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Reviewed by:
  • Dōgen: Textual and Historical Studies ed. by Steven Heine
  • Eitan Bolokan (bio)
Dōgen: Textual and Historical Studies. Edited by Steven Heine. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp. vi + 299. Paper $22.48, isbn 978-0-19-975447-2.

Dōgen: Textual and Historical Studies is an impressive volume that marks a significant leap forward in the study of Zen Master Eihei Dōgen (1200–1253), founder of [End Page 348] the Japanese Sōtō School. Dōgen’s life and thought are closely examined in light of the wider historical and religious contexts of Song dynasty China and the Kamakura era in Japan. This collection offers a careful consideration of Dōgen’s rich literary legacy by examining his significance situated as he was at the historical crossroads between the Chinese Chan tradition and the birth of Japanese Zen. In particular, the volume contemplates the manner in which Dōgen’s historical — perhaps mythological — figure has been endorsed and cultivated by the Sōtō sect throughout the centuries. By adhering to historical coherence and verifiability, it questions many of the themes and views that have been evoked to characterize the more symbolic aspects of Dōgen’s character.

In his introductory essay editor Steven Heine states, “there remains a tendency in some approaches to Dōgen studies to be lacking in historical specificity and verifiability” (p. 5). Contributors respond to this challenge in striking fashion by offering the kind of analysis hitherto found only within Japanese academic circles. Indeed, the depth and breadth of perspectives offered here resemble in variety and range the voluminous Dōgen shisō taikei (Sōtōshū Shūgaku Kenkyūsho, ed. [Tokyo: Dōhōsha Shuppan, 1994–1995]) and the Dōgen no nijū seiki (Nara Yasuaki and Azuma Ryōshin, eds. [Tokyo: Tokyo Shoseki, 2001]). This commendable effort at widening the field follows and further develops initial Western academic collaborations, such as Dōgen Studies, edited by William R. LaFleur (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1985).

The collection is divided into two sections — “Textual Studies” and “Historical Studies” — each containing five articles by prominent contributors from both sides of the Pacific. “Textual Genealogies of Dōgen” by William M. Bodiford begins by surveying the various versions of pivotal works attributed to Dōgen. Bodiford carefully examines, for the first time in English, the genealogies of the Shinji shōbōgenzō, the Hōkyōki, the Eihei kōroku, and Eihei goroku collections, in addition to the Shōbōgenzō zuimonki. He explores variants of the “Bendōwa,” Dōgen’s important early text from 1231, and explains the reasons behind the multiple editions of the Shōbōgenzō, Dōgen’s most celebrated writing. Remarking on the complexity of editorial work, Bodiford advises young scholars to “develop a healthy skepticism regarding the editorial policies of other scholars” (p. 18). This study is certain to have a lasting effect on the field in both its factual and methodological significance.

Steven Heine’s “What Is on the Other Side? Delusion and Realization in Dōgen’s ‘Genjōkōan’” marks a novel attempt to interpret one of the most enigmatic passages in Dōgen’s literary corpus from the “Genjōkōan” fascicle: “When perceiving one side, the other side is dark.” Heine discusses the role of sense perception in the experience of awakening and analyzes the different commentaries offered by such prominent scholars as Kurebayashi Kōdō, Yoshizu Yoshihide, Matsumoto Shirō, and Ishii Seijun. Intriguingly, in the latter part of the article he extends his deliberation to the field of aesthetics by pointing to how Dōgen’s waka poetry reflects the role of perception in “the process of awakening the authentic mind” (p. 71).

The final three essays in part 1 deal with the notions of practice and lineage in Dōgen’s Zen. In “Just Sitting? Dōgen’s Take on Zazen, Sutra Reading, and Other [End Page 349] Conventional Buddhist Practices,” T. Griffith Foulk refutes the idealistic claim that Dōgen rejected various Buddhist practices in favor of “pure Zen” (junsui zen). Foulk demonstrates Dōgen’s involvement in diverse practices and justly stresses the need...


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pp. 348-351
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