Books on Dogen, and a Boat

DinghyMy landlord has lent me a dinghy. The lake is covered in pond weed and I had started pulling it where I could reach around the edge, but the lake is 15ft deep and shelves pretty steeply so I can’t reach far. Now I can float around and pull up weed as I go. The silt attached to the roots is black and smelly and it doesn’t take long to fill the boat with weed, but it is still quite a fun job.

A couple of days ago I was recommending some books on Dogen to C who was here for a day retreat, and he thought other people might be interested so I said I’d  post details:

First recommendation, which has already appeared in this blog, is Realizing Genjokoan by Shohaku Okumura. If you don’t find Dogen easy (does anyone!) this is the most accessible work I have found. Okumura has also written Living by Vow, which is a commentary on eight of the scriptures and verses recited daily in Zen temples, including the mealtime verses and the Scripture of Great Wisdom. Very worth a read.

Second recommendation is two books by Hee-Jin Kim. Eihei Dogen Mystical Realist is described by Taigen Dan Leighton in his foreword as “the best overall general introduction to Dogen’s teaching.” The second book is Dogen on meditation and thinking: a reflection on his view of Zen. I needed a dictionary next to me to look up words such as teleology, desideratum and hermeneutics. These books are pretty dense and written in more scholarly language, so if that’s not your cup of tea go for Okumura.

Do please leave a comment if you have any other Dogen books to recommend, or something to say about these ones.

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6 thoughts on “Books on Dogen, and a Boat

  1. Chris

    I bought “Dogens Genjo Koan three commentaries” from the Abbey bookshop. It complements the others mentioned one commentary being by Okumara’s teacher and another by Shunru Suzuki The other commentator is quite funny: his response to the man who said the Scriptures are loo paper that if he was that enlightened he would use a soft roll being the sort of tone at times

    I thought if I put a plug in for the Abbey bookshop then I will get a nice quiet room from Rev. Berwyn next time I visit; I seem to be making this blog looked like Amazon

    I also downloaded a load of Genjo Koan podcasts from a search combining them with some Reb Anderson ones given to me and the OBC ones. All seen good stuff and helpful to me

    1. Alicia Post author

      Hi Chris, glad the commentaries and podcasts are proving helpful with Genjo Koan. Good luck with the quiet room!

  2. Berwyn Watson

    Hi Rev. Alica,
    I agree wholeheartedly about the Okumura books on Dogen.
    I also find the book Soto Zen by Keido Chisan helpful, although the language sounds a bit old fashioned at times, it is fairly short so gets to the important points more quickly, and also covers Great Master Keizan. Available at The journal website also has a few articles that mention Dogen, and one on his life. You can access them all here,
    Hope this doesn’t look like I’m doing an advert!
    In Gassho,
    Rev. Berwyn

    1. Alicia Post author

      Hi Rev. Berwyn
      Thanks so much for this info, especially the link to the Journal articles, which I have just checked out and it looks like there is some good stuff there!

  3. Norman Trewhitt

    “Dogen’s Formative Years in China” by Takashi James Kodera is a book that came into my hands back in 1988. I refer to it still. There is a lot about his master, Ju-ching (Tendo Nyojo) and his teaching, especially in the section, “Hokyo-ki”. It gives great insight into where Dogen was coming from.

    For myself I’ve found that Dogen’s writings are best understood with the heart than the head.

    Let’s hope the herons lose interest in your pond or should I say lose interest in the fish in the pond.


    1. Alicia Post author

      Hi Norman
      Thanks for the book recommendation and yes, I agree, you need to give Dogen’s writing the opportunity to resonate with you and see what it brings forth from your heart. And a little bit of help getting started is often welcome.

      I suspect a heron took one of the moorhen chicks yesterday. I heard a loud flapping and splashing and went out to see and a heron flew up from close to the moorhens. Later I realised there were only three chicks not four.

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