment could have been achieved. In his different works he constantly repeated that good and devoted practice becomes the enlightenment itself. He made no difference between everyday practice of Zazen mediation and enlightenment.
Such a concept provoked a lot of disputes among Dogen’s contemporaries. The oneness of practice and enlightenment introduced by Dogen brought new vision to the understanding of Zen in Japan. He repeats this concepts many times in his different works. It was perfectly formulated in his Bendowa, or A Talk on the Endeavor of the Path: “Thinking that practice and enlightenment are not one is no more than a view that is outside the Way. In buddha-dharma [i. e. Buddhism], practice and enlightenment are one and the same.
Because it is the practice of enlightenment, a beginner’s wholehearted practice of the Way is exactly the totality of original enlightenment. For this reason, in conveying the essential attitude for practice, it is taught not to wait for enlightenment outside practice. ” (Okumara, 30). There is no one certain opinion about Dogen’s attitude towards koans. During the time of his life koans made a great part of Zen teaching and in some cases this teaching was turned to absurd. That is one of probable reasons why Dogen became disappointed in Rinzai School during his study in China.
In some cases teaching with the help of koans turned to mere leaning by heart the answers to popular koans and such method caused Dogen’s rejection of koan practicing. In his opinion, koan practice distressed student’s attention from Zazen. On the other hand Dogen uses a lot of koan stories in his books. He gives them as examples, illustrating different concepts of Zen Buddhism. So, Dogen’s attitude towards koans remains questionable. There is an opinion that he stood against replacing all other Zen practices by koans but did not reject them as illustrative means added to the practice of Zazen.
Making a strong accent on non-attachment Dogen stresses that even an attachment to the very idea of enlightenment can become an obstacle for one’s transformation. Such non-attachment can be achieved by switching the focus of attention to everyday life. True quest makes the person see Buddha’s nature in everything that surrounds him. As Dogen states in his Shobogenzo: “To study Buddhism 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. To be enlightened by all things is to be free from attachment to the body and mind of one’s self and of others” (Tanahashi, 220).
Dogen shows the conflict, which exists inside each individual and becomes the source of problems. This conflict is caused by the existence of self, which constantly creates internal and external conflict. In general, any conflict is possible only on the level of self, because when self if left behind, a person has nothing to quarrel about. That is the reason enlightened people have no pride and thus find no reasons to quarrel. They return to everyday life and enjoy peaceful living. Dogen, who became the founder of Soto Zen School, made a great contribution to the development of Zen in Japan.
His ideas had great influence on the all further Zen teaching all over the world. His religious and philosophical concepts not only influenced the development of religions in Japan, but also contributed to the world philosophy and religion. It is hard to overestimate his contribution to the development of Zen tradition in Japan and the whole world. Dogen and his most famous successor Keizan became the founders of Soto tradition in Zen Buddhism. Multiple prose and poetry works, written by Dogen became canonic texts of Zen Buddhism.
Abe, Masao. A Study of Dogen: His Philosophy and Religion. Ed. Heine, Steven. Albany: SUNY Press, 1992.. Cleary, Thomas. Rational Zen: The Mind of Dogen Zenji. Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc. , 1992. Dogen. The Heart of Dogen’s Shobogenzo. Tr. Waddell, Norman and Abe, Masao. Albany: SUNY Press, 2002. Hee-Jin Kim. Flowers of Emptiness, Mellen Press, 1985 Heine, Steven. Dogen and the Koan Tradition: A Tale of Two Shobogenzo Texts. Albany: SUNY Press, 1994.. Tanahashi, Kazuaki, Enlightenment Unfolds: The Essential Teaching of Zen Master Dogen, Shambala, 2000.