Date and Place Written: 1240, Kannon-dori-kosho-horin-ji temple (Fukakusa)
Fascicle number and English title in Hubert Nearman translation: 12. On the Transmission of the Kesa
Fascicle number and English title in Nishijima/Cross translation: 13. The Transmission of the Robe.
Fascicle number and English title in Tanahashi translation: 14. Transmitting the Robe.
Fascicle number in 12, 28, 60 and 75 fascicle editions: 12 (28), 32 (75)
Commentaries: Don’t Be a Jerk chapter 18.
This fascicle is related to Kesa-kudoku in speaking about the Buddha-robe (Skrt. kaṣāya, Jp. kesa). Dōgen talks about how it was transmitted through twenty-seven generations in India, then six in China, to reach the Sixth Ancestor, Dajian Huineng (Jp. Daikan Eno; 638-713). This robe became a national treasure, esteemed by emperors. He explains how the reverence for the robe comes from the conduct of Buddha Ancestors.
Dōgen criticises Taoism for focussing on extending their lifespan, and includes emperors in this. He says we should revere the kaṣāya as a living embodiment of the Buddha’s teachings even more than the bones of Buddha Ancestors. Because of the history of the kaṣāya being transmitted from Buddha Ancestor to Buddha Ancestor, followers should guard it as their body-and-mind. He feels that it is wrong to see the Buddha-robe merely as a garment of clothing rather than an object of honour and worship.
In addition to the robe being transmitted, so have the methods of wearing and making it. An abbreviated list of eleven different kinds of kaṣāya are listed. Whether it is received as a monk or nun, or a lay person, to receive and retain it means wearing it, not keeping it folded in a bag. The Buddha is quoted from the Karuṇā-puṇḍarika-sutrā as saying that even if someone commits grave sins who falls into wrong views, he will affirm that person if they honour the kaṣāya with a reverent mind for a single moment, as remembering the power of the kaṣāya can bring them back to a state of compassion and purity.
Dōgen relates the story that Śākyamuni Buddha was given a kaṣāya by a tree spirit when he first left the royal palace as a spiritual seeker, in order to protect him from demons. He states that no one who has received and retained the kaṣāya has failed to become a buddha.
The method of wearing the kaṣāya is given as baring the right shoulder, although Dōgen notes that there is also a method in which both shoulders are covered.
Dōgen says that when Bodhidharma came to China, many people threw away their robes in order to receive the authentically transmitted robe. He suggests that receiving the authentic robe is more intimate than hearing the sutras, and that masters who have received the authentic robe are superior to bodhisattvas of the ten stages. Dōgen considers the authentic transmission of the robe to only have occurred in the lineage of the patriarchs (i.e. the Zen lineage). The kaṣāya should be considered as the body of the Buddha and the mind of the Buddha.
Thinking that the robe must be made of a particular material, such as coarse cotton, ruins the robe. The material should not be limited to cotton, rags, silk or anything else. Dōgen says that rags collected to make the kaṣāya are beyond silk and beyond cotton. All have the merit of the Buddha’s robe which is beyond the material from which it is made. However, he also says that we should respect the material, colour and measurements of the kaṣāya as it has been transmitted.
The ten kinds of rags are described (rags chewed by an ox, rags gnawed by rats, burned rags, menstrual rags, rags from childbirth, rags offered at a shrine, rags from a graveyard, rags offered in prayers, rags from old uniforms, rags from a funeral) as being pure material for sewing the kaṣāya. Instructions are given for washing the kaṣāya (although briefer than in Kesa-kudoku).
Dōgen expresses the overwhelming joy he felt in China after seeing a fellow monk place the kaṣāya on his head and chant the Takkesage (Verse of the Robe) and vowed to transmit that observance to Japan. He relates that the vow was not in vain and many Japanese people have now received and retained the kaṣāya in this way.
Dōgen recollects meeting Korean monks while in China who neither wore the robe nor carried the pātra (alms bowl). He asserts that Śākyamuni Buddha did not set aside his kaṣāya and we should do the same.
Kōans and Stories
A monk asks the Sixth Patriarch [Dajian Huineng, Jp. Daikan Eno] if the robe he received from the Fifth Patriarch [Daman Hongren, Jp. Daiman Ko nin) should be seen as made of cotton, silk or raw silk. Huineng replies that it should not be seen as any of these.
“The authentic transmission into China of the robe ad the Dharma, which are authentically transmitted from buddha to buddha, was done only by the founding Patriarch of Shaolin [Bodhidharma] . The founding Patriarch was the twenty-eighth ancestral master after Śākyamuni Buddha. The robe had passed from rightful successor to rightful successor through twenty-eight generations in India, and it was personally and authentically transmitted through six generations in China; altogether it was transmitted through thirty-three generations in the Westerns Havens and the Eastern Lands.”
“When our great Master Śākyamuni Tathāgata passed o the right Dharma-eye treasury and the supreme state of the bodhi to Mahākāśyapa, he transmitted them together with the Buddha-robe. Between them and Zen Master Daikan of Sokei-zan mountain [Huineng], there were thirty-three generations, the transmission passing from rightful successor to rightful successor. The intimate experience and intimate transmission of the robe’s material, color, and measurement have long been handed down by the lineages, ad their reception and retention are evident in the present.”
“In general, there has never been a moment when this saṃghāṭi robe was not manifesting itself before us in the world. The manifestation before us of one moment is an eternal matter, and eternal matters come at one moment To obtain the kaṣāya is to obtain the Buddha’s banner. For this reason, none of the Buddha-tathāgatas has ever failed to receive and retain the kaṣāya. And no person who has received and retained the kaṣāya has failed to become a buddha.”
“In general, the dignified behaviour of wearing the kaṣāya in Buddhism has been unfailingly received and retained by the ancestral masters who received the transmission of the right Dharma and who are present before us here and now. When receiving and retaining the kaṣāya, we should unfailingly receive and retain it under such an ancestral master. The traditional unfailingly receive of the British patriarchs has been authentically transmitted from buddha to buddha without irregularity; it is the kaṣāya of former buddhas and of later buddhas, the kaṣāya of ancient buddhas and of recent buddhas.”
“[R]emember that the kaṣāya is the body of the Buddha and the mind of the Buddha. Further, it is called the clothing of liberation, called the robe of a field of happiness, called the robe of endurance, called the robe without form, called the robe of compassion, called the robe of the Tathāgata, and called the robe of anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi. We must receive and retain it as such.”
“Śākyamuni Buddha himself received the kaṣāya upon his head for twelve years, never setting it aside. As already his distant descendants, we should emulate this. To turn the forehead away from prostrations dly done for fame and gain to gods, to spirits, to kings, and to retainers, and to turn it now towards the humble reception upon the head of the Buddha’s robe, is a joyful and great happy event.”