Simply Giving and Receiving

Senior's Talk by Konrad Ryushin Marchaj Osho

Featured in Mountain Record 27.3, Spring 2009

Bodhisattvas often regress or stray from the bodhi mind when they are beginners because they do not meet a true teacher. Without meeting a true teacher, they do not hear the right dharma. Without hearing the right dharma, they are likely to negate cause and effect, to negate salvation, to negate the Three Treasures, and to negate all the dharmas of the three times. Idly craving the five desires of the present, they lose the virtue for future attainment of bodhi. Sometimes in order to hinder a practitioner, celestial demons, papiyas, and the like will take on the shape of a buddha or will appear in the shape of a parent, a teacher, or relatives, gods, and so on, and drawing near, they concoct fictions and prevail upon the bodhisattva, saying, “The Buddha’s truth is far distant. You would suffer long hardships and experience the deepest sorrow. The better course is to resolve your own life and death first, and then later, to deliver living beings.” The practitioner, hearing these tales, regresses from the bodhi mind and regresses in the conduct of a bodhisattva.

The nature of dana, generosity or giving, relates directly to hearing and responding to one’s spiritual calling. In Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo, two chapters address dana in different ways. The first talk is entitled Hotsu-Bodaishin “Establishment of the Bodhi Mind” (quoted above) and the second is the chapter entitled Hotsu-Mujoshin “Establishment of the Will to the Supreme.” These talks were given on the same day, only six hours apart. It was sometime in the early winter of 1243, after Dogen moved from Kyoto to the mountains of Echizen where he was establishing Eiheiji Monastery.

Hotsu-Mujoshin was given in the morning to lay practitioners and focused on the giving nature of the mountains and rivers and the generosity of life as it is. Dogen was imploring those who were donating money or labor to the temple, to continue to do so. The teaching contained in Hotsu-Mujoshin hinges on the giving of materials, of effort, of work, of skill. Six hours later, he offered a talk to the monastics in his newly established monastery, this time focusing on impermanence, the absolutely fleeting nature of life. He beseeched the monastics to give their life away to others, to not get lost in zazen and the solitary practice of realizing themselves before taking care of all beings—including those he had addressed six hours earlier.


Photo by Lothar Knopp


Amidst the brilliance of his dharma, Dogen was a master strategist. His wonderful teaching reveals dana within a beautiful, circular path, flowing in both directions. Within the Mountains and Rivers Order at Zen Mountain Monastery there are also two distinct paths—the lay path and the monastic path. Utterly and forever different, each gives to the other. Through these two we create a wonderful mandala of dana, of exchange, of one hand supporting the other and the other supporting the first to the point that it’s not clear which is giving and which is receiving. That’s when we enter into the heart of dana paramita, the perfection of selfless giving.