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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Wisdom Publications,U.S.; annotated edition edition (13 Aug. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0861716019
  • ISBN-13: 978-0861716012
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 656,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Dogen, the thirteenth-century Zen master who founded the Japanese Soto school of Zen, is renowned as one the world's most remarkable religious geniuses. His works are both richly poetic and deeply insightful and philosophical, pointing to the endless

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By M Jenkins on 2 July 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Eihei Dogen (1200-1253), the Zen master who founded the Japanese Soto school of Zen, is regarded as one of the world's most remarkable religious figures. His works are both richly poetic and deeply insightful and philosophical, pointing to the endless depths of Zen practice. Realizing Genjokoan is a comprehensive introduction to the teachings and approach of this great thinker, taking us through a guided tour of the most important essay - Genjokoan - in his masterpiece, the Shobogenzo. Indeed, the Genjokoan is regarded as the pinnacle of Dogen's writings, encompassing and encapsulating the essence of all the rest of his work. This volume also includes an introduction to Dogen's life from Hee-Jim Kim's Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist, which Shohaku Okumura has annotated in light of subsequent research. Also included are translations of the Heart Sutra and Dogen's commentary on it, the Maka-hannya-haramitsu.

Both the translation and commentary on Dogen's text are by Shohaku Okumura (b. 1948). Okumura is a Soto Zen priest in the lineage of Kosho Uchiyama Roshi (1912-1998) and Kodo Sawaki Roshi (1880-1965).

"Realizing Genjokoan is a stunning commentary on the famous first chapter of Dogen's Shobogenzo. Like all masterful commentaries, this one finds in the few short lines of the text the entire span of the Buddhist teachings. Okumura has been contemplating, studying, and teaching the Genjokoan for many decades, which is evident in both the remarkable insight he brings to the text and the clarity with which he presents it." -Buddhadharma.

"This book is a treasure. Though many quite useful translations of Genjokoan are already available, as well as helpful commentaries, this book goes beyond.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Fan of the Diaries on 16 May 2012
Format: Paperback
I think this is one of the best Buddhist books I've read in the last 5 years. Although I practice Tibetan Buddhism rather than Zen, I sat with a Soto Zen group for a while and read quite a lot of Dogen (including Genjokoan) during that time. Everyone agrees that Dogen's writing can be very hard-going; contradictory, full of obscure references and strange 12th Century Japanese allusions and seemingly paradoxical plays on words. Despite this, Shohaku Okumura has done an incredible job of explaining and commenting on Genjokoan in a way that is incredibly readable. I found it really held my attention and grabbed me, even when I was reading it on my way to work on a packed London tube train (hardly the ideal place to read something like this).
What I love about the book is that Shohaku Okumura has managed to explain things in such a practical way. This is not an academic commentary. The whole book is written to help you to apply the concepts that Dogen was talking about in a everyday 'real life' context. Difficult concepts like shunyata (emptiness) are explained succinctly and clearly, and in a way that makes them relevant to your everyday life. Okumura also uses other bits of Dogen's writings to illustrate some of the crucial points (his frequent references to boats, the ocean, the moon etc) and so I found reading it there were lots of moments of "oh, so that's what that bit is actually all about".
This book is so good that it would be a real shame for it only be read by Zen practitioners. Whatever your tradition, this book is really worth reading and I really hope it maanges to reach a wider audience. It deserves to.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By sanyata on 24 July 2012
Format: Paperback
i did not know anything about this book when i started, nor tid i know okumure. i did know dogen, however, as my previous reviews on here will show.

okumura provides us with a very clear commentary on dogen, albeit one should perhaps know a little of the difference between mahayana and hinayana first to understand dogen's dialectic. as always, however, i feel that the thrid state of dogen's dialectic, being present in the moement, isn't sufficently elaborated in the commentary.

the book is, in a sense, seated between two genres:

(1) philosophical expoundation of dogen, relating him to nagarjurna and the aforementioned mahayana hinayana divide, of which dogen uses both

(2) everyday zen commentary a la zen mind beginners mind

this makes the book somewhat unique, albeit it may also leave some readers frustrated.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tyn on 2 Sept. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Not a light read, this is a serious book. Having read far too much on Zen over the years I found that this book casts light on some previously impenetrable Dogen topics, like his view on atman/soul on ujji/being time and of course the complete Genjokoan. It is a brilliant insightful labour of love and Shohaku should be congratulated for his work.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 12 reviews
45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.5 Stars 6 Jan. 2011
By Estragon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Genjokoan, chosen by Dogen Zenji to be the first chapter of his Shobogenzo, stands as the cornerstone of the man's maddening and penetrating philosophy. Okumura has spent much of his life chewing over the subtleties of Dogen's prose and in the process has offered, I hear, many fine translations. This book, the first by Okumura I have read, proposes to translate and discuss Genjokoan section by section, untangling its many semiotic knots and showing how even such an abstruse text can be focused entirely on practice and the life of sustained, unrelenting zazen. In the process we learn something about its connection to the other chapters of Shobogenzo, the relationship between the early and late periods of Dogen's thought-- the latter exemplified by the Extensive Record (translated, at least in part, by Okumura I believe)-- and the effect other streams of Mahayana philosophy had on the development of Dogen's ideas.

Because Genjokoan itself is so difficult "Realizing Genjokoan" is at times quite dense and academic in tone. this is especially true at the beginning when a great deal of linguistic explication, designed to give us some idea of the sophistication and poetic brilliance of Dogen's prose, takes place. Because of this, though not so much at the beginning for me, I found myself utterly lost at certain points while transfixed at others. This is, of course, a result of my own novice understanding of the material and no fault of Okumura's. But nonetheless, it's worth pointing out that at some points this book is very difficult.

One interesting facet of "Realizing Genjokoan" is Okumura's discussion of the place of "Enlightenment" (or, anyway, Kensho) in Dogen's thought. Taking the orthodox Soto position, Okumura denies Kensho is in any way important to the practice of Zen-- or to Dogen's understanding of Zen-- as opposed to the common belief that the Rinzai sect fetishizes it. Normally I find such debates too close to the doctrinal squabbles of Christian theology for my taste-- they are both intractable and uninteresting at the same time, and it's better not to waste your time on them. However, Okumura's texts presents the Soto argument with a certain good-natured force so its hard to ignore it in this case, and anyway Dogen's entire project during his years before moving to Eiheiji was to provide his followers a kind of pheonomenology of the awakened person (sorry for the pretentious verbiage) so it's kind of the central thing. What's more, some of the best sections (for me) were about this very topic. Okumura skillfully makes the case that for Dogen Realization or Enlightenment exists as a precise, open, and unsentimental moment-by-moment relationship with the universe. The person or self doesn't become "enlightened" because there is no separate individual to enlighten (we are talking about Buddhism after all). Rather, the universe itself is already perfectly enlightened and, since we are not different from the rest of the universe, we can take part of that any time through practice. As everything is already perfect, already enlightened, we don't discover our own "awakening." Instead we continually express the perfect awakening of the entire universe. This is inspiring stuff, and makes the striving for Kensho seem not only drab and selfish but, in the end, totally useless. Of course we know that Kensho is only the start of the journey in Rinzai and that, in the end, the whole purpose of striving is to, paradoxically, see in the bones how useless it is strive. This whitewashing of the Koan and Rinzai tradition is my only real criticism of an otherwise excellent book.

Another instance of this is Okumura's discussion of the recent scholarship concerning Dogen's own famous "Kensho" experience, the "Dropping away of Mind and Body" while at Rujing's monastery in China. If, the argument goes, Dogen is so dismissive of Kensho in his writings (which is what's being debated since he rarely made simple statements of fact and often made contradictory ones) then how come so much emphasis is made on his own Kensho? For Soto scholars and Okumura this specific account has been made-up. The whole thing is a lie designed to, somehow, rehabilitate the whole concept. One dissenting opinion on this is the teacher and writer Dosho Port [...]), a Dharma Heir of Dainin Katagiri. For Port, the scholarship suggesting malfeasance from later priests is unconvincing, which I can't comment on because I know nothing about it. But as to whether or not Dogen had an "Enlightenment Experience" Port makes the excellent point that in denying such things we are discounting a great deal of Buddhist and Zen history. Obviously Buddhists ever since Buddha himself have had opening experiences. And to deny this seems unwarranted arrogance. I like Port's take on the whole thing: "So ... did Dogen have a personal enlightenment? Yes, but he didn't take it personally."

But in the end, I can't say any of this matters to me when it comes to whether or not recommending the book is a good idea. Whatever the status of Kensho and the historical fact of Dogen's enlightenment, this book is an amazing piece of work. It's a good alternative if you don't have access to the entirety of Shobogenzo or want something meatier than, say, Brad Warner's "Sit Down and Shut Up" (Which I do recommend, by the way). It's also a great book if you enjoy an intellectual challeng. There's no doubt I'll be rereading "Realizing Genjokoan" again, and probably yet again.
42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Praise for Okumura! 4 July 2010
By A Halaw - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first encountered Okumura in "The Art of Just Sitting," edited by John Daido Loori. I immediately resonated with his writing, and especially his approach to Buddhist practice. "Realizing Genjokoan" is a great read for anyone interested in learning about Dogen and the Soto Zen school's perspective on Awakening/practice. Okumura's writing is fresh, humble, lucid, and refreshing. I highly recommend this book. He does a marvelous job unpacking and explicating the first chapter of Dogen's "Shobogenzo," a landmark Zen text that often leaves readers puzzled. After reading this book, I definitely feel more confident to tackle "Shobogenzo" in its entirety.

I can't wait to read his new title, "Living by Vow," due in June, 2012.

--Andre Doshim Halaw
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Excellent exploration of Dogen's Genjokoan 4 Dec. 2010
By Seth Zuihō Segall - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dogen's Genjokoan is an amazing text: beautiful, poetic, profound, enigmatic, baffling, infuriating, unforgettable. The best guide for Westerners is someone who has a sincere Zen practice, decades of experience wrestling with Dogen's writings, a deep knowledge of the Japanese language and the Zen literature, and an ability to connect with a contemporary Western audience. Shohaku Okumura is the right person for the job. In wonderfully clear prose he explores Dogen's often obscure epigrams through the use of linguistics, comparing the text with what Dogen has written elsewhere and to earlier Zen texts and Buddhist sutras, and through his experience as a Soto Zen practitioner and a former student of Uchiyama Roshi. He also draws openly and freely from his own life. This is a wonderful book for any Buddhist practitioner, useful not only in understanding Dogen, but in helping the reader to deepen and realize his Buddhist practice.
25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Don't get the Kindle version! 19 Feb. 2011
By Buttercup - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Kindle version is missing at least 50 pages regarding Dogen's life. The paperback has this and two other items - the Heart Sutra and Dogan's commentary on the Heart Sutra. As far as Shohaku's book goes, it is a easy to understand guide to the Genjokoan - just get it in paperback!
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Whether you're a new student, on your path, or a long practitioner of Zen, Tao, or Yoga this book is for you. 10 Nov. 2010
By taofpaul - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Whether you're a new student, on your path, or a long practitioner of Zen, Tao, or Yoga this book is for you. Use it as a refresher, reference, or a text for your students. The authenticity and clarity makes this resource destined to become a classic. The author's work here in Realizing Genjokoan pays the greatest respect to Dogan by bringing forth an explanation of his work in a modern accurate and accessible summary. Alan Watts said that his eastern teachers pointed to Dogen's Shobogenzo as the ultimate source for understanding Zen and Tao. Now we have the result of Master Shohaku Okumura's lifelong practice and study to clearly open Shobogenzo and Genjokoan for us.
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