Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Visions of Awakening Space and Time$

Taigen Dan Leighton

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195320930

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195320930.001.0001

 Dōgen's Interpretations of This Lotus Sutra Story

(p.67) 4 Dōgen's Interpretations of This Lotus Sutra Story
Visions of Awakening Space and Time

Taigen Dan Leighton (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter gives a close reading of a range of references throughout Dōgen's writings on Lotus Sutra Chapters 15 and 16, organized in terms of earth, space, and time. It also looks in to how Dōgen uses these citations as practice encouragements for his students. These commentaries reveal Dōgen's strong lifetime allegiance to the Lotus Sutra text, and also his approach to awakening as a function of the nature of reality, intimately connected with the dynamic support of the earth, space itself, and a multidimensional view of the movements of time.

Keywords:   Dōgen, Lotus Sutra, earth, space, time

Dōgen quotes the Lotus Sutra more by far than any other sutra, and with unsurpassed veneration. In the Shōbōgenzō (True Dharma Eye Treasury) essay “Taking Refuge in the Three Treasures” (“Kie Buppōsō‐hō”), he quotes a passage from the closing verse of chapter 16 about how beings who are beset by their evil karma do not ever hear the name of the three treasures (buddha, Dharma, and sangha), whereas those who are virtuous, gentle, and upright see the Buddha's enduring presence on Vulture Peak.1 Immediately after quoting from chapter 16 about the Buddha's enduring life span, Dōgen says that this Lotus Sutra is itself the single great cause for the appearance of buddha tathāgatas, substituting the sutra itself for the intention to awaken all beings cited as the single great cause for buddhas in chapter 2 of the sutra. Then he declares that the Lotus Sutra “may be said to be the great king and the great master of all the various sutras that the Buddha Śākyamuni taught. Compared with this sutra, all the other sutras are merely its servants, its relatives, for it alone expounds the Truth.”2

Among all of the numerous references to the Lotus Sutra in Dōgen's masterwork Shōbōgenzō, he refers in more of the essays to chapter 16 on the Buddha's life span than to any other chapter, with the exception of chapter 2 on skillful means.3 Dōgen often mentions from the second chapter the one great cause for buddhas manifesting in the world: to lead beings into the path to awakening. He also frequently cites the chapter 2 statement “Only a buddha (p.68) together with a buddha can fathom the Reality of All Existence.”4 He focuses on this saying in his Shōbōgenzō essay “Only Buddha and Buddha” (“Yuibutsu Yobutsu”) as a support for the Zen face‐to‐face Dharma transmission tradition.5

The Lotus Sutra dedication to Śākyamuni Buddha also fits the main Buddha figure used in the Zen of Dōgen, rather than the Buddhas Amida or Vairocana venerated in his contemporary Pure Land and Esoteric (and Kegon) movements. But perhaps most fundamentally, the significant presence of the Lotus Sutra in Dōgen's teaching highlights the substantial foundation of Mahāyāna thought and practice underlying his worldview and teachings. The following discussion does not address Dōgen's numerous references to upāya, or to many other sections of the Lotus Sutra, but focuses on his primary responses to chapters 15 and 16.

The Lotus Turning and Being Turned

In the essay in Shōbōgenzō that most directly and fully focuses on the Lotus Sutra, called “The Dharma Flower Turns the Dharma Flower” (“Hokke‐Ten‐Hokke”) from 1241, Dōgen celebrates the value of sutras while explicitly responding to the Zen axiom about sutra study that privileges direct mind‐to‐mind teaching above study of words and letters.6 The essay centers on a dialogue from the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Ancestor, Dajian Huineng (638–713; Daikan Enō in Japanese), who tells a monk who has memorized the Lotus Sutra that he does not understand the sutra. Huineng tells the monk, “When the mind is in delusion, the Flower of Dharma turns. When the mind is in realization [enlightenment], we turn the Flower of Dharma.”7 Dōgen clarifies how this story implies the necessity for an awakened hermeneutical approach to the active, practical applications of sutra study, rather than being caught by reified scriptural formulations.

Much of the essay involves intricate wordplay and discussion concerning the polarity of turning the Dharma flower, or else being turned by it, which Dōgen eventually resolves in characteristically nondualistic fashion. In the conclusion he says that now that we have heard about this turning or being turned and “experienced the meeting of the ancient buddha with ancient buddhas, how could this not be a land of ancient buddhas? We should rejoice that the Dharma flower is turning from age to age, and the Dharma flower is turning from day to night, as the Dharma flower turns the ages and turns the days and nights.”8 For Dōgen, the reality of the Dharma flower and of the Buddha's enduring life span transforms the very earth and time itself. He ends the lengthy essay by proclaiming, “The reality that exists as it is … is (p.69) profound, great, and everlasting [referencing the Buddha's life span], is mind in delusion, the Flower of Dharma turning, and is mind in realization, turning the Flower of Dharma, which is really just the Flower of Dharma turning the Flower of Dharma. … If perfect realization can be like this, the Flower of Dharma turns the Flower of Dharma. When we serve offerings to it, venerate, honor, and praise it like this, the Flower of Dharma is the Flower of Dharma.”9

In Dōgen's reality, ultimately the Lotus turning the practitioner, as well as the practitioner turning the Lotus, are both simply instances of the Lotus Dharma turning the Lotus Dharma. The Dharma of the Lotus Sutra is simply nondual and wondrous. As Jikidō Takasaki comments, “Without turning the Dharma flower there is no Dharma flower turning, as the Dharma flower turning then gives birth to the next turning of the Dharma flower. The single true matter transmitted in succession from the ancients in the remote past until long into distant future ages is the alternating interchange of turning the Dharma flower and the Dharma flower turning.”10 In the light of the Lotus Sutra and Dōgen's view of it, studying the sutra and personal experience of realization in practice are not contradictory, but mutually supporting, cooperative activities. The point of these activities, as indicated in chapter 2, is their liberative efficacy. Takasaki also notes, “The purpose of turning the Dharma flower is to turn the deluded mind into awakened mind. Without the deluded mind, both the Dharma flower turning and turning the Dharma flower are useless. Without turning the deluded mind into awakened mind, both [turnings] would be meaningless.”11

There is a traditional practice of ten, “turning” or “unfolding” the pages of a sutra, in which the pages are fanned from front to back as a symbolic reading and enactment of it. However, for Dōgen it is in the practitioners' appreciation and active expression of this nondual unfolding reality that the Dharma flower finds its true blossoming. I will return to such practice encouragement by Dōgen toward the end of this chapter.

On the way to Dōgen's nondual conclusion of “The Dharma Flower Turns the Dharma Flower,” after the initial presentation of the Sixth Ancestor's story, Dōgen presents an extended section on how “the mind in delusion, the Flower of Dharma turns” the practitioner. For Dōgen it is necessary to equally study the Dharma flower turning as well as one's turning of the Dharma flower. Genryū Kagamishima comments, “There is no way to be released from the deluded mind other than penetrating through deluded mind.”12 Dōgen finally expresses his nondualism, and offers deep consolation, by saying that being turned by the Dharma flower is also part of the One Vehicle, so “do not worry about the mind being deluded.”13

(p.70) This section on the deluded mind is followed by an extended section on “the mind in realization, we turn the Flower of Dharma,” near the beginning of which is a substantial reference to and comment on chapters 15 and 16, which I discuss below in a variety of contexts. It begins:

The multitudes of the thousandfold world that spring out of the earth have long been great honored saints of the flower of Dharma but they spring out of the earth being turned by circumstances. In turning the Flower of Dharma we should not only realize springing out of the earth; in turning the Flower of Dharma we should also realize springing out of space. We should know with the Buddha's wisdom not only earth and space but also springing out of the Flower of Dharma itself. In general, in the Time of the Flower of Dharma, inevitably, the father is young and the son is old. It is neither that the son is not the son, nor that the father is not the father; we should just learn that the son is old and the father young. Do not imitate the disbelief of the world and be surprised. [Even] the disbelief of the world is the Time of the Flower of Dharma. This being so, in turning the Flower of Dharma we should realize the one Time in which the Buddha is living. Turned by disclosure, display, realization, and entering, we spring out of the earth; and turned by the Buddha's wisdom, we spring out of the earth.14

In this passage, which well illustrates Dōgen's characteristic style of wordplay in examining texts, he discusses the significance of bodhisattvas springing out of the earth and the time of the Buddha's inconceivable life span. He first points out that the veteran underground bodhisattvas “spring out of the earth being turned by circumstances.” That is to say, they spring out of the ground in response to circumstances, to karmic causes and conditions, to the needs of suffering beings, and, in this case, to the need of Buddha.

One implied meaning of this Lotus Sutra ground for Dōgen is thus the conditioned reality of this present space, as in Dōgen's frequent teaching about the value to practice of abiding in, or totally exerting, one's own Dharma position (hō‐i, 法 位), which is the totality of the present circumstances, including the multiplicity of effects of previous causes and conditions.15 Hee‐Jin Kim states, “What makes a particular position of time a Dharma‐position is the appropriation of these particularities in such a manner that they are seen nondualistically in and through the mediation of emptiness. As such, the significance of the existential qualities and phenomenalities of things and events is by no means minimized.”16 For Dōgen, the ultimate emptiness or impermanence of all things and events does not diminish the need to fully engage (p.71) in practice the present particulars of the conditioned world. And there is no place or time other than this current, impermanent Dharma position in which to enact this practice. Dōgen often emphasizes ordinary, everyday reality, such as the activities of daily monastic practice, as the locus of awakening and of the sacred and the importance of not seeking liberation outside of the grounding of immediate everyday circumstances.

The Lotus Land's Dharma Position

This ground of our everyday Dharma position, and the earth from which the bodhisattvas emerge, also exemplify the practical importance for Dōgen of the Buddha land, the earth itself. In Dharma hall discourse 269 from 1248 in Eihei Kōroku, Dōgen's other major masterwork, with shorter, more personal talks to his trainees than those in Shōbōgenzō, he says, “The Buddha of the land pervades the body and is the entire body. The lands of the Buddha are the suchness of reality, and their non‐suchness.”17

In traditional Mahāyāna Buddhism, when a buddha awakens, the world around that buddha is constellated as a buddha field (kṣetra in Sanskrit), and the land itself is purified and illuminated.18 As Étienne Lamotte describes it, “The buddhakṣetra is the fruit of the great compassion (mahākaruṇā) of the Buddha, who, in a given field, undertakes to do Buddha deeds (buddhakārya), that is, to cause beings to ‘ripen’ (paripācana) by developing in them the three ‘good roots’ (kuśalamūla), absence of greed (alobha), of hatred (adveṣa) and of confusion (amoha).”19 Dōgen uses the story of the bodhisattvas from under the ground as an image to express and develop his own understanding of the buddha land, which we saw in the first chapter in his early 1231 writing, “Talk on Wholehearted Engagement of the Way” (“Bendōwa”), now considered part of Shōbōgenzō, where he says that when one person fully performs zazen, “all space in the universe completely becomes enlightenment.”20

In Dharma hall discourse 91 from 1241 in Eihei Kōroku, Dōgen speaks poetically of the spiritual fertility of the earth when all beings abide in their Dharma positions with the Buddha's enduring presence. He begins by quoting Śākyamuni Buddha from chapter 16 of the sutra: “Since I attained buddhahood, I always remain here expounding Dharma.”21 He concludes:

All dharmas dwell in their Dharma positions; forms in the world are always present. Wild geese return to the [north] woods, and orioles appear [in early spring]. Not having attained suchness, already suchness is attained. Already having attained suchness, how is it?


After a pause Dōgen said: In the third month of spring, fruits are full on the Bodhi tree. One night the blossom opens and the world is fragrant.22

With the Buddha abiding in this world, the suchness of all things can blossom and be realized by all beings.

On hearing this particular Dharma hall discourse given to his assembled monks in 1241 in Kyoto—with its grounding of proclamation of the ultimate suchness of Buddha's awakening right within the concrete, natural expressions of this land and earth—one of Dōgen's major disciples, Tettsū Gikai (1219–1309), is said to have had his first major experience of awakening.23 Gikai went on to become Dōgen's second‐generation successor as abbot at Eiheiji after Koun Ejō (1198–1280). After Dōgen's death, Gikai himself traveled to China to learn more about Chan monastic forms, and he was instrumental in spreading Sōtō Zen in Japan, along with his own successor, Keizan Jōkin (1264–1325).24 This 1241 Dharma hall discourse's inspiration for Gikai exemplifies the fertility of Dōgen's expression of the awakened earth.

The Grounding of Space

In the passage quoted earlier from the “The Dharma Flower Turns the Dharma Flower,” Dōgen compares the springing out of the earth by the bodhisattvas to springing out of space: “We should not only realize springing out of the earth; in turning the Flower of Dharma we should also realize springing out of space.” Here Dōgen implies a correlation between earth and space. Indeed, a number of his references to space contain the use of earth imagery to signify spatial dimension. A significant example, mentioned just above, is the “Self‐Fulfillment Samādhi” (jijuyū zanmai) section of Dōgen's important early writing, “Talk on Wholehearted Practice of the Way,” in which he describes the enlightenment of space itself. In explicating this declaration of the awakening of space itself, he identifies the earth with the whole of space and all the things that are space: grasses, trees, fences, and so forth: “At this time, because earth, grasses and trees, fences and walls, tiles and pebbles, all things in the dharma realm in the universe in ten directions carry out buddha‐work, therefore everyone receives the benefit of wind and water movement caused by this functioning, and all are imperceptibly helped by the wondrous and incomprehensible influence of buddha to actualize the enlightenment at hand.”25 All the elements or forms of the earth and space themselves “carry (p.73) out buddha‐work” as partners in the beneficial process of actualizing enlightenment.

In the 1245 Shōbōgenzō essay “Space” (“Kokū”), Dōgen further clarifies that space is not an empty container, the absence of forms, nor the air between things; rather, space is things themselves, as just elaborated in “Talk on Wholehearted Practice of the Way,” where “grasses and trees, fences and walls, tiles and pebbles, all things in the dharma realm in the universe in ten directions” are exactly space.26

Dōgen begins his “Space” essay with a story about two Chinese Zen masters, Shigong Huizang (n.d.; Shakkyō Ezō in Japanese) and his younger Dharma brother, Xitang Zhizang (735–814; Seido Chizō in Japanese). Shigong asked, “Do you know how to grasp space?”

The younger brother, Zhizang, said, “Yes I do.”

Shigong asked, “How do you grasp it?”

Zhizang stroked the air with his hand.

Shigong said, “You don't know how to grasp space.”

Zhizang asked, “How do you grasp it, older brother?”

Shigong grasped his younger brother's nose and yanked. The Chinese might even be rendered that he stuck his finger in the younger brother's nostril before pulling.

Either way, Zhizang yelled in pain, “You're killing me! You tried to pull my nose off!”

Shigong declared, “You can grasp it now!”27

One common idea of space is as a kind of empty container, just as our conventional idea of time, disputed by Dōgen in the 1240 Shōbōgenzō essay “Being Time” (“Uji”), is of an objective temporal container. But for Dōgen, space is form itself. Space is the nostril, and the nose around it. Dōgen says, “Space is one ball that bounces here and there.”28

About Shigong saying “You can grasp it now,” Dōgen says, “It is not that space and other space reached out together with one hand. No effort was needed for grasping space. There is no gap in the entire world to let space in, but this story has been a peal of thunder in space.” He adds, “You have some understanding of grasping space. Even if you have a good finger to grasp space, you should penetrate the inside and outside of space. You should kill space and give life to space. You should know the weight of space. You should trust that the buddha ancestors' endeavor of the way, in aspiration, practice, and enlightenment, throughout the challenging dialogues is no other than grasping space.”29

(p.74) This “killing space and giving life to space” is a recurring theme in Dōgen's writings about the nature of space. Space is not just the air between things; space is things themselves. Until his nose was pulled, Zhizang apparently thought that space was just the empty air. With the immediacy of experience of his own painful nose space, the reality of space could finally be grasped. For Dōgen, space is not an abstraction, but is concretely physical, and not at all apart from the dynamic effort of aspiration and practice. Giving life to space involves, first of all, recognizing its omnipresence and potential impact right in the forms we engage.

In “The Dharma Flower Turns the Dharma Flower,” after relating earth and space as the source from whence the bodhisattvas emerge, Dōgen adds, “We should know with the Buddha's wisdom not only earth and space but also springing out of the Flower of Dharma itself.” The correlation of earth and space is here described as the context for emergence from the Lotus Sutra itself. This correspondence represents for Dōgen the awakened realm as nondualistically present right in the ground of this conditioned world.

A further passage about space in this section reads, “Vulture Peak [where the Lotus Sutra was preached] exists inside the stupa and the treasure stupa exists on Vulture Peak.” This is a reference to the story in the Lotus Sutra, chapter 11, of the ancient Buddha Prabhūtaratna, who appears in his stūpa hanging in midair above Vulture Peak. He comes to hear Śākyamuni, the historical Buddha of this age, preach the Lotus Sutra. But it is also said that this ancient buddha always appears in his stūpa whenever this Lotus Sutra is being expounded, thereby demonstrating the self‐referential aspect of the sutra discussed in chapter 2. Dōgen says about the appearance of this stūpa, “The treasure stupa is a treasure stupa in space, and space makes space for the treasure stupa.”30 By saying “Space makes space for the treasure stupa” (虚 空 は 宝 塔 を 虚 空 す) of this ancient buddha, Dōgen again indicates that space is not just an object in a dead, objective world. The space that makes space is a lively, active agent, and here it is especially celebrated right in the space in which the Lotus Sutra is expounded.

The Form of Space as the Flowering of Emptiness

A line in a verse section of chapter 15 about the realm from whence the underground bodhisattvas emerge reads, “In the under side, in open space, they dwell” (下 方 空 中 住). Dōgen says in “The Dharma Flower Turns the Dharma Flower,” “The meaning of this downward direction [under side] is exactly the (p.75) inside of space.”31 He continues: “This downward, and this space, are just the turning of the Flower of Dharma and are just the lifetime of the Buddha. We should realize, in turning the Flower of Dharma, that the Buddha's lifetime, the Flower of Dharma, the world of Dharma, and the wholehearted state, are realized as downward, and also realized as space. Thus downward‐space describes just the realization of turning the Flower of Dharma.”32 Here Dōgen explicitly emphasizes that the open space below the ground, where the underground bodhisattvas dwell, is itself the realization of the Lotus Sutra and of the life span of the Buddha. For Dōgen the realization is both specific, this place down here, and inclusive, as all space.

In this section of the essay, Dōgen also clarifies that in his discussion of earth and space he is interpreting the Lotus Sutra by characteristically indulging in a significant pun, using the double meaning of (空) as both space and emptiness. Soon after affirming the open space underground as the realization of the Lotus Sutra and as the life span of Buddha, he refers to the famous “Heart Sutra” passage, when he states, “There is turning the Lotus of ‘Form is exactly emptiness,’ and turning the Lotus of ‘Emptiness is exactly form.’ ”33 The character kū that is translated as “space” can also be translated as “emptiness.” It is the same character used for “emptiness” in the “Heart Sutra” passage that reads in Sino‐Japanese, “Shiki fu i kū, kū fu i shiki. Shiki soku ze kū, kū soku ze shiki,” meaning, “Form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form. Form itself is exactly emptiness, emptiness itself form.”34 Though “emptiness” in that statement is kū, in the contexts discussed here from the Lotus Sutra chapter 15 and in “The Dharma Flower Turns the Dharma Flower,” it means simply “space,” but with the other meaning acknowledged as an overtone.

Thus Dōgen explicitly recognizes the bodhisattvas' underground open “space” as also emptiness, or śunyatā. This verifies the immanence of the emptiness, or the insubstantiality of all existents, within the ground of earth/space, and the empty nature of all the forms that compose earth and space. This kū is also the second of the two characters in “Kokū,” translated as “Space,” the Shōbōgenzō essay featuring the story about grasping the nose as space. (The first character of Kokū, ko [虚], means “vacant” or “empty.”) When he uses this character kū, sometimes in context Dōgen is clearly talking about space, about spatial dimensionality, or simply about the sky. But often he is simultaneously providing a teaching about emptiness.

By recognizing the Lotus Sutra space under the ground as, in part, a metaphor for emptiness, Dōgen implies the study of emptiness as the study that activates the Lotus Sutra underground bodhisattvas. By encouraging the realization that, “in turning the Flower of Dharma … the Flower of Dharma … is (p.76) realized as downward [within the ground], and also realized as space [or emptiness],” he indicates the importance of his practitioner audience's own realization of the bodhisattvas as emerging from space, and also from emptiness.

Dōgen verifies the study of emptiness (or space) as the study that impels the bodhisattvas. The emergence from the Lotus Sutra itself is described as seeing the identity of earth and space, which could represent the immanence of emptiness and of the awakened realm as nondualistically present right in the ground of this world of particulars. The view of the earth or ground implied by Dōgen in these meanings provides a distinctly different, positive view of the earth from the negative interpretation of this earth as an obstacle, which had been given by Daosheng in China, with the obstruction to awakening from the earth's dust or sense objects.

It may be noted that Dōgen's interpretation of the open space under the ground of the emerging bodhisattvas as, in part, related to emptiness teaching is not orthodox to Lotus Sutra teaching. Gene Reeves comments:

Some interpreters of the Lotus Sutra may prefer to think that this use of the idea of a space below the earth is really a symbolic reference to the popular Mahayana Buddhist idea of emptiness. They could be right about this. But the Lotus Sutra is not much concerned with the term “emptiness,” using it in a positive sense only very few times. So it seems to be unlikely that it is what is behind this story. What this story wants to affirm, I believe, is not the reality of emptiness, but the reality and importance of this world, this world of suffering, a world that is, after all, Shakyamuni Buddha's world.35

Reeves is quite correct that the Lotus Sutra itself is not concerned with emptiness teaching, nor are most of its traditional followers. But there is no question that Dōgen himself was playing with that meaning of kū, as evidenced, for example, by his reference to the “Heart Sutra” and in the “Flowers of Space” (“Kūge”) essay, discussed next. But Reeves is also certainly accurate that the main import of this story, for the sutra itself but also for Dōgen, as we will see, is “the reality and importance of this world, this world of suffering … Shakyamuni Buddha's world.”

The double meaning of kū (空) as both space and emptiness is featured elsewhere in Dōgen's writings. A prominent example is his 1243 Shōbōgenzō essay “Flowers of Space” (“Kūge”), which might be read as “Flowers in the Sky” (as kū can equally mean sky) and also as “Flowers of Emptiness” or the “Flowering of Space” or “Flowering of Emptiness,” depending on the context in various (p.77) parts of the essay.36 There, too, Dōgen gives a positive spin to space, although the phrase kūge is usually a negative image for delusory obstructions. The essay circles around a quote from the Śūrangama Sūtra in which Śākyamuni Buddha says, “It is like a person who has clouded eyes, seeing flowers in space. If the sickness of clouded eyes is cured, flowers vanish in space.”37 The conventional Buddhist understanding of this statement is that our eyes are clouded by our karmic obstructions, so we do not see clearly. We see flowers in the sky, which is also a common idiom for cataracts. With cataracts we cannot see clearly because of the veils over our eyes, and we see delusory flowers in the sky, or in space.

Flowers in space, or the flowering of emptiness, also might easily be interpreted as Dōgen referring to the flowering of Dharma in the Lotus Sutra. The Lotus Sutra is most often called the Hokke‐kyō in Japanese, which more literally and appropriately would be translated as the Dharma Flower Sutra.38 So the key phrase and title of this essay “Flowers of Space” might well include the connotation of the Dharma Flower Sutra in the sky. Indeed, the whole middle of the sutra after the appearance in chapter 11 of the stūpa of the Buddha Prabhūtaratna that emerges from the earth and floats in midair, including chapters 15 and 16 and through the remaining presence of the underground bodhisattvas up through chapter 22, is commonly referred to as “the assembly in the sky.” Thus the main image in the essay “Flowers of Space” refers to flowers and the flowering of sky, space, and emptiness, with all those overtones, and also includes the sutra of the Dharma flower, or lotus. The essay cannot be fully translated with any one of these readings alone.

That Dōgen had the Lotus Sutra in mind as he wrote “Flowers of Space” is evidenced when he quotes chapter 16 of the sutra. After saying that nirvāṇa and life and death are simply the flowering of space (or perhaps the Lotus flower of space), he cites Śākyamuni: “It is best to see the triple world as the triple world.” This occurs in the sutra when Śākyamuni avows to his startled disciples that he is speaking the truth about his inconceivable life span.39 This implies (among other possible interpretations; see note) appreciation of the space of the triple world and its suchness, seen exactly as flowers in the sky or the flowering of space.

Dōgen's comments throughout this essay characteristically turn upside‐down the conventional understanding that flowers in space are obstructions like cataracts that block our clear seeing. Near the beginning, before citing the passage from the Śūrangama Sūtra, he says:

There are the flowers in space of which the World‐Honored One speaks. Yet people of small knowledge and small experience do not (p.78) know of the colors, brightness, petals, and flowers of flowers in space, and they can scarcely even hear the words, “flowers in space.” Remember, in Buddhism there is talk of flowers in space. In non‐Buddhism, they do not even know, much less understand, this talk of flowers in space. Only the buddhas and ancestors know the blooming and falling of flowers in space and flowers on the ground, only they know the blooming and falling of flowers in the world, only they know that flowers in space, flowers on the ground, and flowers in the world are sutras. This is the standard for learning the state of buddha, because flowers in space are the vehicle upon which the buddha ancestors ride. The Buddhist world and all the buddhas' teachings are just flowers in space.40

Although flowers in space are conventionally an image of delusion and nonreality, Dōgen affirms that all the buddhas' teachings and sutras are flowers in space, or more positively, the flowering of space, and of the ground and the world. The supposedly illusory space flowers are exactly where buddhas teach: “the vehicle upon which the buddhas ride.” And also the Buddhist scriptures are flowers of space. This seeming paradox is in full accord with the Mahāyāna principle, enunciated in Lotus Sutra chapter 2, of buddhas appearing precisely for the sake of awakening beings from the delusions and afflictions of the mundane world.

Dōgen turns the conventional image for delusion totally upside down: “Bodhi, nirvāṇa, the Dharma‐body, selfhood, and so on, are two or three petals of five petals opened by a flower in space.”41 Then he quotes Śākyamuni Buddha saying, “It is like a person who has clouded eyes seeing flowers in space; if the sickness of clouded eyes is cured, flowers vanish in space.”

Dōgen says, “Because [scholars] do not know flowers in space, they do not know a person who has clouded eyes, do not see a person who has clouded eyes, do not meet a person who has clouded eyes, and do not become a person who has clouded eyes. Through meeting a person who has clouded eyes, we should know flowers in space and should see flowers in space. When we have seen flowers in space, we can also see flowers vanish in space.”42 He is talking not just about space, but about the “flowering of space,” and of the Dharma. Zazen and the whole Buddhist project is simply a flower in space and the flowering of space, or the Dharma flower vanishing into space. This is typical of Dōgen's sense of humor and his play with his readers' usual understandings, even the usual understandings of Buddhist scholars and teachers. It is exactly amid space flowering that buddhas awaken and produce more space flowers.

(p.79) Dōgen here profoundly reaffirms the reality of nonduality. Usually nonduality is considered opposed to duality, to be about transcending duality and discriminating mind, seeing through the dualities of form and emptiness, this and that, good and bad, right and wrong, all of the conventional dualistic illusions. But in his discussion of the flowers of space, he is clearly talking about the nonduality of duality and nonduality, not about merely transcending the duality of form and emptiness. This deeper nonduality is not the opposite of duality, but the synthesis of duality and nonduality, with both included and both seen as ultimately not separate, but integrated. In the flowering of space of the buddhas' teaching, “space” is our activity and life, the dialectical synthesis of form and emptiness.

Dōgen proclaims in “Flowers of Space,” “People who understand that flowers in space are not real but other flowers are real are people who have not seen or heard the Buddha's teaching.”43 He is saying yes to everything, and cutting through duality and nonduality, to point to the ontological and cosmological awakening of the natural world and the impact of space itself.

Dōgen ends the “Flowers of Space” essay by bringing the flowers in the sky, seen as the nondual flowering of space and emptiness, back together with the emergence of the Lotus Sutra bodhisattvas from the ground (although he does not speak of those bodhisattvas explicitly). He quotes a Chinese master who said that the flowering of space emerges from the ground. Dōgen complains that ordinary teachers, “when discussing flowers in space as ‘flowers of emptiness,’ speak only of arising in emptiness and passing into emptiness. None has understood reliance on space; how much less could any understand reliance on the ground.”44 Dōgen here proclaims space and the ground as significant, reliable sources for the work of awakening. “Flowers of Space” ends with the statement, “The flowering of space exists based on emerging from the earth, and the whole of earth exists based on the opening of flowers. Please know that the flowers of space cause both the earth and space to unfold.”45

The Bodhisattva Leap within the Grounds

Dōgen does not quite make the following connecting pun explicit, but it will help elucidate the conclusion to “The Dharma Flower Turns the Dharma Flower.” As Ricoeur suggests, we might further follow Dōgen's hermeneutic lead in creative interpretation, his active turning of the Dharma Flower through playful pursuit of metaphors. Thus we may follow the double meaning of kū (空) as “space” and “emptiness,” and note that the “ground,” chi (地), in the (p.80) “open space under the ground,” is also the Chinese character used for bhūmi, the Sanskrit word for the stages or grounds in the system of the ten stages of bodhisattva development, as expressed in the Daśabhūmika Sūtra.46 This would imply that the underground bodhisattvas in chapter 15 of the Lotus Sutra emerge through their immediate insight into the emptiness of all bhūmis, or stages. These bodhisattvas, diligently practicing in the open space, or with the emptiness, under or within the ground, would thus be ever ready to immediately emerge and benefit beings in any future evil age. This is so thanks to their seeing into the ultimate emptiness of all systems of progressive cultivation and the unmediated emptiness of any and each particular stage or position in such systems, even while they might be fully engaging the practices at some particular stage.

Springing forth from the “open space under the ground” could be glossed linguistically as the leap “from the space of emptiness inside the bhūmis.” This reading is congruent with the recent interpretation of the Lotus Sutra by Jan Nattier (mentioned in chapter 1), based on writings by Karl Potter about Indian approaches to the spiritual path characterized as “leap philosophies” and “progress philosophies.”47 Nattier theorizes that the Lotus Sutra embodies the leap that characterizes most East Asian Mahāyāna philosophy, as opposed to the myriad lifetimes of self‐sacrificing practice accepted by much of Indo‐Tibetan Mahāyāna practice and its gradual “progress” philosophy of the spiritual path.

The interpretation of the abode of the underground bodhisattvas as the emptiness underlying all stages implies that this story embodies the leap out of the realm of systematized stages of accomplishment in practice, based on insight into the fundamental emptiness of all the stages and of all specific sites or grounds. This reading and interpretation also accounts for the startling “otherness” to the members of the Buddha's regular assembly of the bodhisattvas springing out from under the ground.

Nattier describes a modern reenactment of the Lotus Sutra disciples' consternation in chapter 15 in a class she taught at Indiana University that included the Lotus Sutra. One of the students was a young, accomplished Tibetan monk, holder of a Geshe degree, the monastic equivalent to a doctorate, who was steeped in the teachings of the long lifetimes of practice necessary to the bodhisattva path. But he was unfamiliar with the Lotus Sutra, which is not studied much in Tibetan Buddhism. He became baffled, even shocked, as they went over the Lotus Sutra text in class. Finally, one day in class after examining “promises that even a child who makes an offering to the Buddha will become enlightened, and the exhortations to put one's faith (p.81) in the sutra itself—he simply shook his head in amazement and exclaimed, ‘I can't believe the Buddha would say such things!’ ”48

Recalling Ricoeur's sense of metaphor as a basis for interpretation, the Lotus Sutra story's initial image of bodhisattvas emerging from the open space under the ground can be read as a metaphor for the spiritual leap out of the emptiness inherent in all positions on the spiritual path. Based on their insight into emptiness, and into the total and mutual interconnectedness of all particulars, the story is claiming that the bodhisattvas can leap free from any stage or ground of being into the possibility of buddhahood in this body and mind. The teaching of attaining buddhahood in this very body and mind, sokushin jōbutsu in Japanese, was espoused by great Japanese Buddhist religious founders such as Saichō, Kūkai, and Nichiren, all influenced by the Lotus Sutra.49 Dōgen clarifies his understanding as sokushin zebutsu, this very body and mind as buddha, letting go of ideals of attainment.50

The Lotus Sutra thus can be seen as the dividing line in Buddhist history and theology between a praxis of long rigorous cultivation, as for example in much of Tibetan Mahāyāna practice, and the possibility of a praxis based on the leap into the underlying omnipresent awakening. Through the use of wordplay as espoused by Ricoeur, the underground bodhisattvas' emergence can be interpreted as the metaphoric image of this divide and opening.

Thus the scene at the beginning of chapter 15, and the emergence of the innumerable bodhisattvas, aptly coincides with the juncture in the Lotus Sutra that has been considered the commencement of the sutra's “fruit” of the practice and the “origin teaching,” dating back to Daosheng and Zhiyi. Such a leap out of lifetimes of practice through insight into emptiness certainly matches Dōgen's statement near the conclusion to “The Dharma Flower Turns the Dharma Flower,” which celebrates the ultimate nonduality of being turned by the Dharma Flower or turning the Dharma Flower, “which is really just the Flower of Dharma turning the Flower of Dharma.”51 Dōgen expresses that conclusion right after clarifying that the reality of the Lotus teaching is not bound by the traditional lifetimes and stages of practice: “Do not see this turning the Flower of Dharma only as the bodhisattva‐way practiced in the past. … How joyful it is! From kalpa to kalpa is the Flower of Dharma, and from noon to night is the Flower of Dharma. Because the Flower of Dharma is from noon to night, even though our own body‐and‐mind grows strong and grows weak, it is just the Flower of Dharma itself.”52 Here Dōgen proclaims how the Dharma flower simply can be constantly celebrated, regardless of, and right in the midst of, the flow of conditions and throughout the variety of practice approaches. But along with Dōgen's view of earth's spaciousness and (p.82) emptiness, this conclusion obviously involves the dimension of time and its relationship to Buddha's enduring life span, to which we now turn.

The Inconceivable Life Span and Dōgen Time

In the first passage cited earlier from “The Dharma Flower Turns the Dharma Flower,” after referencing ground and space, Dōgen turns to “the Time of the Flower of Dharma” and the revelation of the Buddha's vast life span as “the one Time in which the Buddha is living,” a striking, evocative phrase. Referring to this ultimate time outside of our conventional time, and reaffirming Śākyamuni's teaching relationship to the underground bodhisattvas disclosed in the sutra, Dōgen says that, “inevitably, the father is young and the son is old.” Given his poetical style of rhetoric, Dōgen's interpretations often require his readers' own reinterpretation. The father being younger than the son appears to be for Dōgen an expression of the ephemeral and multidimensional aspect of time, hidden by our conventional time sense, and perhaps revealed by our shifting perspectives on time in time.

An example of this inevitable shift in temporal perspective may be seen in Bob Dylan's line about looking back at his own youth: “I was so much older then; I'm younger than that now.”53 This open, multidirectional, ultimate Lotus Sutra buddha time, within which the variability of our own limited time frames are set, is important to Dōgen, as in his injunction in the culmination of “The Dharma Flower Turns the Dharma Flower” passage, “We should realize the one Time in which the Buddha is living.”

Dōgen's view of time is most fully elaborated in his 1240 Shōbōgenzō essay, “Being Time” (“Uji”), much celebrated in modern Dōgen studies.54 This essay presents a complex vision of time as multidirectional, dynamic, and not separate from or independent of the actual existence, activity, and awareness of each particular being. “Being Time” does not directly cite the inconceivable life span from Lotus Sutra chapter 16. A full exploration of the complexity of Dōgen's whole philosophy of time is not the point here, but Dōgen's many references to Śākyamuni's inconceivable life span, and its sustained time frame as vitally present in the current time of wholehearted practice, are fully compatible and even illuminating of the quality of all time as present in the being‐time that is expounded in “Being Time.”

Dōgen elaborates on the reference to young and old fathers and sons in another essay that focuses on the Lotus Sutra, his 1243 Shōbōgenzō essay, “The Triple World Is Mind Only” (“Sangai‐Yuishin”): “Sometimes a father is old and (p.83) a child is young; sometimes a father is old and a child is old; and sometimes a father is young and a child is young. One who imitates the maturity of a father is not being a child, and one who does not pass through the immaturity of childhood will not be a father. … All such children—‘my children’ and ‘childlike me's’ [sic]—are true heirs of the compassionate father Śākyamuni. … The point of the Tathāgata's words is only to speak of ‘my children.’ ”55 Here Dōgen uses the time frame of Śākyamuni as teacher of the seemingly much older underground bodhisattvas to discuss the inclusion of all beings, regardless of their level of spiritual maturity, as children of the Buddha, and the potential of all beings as themselves developing buddhas.

Dōgen discusses the Buddha's life span and the teaching of the venerable underground bodhisattvas as children of Buddha not only in the realm of sutras, but he also applies it to the Zen transmitted lineage of buddha ancestors. The metaphor of all devotees and practitioners as Buddha's children is common in Buddhism, with the image of the Buddhist order as an alternative, other family. But Dōgen characteristically gives it another turning. In his discussion of the document of heritage, shishō, used in the Zen Dharma transmission ceremony, Dōgen says that the seven primordial buddhas inherited their Dharma from Śākyamuni, and quotes Śākyamuni as saying, “All buddhas of the past are disciples of myself, Shakyamuni Buddha.”56

Here Dōgen echoes the Lotus Sutra Śākyamuni Buddha by treating Śākyamuni as radically transcending time, in some sense preceding all other, including all earlier buddhas. And yet Dōgen does not address this by employing a philosophical analysis of the Dharmakāya and other aspects of Buddha, as do Zhiyi and Nichiren (see chapter 3). After quoting Śākyamuni as saying that all buddhas of the past are his own disciples, Dōgen simply proclaims, “The right form of all buddhas is like this. To see all buddhas, to inherit from all buddhas, to fulfill the way, is the buddha way of all buddhas.”57 Thus for Dōgen the bodies of buddhas of all times are informed by the inconceivability of the life span of Śākyamuni.

The Enduring Presence of Buddha

In the Shōbōgenzō essay “The Awesome Presence [or Dignified Manner] of Active Buddhas” (“Gyōbutsu Īgi”) from 1241 (the year after “Being Time” and the same year as “The Dharma Flower Turns the Dharma Flower”), Dōgen discusses the īgi (威 儀), the majestic, dignified, or awesome bearing, manner, or presence of buddhas active or actually practicing in the world. The character gyō (行), “active” or “practicing,” describing these buddhas is the same (p.84) used in the names of the leaders of the underground bodhisattvas who emerge in Lotus Sutra chapter 15: Superior Conduct, Boundless Conduct, Pure Conduct, and Steadfast Conduct (“conduct” is another meaning of gyō). So this essay, “The Awesome Presence of Active Buddhas,” might be seen as describing the manner or deportment in which Śākyamuni Buddha and the underground bodhisattvas remain present and active in the world.

Near the beginning of “The Awesome Presence of Active Buddhas” Dōgen says, “Know that buddhas in the buddha way do not wait for awakening. Active buddhas alone fully experience the vital process on the path of going beyond buddha.”58 Buddha remaining in the world does not wait passively for some future experience of buddhahood, but engages in awakening as an active process. “Buddha going beyond buddha” is an expression frequently used by Dōgen to describe the vitality of ongoing awakening that is not looking back to some past experience or remembrance of a previous awakened state or being.59

Shortly after this passage, Dōgen quotes Śākyamuni describing his long life span in chapter 16: “In the past I practiced the bodhisattva way, and so have attained this long lifespan, still now unexhausted, covering vast numbers of years.” Dōgen comments:

You should know that it is not that the lifespan of the bodhisattva has continued without end only until now or not that the lifespan of the Buddha has prevailed only in the past, but that what is called vast numbers is a total inclusive attainment. What is called still now is the total lifespan. Even if in the past I practiced is one solid piece of iron ten thousand miles long, it hurls away hundreds of years vertically and horizontally.

This being so, practice‐realization is neither existence nor beyond existence. Practice‐realization is not defiled. Although there are hundreds, thousands, and myriad [practice‐realizations] in a place where there is no buddha and no person, practice‐realization does not defile active buddhas.60

Dōgen uses the story of the Buddha's life span to support his often expressed view of the immanent, pure unity of practice‐realization. The inconceivable life span becomes a symbol for Dōgen of the ongoing present being‐time. This is not an abstract time frame belonging to an esoteric realm of buddhas, but a way of expressing Dōgen's view of time as the actuality of nondual awakening and active practice in the concrete, present context.

Dōgen refers to a story he cites frequently about the Chinese master Nanyue Huairang (677–744; Nangaku Ejō in Japanese) asserting to his teacher, (p.85) the Sixth Ancestor Huineng (who is also featured in “The Dharma Flower Turns the Dharma Flower”), that practice‐realization cannot be defiled. Huineng responds that this is exactly what is “attentively maintained by all buddhas,” which Dōgen equates in this essay with the awesome presence of the active buddha.61 Dōgen then proclaims, “What is attentively maintained by active buddhas, and what is thoroughly mastered by active buddhas is like this. … Although the everyday activities of active buddhas invariably allow buddhas to practice, active buddhas allow everyday activities to practice. This is to abandon your body for dharma, to abandon dharma for your body. This is to give up holding back your life, to hold on fully to your life.”62 The phrase “give up holding back your life” is from the closing verse of chapter 16 of the sutra when Śākyamuni says that for beings who are intent on seeing Buddha, not holding back or hesitating to even give their lives, then the Buddha and his assembly appear on Vulture Peak.63 For Dōgen, the enduring life of Śākyamuni is realized by those who fully give their vitality to the everyday activities of buddhas' practice.

A little further in this lengthy essay, Dōgen reaffirms the importance of the enduring presence and vitality of buddhas of the earth or land and of the Lotus Sutra, or the blossoming of lotuses themselves. He says, “That which allows one corner of a buddha's awesome presence is the entire universe, the entire earth, as well as the entirety of birth and death, coming and going, of innumerable lands, and lotus blossoms.”64

Later in this essay he proclaims that buddhas do not appear only in human realms, but in other realms or worlds as well. He mentions a story that is attributed to his teacher, Tiantong Rujing (1163–1228; Tendō Nyojō in Japanese), that after Śākyamuni received transmission of the true Dharma from the prehistorical Buddha Kāśyapa, Śākyamuni went to the Tuṣita Heaven to teach, and still abides there. Dōgen comments, “Śākyamuni of the human realm spread the teaching through his manifestation of parinirvāṇa, but Śākyamuni of the heavenly realm still abides there, teaching devas.”65 This is an extraordinary claim in terms of conventional Mahāyāna mythology, and also an unusual, playful interpretation of the inconceivable life span in Lotus Sutra chapter 16.

In the usual Mahāyāna cosmology, all buddhas abide in the Tuṣita heavenly realm while they are waiting to take birth in the world as buddhas. At this time, in the current buddha field of Śākyamuni, the bodhisattva Maitreya, who is predicted to be born as the next future incarnate, nirmāṇakāya Buddha, is said to be sitting in the Tuṣita Heaven, waiting patiently for his chance at buddhahood as he contemplates how to save all suffering beings.66 Maitreya is also the figure in chapters 15 and 16 of the Lotus Sutra who questions (p.86) Śākyamuni on behalf of all his regular disciples about the emerging underground bodhisattvas and about Śākyamuni's claims about his inconceivable life span. But in this comment in “The Awesome Presence of Active Buddhas,” Dōgen has Śākyamuni usurp Maitreya's place in Tuṣita Heaven, calmly abiding and teaching heavenly beings.

Dōgen seems to imply that Śākyamuni has indeed passed away into parinirvāṇa in the human realm, his life span enduring only in the heavenly realm. But as the essay proceeds, Dōgen proclaims that it is equally impossible with the limitations of either mere human or heavenly faculties to understand or “make calculations about the awesome presence of active buddhas.”67 For the enduring, active Buddha, coming and going through the Tuṣita Heaven is no different from being immersed in the smelly defilements of the common world: “Active buddhas are free from obstruction as they penetrate the vital path of being splattered by mud and soaked in water.”68

Later in this essay Dōgen discusses the saying by Xuefeng Yicun (822–908; Seppō Gison in Japanese), “Buddhas in the past, present, and future abide in flames and turn the great dharma wheel,”69 another image for the practice of buddhas immersed in the suffering of the world. Dōgen comments, “Flames are the great practice place of all buddhas turning the dharma wheel.” He adds, “If you try to assess this with the measurements of realms, times, human capacity, or ordinary or sacred, you cannot hit the mark. … As they are called all buddhas in the three times, they go beyond these measurements.”70

Dōgen goes on to quote Śākyamuni from chapter 11 of the Lotus Sutra: “To expound this Lotus Sutra is to see me.”71 So those who sustain the expounding of the sutra are maintaining Buddha's life span. Then Dōgen adds a following quote from the sutra: “After I pass away, to listen to and to accept this sutra, and to inquire into its meaning will be quite difficult.”72 But in his “The Awesome Presence of Active Buddhas” commentary, Dōgen uses this quote to indicate that simply listening to and accepting the sutra is sustaining Buddha's life span, equally to expounding the Dharma: “Know that it is equally difficult to listen to and accept this sutra. Expounding and listening are not a matter of superior or inferior. … All buddhas of the three times remain and listen to dharma. As the fruit of buddhahood is already present, they do not listen to dharma to achieve buddhahood, [but] are already buddhas.”73 So buddhas who are listening to the Dharma also “do not wait for awakening.”

Near the end of this essay, Dōgen offers a striking image for the persistence of the Buddha's teaching through time: “Although this moment is distant from the sages, you have encountered the transforming guidance of the (p.87) spreading sky that can still be heard.”74 Here he indicates the persisting of the Dharma in time as integrating with the pervading of “the spreading sky.” So for Dōgen the buddha nature of the sky, or space itself, offers “transforming guidance” throughout the vastness of time.

In 1250, nine years after writing “The Dharma Flower Turns the Dharma Flower” and “The Awesome Presence of Active Buddhas,” Dōgen gave a Dharma hall discourse, number 387, recorded in Eihei Kōroku, that cites the same story about Huineng and the Lotus Sutra used in “The Dharma Flower Turns the Dharma Flower” to strikingly emphasize the importance of the persisting presence of buddhas in the world. In this discourse, after citing the story about Huineng and the monk who had memorized the Lotus Sutra, Dōgen quotes Huineng saying, “The essential point of this sutra concerns the causes and conditions for [buddhas] appearing in the world.” Huineng's statement refers to the single great cause from chapter 2 of the Lotus Sutra, that buddhas appear in order to lead beings to the way to awakening.

Dōgen then declares, “I would say that the essential point of this sutra concerns all buddhas appearing in the world.”75 This only subtly different statement emphasizes simply the importance of the fact of buddhas being present, appearing in the world, rather than the single great cause referred to by Huineng. For Dōgen, this enduring presence of Buddha from the story of Buddha's inconceivable life span is exactly the point of the whole sutra. In this short Dharma hall discourse, Dōgen then tells his monks not to say that his and Huineng's statements are the same, but also not to say that they are different.

Dōgen Facing Buddha's Parinirvāṇa

While Dōgen utilizes the story of the Buddha's inconceivable life span to express his teaching, he simultaneously shares some of Myōe's mournful yearning for Śākyamuni, along with Saigyō's aesthetic celebration of Buddha's continuing presence in the wonders of the natural world (seen, for example, in the Dharma hall discourse above, which so moved Tettsū Gikai).

As throughout his more celebrated masterwork, Shōbōgenzō, Dōgen references the Lotus Sutra very frequently in his other major work, Eihei Kōroku, which consists in large part of his later teachings given in formal jōdōs while training his monk disciples at Eiheiji. Many of these Dharma hall discourses were given at ceremonial dates in the Buddhist calendar, including New Year's Day and the winter solstice, but also the traditional days for (p.88) commemorating Śākyamuni Buddha's birthday and his passing away into parinirvāṇa, known as Nirvāṇa Day. In six of the seven Nirvāṇa Day Dharma hall discourses that appear in Eihei Kōroku, Dōgen either directly references the inconceivable life span story, or in some other way plays with the tension between his own sadness at the passing of Śākyamuni and his realization and creative interpretation of Śākyamuni as alive and present based on the Lotus Sutra story in chapter 16.

The yearning for Buddha, while still realizing Śākyamuni's abiding presence, is perhaps most poignantly expressed in Dharma hall discourse number 486 in 1252 (Dōgen's last jōdō for this event before he succumbed to his own final illness later that year). Dōgen said, “This night Buddha entered nirvāṇa under the twin sāla trees, and yet it is said that he always abides on Vulture Peak. When can we meet our compassionate father? Alone and poor, we vainly remain in this world. … Amid love and yearning, what can this confused son do? I wish to stop these red tears, and join in wholesome action.”76 Dōgen knows that this “wholesome action” is itself one form of the continuing life of Śākyamuni, but still he is sad.

In Dharma hall discourse number 367, given to commemorate Nirvāṇa Day in 1250, Dōgen said, “All beings are sad with longing, and their tears overflow. Although we trust his words that he always resides on Vulture Peak, how can we not be sorry about the coldness of the twin sāla trees?”77 Dōgen does not forget the enduring presence of the Buddha described in the Lotus Sutra, but he also honors the human sadness that Myōe had expressed.

In the Nirvāṇa Day Dharma hall discourse number 146 from 1246, Dōgen proclaims the identity of all buddhas and ancestors in and with Śākyamuni's passing away into parinirvāṇa: “Now our original teacher, Great Master Śākyamuni, is passing away, entering nirvāṇa. … Why is this only about Śākyamuni Buddha? All buddhas in the ten directions in the past, future, and present enter nirvāṇa tonight at midnight. … Those who do not enter nirvāṇa tonight at midnight are not buddha ancestors and are not capable of maintaining the teaching. Those who have already entered nirvāṇa tonight at midnight are capable of maintaining the teaching.”78 Here Dōgen plays further with the story of Buddha's inconceivable life span by indicating that Buddha persists, with and as all buddhas, precisely in his passing away into parinirvāṇa. The willingness to pass away for the sake of those who would benefit, or simply to face human mortality, is exactly Buddha's enduring life.

Later in this Dharma hall discourse, Dōgen quotes chapter 16 of the Lotus Sutra directly: “With full exertion lift up this single stone, and call it the life‐span of as many ages as the atoms in five hundred worlds.”79 The image here is of a stone that is placed as one move in the game Go. Thus passing away is (p.89) a simple skillful means of an inconceivably long‐lived buddha, and simultaneously the full exertion of life and death.

The creative tension for Dōgen between Buddha's historic absence and his spiritual presence, enduring by virtue of dedicated practice and hermeneutic insight, is apparent in all of the Nirvāṇa Day jōdōs, but is perhaps most clearly articulated in Dharma hall discourse number 225 in 1247. Dōgen says therein, “If you say Śākyamuni is extinguished you are not his disciple. If you say he is not extinguished, your words do not hit the mark. Having reached this day, how do you respond? Do you want to see the Tathāgata's life vein? Offer incense, make prostrations, and return to the monks' hall [for meditation].”80 Dōgen recognizes the same distance from the historical Śākyamuni in both space and time that Myōe feels. But Dōgen has appropriated the Lotus Sutra story of emerging bodhisattvas and the long‐lived Buddha to experience and express the awakening presence right in the practice within the space of his mountain monastery in thirteenth‐century Echizen, Japan.

The Emerging Bodhisattvas and the Life Span as Practice Encouragements

A number of Dōgen's references to chapter 16 show his interpretative play with the fundamental meaning of the persisting life span of the Buddha. The relatively brief 1244 Shōbōgenzō essay, “The Tathāgata's Whole Body” (“Nyōrai Zenshin”), describes the wholeness of the Buddha's body completely through the use of references to the Lotus Sutra. Dōgen mentions the Buddha's life span after equating the sutra itself and the entire phenomenal world with the totality of the Buddha's body: “The sutra is the whole body of the Tathāgata. … The mark of reality of all things in the present time is the sutra.”81 Thus Dōgen relates the sutra and the whole of reality itself to this enduring Śākyamuni, whose “life span resulting from the merits of the original bodhisattva practices is not limited in size by even such things as the size of the universe. It transcends this limit; it is limitless. This is the whole body of the Tathāgata, it is this sutra.”82

One major significance of this long life span is that Buddha is still continuing his beneficial practice and teaching. Dōgen immediately follows the preceding reference to the essence of the sutra (and reality itself) as Buddha's long life span with a quotation from the Devadatta chapter of the Lotus Sutra: “For countless eons Śākyamuni has practiced difficult and painful practices, accumulated merits, and sought the Way of the bodhisattva, and thus even though he is now a Buddha, he still practices diligently.”83 Dōgen emphasizes (p.90) the ongoing nature and power of the Buddha's practice together with his long life.

Historically, Śākyamuni Buddha continued his meditation practice after his complete awakening throughout his historical lifetime. But even now, Dōgen implies, the Buddha's practice continues through his current followers, whose practice Dōgen thus strongly encourages. His essay “The Tathāgata's Whole Body” concludes, “The long eons of difficult and painful practices are the activity of the womb of the Buddha. … When it is said that these practices have not ceased even for a second, it means that even though he is perfectly enlightened, he still practices vigorously, and he continues forever even though he converts the whole universe. This activity is the whole body of the Tathāgata.”84 Dōgen begins this passage by referring to the Tathāgata garbha, or womb of Buddha, discussed in chapter 2 as a hermeneutical standard for encouraging awakening practice. For Dōgen the significance of the enduring Śākyamuni is not merely that Buddha is immanent in the world, but that his vigorous, inspiring practice continues and “converts the whole universe.” This is description, but also prescription, and thus it is incumbent on Buddha's descendants, and Dōgen's students, to continue Buddha's practice.

Dōgen further turns the meaning of the Buddha's life span in the 1244 Shōbōgenzō essay “Awakening to the Bodhi‐Mind” (“Hotsu Bōdaishin”), in which he discusses bodhicitta, the first arousal of the thought of universal awakening, which he considers of utmost importance, mysterious, and in some sense equivalent to the whole of a buddha's enlightenment. After quoting the Buddha's statement at the very end of chapter 16, “I have always given thought to how I could cause all creatures to enter the highest supreme Way and quickly become Buddhas,” Dōgen comments, “This [statement] is the Tathāgata's lifetime itself. Buddhas' establishment of the mind, training, and experience of the effect are all like this.”85 For Dōgen the inconceivable life span is exactly this intention to help all beings awaken, which mysteriously creates the ongoing life of the Buddha. As long as this vow and direction to universal awakening persists in the world and has the potential to spring forth in current practitioners, Dōgen sees that the Buddha is alive.

Dōgen again uses the teaching of Śākyamuni's life span as a direct incitement to wholehearted practice in the 1243 Shōbōgenzō essay “Meeting Buddha” (“Kenbutsu”), which includes several references to the Lotus Sutra. In one, Dōgen quotes chapter 16's discussion of the Buddha's appearing to be born, awaken, and pass away as merely a skillful means, and the Buddha's statement (p.91) that when beings with unified or “undivided mind, desire to meet buddha, without attaching to their own body and life,” at that time he appears with the assembly at Vulture Peak and expounds the Lotus Sutra. Dōgen comments, “When each present individual secretly arouses the desire to meet buddha, we are desiring to meet buddha through concentration of the Vulture Peak Mind. So the undivided mind is Vulture Peak itself. And how could the undivided body not appear together with the mind?”86

Thus the whole of the Lotus Sutra and the inconceivable life span of Śākyamuni is also an embodiment of the wholehearted, single‐minded practice Dōgen advocates in his instructions for zazen, or sitting meditation. Throughout his references to the enduring Śākyamuni, Dōgen uses the story as an encouragement to celebrate the importance of ongoing dedicated practice. In “Meeting Buddha” he equates the Buddha's extraordinary life span with the undivided wholeheartedness of single‐minded practice. Rather than the Nichiren veneration of a symbolic object and mantra as an embodiment, Dōgen promotes meditative practice as a physical, ritual enactment and expression of the enduring Buddha.

Dōgen often emphasizes that the purpose of practice is not to obtain some future acquisition of awakening, but is the practice of enlightenment already present in the continuing presence of the living Buddha. His praxis of embodiment of awakening in this very body and mind, sokushin zebutsu, can be linked to his description of the enduring Śākyamuni as reality itself. Practice becomes the requisite ritual performance‐enactment of an active faith in this awakened reality as already, and continually, being expressed and present in this conditioned world.

In Eihei Kōroku Dharma hall discourse number 182 from 1246, Dōgen specifically cites the underground bodhisattvas in chapter 15 of the Lotus Sutra, quoting Śākyamuni's saying that when they first saw his body and heard his teaching, they immediately accepted with faith and entered into the Tathāgata's wisdom. Dōgen then comments, “Having heard the Buddha's teaching is like already seeing the Buddha's body. When one first sees the Buddha's body, one naturally is able to accept it and have faith, and enter the Tathāgata's wisdom. Furthermore, seeing Buddha's body with your ears, hearing Buddha's preaching with your eyes, and similarly for all six sense objects, is also like entering and residing in Buddha's house, and entering buddhahood and arousing the vow, exactly the same as in the ancient vow, without any difference.”87 Dōgen uses the quote about the underground bodhisattvas' training and faith in Buddha to encourage faith and acceptance of buddha wisdom in the actual experience of his own disciples. This implies that not only the (p.92) Buddha's inconceivable life span, but also the enduring helpful work of the underground bodhisattvas in future ages are actually accomplished for Dōgen through the dedicated practice of current practitioners.

In another reference to the Lotus Sutra bodhisattvas springing from underground, in his 1240 Shōbōgenzō essay “Sounds of the Valley Streams; Colors of the Mountains” (“Keisei Sanshoku”), Dōgen discusses the searching for insight and guidance by beginning practitioners, who seek “to tread the path of the ancient saints. At this time, in visiting teachers and seeking the truth, there are mountains to climb and oceans to cross. While we are seeking a guiding teacher, or hoping to find a good spiritual friend, one comes down from the heavens, or springs out from the earth.”88 He cites the bodhisattvas emerging from the ground as an encouragement, explicitly referring to the story's promise that these bodhisattvas will remain available to continue the Lotus teaching throughout the future. He furthermore indicates the presence of the underground bodhisattvas springing from the earth in the persons of present seekers and practitioners.

Dōgen repeatedly uses the story of the bodhisattvas' emergence from the earth and Śākyamuni's ongoing presence as an encouragement to dedicated practice, equating the Buddha's extraordinary life span with the undivided wholeheartedness of single‐minded practice in all aspects of everyday activity. Genryū Kagamishima comments that for Dōgen, “The meaning of any distinction between the Lotus Sutra and all other things vanishes. … All other things become sutras whose purpose is to expound the ultimate truth of the Dharma flower [sutra]. [In order to expound the sutra,] the sounds of valley streams and the colors of mountains become the mountains and water sutra of the Dharma flower, drinking tea and eating rice become the tea‐drinking sutra of the Dharma flower, [all] enjoying the transformative benefits of the Dharma flower.”89

Dōgen promotes meditative practice extending into all mundane functions as a physical, ritual embodiment and expression of this enduring Buddha. He also emphasizes that the purpose of practice is not to obtain some future acquisition of awakening, but is the practice of enlightenment already present in the continuing presence of the Buddha.

Conclusions: The Importance of the Story for Dōgen

The profusion of Dōgen's references to the Lotus Sutra and the story of the underground bodhisattvas and Śākyamuni's inconceivable life span expresses the importance to Dōgen of the sutra and of this story. The examples explored, (p.93) although hopefully providing a clear account of how Dōgen uses this story to reflect his worldview, are very far from a complete catalogue of every one of his references to this story. Another reference to chapter 16, not discussed earlier because it does not relate to Dōgen's worldview, is in the Shōbōgenzō essay “Home‐leaving” (“Shukke”), written in 1246.90

In 1243 Dōgen left the Kyoto area and moved his community north to the remote mountains of Echizen Province (now Fukui). In 1244 he settled at Daibutsuji temple, which was renamed Eiheiji in 1246 and which remains one of the two headquarter temples of modern Sōtō Zen. Especially during the hardships of the first few years in Echizen, Dōgen sought to encourage his monk disciples by stressing the significance of home leaving and monk ordination. In “Home‐leaving” he quotes a passage from chapter 16 about the life span of Buddha in which Śākyamuni says that as an expedient means for beings of only slight virtue he recounts the conventional story of his life, including his home leaving.91 It is revealing of the great significance to Dōgen of the story of Buddha's life span that even in this context, Dōgen uses this quote to encourage home leaving to his monks.

It may be noted that the earlier citations to chapters 15 and 16 of the Lotus Sutra extend throughout Dōgen's teaching career, starting from “Sounds of the Valley Streams; Colors of the Mountains,” written in 1240, and “The Dharma Flower Turns the Dharma Flower” and “The Awesome Presence of Active Buddhas” in 1241 (1239 being the beginning of the five‐year period during which more than 80 percent of the dated Shōbōgenzō essays were written).92 And, as has been discussed previously in this chapter and in chapter 1, Dōgen's proclamation of the awakening capacity of earth and space dates back to 1231 and his earliest significant writing, “Talk on Wholehearted Practice of the Way.” His references to chapters 15 and 16 of the Lotus Sutra continue until the Eihei Kōroku Nirvāṇa Day Dharma hall discourse from 1252, the last year of his dated writings, and the undated “Taking Refuge in the Three Treasures” (“Kie Buppōsō‐hō”), which is among the small number of Shōbōgenzō essays thought to have been written by Dōgen in his last few years.

Many other instances demonstrate Dōgen's high esteem for the Lotus Sutra. For a particularly significant example, in his mealtime liturgy Dōgen took the step of adding in “the Mahāyāna, Wondrous Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra” to the traditional chanted “ten names of Buddha,” along with the primary buddhas and bodhisattvas in the Chinese list, which included the Dharmakāya, Saṃbhoghakāya, Nirmāṇakāya, and next future Buddha Maitreya, and the Bodhisattvas Mañjuśri, Samantabhadra, and Avalokiteśvara.93 Furthermore, in one of his last poems, written in the remote mountains at Eiheiji temple, Dōgen rejoices, “I always read the Lotus Blossom Sutra.” This (p.94) first of his “Fifteen Verses on Dwelling in the Mountains,” verse 99 in the last volume of Eihei Kōroku, goes:

  • How delightful, mountain dwelling so solitary and tranquil.
  • Because of this I always read the Lotus Blossom Sutra.
  • With wholehearted vigor under trees, what is there to love or hate?
  • How enviable; sound of evening rains in deep autumn.94

A notable legend concerning the major role of the Lotus Sutra for Dōgen in his own deathwatch is recorded in the Kenzeiki, one of the earlier biographies of Dōgen (though not compiled until the fifteenth century, and not considered fully reliable by modern scholars). In this story, Dōgen named the house where he died in Kyoto (which belonged to Kakunen, one of his major lay disciples who was caring for him) the “Lotus Sutra Hermitage” (Myō‐an). He is said to have spent his last few days there doing walking meditation around a pillar while reciting a passage from chapter 21 of the Lotus Sutra, “The Supernatural Powers of the Tathāgata,” which Śākyamuni addresses directly to the bodhisattvas who had emerged from under the ground in chapter 15.95 In this passage, the final sentences of the prose section before the final closing verse of the chapter, the Buddha says that wherever the sutra is kept, a stūpa should be erected and offerings given, and that in all these spaces buddhas awaken, turn the dharma wheel, and enter parinirvāṇa.96

We have seen that Dōgen employs his creative hermeneutics to interpret the Lotus Sutra story of the bodhisattvas arising from under the ground and the consequent revelation of Śākyamuni Buddha's inconceivable life span as expressions and representations of the pervasion of the sacred and of the enduring capacity for awakening throughout space and time. In the writings of Dōgen, the world expressed in the Lotus Sutra provides the context and import for bodhisattva practice. The open space of the realm of the underground bodhisattvas and the inconceivable life span of Buddha support a view of a present place and time that can function as a nondual and integrated realm of realization.

This world expressed by Dōgen using these Lotus Sutra stories might be seen as a variety of Pure Land, somewhat comparable in function to his contemporaries' visions of exalted realms, depicted by Nenbutsu followers and in the Tendai hongaku, or fundamental enlightenment, teachings. However, it is not a realm or realization that can be automatically bestowed without the active involvement of the Buddhist devotee/practitioner. Rather, this realm is realized through the active practice propounded by Dōgen, which is also the natural expression of his vision derived, at least to some substantial extent, from the Lotus Sutra.


(1.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 4: 178; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 260. For the sutra passage, see Watson, The Lotus Sutra, 231; Katō et al., The Threefold Lotus Sutra, 255; Sakamoto and Iwamoto, Myōhō Rengekyō, 3: 32.

(2.)  Yokoi and Victoria, Zen Master Dōgen, 129–130. See also Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 4: 178; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 260.

(3.)  Based on the detailed table in the appendix “Lotus Sutra References,” in Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 1: 293–321. Some rather minor or extraneous references are included in this table, but I believe the overall proportions of Shōbōgenzō citations for each Lotus Sutra chapter are generally reliable, for significant citations as well.

(4.)  See Katō et al., The Threefold Lotus Sutra, 52; Sakamoto and Iwamoto, Myōhō Rengekyō, 1: 68. Compared to the Sanskrit original, which simply denotes plural “buddhas,” Kumārajīva's rendition emphasizes the relational aspect of a buddha “together with” a buddha. I am indebted to Jan Nattier for pointing out this shift from the Sanskrit by Kumārajīva.

(5.)  For “Yuibutsu Yobutsu,” see Tanahashi, Moon in a Dewdrop, 161–167; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 450–465.

(6.)  For “Hokke‐Ten‐Hokke,” see Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 1: 203–220; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 429–449. I have also consulted Tanahashi and Wenger, “Dharma Blossoms Turn Dharma Blossoms.” This essay is not included in the earliest seventy‐five essay versions of Shōbōgenzō, edited by Dōgen's direct disciples Senne and Kyōgō. However, it does appear in the sixty‐essay version edited by Giun in the mid‐fourteenth century and is included in the ninety‐five‐essay modern version. One other Shōbōgenzō essay that centers to some significant extent on the Lotus Sutra (although less exclusively then “Hokke‐Ten‐Hokke”) is “The Genuine Form of All Things” (“Shohō Jissō”) from 1243. But this latter essay concerns the teaching of the reality of suchness in chapter 2 of the Lotus Sutra and has no significant references to chapters 15 or 16 of the sutra. See Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 3: 79–92; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 2: 432–455.

(7.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 1: 208; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 433.

(8.)  Author's translation from Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 447; see also Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 1: 219.

(9.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 1: 219–220; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 447–448.

(10.)  Takasaki, “Dōgen Zenji to Hokkekyō,” 20.

(11.)  Ibid., 21.

(12.)  Kagamishima, “Dōgen Zenji no Hokkekyō‐kan,” 35.

(13.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 1: 211; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 438.

(14.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 1: 215–216; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 443.

(15.)  For Dōgen's teaching on Dharma position (hō‐i), see H. Kim, Eihei Dōgen, 154–158.

(16.)  Ibid., 155.

(17.)  Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Extensive Record, 261; Kosaka and Suzuki, Dōgen Zenji Zenshu, 3: 180.

(18.)  See “Purification of the Buddha‐Field,” chapter 1 of the Vimalakirti Sutra, in Thurman, The Holy Teachings of Vimalakirti, 10–19. See also Lamotte, The Teaching of Vimalakirti, 1–27, especially 275–284 n.1: The Buddhakṣetras.

(19.)  Lamotte, The Teaching of Vimalakirti, 276.

(20.)  Okumura and Leighton, The Wholehearted Way, 22; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 16.

(21.)  Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Extensive Record, 133–134; Kosaka and Suzuki, Dōgen Zenji Zenshu, 3: 54. For the sutra passage, see Hurvitz, Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma, 242; Sakamoto and Iwamoto, Myōhō Rengekyō, 3: 28.

(22.)  Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Extensive Record, 134; Kosaka and Suzuki, Dōgen Zenji Zenshu, 3: 54.

(23.)  Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Extensive Record, 21–22; Bodiford, Sōtō Zen in Medieval Japan, 52.

(24.)  See Bodiford, Sōtō Zen in Medieval Japan, 51–64, 81–92; and Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Extensive Record, 19–25.

(25.)  Okumura and Leighton, The Wholehearted Way, 22; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 16.

(26.)  For “Space,” see Tanahashi, Enlightenment Unfolds, 201–204; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 3: 406–414. For another commentary by Dōgen on the story that follows, see Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Extensive Record, 571–572; Kosaka and Suzuki, Dōgen Zenji Zenshu, 4: 216–218. For my commentary on Shōbōgenzō, “Kokū,” see Leighton, “Dōgen's Cosmology of Space and the Practice of Self‐Fulfillment.”

(27.)  See Tanahashi, Enlightenment Unfolds, 201; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 3: 406–407; Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Extensive Record, 571; Kosaka and Suzuki, Dōgen Zenji Zenshu, 4: 216.

(28.)  Tanahashi, Enlightenment Unfolds, 202; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 3: 409.

(29.)  Tanahashi, Enlightenment Unfolds, 202–203; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 3: 410–411.

(30.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 1: 217–218; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 445.

(31.)  Hurvitz, Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma, 233; Sakamoto and Iwamoto, Myōhō Rengekyō, 2: 310; Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 1: 216; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 443.

(32.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 1: 216; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 443–444.

(33.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 1: 217; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 444.

(34.)  Sōtō Zen Text Project, Soto School Scriptures for Daily Services and Practice, 28–29, 106–107.

(35.)  Reeves, “Bodhisattvas of the Earth,” 10. Reeves's comments may be a response, at least to some extent, to an earlier version of a portion of this work, which I presented in a paper at the eighth International Lotus Sutra Conference, Tokyo, Risshō Kōseikai, 2002, organized by Reeves. That paper is published, in slightly adapted form, as Leighton, “Dōgen's Appropriation of Lotus Sutra Ground and Space.”

(36.)  See Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 3: 9–21; T. Cleary, Shōbōgenzō, 64–75; and Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 266–283.

(37.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 3: 12; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 270. Dōgen questions the authenticity of the Śūrangama Sūtra in his student journal from China, Hōkyō‐ki, and in Shōbōgenzō, “Turning the Dharma Wheel,” where he nevertheless uses phrases from it commented on by previous masters. See chapter 1, n.18 for references and discussion.

(38.)  I thank Gene Reeves for our conversation in which he emphasized the importance of this name of the sutra.

(39.)  This quote, and its use by Dōgen, is susceptible to various interpretations, including the one that Nishijima claims that Dōgen favors: to see the triple world just as do those in it. But a contrary interpretation is that the Buddha does not see the triple world as do common people. For Dōgen's citation, see Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 3: 17, especially the explication in n.49. See also T. Cleary, Shōbōgenzō, 72; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 278. For the Lotus Sutra passage, see Katō et al., The Threefold Lotus Sutra, 251; Hurvitz, Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma, 239; Watson, The Lotus Sutra, 226; Sakamoto and Iwamoto, Myōhō Rengekyō, 3: 18.

(40.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 3: 11; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 268–269.

(41.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 3: 12; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 270.

(42.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 3: 12, italics by Nishijima and Cross; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 271.

(43.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 3: 15; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 274–275.

(44.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 3: 20; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 282.

(45.)  Author's translation from Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 283. For alternate renderings, see Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 3: 21; and T. Cleary, Shōbōgenzō, 74.

(46.)  The Daśabhūmika Sūtra is included as one of the chapters in the Avatamsaka Sutra. See T. Cleary, The Flower Ornament Scripture, 695–811; Honda, Annotated Translation of the Daśabhūmika Sūtra.

(47.)  Nattier, “The Lotus Sutra.” Much of the relevant material in this unpublished paper now appears in Nattier, “A Greater Awakening.”

(48.)  Nattier, “The Lotus Sutra,” 2.

(49.)  See Groner, “The Lotus Sutra and Saichō's Interpretation of the Realization of Buddhahood with This Very Body,” 53–69.

(50.)  See, for example, the 1239 Shōbōgenzō essay “This Very Mind Is Buddha” (“Soku Shin Ze Butsu”), in Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 1: 49–55; and Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 140–150.

(51.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 1: 220; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 447.

(52.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 1: 219; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 446–447.

(53.)  Dylan, “My Back Pages,” in Lyrics, 125–126.

(54.)  See Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 2: 46–58. Translations of “Uji” appear in Waddell and Abe, The Heart of Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 47–58; T. Cleary, Shōbōgenzō, 102–110; Tanahashi, Moon in a Dewdrop, 76–83; and Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 1: 109–118. Book‐length treatments focused on “Uji” and Dōgen's philosophy of time are Heine, Existential and Ontological Dimensions of Time in Heidegger and Dōgen, which includes a translation of “Uji”; and Stambaugh, Impermanence Is Buddha Nature. See also Leighton, “Being Time through Deep Time.”

(55.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 3: 45–46; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 2: 409–410.

(56.)  “Document of Heritage” (“Shishō”), a 1243 Shōbōgenzō essay, in Tanahashi, Moon in a Dewdrop, 188; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 2: 373.

(57.)  Tanahashi, Moon in a Dewdrop, 188; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 2: 373–374.

(58.)  Taigen Dan Leighton and Kazuaki Tanahashi, trans., “The Awesome Presence of Active Buddhas,” in Tanahashi, Beyond Thinking, 79; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 151. For “Gyōbutsu Īgi”, see also Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 2: 33–53.

(59.)  See, for example, “Going beyond Buddha” (“Bukkōjōji”) from 1242, in Tanahashi, Moon in a Dewdrop, 203–210; Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 2: 107–118; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 2: 128–145.

(60.)  Tanahashi, Beyond Thinking, 80; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 153.

(61.)  For this full dialogue between Nanyue and Huineng, which extended over eight years, along with a variety of comments by Dōgen, see Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Extensive Record, 328–329, 435–436, 575–576; Kosaka and Suzuki, Dōgen Zenji Zenshu, 3: 238–240, 4: 70–72, 220–222.

(62.)  Tanahashi, Beyond Thinking, 81; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 155.

(63.)  See Watson, The Lotus Sutra, 230; Katō et al., The Threefold Lotus Sutra, 254; Sakamoto and Iwamoto, Myōhō Rengekyō, 3: 30.

(64.)  Tanahashi, Beyond Thinking, 83; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 157–158.

(65.)  Tanahashi, Beyond Thinking, 85; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 161; see also Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 2: 40.

(66.)  For scriptural references, iconographic forms, and the archetypal qualities of Maitreya Bodhisattva, see Leighton, Faces of Compassion, 241–274.

(67.)  Tanahashi, Beyond Thinking, 86; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 162–163.

(68.)  Tanahashi, Beyond Thinking, 87; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 164.

(69.)  Tanahashi, Beyond Thinking, 90; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 169.

(70.)  Tanahashi, Beyond Thinking, 91–92; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 171.

(71.)  See Katō et al., The Threefold Lotus Sutra, 203; Watson, The Lotus Sutra, 179; Sakamoto and Iwamoto, Myōhō Rengekyō, 2: 194.

(72.)  See Katō et al., The Threefold Lotus Sutra, 204; Watson, The Lotus Sutra, 180; Sakamoto and Iwamoto, Myōhō Rengekyō, 2: 198.

(73.)  Tanahashi, Beyond Thinking, 94; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 176. See also Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 2: 50–51.

(74.)  Tanahashi, Beyond Thinking, 95; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 1: 178.

(75.)  Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Extensive Record, 345–346; Kosaka and Suzuki, Dōgen Zenji Zenshu, 3: 258.

(76.)  Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Extensive Record, 432–433; Kosaka and Suzuki, Dōgen Zenji Zenshu, 4: 68.

(77.)  Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Extensive Record, 323; Kosaka and Suzuki, Dōgen Zenji Zenshu, 3: 234.

(78.)  Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Extensive Record, 173; Kosaka and Suzuki, Dōgen Zenji Zenshu, 3: 90–92.

(79.)  Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Extensive Record, 174; Kosaka and Suzuki, Dōgen Zenji Zenshu, 3: 92. “The atoms in five hundred worlds” is from the sutra's much longer description of the vast number of atoms to which the Buddha's life span is equal. See Hurvitz, Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma, 237–238; Sakamoto and Iwamoto, Myōhō Rengekyō, 3: 12–14.

(80.)  Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Extensive Record, 230–231; Kosaka and Suzuki, Dōgen Zenji Zenshu, 3: 150–152.

(81.)  Cook, How to Raise an Ox, 126. See also Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 3: 277–280.

(82.)  Cook, How to Raise an Ox, 127; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 3: 350.

(83.)  Cook, How to Raise an Ox, 127; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 3: 350.

(84.)  Cook, How to Raise an Ox, 127–128; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 3: 351.

(85.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 3: 267; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 180.

(86.)  “Meeting Buddha” (“Kenbutsu”), in Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 3: 198–199; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 3: 228.

(87.)  Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Extensive Record, 202; Kosaka and Suzuki, Dōgen Zenji Zenshu, 3: 122; Hurvitz, Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma, 227; Sakamoto and Iwamoto, Myōhō Rengekyō, 2: 294.

(88.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 1: 94; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 2: 123; see also Cook, How to Raise an Ox, 78.

(89.)  Kagamishima, “Dōgen Zenji no Hokkekyō‐kan,” 35.

(90.)  For “Shukke,” see Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 4: 111–114; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 42–51.

(91.)  Nishijima and Cross, Master Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, 4: 114; Y. Mizuno, Shōbōgenzō, 4: 50.

(92.)  This percentage is based on the chronology of Dōgen's life (and writings) in H. Kim, Eihei Dōgen, 239–241.

(93.)  See Dōgen's “The Dharma for Taking Food” (“Fushukuhanpō”) in Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Pure Standards for the Zen Community, 89; Kosaka and Suzuki, Dōgen Zenji Zenshu, 6: 54–56. For the Chinese ten names, without the Lotus Sutra, see Yifa, The Origins of Buddhist Monastic Codes in China, 12.

(94.)  Leighton and Okumura, Dōgen's Extensive Record, 638; Kosaka and Suzuki, Dōgen Zenji Zenshu, 4: 288.

(95.)  See Yusa, “The Lotus Sutra and Dōgen's Zen Hermeneutics,” 1. See www.ac.wwu.edu/∼yusa/TheLotusSutra&DogenZenHermeneutics.htm. The Kenzeiki, written in 1472, is “The Annals of Kenzei”; Kenzei was the fourteenth abbot of Eiheiji. For Dōgen's death, see also Bodiford, Sōtō Zen in Medieval Japan, 35. Current Japanese Sōtō scholars suspect that the “Lotus Sutra Hermitage” story is a fiction, according to a personal communication from Prof. Seijun Ishii of Komazawa University. Nevertheless, the legendary story's place in Sōtō lore emphasizes ongoing awareness of the connection between Dōgen and the Lotus Sutra.

(96.)  Katō et al., The Threefold Lotus Sutra, 298; Hurvitz, Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma, 288; Sakamoto and Iwamoto, Myōhō Rengekyō, 3: 158–160.