Wandering Destitute into a Demon Pit

Wandering Destitute into a Demon Pit February 2, 2023
In this post, I will continue my recent Dōgen translations with short comments. This is Part 2 of Eihei koroku V8.14. As I’ve been working on this dharma discourse (hogō) it has occurred to me that if you were looking for just one writing of Dōgen that expressed his view of the path for householders, you wouldn’t have to look beyond this one. The emphasis is on finding a true teacher and awakening.
In this pith summary of Zen path for his major donor and upper class friends, Dōgen says nothing about zazen. He says nothing about the practice that the Post Meiji Sōtō Orthodoxy claims that he advocated – shikantaza. Now if you had a chance to express to a group of wealthy folks who might just be willing to build you a monastery in the mountains, wouldn’t you give them the straight scoop about what you thought was most important about the buddhadharma? 
In my view, that’s just what Dōgen did. This passage, like all of Eihei koroku V8.14, does not, however, harmonize well with our times and much of the pablum that’s spewed now by well-meaning but uninformed Sōtō folks about the heart of Dōgen.
This hogō, by the way, is sometimes quite dense, but it also moves straight to the point. Dōgen’s shining confidence that householders can plumb the depths of the buddhadharma illuminates the entire hogō. 
I’ve found that this particular section doesn’t invite a lot of commentary or explanation, so I’ll present the translation and then zip my lip. 
Dōgen starts this section off by following up on the last sentence in Part 1, “An authentic teacher influences the expression of the power of compassion” and goes on to give some indications of a false teacher. Dōgen then turns again to the virtues of working with a true teacher.

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If you get close to a false teacher, the results will not be like this. If you dutifully, blindly follow the confused mind of a false teacher, it will be like watching a tree stump, waiting for a rabbit; like grasping a rock, thinking it is a precious gem. You will fall into a ghost cave and wander destitute into a demon’s pit. If you meet a true teacher, resolve to practice inquiry, be determined to have insight into the great matter, thoroughly drop through what’s been your old nest. Who says that diligent practice (功夫, J. kufū) is not yet this very occasion?

Dōshō Port began practicing Zen in 1977 and now co-teaches with his wife, Tetsugan Zummach Sensei, with the Vine of Obstacles Zen, an online training group. Dōshō received dharma transmission from Dainin Katagiri Rōshi and inka shōmei from James Myōun Ford Rōshi in the Harada-Yasutani lineage. He is also the author of Keep Me In Your Heart a While: The Haunting Zen of Dainin Katagiri. Dōshō’s translation and commentary on The Record of Empty Hall: One Hundred Classic Koans, was published in 2021 (Shambhala). His third book, Going Through the Mystery’s One Hundred Questions, is now available. Click here to support the teaching practice of Dōshō Rōshi.

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