Date and Place Written: 1240, Kannon-dori-kosho-horin-ji temple (Fukakusa)
Fascicle number and English title in Hubert Nearman translation: 10. On ‘Respectful Bowing Will Secure for You the Very Marrow of the Way’
Fascicle number and English title in Nishijima/Cross translation: 8. Prostrating to Attainment of the Marrow
Fascicle number and English title in Tanahashi translation: 9. Receiving the Marrow by Bowing
Fascicle number in 12, 28, 60 and 75 fascicle editions: 8 (28), 28 (75)
Commentaries: Don’t Be A Jerk chapter 14, Receiving the Marrow chapter 4
Audio reading: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGBLhTYAJ20


Raihai-tokuzui is Dōgen’s writing that is most often cited as support for the idea that he did not differentiate between the capacity of men and women to attain awakening.  While his own sangha was almost entirely male, it is true that this fascicle does go against received Buddhist dogma.  In addition to supporting the notion that women can be teachers, Raihai-tokuzui also points to the foolishness of not listening to wisdom just because it comes from someone who is younger or of lesser status.

In this fascicle Dōgen talks about it being difficult to find a genuine guiding teacher but that once we do we should practice with total sincerity.  He quotes the Buddha as saying that when you meet a genuine teacher you should not concern yourself with how they look or their race or caste, and points to the god Indra prostrating to a wild dog in search of wisdom.  He criticises those who think they are too high in position or long in training to learn from those who are junior to them, or men who refuse to learn from women. 

Dōgen relates the stories of Joshu, Moshan Lioran and Myoshin to demonstrate that wise students of the way do not discriminate by age nor gender as to whom they can learn from.  Likewise, he states that it is not improper for monks to be taught by householders, if they have clarified the truth, or even children or animals (children being a reference to the naga king’s daughter in the Lotus Sutra who became a buddha).

Female emperors in China are noted as holding status because of their position rather than gender, and are seen as analogous to nuns (bhiksuni) who are acknowledged for their understanding of the Dharma rather than their identity. 

Dōgen challenges the view of traditional Buddhism that women are objects of sexual greed to be feared and avoided, pointing out that men too can be objects of sexual desire and our mind do not need even this to produce fantasies.  He criticises monks who vow to avoid women pointing out there is nothing inherently bad in women, just as there is nothing inherently good in men.  He also criticises monasteries that claim to be “places for practicing the truth” but do not allow women, pointing out that the Buddha’s own sangha was comprised of monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen (and that even the lowest of those is superior to a wheel-turning king (chakravartin)). 

Traditionalists are criticised for barring women from practice places whilst calling them sanctuaries, violating the wholeness of the great world of the buddhas.  Dōgen asserts that we should instead bow to all virtuous beings.

Kōans and Stories

“Long ago, in he Tang Dynasty, Great Master Shinsai of Joshu [Zhàozhōu Cōngshěn, Jp. Jōshū Jūshin; 778–897] established the mind and set off as a wayfarer.  In the story he says “I shall question anyone who is superior to me, even a child of seven.  And I shall teach anyone who is inferior to me, even a man of a hundred.””

Guanxi Zhixian (Jp. Kankei Shikan; died 895) studied both with Master Linji (Linji Yixuan, Jp Rinzai Gigen; died 866) and the female Master Moshan Lioran (Jp. Matsuzan Ryonen; died 895).  He recognises both as his teachers, proclaiming, “I got half a dipper at Old Papa Rinzai’s place, and I got half a dipper at Old Mama Matsuzan’s place.  Making a dipper with both halves, I have finished drinking, and having arrived directly at the present, I am completely satisfied.”

Nun Myoshin is appointed as the Chief of the Business Office at the monastery of Kyozan.  Seventeen monks climb the mountain where the monastery is and are discussing the story of Huineng (Jp. Daikan Eno; 638-713), the wind and the flag [Huineng’s Flag: Mumonkan Case 29].  Myoshin hears the monks and recognises their understanding to be lacking, proclaiming them to be “Seventeen blind donkeys!”.  They overhear her and ask for instruction.  Myoshin explains, “This is not the wind moving, this is not a flag moving, and this is not mind moving.”  The monks bow to her.

Important passages

“In practicing the state of anuttara-samyak-sambodhi [the state of enlightenment] the most difficult thing is to find a guiding teacher.  Though beyond appearances such as those of a man or a woman, the guiding teacher should be a big stout fellow [full of virtue], and should be someone ineffable.  He is not a person of the past and present, but may be a good counsellor with the spirit of a wild fox.  These are the features of someone who has got the marrow [realized the teachings]; he may be a guide and a benefactor; he is never unclear about cause and effect; he may be you, me, him, or her.”

“Having met a guiding teacher, we should throw away myriad involvements and, without wasting a moment of time, we should strive in pursuit of the truth.”

“[T]here may be men who would refuse to prostrate themselves to women monks who are teachers that have received the Dharma, and who are elder-sisters, aunts and so on.  Because they [the men] do not know and will not learn, they are close to animals and far from the Buddhist patriarchs.”

“[W]hen arhats, pratyekabuddhas amd bodhisattvas of the three clever and ten sacred stages, come to a bhiksuni who is retaining the transmission of the right-Dharma-eye treasury, to prostrate to her and ask her about Dharma, she must receive those prostrations.  Why should men be higher?  Space is space, the four elements are the four elements, the five aggregates are the five aggregates, and women are also like this. 

“[T]he virtues which accompany the fourth effect all belong to a bhiksuni who has become an arhat.  Even these virtues accompany here, what human being or god could hope to surpass these virtues of the fourth effect?  Gods of the triple world are all inferior to her.  If we fail to venerate such a person it is our own wrongness.”

“As regards the causes and conditions of becoming tainted, a man can be the object, a woman can be the object, what is neither man nor woman can be the object, and dreams and fantasies, flowers in space, can also be the object.  There have been impure acts done with a reflection on water as an object, and there have been impure acts done with the sun in the sky as an object.”

“What wrong is there in a woman?  What virtue is there in a man?  Among bad people there are men who are bad people.  Among good people there are women who are good people.  Wanting to hear the Dharma and wanting to get liberation, never depend upon whether we are a man or a woman.”

“When a woman has already become buddha, is there anything in all directions that she cannot perfectly realize?”

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