Date and Place Written: 1240, Kannon-dori-kosho-horin-ji temple (Fukakusa)
Fascicle number and English title in Hubert Nearman translation: 9. On ‘Refrain from All Evil Whatsoever’
Fascicle number and English title in Nishijima/Cross translation: 10. Not Doing Wrongs
Fascicle number and English title in Tanahashi translation: 11. Refrain From Unwholesome Action
Fascicle number in 12, 28, 60 and 75 fascicle editions: 31 (60), 31 (75)
Commentaries: Deepest Practice Deepest Wisdom chapters 3, 4 & 8; Don’t Be A Jerk, chapter 16; Receiving the Marrow, chapter 3
Audio reading: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Amk9cbpMLGw
In this fascicle, Dōgen talks about morality in reference to this verse which appears in The Dhammapada (a collection of sayings from the Buddha):
Not to commit wrongs,
To practice the many kinds of right,
Naturally purifies the mind;
This is the teaching of the buddhas.
Regardless of how Buddhist ethics and right action are talked about, Dōgen tells us that when the mind is in balance we know not to commit wrongs. Buddhist teachings always have this basic substance of guiding us not to commit wrongs. We should hear this and commit to it. Buddhist practice is adhering to not committing wrongs.
Dōgen states that some people think of right and wrong as something that arises out of causes and conditions. He says that actually, it is nothing other than our own actions right now. There is no wrong other than this, our own conduct. When we do commit wrongs, the remorse that comes from this is energy not to commit future wrongs.
Dōgen goes on to explain to practice the many kinds of right as action arising in the moment as good doing, and this good doing is separate of both self and other and just the realized Universe itself [the Genjo-koan fascicle translates as ‘The Realized Universe’]. It is not something that can be understood intellectually.
“Naturally purifies the mind” is explained as our natural tendency to not commit wrong, and not committing wrong is also what purifies. “Naturally purifies the mind” is also our natural tendency for good doing, and good doing itself purifies the mind.
The fascicle contains the dialogue between Haku Kyo-i and Master Dorin in which Kyo-i points out that even a child of three can understand the verse on not committing wrongs, and Dorin replies that while that is the case, even a man of eighty would struggle to keep it. This emphasises other parts of the fascicle in which Dōgen distinguishes between the conceptual understanding of right and wrong and our practice of it. He states that the Dharma is the same whether we hear it for the first time or in a state of enlightenment.
Even if everyone around us is committing wrongs, and it seems like the whole world is like this, Dōgen says that there is liberation in not committing wrong and good doing, which is just the realized nature itself.
Kōans and Stories
Haku Kyo-i (770-846) was a lay Buddhist who practiced with Zen Master Choka Dorin (740-824). He asked Master Dorin, “What is the Great Intention of the Buddha-Dharma?”
The Master replies, “Not to commit wrongs. To practice the many kinds of right.”
Kyo-i says, “If it is so, even a child of three can express it!”
Dorin says, “A child of three can speak the truth, but an old man of eighty cannot practice it.”
Kyo-i prostrates in thanks.
“This teaching, as the Universal Precept of the ancestral patriarchs, the Seven Buddhas, has been authentically transmitted from former buddhas to later buddhas, and later buddhas have received its transmission from former buddhas. It is not only of the Seven Buddhas: It is the teaching of all the buddhas. We should consider this in principle and master it in practice. These words of Dharma of the Seven Buddhas always sound like the words of Dharma of the Seven Buddhas.”
“We hear of this supreme state of bodhi sometimes follow good counsellors [teachers] and sometimes following sutras. At the beginning, the sound of it is, “Do not commit wrongs.” If it does not sound like “Do not commit wrongs,” it is not the Buddha’s right Dharma; it may be the teaching of demons.”
“It is not that wrongs do not exist, they are nothing other than not committing. It is not that wrongs exist, they are nothing other than not committing. Wrongs are not immaterial; they are not committing. Wrongs are not material; they are not committing. Wrongs are not “not committing” they are nothing other than not committing [not committing is an action not a concept].”
“The many kinds of right are good doing but they are neither of the doer nor known by the doer, and they are neither of the other nor known by the other. As regards the knowing and seeing of the self and of the other, in knowing there is the self and there is the other, and in seeing there is the self and there is the other, and thus individual vigorous eyes exist in the sun and in the moon. This state is good doing itself. At just this moment of good doing the realized Universe exists, but it is not the creation of the Universe, and it is not the eternal existence of the Universe. How much less could we call it original practice? Doing right is good doing but it is not something that can be fathomed intellectually.”
“In general, the Buddha-Dharma is always the same, whether it is being heard for the first time under a good counsellor, or whether it is being experienced in the state which is the ultimate effect. This is called correct in the beginning, correct at the end, called the wonderful cause and the wonderful effect, and called the Buddhist cause and the Buddhist effect.”
“Even if wrong upon wrong pervade the whole Universe, and even if wrongs have swallowed the whole Dharma again and again, there is still salvation and liberation in not committing. Because the many kinds of right are right in the beginning, in the middle, and in the end, “good doing” has realized nature, form, body, energy, and so on, as they are.
“Someone who has come to know a single particle knows the whole Universe, and someone who has penetrated one real dharma has penetrated the myriad dharmas.”