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Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist

Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist [Kindle Edition]

Hee-Jin Kim , Taigen Dan Leighton
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Eihei Dogen, the founder of the Japanese branch of the Soto Zen Buddhist school, is considered one of the world's most remarkable religious philosophers. Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist is a comprehensive introduction to the genius of this brilliant thinker. This thirteenth-century figure has much to teach us all and the questions that drove him have always been at the heart of Buddhist practice.

At the age of seven, in 1207, Dogen lost his mother, who at her death earnestly asked him to become a monastic to seek the truth of Buddhism. We are told that in the midst of profound grief, Dogen experienced the impermanence of all things as he watched the incense smoke ascending at his mother's funeral service. This left an indelible impression upon the young Dogen; later, he would emphasize time and again the intimate relationship between the desire for enlightenment and the awareness of impermanence. His way of life would not be a sentimental flight from, but a compassionate understanding of, the intolerable reality of existence.

At age 13, Dogen received ordination at Mt. Hiei. And yet, a question arose: "As I study both the exoteric and the esoteric schools of Buddhism, they maintain that human beings are endowed with Dharma-nature by birth. If this is the case, why did the buddhas of all ages - undoubtedly in possession of enlightenment - find it necessary to seek enlightenment and engage in spiritual practice?" When it became clear that no one on Mt. Hiei could give a satisfactory answer to this spiritual problem, he sought elsewhere, eventually making the treacherous journey to China. This was the true beginning of a life of relentless questioning, practice, and teaching - an immensely inspiring contribution to the Buddhadharma.

As you might imagine, a book as ambitious as Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist has to be both academically rigorous and eminently readable to succeed. Professor Hee-Jim Kim's work is indeed both.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1801 KB
  • Print Length: 370 pages
  • Publisher: Wisdom Publications; 3 Revised edition (25 Jun 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008D30UGA
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #460,506 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Single Volume Look at Dogen 26 Jun 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Eihei Dogen (1200-1253), the founder of the Japanese branch of the Soto Zen Buddhist school, is considered one of the world's most remarkable religious philosophers. Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist is a comprehensive introduction to the genius of this brilliant thinker. This thirteenth-century figure has much to teach us all--for the questions that drove him have always been at the heart of Buddhist practice. An ambitious book, Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist is both intellectually challenging and enjoyable to read.

"Dogen is no easy read - fortunately Kim's book, itself a polished gem, expertly guides a reader into what is simultaneously rich and playful in Dogen's vision." William LaFleur.

"While there have been many developments in the historical and philosophical understanding of Dogen's contribution to Zen Buddhism, Kim's work still stands out for the depth and clarity of its elucidation of Dogen as a religious thinker and practitioner." Mark Unno.

"This book is an excellent comprehensive introduction to Dogen's massive corpus of intricate writings as well as to his elegantly simple yet profound practice. It stands as the best overall general introduction to Dogen's teaching." Taigen Dan Leighton.

"Down the years and through its earlier editions, it was always to Dr.Kim's book that I turned first in any matter relating to Dogen." Robert Aitken.

Also by Hee-Jin Kim is Dogen on Meditation and Thinking, an excellent follow up piece to this work. I highly recommend both.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece - Rewarding, but hard work 23 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a first rate book. It definitely leans towards the philosophical and uses some very dense language. However if you want to understand Shobogenzo I couldn't think of anything better. A masterpiece.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Most Essential Work on Dogen Available in English 18 April 2008
By Ted Biringer - Published on
If I had to choose between Hee-Jin Kim's Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist and all the other books on Dogen Zenji, author of Zen masterpiece Shobogenzo, I would not need to ponder--I would choose Mystical Realist.

The only other books in English that come close to Mystical Realist in their importance for understanding and appreciating Dogen and his writings are Hee-Jin Kim's two other masterful explorations of this seminal thirteenth century Zen master. These are, Dr. Kim's most recent book Dogen on Meditation and Thinking: His View on Zen, and his 1985 publication, Flowers of Emptiness: Selections From Dogen's Shobogenzo.

Ever since its original publication in 1975 (then titled: Dogen Kigen--Mystical Realist) Professor Kim's Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist has remained at the top of the list as the definitive English language book on the founder of Soto Zen in Japan and his works. This work has undergone several revisions (the latest in 2004) that have allowed Hee-Jin Kim to improve upon his original message. These revisions have allowed Kim to expand upon his ideas as they have been refined through the years, as well as to make corrections to the translations and keep the book current with ongoing scholarship.

While the revisions have improved the overall flow of his message, and improved the book's readability, its central teachings have stood firmly throughout. The insight that Kim offered us on Eihei Dogen and his work has remained essential unchanged. Like Master Dogen's own work, Kim's Mystical Realist is as vital and lively today as it was when it was originally published. This book is truly an extraordinary achievement, and as of all Kim's work, an essential text for students, not only of Dogen, or even Zen, but for anyone interested in exploring the human condition and its potential for actualization.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An engaging study 14 Oct 2005
By Hakuyu - Published on
Kim's work has won the praise of many, not least Robert Aitken Roshi, an American with a lifetime's experience of Zen training. In his foreword to the third edition, Aitken Roshi stated:

"this revised edition . . .now includes many new translations and studies of Dogen, and thus it is most welcome. Dogen wrote at the outermost edge of human communication, touching with every sentence such mysteries as self and other, self and non-self, meditation and realization, the temporal and the timeless, forms and the void.@He wrote of the attitude necessary for understanding, of the practice required. . .of the various insights that emerge, and of the many pitfalls. He did not generally write for beginners - most of his points require very careful study and a few of them elude almost everybody. These challenges are compounded by his creative use of the Japanese language. It has been said that he wrote in "Dogenese," for he made verbs of nouns, nouns of verbs, created new metaphors, and manipulated old sayings to present his particular understanding. . . "

Prof. Kim's study has been based on a careful reading of Dogen's chosen idioms. He has endeavoured to amplify Dogen's understanding of 'do-ri' - or 'reason of the way.' Kim is keen to show that Dogen's use of Zen language is not merely provisional or instrumental, but embodies a 'realisational' dimension. This is exemplified in the notion of the 'genjo-koan' or koan realised in the present, which is to say, actualised in every day activity. In this way, Kim endeavours to show that Dogen's Zen culminates in ' the great way of total exertion' (gujin no daido) or the total actualisation of practice as realization. Kim is a foremost interpreter of Dogen's thought - and, as such, this book deserves a place in every Buddhist library. My only reservation about this study, is that it might have made better sense of the question of how the so-called 'instrumentalist' aspect of koan practice relates to the 'realizational' aspect. Quite rightly, Kim is at pains to point out that accounts of Zen which stress the 'instrumentalist' view of koan practice - and that alone, are one sided, and he has therefore endeavoured to illustrate a different perspective. However, without reflection, we might be left to conclude that Rinzai Zen favours the 'instrumentalist' view - and Soto, the 'realizational' view. Kim knows better, and indeed, in places (p. 165), he has cited certain remarks from Dogen, which concede that the term 'genjo-koan' originated with Engo - a Rinzai master of the Sung, evidently meaning that Rinzai practitioners have appreciated the 'realizational' aspect. As such, the critical references to (Dai-e) Ta-hui which appear elsewhere in the book, seem strangely out of tenor with this fact. Yuan-wu (Engo) was Ta-hui's teacher, and the latter must surely have known of his master's references to the genjo-koan. Conversely, much as we might identify Dogen's Zen with 'shikantaza' (just-sitting), playing down the instrumentalist approach, Dogen also had his experience of 'casting off mind and body' (shinjindatsuraku) - a breakthrough experience more or less akin to that realised by Rinzai followers. Perhaps Prof. Kim will enlighten us on this unresolved problem, at some future point.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, complicated 23 Jun 2013
By Upasaka Heng He - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It's a good study, just don't buy if you need an "easy intro to Dogen" - that's not the book you're looking for. It's scholastic and rather advanced.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five stars for much history 21 Oct 2011
By Old Order - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very informative. Historical background revealing where Dogen came from in his thought process and practical position. More doctrine and dogma than a course in Buddhism. Excellent work.
14 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To illumine a hill... 14 Dec 2004
By David Stopher - Published on
I can't check the date of the original publication of this text, but if it's the same as the one I'm thinking of it was originally published in the 70's and looked like someones Master's or PhD thesis. I had just begun the practice of Soto Zen at the time I picked it up...a converted hippy...and it was pretty dry. However, I came across a paragraph that really appealed to me. It said something like, "Find a hill and illumine or enlighten it (by your practice)." This thought motivated my life for decades. It really felt right and seemed to express the real spirit of Dogen as I had come to understand him from listening to lectures by Shunryu Suzuki at the San Francisco Zen Center. Suzuki roshi seemed to often speak of appreciation of the moment as a totality of many things and beings. And he connected this appreciation with the practice of zazen as did Dogen.

This line which said, "Find a hill and enlighten her," expressed the vital spirit beyond delusion of each thing and place. It brought me some encouragement that has lasted even until today.

By the way, I have looked and looked for this line in this book (the old edition) and I can not find it. Maybe it was in some other book.
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