Eihei Dōgen Zenji (1200–1253) is known for his relentless efforts in pursuing the Way of Buddha and strong asceticism. In his texts he constantly repeats: do not pursue the fame and gain (名利, myōri). Dōgen prescribed strictly to the monks in his temples to obey to the rules of Vinaya, and also wrote about ritual asking for alms. Dōgen himself lead more than one successful campaign while gathering money for building of different halls in his temples. A monk is not allowed to seek a better life in this world; he must be fully concentrated on saving all sentient beings from suffering. But as Dōgen puts it, the kūdoku – the force that takes sentient beings to the shore of liberation – arises exactly when the monks practice the Way and live in accordance with the vows of the ancient monastic codes. On the one hand, now we understand why Dōgen looks on alms with favor and, on the other hand, we can see why he specifies so carefully all the details of the monastic code for the monks in his monastery. As prescribed in the codes, every single action of the monks has not only one (its own) sense – eating to satisfy hunger, washing hands to make them clean, etc. – but it also has a supplementary meaning, very important one, which is directed and devoted to the salvation of all sentient beings. At the same time, Dōgen’s approach to the everyday life of Zen monks is determined by his own position as religious philosopher. Here we should remember his idea of getting enlightenment by oneself in quotidian life, which is the basis of Dōgen’s teaching.

Kajō (家常, ja chang) literally means ‘what is habitual (jō) in one’s home (ka)’. As Dōgen puts it, Buddhas and Ancestors differ from any other person only by interfering into the process of self-manifestating of the Buddha-nature – and that’s what every Buddhist student should aim to do. Generally speaking, a monk should do things serving to the salvation of the sentient beings and should not do ones preventing it.

Key words: Dōgen, Receptacle of Essence of the true Law, daily affairs, everyday life of the Soto school’s monks, rice and tea, Japanese Buddhism, Zen Buddhism

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About the author


Galina T. TitorevaPhD (History of Art), Head of the Department of Ethnography,

Khabarovsk Regional Museum n.a. N.I. Grodekov, 11 Shevchenko str., Khabarovsk, Russia, 680000; mazo2005@mail.ru