Shobogenzo (a Zen-related book) (正法眼蔵)

A Shobogenzo is a Buddhist philosophy-related book written by a Zen priest. The term Shobogenzo originally indicates what is true or essential in Buddhism.

"Shobogenzo" - three volumes, written by Daie Soko
The "Kana Shobogenzo," written in kana characters, is made up of seventy-five volumes, plus an additional twelve volumes, and a further four volumes for gleanings (according to current research), and was written by Dogen. The "Mana Shobogenzo," written in Chinese characters, is a collection of three hundred koan selected by Dogen (including some modified by him). Here, explanations are in relation to the Kana version of "Shobogenzo."


This is a voluminous book written by Dogen, the founder of the Nihon Sotoshu sect (Sotoshu sect in Japan), over a large period of his life, from 1231 to his death in 1253, which consists of eighty-seven volumes (seventy-five volumes, plus a further twelve volumes), and includes the essence of the philosophy of the Nihon Sotoshu sect. Although assuming the principles of Nyojo of the Sotoshu sect in China, Dogen advanced the philosophy to a higher level.

In addition, though all major manuscripts by Buddhist priests were written in Chinese characters, such as those of Honen, "Kyogyoshinsho" (Teaching, Practice, Faith, and Enlightenment) by Shinran, and those of Eisai and Nichiren among others, he made the descriptions in Japanese Kana so that the truth could be understood more accurately.

He intended to write a total of one hundred volumes by rewriting older ones and adding new volumes, but died from a disease after completing the eighty-seventh volume. Later, four volumes of gleanings were found.

In the "Kana Shobogenzo" important question-answer dialogues, in particular those used in koan, were selected from goroku (descriptions of what priests said during their lives) in order to express Dogen's Zen philosophy, this philosophy being explained by annotating each of the dialogues. The book constituting its base was the "Mana Shobogenzo", and Dogen chose three hundred Zen question-answer dialogues, which he considered to be important, from around ten goroku. However, research has revealed that he did not simply copy these dialogues but made slight modifications based on his own philosophy when copying them.

Various versions

Being the Konpon kyoten (primal scripture) of the Sotoshu sect, this book was copied frequently after Dogen's death. Currently the existence of six versions of the work has been confirmed, a seventy-five volume book, a twelve volume book (including the hyakuhachi homyo-mon (108 Buddhist teachings), a sixty volume book, the 卍 Yamamoto book and a ninety-five volume book.

The ninety-five volume book, which was published last, includes descriptions that could not be accurately described as "Shobogenzo." (Refer to the former Iwanami bunko edition; however, as it contains a large number of incorrect descriptions, the book is now out of print from Iwanami Shoten, a publisher).

Based on the exhaustive research begun by Doshu OKUBO, "Shobogenzo" has now been organized into a seventy-five volume set of old manuscripts and a twelve volume set of new manuscripts, and this organization has increasingly gained a consensus in the academic world.
(Refer to the new Iwanami bunko version, corrected and annotated by Yaoko MIZUNO)

[Original Japanese]