Eihei-Ji Temple - Dogen Zenji

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Eihei-Ji Temple 永平寺

On a cold monday morning in Japan in 2005, I learned the expression "ZEN-ish".
I had previously call it * McZen *, like the brother of McDonald, ready for easy consumption by Westerners.

Students (real deshi) of the Zendoo in Kamakura would sit around at the McDonald shop at the station and complain about the harsh treatment without coffee during breaks at a sesshin !
Aaa, the poor souls, loking for ZEN in the coffe pot !
And jet, maybe they found a coffe haiku

This morning, the minus temperatures make me think of the monks at Eihei-Ji, the great Zen training temple in the cold mountains of Gifu, where the beginners have to stand at the gate for three nights, barefeet with straw sandals, no food and wait for an elder to let them in.
And that is just the beginning of a long career-training in enduring hardships. If you look carefully, you can see them standing in front of the gate of the above photo, the little black dots in the white snow.
You need a lot of ZEN mind to go through this.

cold cold cold
cold cold cold

remember, zenzen in Japanese can mean : not at all

Gabi san (3) in a frozen ZEN moment

From here I will lead you to Eihei-Ji.
Get a warm coat, before we start.

Curtesy of the following text : mitene.or.jp..katumin

Eiheiji, the "temple of eternal peace" is one of Soto Zen's two head temples. 
It is located deep in the mountains near the rugged west coast of Japan, not far from Fukui City. Dogen zenji, the founder of Eiheiji, was born in 1200 A.D. When he was 24, he went to China and devoted himself to true Zen practice under the strict guidance of Nyojo zenji at Mt. tendo.  After having "dropped off both body and mind, "realizing the way of the Buddha, he returned home in 1228.  He lived at Kenninji temple for 3 yers, then founded his first temple, Kosho-Horinji, in Uji, Kyoto. 

In 1244 Dogen zenji and his followers visited Shii-no-sho in Echizen (now Fukui prefecture) to build a mountain temple. He was offered land and other help for this by Yoshisige Hatano, a samurai who was one of his most devoted lay followers. Dogen thus founded Eiheiji, where he devoted himself to training his followers in the perfection of Zen practice in every action of daily life. He died on September 29, 1253, leaving a number of noted books including the Shobogenzo, Gakudo Yojinshu, and Eihei Dai Shingi. 

Dogen zenji's authentic Zen has been scrupulously observed by his succeessors. Even today, both priests and lay people devote themselves to his practice of Shikan-taza ("just sitting").


The seven main buildings in the temple compound

Check out the links below for more:

1  Sanmon   (main gate)
2  Butsuden   (Buddha Hall)
3 Hatto   (Dharma Hall)
4 Sodo   (Priests' Hall)
5 Daikuin   (kitchen)
6 Yokushitsu   (bath)
7 Tosu  (toilet)
8 Joyoden   (Founder's Hall)
9 Shorodo   (belfry)
10 Chokushimon   (Imperial Gate)
11 Chujakumon
12 Shidoden   (Memorial Hall)
13 Sanshokaku  
* Kichijokaku


Wada san has a page about Eihei-Ji. Look at his photos too.
It takes a while to upload, but there is nice music to wait.



A young Japanese monk shows us his time at Eihei-Ji.
He practised there for two years, starting when he was 22.

Practising the BIG THUNDER (dairai 大擂)is also a hard part of the daily practise.

Even if you can not read Japanese, it is worth to look at this.


In memory of the 750th anniversary of the
death of Dogen Zenji

Dogen Zenji tells a message of "Fuse (offering)" to us who are living now. You might think that "Fuse (offering)" means money offered to priests. However, "Fuse" does not only mean money

For example, if you save resources on the earth to protect the environment and live in humble circumstances, the remaining resources are "Fuse" for your posterity. Dogen Zenji's words about "Fuse" can be translated like this: "If you offer even one yen and one plant, then that can be the root for happiness in your generation and the next generation."
"You should pray for the happiness of all living things in space, on earth, and in the world, and try hard to gain happiness."
Let's follow the words of Dogen Zenji and review our ways of living once again

The following link has a lot more of Doogen's teachings in English and Japanese.

どう生きるかHow Shall We Live?
最初の一歩The First Step
はきものをそろえるIllumination from Our Feet
足ることを知る心The Mind That Knows Sufficiency
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. and many more:


Zen Master Dogen and
the Tenzo Cook drying shiitake mushrooms

. WKD : shiitake 椎茸 .

達磨大師 - 大権修理菩薩の二躰一組
. Daruma and Daigen Shuri Bosatsu .
He was adopted by Dōgen as a protector of Eiheiji.


"Do not get stuck in loving a carved dragon.
We should go forward and love the real dragon".

Doogen-Ki 道元忌 (どうげんき ) Dogen Memorial Day

kigo for mid-autumn

(19 January 1200 – 22 September 1253)

. WKD : Memorial Days - Saijiki .


Even old Haiku Master Matsuo Basho was in the area.

Crossing over to the coast of the Sea of Japan, Basho continued southwest on his journey to Kanazawa, where he mourned at the grave of a young poet who had died the year before, awaiting Basho's arrival. He continued to Eiheiji, the temple founded by the great Zen priest Dogen. Eventually there was a reunion with several of his disciples, but Basho left them again to travel on to the Grand Shrine of Ise alone.
Here the account of this journey ends.
. . .  Safety copy: Matsuo Basho / The man himself

Basho visits the home of Tosai, but the wife tells him her husband is not at home.
Painting by Buson.

Oku no Hosomichi - - - - Station 40 - Fukui - - -
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .


The Training and Way of Eihei-Ji
Mrs. Elsie P. Mitchell

Eiheiji is now one of the two [large] training centers for priests and ordained laymen of the Soto Zen sect of Buddhism. The temple is perched on the side of a mountain and surrounded by giant cryptomeria. In winter it is engulfed in 6 or 7 feet of snow. The sun is rarely seen for a whole day at any time of the year; heavy fog and rain drift up from the Japan Sea. The rocks and the black trunks of the cryptomeria are covered with heavy dark green moss and the temple compound is blanketed with this flourishing vegetation. The monks tend it carefully, weeding out small plants and grass.

The Samu (manual labor) of the Eiheiji monk is not a mortification. It is not a disagreeable, but a necessary means to a desirable end. Samu combined with Zazen (meditation in the cross legged position) stimulates an omnipresent WHY which is the center of Zen life.
The answer to this WHY cannot be grasped by logic; it cannot be apprehended through ritual and the Zen master cannot give his disciples the answer.

This is a short quote from a long essay about the subject by
Elsie Mitchell

Safekeep copy here:


Meditating monk by Onda Akio 恩田秋夫


There are also critical voices about this place, calling it ...

But read yourself about Tanaka Sensei, this is just a quote from the middle of
Bill Viola, The Light Enters You:

Trying to break the ice at our first meeting I said, “Sensei, I have read many books on Zen.” He looked me right in the eye and laughed loudly. Shrunken, I tried again and told him that the next week we were going to visit Eiheiji, the original temple established by Master Dogen, the founder of the Soto school of Zen Buddhism and Tanaka Sensei’s lineage. It is one of the largest working temples in Japan. Again, he gave me a piercing look and snapped,
“Eiheiji!—too big! Zen Mitsubishi!!”
He then took us to a nearby Mister Donuts and over coffee gave us the first of many teachings in regular after-meditation sessions that Kira and I affectionately dubbed, “The Mister Donuts Seminars on Zen Buddhism.”

Tanaka Sensei was also an artist. He was always working, freely, spontaneously and fearlessly. We could be anywhere—in a restaurant, on a train, and he would suddenly call out: “Inspiration! Inspiration! Paper… Paper!” He’d grab a pen and quickly make a little Daruma (Bodhidharma) face because that was the moment to make a Daruma face. I was witnessing art inserting itself into experience—where it needed to be, not where you wanted it to be—and it was very inspiring to see.

(So I was not so far off the mark with my McZen, McDonald.)


After this cold tour, let us warm up with a bowl of cold
Eihei-Ji Buckwheat Noodles. 永平寺そば
topped with Bonito flakes.

CLICK for more photos !


Zen has, however, contributed much to western culture, both through its understanding and its misunderstanding.
How do you see this in your current attraction to, and understanding of, haiku?

Read the discussion at the Haiku Foundation
. . . by Carmen Sterba


................ 俳句

contemplating MU -
the cold wind feels
..... C.O.L.D.

Read more about MU and Haiku .


. . . Winter Ascetic Practises (kangyoo)


yama no shizukasa e shizuka naru ame

on the stillness of the mountian
the stillness of rain

Santoka at temple Eihei-Ji
種田山頭火, 永平寺 にて

Taneda Santoka (1882-1940)


Become like a wooden pestle,
grind yourself to the bone
in the good work for others.

inscription on a clay bell from the temple
surikogi dorei すりこぎ土鈴

. Folk Toys from Fukui .





facebook said...

cold cold cold
cool cool cool


Gabi Greve said...

If you are unable to find the truth
right where you are,
where else do you expect to find it?

- Dogen

Gabi Greve said...

Legend from Fukui, Eiheiji town
okichi オキチ the woman O-Kichi
Tere is a pond called 血脈池 Kechimyakuike or オキチが池 Okichi-ga-Ike.
A woman once commited suicide by throwing herself into the pond and then became the master of the pond.
Zen Priest Dogen 道元禅師 from the temple Eihei-Ji threw some Kechimyaku into the pond and held a ritual for her, so she could go to the Buddhist paradise.

Gabi Greve said...

Akakutsu Dogen 赤堀道元 a woman called Akakutsu Dogen  
and Mound Akagisan / Akagiyama in Gunma

Gabi Greve said...

A legend from Kyoto
. Dogen 道元禅師 Zen Priest Dogen .
Once a man stole some of the sacred oil for the lamp at 比叡山 Mount Hieizan.
When he died his spirit became a rinka 燐火 will‐o'‐the‐wisp and flew around in sommer nights.
The light at 七条朱雀 Shijo Kujaku from 道元 Dogen is probably from this flame.
This kind of story is told in many parts of Japan.