Dogen, Shobogenzo #26

Guishan is the thirty-seventh ancestor, a direct descendant of Shakyamuni Buddha. He was a dharma heir of Bhaizhang, Zen Master Dazhi, Today buddha ancestors in the ten directions, even those who do not call themselves descendants of Guishan, are all in fact his remote descendant.

One day, while Guishan was lying down, Yangshan Huiji came to see him. Guishan turned to face the wall.

Yangshan said, “I am your student. Please don’t be formal.”

Guishan started to get up.

Yangshan rose to leave.

Guishan said, “Huiji.”

Yangshan returned.

Guishan said, “Let me tell you about my dream.”

Yangshan leaned forward to listen.

Guishan said simply, “Would you interpret my dream for me? I want to see how you do it.”

In response Yangshan brought a basin of water and a towel. Guishan washed his face and sat up.

Then Xiangyan came in.

Guishan said, “Huiji and I have been sharing miracles. This is no small matter.”

Xiangyan said, “I was next door I heard you.”

Guishan said to him, “Why don’t you try now?”

Xiangyan made a bowl of tea and brought it to him.

Guishan praised them, saying, “You two students surpass even Shariputra and Maudgalyayana with your marvelous activity!”

I don't think Dogen believed in miracles. Am I right?

1 Answer 1


As Chogyam Trungpa explained in Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior (or was it in The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation ?), the perfectly enlightened Bodhisattva always does exactly what's right at the moment. The perfectly enlightened Bodhisattva is always on time.

Because their mind is not running ahead nor falling behind, it is always exactly so. Being exactly so, it is without conflict, and is perfectly in sync with the needs of the moment. It is also 100% authentic without pretense, as simple or as complex as presently required.

This is what Dogen said Guishan praised as "miracles" and "no small matter".

  • Hi Andrei! How do you reconcile what you've said with the events told in the discourse found in SN 54.9, where a group of monks take their lives after practicing the contemplation on the "non-beauty" of the body? How can we interpret what happened there? Thanks in advance. Kind regards! Oct 10, 2019 at 5:46
  • Reconcile?There's no conflict here to reconcile. Buddha was a young teacher then and assumed the method that worked for him would work for everyone. Doing what's exactly right at the moment, doesn't mean you don't make mistakes from the future standpoint. You did exactly what you knew was right at the moment, and after that you learned something new, but what you did was right at the moment you did it.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Oct 10, 2019 at 12:10
  • Thanks! How you define "right", then? What makes such quality special, in contrast to the attitude a regular person might have? Let's say, if I feel completely sure about a decision, without any amount of hesitation, is that person doing what's right at the moment? Kind regards! Oct 10, 2019 at 16:11
  • 1
    "Exactly right" is what you do when you are not under influence of asava, i.e. you're not swayed by one or more of the "three poisons". You do what's best for the long term benefit to oneself and others, to the best of your knowledge, as opposed to acting out your neuroses or acting out your ego. When the mind is pure like that, seeing things is clearly "yathabhutam", and the action is "exactly right".
    – Andriy Volkov
    Oct 10, 2019 at 17:03
  • Thank you! Now I understand. Have a nice day! Oct 10, 2019 at 20:35

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