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The Essential Dogen: Writings of the Great Zen Master

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  362 ratings  ·  32 reviews

Eihei Dogen (1200–1253), founder of the Soto School of Zen Buddhism, is one of the greatest religious, philosophical, and literary geniuses of Japan. His writings have been studied by Zen students for centuries, particularly his masterwork, Shobo Genzo or Treasury of the True Dharma Eye. This is the first book to offer the great master’s incisive wisdom in short

Kindle Edition, 273 pages
Published July 23rd 2013 by Shambhala Publications (first published April 9th 2013)
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Chad Kohalyk
Firstly, I listened to the audiobook and I have to say the narrator was top notch. It is great that they got someone who could pronounce both the Chinese and Japanese words properly. I really appreciate the attention to detail.

The first third of this book is great, but then it starts to get too abstract. And with no real commentary from the authors, it went over this novice's head completely. I could see how this book would be great in a study group, but as a lone person with no teacher, and
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One I will go back to repeatedly as I continue to practice.
Dave Paola
Mar 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
A tough slog but worth it.
Dec 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
The first time I read this, I gave it two stars. This read was definitely more of a four-star affair. Make of that what you will.
Adrian Peters
The Essential Dogen: Writings of the Great Zen Master. Edited by K. Tanahashi & P. Levitt. Shambhala Publications 2013.

Dogen was born in Japan in 1200. He is best known for his establishment of the Soto sect of Zen Buddhism on his return from China after gaining enlightenment. He wrote prolifically and his 'Treasury of the True Dharma Eye' is widely regarded as his masterpiece.

Tanahashi and Levitt's selection from Dogen's work provide an easy-to-read and enjoyable introduction to Dogen's
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

( … )
Under the burden
of solitude,
under the burden
of dissatisfaction

the weight,
the weight we carry
is love
( … )

Allen Ginsberg (3 June 1926 – 5 April 1997 / Newark, New Jersey)

The village I finally reach

Eihei Dogen (1200 – 1253) (also Dōgen Zenji or Dōgen Kigen or Koso Joyo Daishi) is one of the great teachers of Zen Buddhism and an inspiring poet and writer.

Dogen ordained as a monk at the age of fourteen and started studying Zen at eighteen. He went to China at the age of twenty-four to complete
Oct 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As the title suggests, this is a compilation of teachings from Eihei Dogen, the man who introduced Japan to Zen Buddhism. They are separated into chapters with names like Samadhi, Life and Death, Zazen, and so forth, and each consists of short passages written by Dogen which touches the subject. It feels like we get only fragments of teachings, but that is to be expected by an essential-compilation.

This is my first contact with the words of Dogen. They are often koan-like in that they don’t
Brian Wilcox
This, to me, is a book more like a collection of koans ~ a koan quote book. Possibly a book very good for Dogen fans. Not much helpful for persons who want an introduction to Dogen. More indepth guidance from the editors would have helped those new to Dogen, like I. Most of the footnotes were on persons, dates, brief other biographical data. For a reader beginning the book, I would advise to ignore the endnotes, they have little clarification for understanding Dogen. Reading through the ...more
Mack Hayden
Sep 13, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
It was hard for me to feel much of this book was essential. I appreciated the editors efforts to get Dogen’s aphorisms all under relevant headings but the whole thing felt kinda slapdash to me. There’s still plenty of wisdom to be gleaned here. For one thing, it was refreshing to see a teacher from the 13th century lay out teachings that can be seen as proto-feminist. I’m pretty picky with books that are just a ‘greatest hits’ of any given thinker and, while I gleaned a decent amount from this, ...more
Barry Wightman
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Like the sun illuminating and refreshing the world, this sitting (meditation) removes obscurities from the mind and lightens the body so that exhaustion is set aside."

Try it for a few years, see how it goes.

Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good zen reference
Ningxia Zhang
Aug 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More commentary or explanation is needed for better understanding. Will try to find a Chinese version to read.
May 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Terrific audiobook version. Basically just selections of Dogen's work with some short introductions. Wouldn't recommend for an intro to zen.
Jun 23, 2018 rated it liked it
I want to come back to this. It's essentially a collection of koan which could have been strengthened by some commentary - it's not an introductory text as I anticipated.
J. Maximilian Jarrett II
Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. Enough for today.
Daniel  Potts
Extremely weird and entirely Zen. Both obscure and transparent.
Teo 2050

Dogen, Tanahashi K (ed.), Levitt P (ed.) (2013) (05:43) Essential Dogen, The - Writings of the Great Zen Master

Preface and Acknowledgments (Kazuaki Tanahashi)
A Walk with Dogen into Our Time (Peter Levitt)
Editors’ Notes to the Reader

1. Practical Instruction
• Aspiration and Search
• Zazen
• Samadhi
• Bowing
• Each Activity Is Sacred
• Robe

2. History
• Vulture Peak
• Bodhidharma
• Scriptures
• Schools of Zen
• Authenticity

3. Gates of Dharma
• The Awakened Way
• Enlightenment
• Circle of the Way
• Buddha
Tony Poerio
Jun 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dogen seems to be the essence of Zen teaching as we know it in the West. Sometimes it's hard to comprehend (and that's the point), but Dogen makes it more poetic than most others, probably because he's the original source.

One of Dogen's ideas (at least as I'm interpreting it) that really stuck with me is this: When you sit down and meditate, during that time period of time and it alone, you've found and are experiencing enlightenment. Nothing is more simple than this. To find Enlightenment,
Mar 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: zen
This isn't really a book that you finish, but one you can (and will) keep coming back to. A solid and accessible primer on Dogen's writing and way of thinking, Kaz Tanahashi and Peter Levitt organize passages, stories, and poems into themed chapters, which makes it great as a carry-around collection that you can open to any page on the train and read a bit. Starting with this is much easier than starting off with the full Shobogenzo, though I would recommend reading Brad Warner's "Sit Down and ...more
Kelly McCubbin
May 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really hard book for me to rank because it's a bit beyond me. There's a lot of wonderful stuff and a lot of stuff that skittered across my brain like mercury on porcelain. I understand that Dogen's technique is to often deliberately shake up your monkey mind and keep it from taking the easy conclusions, and in a large way this works, but there's more to this than I certainly gleaned at a first pass and, at times, I found it frustrating. At times, also, I found it laugh out loud funny. ...more
Jan 11, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this a very insightful introduction into Dogen and his writings, but that doesn't mean it was necessarily easy to follow -- something which I generally ascribe to the nature of zazen writings though it must be said that Dogen's stance on not appreciating koans is something I share. I also verily appreciated the general historic background this work provided into the development of the teachings of Shakyamuni.
Feb 10, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Far more approachable than most titles about Dogen. It summaries his writings more than explaining them and is in general a superquick read of his poetry. It was not the historical book I have been searching for but it was a good mind reset when needed.
Aug 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read of a lifetime, of several lifetimes. Good companion to my zen practice. A challenge to understand this ancient and yet, somehow, post-modern poet. I mean just that, not being facetious. He could very well be writing today; but of course he is in a sense.
Ross Cohen
Apr 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oddly organized. Too scattered to feel essential - like flowers plucked from their field.
Dec 05, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's not really a bad book, but it's definitely hard to read. Dogen is, well... Dogen hehe
Joe Visconti
Aug 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Not too involved. gets to the basics of dogens teachings
Jerry Deyton
Oct 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely cant get enough koans in my day...This definitely satisfied my need of not needing any of these illogical teachings....
Peter Gross
Jan 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A treasure chest of poetry, dialog, and stories by a great teacher.
Nov 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read it with great interest.
anthony e.
One of the things that always strikes me about Zen is how easily an practioners can make a master into a kind of Jesus figure, strictly adhering to their notions and clutching to their rigors with an unhealthy obsession. I saw this with Thich Nhat Hanh when I stayed in his monastery on NY, and I see it here.

The history put forward in this book at its outset is great. The zen teachings are difficult at times, which does not make them bad ( it means I am simply not adept enough to understand,
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Dōgen Zenji (道元禅師; also Dōgen Kigen 道元希玄, or Eihei Dōgen 永平道元, or Koso Joyo Daishi) was a Zen Buddhist teacher and the founder of the Sōtō Zen school of Buddhism in Japan.
“Those who are extremely stupid think that women are merely the objects of sexual desire and treat women in this way. The Buddha’s children should not be like this. If we discriminate against women because we see them merely as objects of sexual desire, do we also discriminate against all men for the same reason?” 5 likes
“No matter how compelling or beautiful they may be, words appeal in the main to the linear, thinking mind that thinks in words.” 1 likes
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