What Is on the Other Side?: Delusion and Realization in Dōgen's "Genjōkōan" Book Chapter

Heine, S. (2012). What Is on the Other Side?: Delusion and Realization in Dōgen's "Genjōkōan" . 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199754465.003.0002

cited authors

  • Heine, S



  • This chapter deals with one of the most frequently cited but still controversial and contested passages in Dōgen's corpus, in which he argues, "When perceiving one side, the other side is concealed" (alternative rendering: "When one side is illumined, the other side is dark") in the context of discussing the role of sense perceptions in the experience of enlightenment. The "Genjōkōan" fascicle, which was one of the earliest Shōbōgenzō compositions that appears as the opening section of the mainstream 75- fascicle edition is anomalous because it is a rare example of a document by Dōgen that was addressed as an epistle to a lay disciple, rather than to his monastic community. Its teaching focuses on three themes expressed in the enigmatic initial paragraph on the polarities of sentient beings and buddhas, life and death, and delusion and realization. The key passage in question deals with the third antimony and has traditionally been interpreted as indicating that realization represents the thorough penetration of a single object (ippō gūjin) beyond delusion. The chapter seeks to reveal a more nuanced view by drawing on recent approaches and philosophical debates conducted by Japanese scholars Kurebayashi Kōdō, Yoshizu Yoshihide, Matsumoto Shirō, and Ishii Seijun, who demonstrate in various ways that the passage indicates a complex interweaving of the states of enlightenment and nonenlightenment. Ishii concludes by presenting a position that articulates a constructive compromise overturning one-sided expositions of the passage.

publication date

  • May 24, 2012