Eating Rice, Taming an Ox: Master Dogen on Zen Practice

The Zen master Yuan-chih of Chang-China Hall in Fu county once addressed the monks in the Dharma hall:

“For thirty years I lived on Mount Wei and during that time I ate the monastery’s rice and gave it back in the latrine. I did not learn the Zen of Master Wei-Than. All I did was raise an ox. When he wandered from the path into the grass, I pulled him back; when he ran amuck I someone’s garden, I chastised him with a whip. Now he has been tame for some time. Unfortunately, he used to pay too much attention to what people said; now, however, he has become a pure white domesticated ox. He is always right in front of me wherever I am, dazzling white all day long, and even if I try to drive him a way, he will not go.”

We should pay careful attention to this story. The thirty years of arduous practice with Wei-Than consisted of eating rice, and there was no other consideration. When you realize the meaning of the life of eating rice, you will also understand the deep meaning of raising the ox.

Eihei Dogen

Shobogenzo Kajo

translated by Francis Dojun Cook



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