Alive or Dead

From nine talks on Shōbōgenzō Zenki and Shōji

Life and death

Master Dōgen held the collected Ch’an (Zen) kōans of the Blue Cliff Record in high esteem. Its contents were compiled by Ch’an Master Yuanwu Keqin — Engo in Japanese — who also provided commentary. So it’s no surprise that he might appear in Dōgen Zenji’s own writings.

We find Engo mentioned in Fascicle 42 of Shōbōgenzō titled Zenki. Rev. Shōhaku Okumura translates the title as Total Function.

Engo is also referenced in Fascicle 93, Shōji, or Life and Death.

Okumura-roshi lectured on those two texts in November, 2009 during the five-day Genzo-e Retreat at Sanshinji.

In the following audio clip from that gathering, he introduces us to those chapters with a rather famous kōan from the Blue Cliff Record. It’s Case 55, Alive or Dead. It involves Master Dogo and his student Zengen.

Roshi describes what transpires between master and disciple when they visit a home where there’s been a death. It provokes a burning question for Zengen. Tapping the coffin, he asks his master, “alive or dead?”

In telling the story, Hojo-san allows us to experience the perspective of both disciple and master. Even more, we can share the insights he brings to these works through his own translation of the texts.

What is alive? What is dead? What is total function?

Have a listen.

Is anything more vital than the great matter? Here’s an opportunity to engage it more fully with these penetrating teachings from one of the world’s preeminent teachers on Dogen’s writings and practice.

Life & Death: 9 lectures on Shōbōgenzō Zenki and Shōji — You’ll find the entire digital album here.

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Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi

> Other albums by Shōhaku Okumura


Copyright 2017 Sanshin Zen Community

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