Citations from COMMENTARY on Dogen Zenji's
SHOAKU MAKUSA (諸悪莫作, Do No Evil)
Selections, Essence of Dogen, Masanobu Takahashi
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IT IS NOT Dogen's merely fanciful idea that Zen ought to be accompanied
by good deeds. If Zen is one of the Ways of Buddha, it ought to be natural
that "one should do good, and refrain from doing evil" [shiaku-shuzen].
This central tenet of shiaku-shuzen is then the true essence of
Buddhism. The following Shichi-Butsu-tsukai-ge (The Hymnn of the
Commandments preached unanimously by the Seven Ancient Buddhas
in addition to Shakyamuni) shows such a purpose.
Shoaku-makusa (Do no evil.)
Shuzen-bugyo (Practice with sincerity all that is good.)
Jijo-goi (And naturally your mind will purify itself.)
Zesho-bukkyo (These are the teachings of the various Buddhas)
This hymn has been accepted traditionally as the answer to the question
'What is Buddhism?' Dogen gives special attention to this problem in the
chapter, Shoaku Makusa of the Shobogenzo and develops it into a
highly formulated theory. Buddhism would lose its truth, he argues, if
shiaku-shuzen were not emphasized as its essential precept.
Shikan-taza [just sitting], if it had nothing to do with the deeds
of good and evil, would become a ritual zazen, not a part of
Buddhism but only a type of mental exercise.
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Buddhism preaches a way toward absolute value, as the way toward
Buddha. Concretely the Shichi-Butsu-tsukai-ge [outlined above]
contains the answers to certain questions about this from a practical
point of view. The teaching that we should not do evil deeds, but
good ones is clearly stated. Possibly because of this initial
perception it is apt to be viewed as merely a treatise on moral
philosophy. It is vastly different, however, for Buddhism, which
embodies a moral philosophy, aspires higher to a world of absolute
value. Conversely, in such a system moral value rediscovers its own
true value when it is set against absolute value, for the practice of
these true values is nothing but the way of Buddha. 'We should not do
evil deeds, but good ones.' This maxim, to be sure contains a certain
overt similarity to a tenet from moral philosophy or mere moral
activism. Nevertheless this apparent similarity stops when the
practice of the good is realized, and illumined by the absolute world.
Dogen makes an in-depth study about this and constructs his probing
into a highly formulated theory in this chapter, Shoaku-Makusa
(Do no evil) of the Shobogenzo.
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