top of page

Zen Master Dogen in Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall

Am Koe Su, Sunim

In the book of Master Dogen's writings, Moon in a Dewdrop. Editor Kazuaki Tanahashi truly captures the essence of the conundrum wrapped in an enigma and packaged as a paradox that is the Zen Path. Master Dogen truly was the master of the Zen koan method of teaching.

As I write this, if is a frigid morning on Thunder Lake outside the tiny village of Fountain in Northern Michigan. My truck is covered with snow over a layer of ice. Such are the winters in Michigan. It brought me to consider a section in Dogen's book, Spring and Autumn.

"Great Master Wuben of Dongshan was once asked by a monk, "When cold or heat comes, how can we avoid it?"

The master said, "Why don't you go where there is no cold or heat?"

The monk said, "What do you mean by 'where there is no cold or heat'?"

The master said, "When it is cold, cold finishes the monk. When it is hot, heat totals the monk."

The Venerable ancestor's words "When it is cold, cold finishes the monk. When it is hot, heat totals the monk" are how it is when the moment arrives. Even if there is the phrase, "When it is cold, cold finishes," it is not necessary that when it is hot heat cancels this phrase. Cold penetrates the root of cold; heat penetrates the root of heat. Even if you try millions of times to avoid cold or heat, it is like trying to put a tail where your head is.' Cold is the vital eye of the ancestor school. Heat is the warm skin and flesh of my late master."

The last phrase is literally translated as "Making no difference."

In this passage one sees several elements:

  1. Cold and heat are.

  2. Where there exists elements of cold, there exists also an element of heat...there are zero degrees of separation between cold and heat; only our perceptions of cold and heat (this addresses the "oneness of all things" and the fact that "everything is created by mind alone".

Zen Master Changling, priest Shouzhuo of Tianning Monastery in Donjing, wrote a poem on this matter:

"Within differentiation there is oneness.

Oneness is differentiation.

Drifting in the human world hundreds and thousands of years again and again you want to depart but cannot.

In front of the gate just as before, weeds abound."

Zen Master Fudeng of Mt. He responds with this turning phrase:

"Where there is no cold or heat" is Dongshan's phrase.

This place is where a number of Zen persons get lost.

Go for fire when if is cold and cool yourself when it is hot.

In this life you can avoid cold and heat."

This brings the story full circle to accepting all things "as it is" in this very moment and consider what is the next right thing to do in response, and you will live a full life.

May you be well on your journey in this very moment.

14 views0 comments
bottom of page