December 1962 (Published Dec. 1962, Wind Bell No. 12)
The more we attempt to manage religious activity, the more we lose our fundamental way. The more we study the teaching of Buddhism as if it were philosophy, the more we lose the original teaching.
The founder of Eihei-ji Monastery, Dōgen-zenji, respected students who sincerely practiced zazen (cross-legged meditation) rather than intelligent or learned students. Dōgen emphasized organizing everyday life as the practice of Zen. He felt that this was the proper activity for Buddhist. When he spoke of the basic teaching of Buddhism, the transiency of life, he stressed it as an actual fact and not as a teaching of the sūtras.
Dōgen-zenji lost his father when he was three and his mother when he was eight. His mother was a Fujiwara, the most eminent family of the time. She had full experience of the teaching of transiency, and she wanted Dōgen to be a priest of great sincerity. He decided to follow her will. After his mother died and he sat by her cold body; he reached a profound understanding of impermanence, watching a few lines of incense smoke drift. Dōgen said, “I can walk on the edge of a white blade. I can do without food and drink, but it is not possible for me to forget my mother’s last words.”