Question of Dogen’s Intentions and the Form of Shobogenzo
There is nearly universal agreement that about ninety-five fascicles qualify as candidates for inclusion in Shobogenzo, and that about eighty-six of these can be considered to have been expressly written for Shobogenzo. From there controversy abounds. For example, depending on which of the credible proponent’s view is taken, the actual form of Shobogenzo consists of eighty-four fascicles, or twelve, or twenty-eight, or seventy-five, etc. Besides questions as to which fascicles should be included, there is disagreement as to their order, the extent of their alteration, their connection to Dogen’s koan collection of the same name, and similar questions.
Here I won’t debate these issues, but rather briefly note my view on several points:
· At least four of the advocated versions of Shobogenzo merit serious consideration.
· It seems probably that Dogen ultimately intended Shobogenzo to consist of one-hundred fascicles.
· The evidence suggests Dogen engaged in revising fascicles of Shobogenzo throughout his career.
· There is good evidence that one of Dogen’s last contributions to Shobogenzo was a revision of the key Genjokoan fascicle.
The reader is referred to the excellent account of the particular issues involved, the historical evidence, and the latest scholarship on these issues by Steven Heine in his comprehensive study of Dogen’s writings, Did Dogen Go To China? What He Wrote and When HeWrote It.
It is my view that the precise details and historical evidence concerning what Dogen may or may not have intended as to the final form of Shobogenzo is ultimately of little import. For the contemporary Zen practitioner the real significance of Shobogenzo is what it actually expresses, not what Dogen may have intended to express. Moreover, it is simply impossible to verify Dogen’s true intentions. More importantly, the truth of Shobogenzo, like the truth of any dharma, exists nowhere but in and as its actual form. From the nondual perspective, the reality of a dharma and its form are not different things – the truth of Shobogenzo exists in/as its form here-now – and nowhere else.