CASE #60: Dōgen’s To-Do List

Dōgen Zenji wrote himself a reminder:

To study the Buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad
things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away.
No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly.


Dōgen Zenji Dōgen Kigen (1200-1253) was the founder of the Soto School of Japanese Zen. Often considered the greatest philosopher of Japanese Buddhism, he was also a man of immense literary gifts. Dōgen’s masterwork Shōbōgenzō (“Treasury of the True Dharma Eye”), from which the present case is taken, is sometimes regarded as a treatise on deep ecology.


Dōgen isn’t deceived when people speak of the Buddha way. He knows it’s the self they’re really talking about. To study the way is another thing entirely.

Go for a walk in the woods, pick up a seashell on the shore—the earth rises to meet your feet, the shell carries itself from the beach in your palm.

We don’t do anything alone, because alone we aren’t anything. Everything together adds up to nothing, and that nothing continues endlessly—eternal, joyous, and free.

Items on Dōgen’s
To-do list: Study the self
To forget the self,
Forget the self, and bring
Myriad beings back to life.


Find all the Green Koans here.