From Parabola Magazine, a deeply though-provoking article about the nature of reality as seen by Zen Master Dogen…


“Seeing” by Zen Master Dogen

Commentary on, and original translation of, the great Zen icon

by Kazuaki Tanahashi


The view on “seeing” by Dogen, a thirteenth century Japanese Zen monk, is rather unique. He uses the word “dream” to describe the enlightenment of the Buddha, and the meditative experience of all practitioners. Counter to the common notion that dreams are unreal and actual phenomena are real, he asserts that the awakened ones’ profound wisdom is concrete, the source of all teaching, while actual phenomena are transient and unreliable.



Dogen presented this short essay titled “Within a Dream Expressing the Dream” to the assembly of the Kannondori Kosho Horin Monastery in Uji County, south of Kyoto, on the twenty-first day, the ninth month, the third year of the Ninji Era [1242]. The following text is translated by Taigen Dan Leighton and myself. (Excerpted from Treasury of the True Dharma Eye, Zen Master Dogen’s Shobo Genzo, Shambhala Publications, 2010, with permission by the publisher.)


Every dewdrop manifested

in every realm

is a dream.


The path of all buddhas and ancestors arises before the first forms emerge; it cannot be spoken of using conventional views…


For the complete piece please click here to go to Parabola.