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  • Treasury of the True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dogen’sShobo Genzo ed. by Kazuaki Tanahashi
  • Eitan Bolokan (bio)
Treasury of the True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dogen’s Shobo Genzo. Edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi. Boston: Shambhala, 2011. 2 vols. Pp. 1280. Hardcover $100.00, isbn978-1-590-30935-3.

Kazuaki Tanahashi is one of the most influential translators of Zen Master Dōgen in recent decades. The scope and variety of his translations are as impressive as the manner in which he brings Zen, and especially Dōgen’s Zen, into modern English, serving as a rare bridge between cultures, ancient times, and modern society. Treasury of the True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dogen’sShobo Genzo, a landmark translation of Dōgen’s magnum opus Shōbōgenzō, is the fourth project led by Tanahashi and sponsored by the San Francisco Zen Center, following Moon in a Dewdrop(New York: North Point, 1995), Enlightenment Unfolds(Boston: Shambhala, 2000), and Beyond Thinking(Boston: Shambhala, 2004), all of which provide selections from the Shōbōgenzōas well as other works by Dōgen.

Treasury of the True Dharma Eyeconsists of two volumes. The first opens with important introductory remarks by the editor, and then presents the translations in chronological order, as dated by Dōgen, starting with his return from China in 1227 and up to the spring of 1245. The translations are divided into two groups. First is the “Wandering Period,” which includes the “Bendōwa,” and second is the “Kōshō Period,” which presents fascicles written between the “Makahannya-haramitsu” and “Kattō.” The second volume divides chronologically into four sections. “Monastery Construction Period” (1243–1245) presents fascicles between the “Sangai yuishin” and “Daishūgyō.” “Daibutsu Monastery Period” (1245–1246) presents the fascicles between “Kokū” and “Ōsaku sendaba.” “Eihei Period” (1246–1253) contains the fascicles between “Ji kuin mon” and “Hachidainin Gaku.” The last section consists of twelve undated fascicles. Concluding this volume are an Afterword by Michael Wenger, appendices, lineage charts, maps, a glossary, and a bibliography.

The translations are based on Kōzen’s ninety-five-fascicle edition, published in the seventeenth century. In the section titled “Texts in Relation to Dōgen’s Life and Translation Credits” (vol. 1, pp. li–xcvii), Tanahashi clarifies that he and associate editor Peter Levitt used this edition as printed in Ōkubo Dōshū’s collection from 1970, the Dōgen Zenji zenshū(Complete works of Zen Master Dōgen), as well as the Dōgen Zenji zenshūversion edited by Sakai Tokugen et al. (vol. 1, p. li). Tanahashi and Levitt assert the need for various elucidations “to help readers decode the text” (vol. 1, p. xiv). Indeed, any reader of Dōgen will know how impenetrable and obscure [End Page 1286]his writings can be, highlighting just how valuable Tanahashi’s annotations are. Nonetheless, while applauding these efforts at making the texts more accessible, several editorial choices seem to merit further consideration—and certainly in light of the diverse audience drawn nowadays to Dōgen’s Zen.

First, it is somewhat bewildering that a decision was made not to use macrons to indicate long vowels above Japanese terms, titles, and names, except in the glossary. Since Dōgen’s vocabulary is complex, these diacritical marks are important both technically for correct reading and culturally for the accurate transmission of Zen terminology in the West. Second, in both the table of contents and throughout the collection, fascicles are listed only in English, with no reference to their Japanese titles—even in transliteration. Considering that there are several extant English translations of the Shōbōgenzō, most of which disagree even on basic terms in Dōgen’s Zen, the Japanese originals may have served as a useful “anchor” for readers navigating between different editions. Furthermore, Japanese names and titles have their own vital role in reflecting Dōgen’s unique color of Zen, so I would hope to see them added to future editions of Treasury of the True Dharma Eye.

A more complex issue concerns the decision to list fascicles in chronological order rather than along traditional editorial lines. As Tanahashi himself notes...


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