Japanese Zen Master Dogen (1200-1253)

Dogen Zenji was perhaps the most enlightened and influential Zen master in Japanese history.

He lived in Japan in the thirteenth century. The 12th and 13th centuries was a period which produced many enlightened masters across the world, including Meister Eckhardt and Hildegard von Bingen in Germany, St Francis of Assisi and Thomas Aquinas in Italy, Rumi and al Ghazali in Persia,  and Ibn Arabi in Andalusia. Clearly many of these people would not have had contact with one another, so perhaps it represents a developmental pivotal point in human history, or it might simply be a time when it was possible to record their experiences for posterity.

The following is an excerpt from Rational Zen: The Mind of Dogen Zenji translated by Thomas Cleary (p119).  It presents the fruit of the perseverance and patience referred to by Edward Carpenter


It tells the story of Reuin and his teacher Isan.

‘Zen master Reiun worked on the Way for thirty years. Once when he was travelling in the mountains, as he took a rest at the foot of a mountain he gazed at a village in the distance. It was spring at the time. Seeing the peach blossoms in full bloom, he suddenly was enlightened. He composed a verse which he presented to Isan:

“For thirty years I’ve been looking for a swordsman;

                        How many times have the leaves fallen

                        And the branches grown anew?

                        After once having seen the peach blossoms

                        I have never had doubts any more.”