Japanese Texts, Texts, The Masters

Jijuyu Zanmai – Master Dogen’s Self-Receiving and Employing Samadhi

The Jijuyu Zanmai is the second section of the first part of Dogen’s Bendowa – ‘The Endeavor of the Way’ and concerns the experience of zazen itself. The whole text of the Bendowa is held in high esteem as being Dogen’s best and most comprehensible explanation of his understanding of Zen and the Dharma. There are many translations of this section, the Jijuyu Zanmai, which is chanted in some Soto Zen monasteries. The text below is interpreted by the San Francisco Zen Center, as is the translation of the title as Self-Receiving and Employing Samadhi. ‘Ji’ means self or in oneself, ‘ju’ means to receive or accept and ‘yu’ means to work or function in concentrated union. ‘Zanmai’ is the Japanese term for Samadhi, focused meditation in the practice of zazen.



Now, all ancestors and all buddhas who uphold buddha-dharma have made it the true path of enlightenment to sit upright practicing in the midst of self-fulfilling samadhi. Those who attained enlightenment in India and China followed this way. It was done so because teachers and disciples personally transmitted this excellent method as the essence of the teaching.

In the authentic tradition of our teaching, it is said that this directly transmitted, straightforward buddha-dharma is the unsurpassable of the unsurpassable. From the first time you meet a master, without engaging in incense offering, bowing, chanting Buddha’s name, repentance, or reading scriptures, you should just wholeheartedly sit, and thus drop away body and mind.

“From the first time you meet a master… you should just wholeheartedly sit.”

When even for a moment you express the Buddha’s seal in the three actions by sitting upright in samadhi, the whole phenomenal world becomes the Buddha’s seal and the entire sky turns into enlightenment. Because of this all buddha tathagatas as the original source increase their dharma bliss and renew their magnificence in the awakening of the way. Furthermore, all beings in the ten directions and the six realms, including the three lower realms, at once obtain pure body and mind, realize the state of great emancipation, and manifest the original face. At this time, all things realize correct awakening; myriad objects partake of the buddha body; and sitting upright under the bodhi tree, you immediately leap beyond the boundary of awakening. At this moment you turn the unsurpassably great dharma wheel and expound the profound wisdom, ultimate and unconditioned.

Because such broad awakening resonates back to you and helps you inconceivably, you will in zazen unmistakably drop away body and mind, cutting off the various defiled thoughts from the past, and realize essential buddha-dharma. Thus you will raise up buddha activity at innumerable practice places of buddha tathagatas everywhere, cause everyone to have the opportunity of ongoing buddhahood, and vigorously uplift the ongoing buddha-dharma.

“In stillness, mind and object merge in realization and go beyond enlightenment.”

Because earth, grass, trees, walls, tiles, and pebbles all engage in buddha activity, those who receive the benefit of wind and water caused by them are inconceivably helped by the Buddha’s guidance, splendid and unthinkable, and awaken intimately to themselves. Those who receive these water and fire benefits spread the Buddha’s guidance based on original awakening. Because of this, all those 28 who live with you and speak with you will obtain endless buddha virtue and will unroll widely inside and outside of the entire universe, the endless, unremitting, unthinkable, unnamable buddha-dharma.

All this, however, does not appear within perception, because it is unconstructedness in stillness-it is immediate realization. If practice and realization were two things, as it appears to an ordinary person, each could be recognized separately. But what can be met with recognition is not realization itself, because realization is not reached by a deluded mind. In stillness, mind and object merge in realization and go beyond enlightenment; nevertheless, because you are in the state of self-fulfilling samadhi, without disturbing its quality or moving a particle you extend the Buddha’s great activity, the incomparably profound and subtle teaching.

“This is not only practice while sitting, it is like a hammer striking emptiness: before and after, its exquisite peal permeates everywhere. How can it be limited to this moment?”

Grass, trees, and lands which are embraced by this teaching together radiate a great light and endlessly expound the inconceivable, profound dharma. Grass, trees, and walls bring forth the teaching for all beings, common people as well as sages. And they in accord extend this dharma for the sake of grass, trees, and walls. Thus, the realm of self-awakening and awakening others invariably holds the mark of realization with nothing lacking, and realization itself is manifested without ceasing for a moment.

This being so, the zazen of even one person at one moment imperceptibly accords with all things and fully resonates through all time. Thus in the past, future, and present of the limitless universe this zazen carries on the Buddha’s teaching endlessly. Each moment of zazen is equally wholeness of practice, equally wholeness of realization.

This is not only practice while sitting, it is like a hammer striking emptiness: before and after, its exquisite peal permeates everywhere. How can it be limited to this moment? Hundreds of things all manifest original practice from the original face; it is impossible to measure. Know that even if all buddhas of the ten directions, as innumerable as the sands of the Ganges, exert their strength and with the buddhas’ wisdom try to measure the merit of one person’s zazen, they will not be able to fully comprehend it.


Eihei Dogen (1200-1253)


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