TheDeep study of Dogen Zenji’s teachings is a means of truly understanding the practice of regular intensive shikantaza. It's an antidote to the "Zen sickness" described in the "Zazenshin" fascicle of his Shobogenzo. That danger can come with doing a lot of sitting with gaining mind—searching for a peak experience or some personal benefit. Thus dharma study is not an end in itself but supports and enables our sitting practice. As our ancestor Kodo Sawaki Roshi often said, "All Buddhist scriptures are only footnotes to zazen." Dogen study done with the intellect is the complement to zazen and work practice, the dharma study done with the body.
At Sanshin, studying the teachings of the Buddha, Dogen and our immediate ancestors is aimed at helping us to remove the obstacles that prevent us from seeing reality, particularly the reality of interconnectedness. Without a deep understanding that we are one with all beings, we can’t carry out our bodhisattva vows and liberate beings from suffering. We undertake dharma study as a support for our zazen practice, and this was the genesis of Sanshin’s semi-annual genzo-e, a five-day retreat during which periods of zazen surrounded two daily lectures by Okumura Roshi on a fascicle of Dogen’s Shobogenzo. “When I began genzo-e, I thought it is dangerous to sit so much as we do at Sanshin without understanding the deep meaning of zazen practice taught by Dogen Zenji. For me, zazen is the main thing; studying Dogen Zenji’s teachings is a support for intensive zazen practice. Intellectual understanding alone without sitting is not so meaningful.”
Regular study activities at Sanshin include Sunday morning dharma talks and Wednesday evening book discussions. These days, Okumura Roshi also offers an annual 10-day virtual dharma study in place of the genzo-e. See our Schedules and Calendars page for current information.
To save all beings means to be one with all beings. We cannot become one with others by means of our individual efforts. But we can wake up to the reality that from the beginning we are one with all beings. That is why we study the obstacles that prevent us from seeing this reality. That is how we become free from delusion. To become free from delusion, we have to study the Buddha’s teachings. Reality itself is also a teaching. All beings in this universe -- trees, leaves, and animals -- teach us to awaken to the reality that is impermanent and egoless. We are not sensitive enough to hear this teaching without effort, so we must actively listen and study.
Sanshin helps to enable and support dharma study through its Dogen Institute, whose primary mission is to make available Shohaku Okumura’s life work on Dogen. Okumura Roshi’s translations, commentaries, and lectures are offered through books, audio, video, and web based materials.
See recorded talks by Okumura Roshi, Hoko and other dharma leaders on our YouTube channel.