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Dharma books

-Books by Taigen, Founding Dharma Teacher-

(For books by other authors, please see
"other recommended reading", below)

Visions of Awakening Space and Time: Dogen and the Lotus SutraVisions of Awakening Space and Time: Dogen and the Lotus Sutra
by Taigen Dan Leighton
(Oxford University Press, 2007)

As a religion concerned with universal liberation, Zen grew out of a Buddhist worldview very different from the currently prevalent scientific materialism. Indeed, Zen cannot be fully understood outside of a worldview that sees reality itself as a vital, dynamic agent of awareness and healing. This book explicates that worldview through the writings of the Zen master Eihei Dogen (1200-1253), considered the founder of the Japanese Soto Zen tradition, which currently enjoys increasing popularity in the West.

The Lotus Sutra, arguably the most important Buddhist scripture in East Asia, contains a famous story about bodhisattvas (enlightening beings) who emerge from under the earth to preserve and expound the Lotus teaching in the distant future. The story reveals that the Buddha only appears to pass away, but actually has been practicing, and will continue to do so, over an inconceivably long life span.

The book traces commentaries on the Lotus Sutra from a range of key East Asian Buddhist thinkers, including Daosheng, Zhiyi, Zhanran, Saigyo, Myoe, Nichiren, Hakuin, and Ryokan. But the main focus is Eihei Dogen, the 13th century Japanese Soto Zen founder who imported Zen from China, and whose profuse, provocative, and poetic writings are important to the modern expansion of Buddhism to the West.

Dogen's use of this sutra expresses the critical role of Mahayana vision and imagination as the context of Zen teaching, and his interpretations of this story furthermore reveal his dynamic worldview of the earth, space, and time themselves as vital agents of spiritual awakening in the bodhisattva project. Broader awareness of Dogen's worldview and its implications can illuminate the possibilities for contemporary approaches to primary Mahayana concepts and practices.

"This richly woven study brings us new insights into the dynamic role of Earth in Mahayana Buddhist understandings of enlightenment. Leighton reveals a transmission of the Buddha Dharma in which the utter reality of the phenomenal world is not to be questioned, nor is impermanence to be transcended. Time and space are rather to be experienced as the spiritually nourishing womb of our awakening. Right now, when ecological crises imperil the future of conscious life, and when, at the same time, Gaia theory invites us to understand ourselves as intrinsic parts of a living Earth, this work of scholarship is good news indeed."

-- Joanna Macy, author of Coming Back to Life

"A premier translator of two of Dogen's major works, Eihei Shingi and Eihei Koroku, has now turned his sights to an analysis of Dogen in East Asian theoretical contexts with illuminating results. This very thoughtful, informative, and highly original study makes a significant contribution to both Dogen and Lotus Sutra studies by showing how Dogen's Zen is rooted in Mahayana worldview, and also how the Lotus Sutra was a key resource for Japanese Zen. Leighton does an outstanding job of juxtaposing the seminal Lotus Sutra with the main writings of Dogen, along with other prominent thinkers in Zen and Chinese and Japanese Buddhism. He also sheds important light on contemporary applications and interpretations of Buddhist theory."

-- Steven Heine, author of Dogen and the Koan Tradition

"Among the eminent Buddhist figures of premodern Japan, perhaps none has drawn more attention in the West than the Zen master Dogen (1200-1253). In a fresh approach, this volume moves beyond Dogen's explicitly Zen heritage to explore his indebtedness to the imagery and rhetorical strategies of the Lotus Sutra in articulating his vision of practice. Leighton is sensitive to the playfulness and creativity of Dogen's hermeneutics. His study will be welcomed by readers interested in the Mahayana as literature and in situating Dogen within the broader intellectual currents of his day."

-- Jacqueline I. Stone, author of Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism

"This book is an exploration of Dogen's writings on space and time, especially as they relate to the central message of the Lotus Sutra . It demonstrates unity of practice and book learning in Japanese Zen and the unity of the Zen tradition and Buddhist teaching traditions such as Tendai and Kegon. Anyone interested in philosophical or literary aspects of Dogen's teachings and their relationship to Buddhist scriptures will find much to savor. Buddhist practitioners who wish to know how traditional scriptures can speak to contemporary concerns will find much to digest. "

-- William Bodiford, author of Soto Zen in Medieval Japan

DOGEN'S EXTENSIVE RECORD: A TRANSLATION OF THE EIHEI KOROKU. Translated by Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura; Edited and introduced by Taigen Dan Leighton; Foreword by Tenshin Reb Andersen; with introductory essays by Steven Heine and John Daido Loori
(Wisdom Publications, 2004)

Eihei Dogen, the thirteenth-century founder of the Japanese Soto School of Zen, is renowned as one of the world's most remarkable religious thinkers. He is known for two major works. The first work, the massive Shobogenzo ('Treasury of the True Dharma Eye'), represents his earlier teachings and exists in numerous English translations. The second work, the Eihei Koroku, is a monumental collection including teachings from before he left Kyoto in 1243, but also almost all of what remains from Dogen's mature teaching in his last decade at Eiheiji. Here are 531 short formal discourses to the monks training at his temple; longer informal talks; his choice of ninety koans with Dogen's own verse comments; and his Chinese poetry from his student years in China to his last years. The Shobogenzo has received enormous attention in Western Zen and Western Zen literature, and with the publication of this watershed volume, the Eihei Koroku will surely rise to commensurate stature.


"This is a significant time in terms of understanding Dogen in the West, [with] Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura's translation of the Eihei Koroku coming out. People are going to see an entirely different style in this collection of Dogen's later teachings."

--Steven Heine, Professor of Religious Studies, Florida International University

"I can't keep my hands off my copy of Eihei Koroku! A phenomenal job....it reads so well and is just what I've been needing. Dogen has become the bedrock for my own practice and now these Dharma Talks speak directly to the matter. I feel as though I were standing in that assembly, trying to field the ball and heave it back. This all smacks of the man himself, talking to real people. I fear I may be one of those who reads and relishes every word."

--Tonen Sara O'Connor, Dharma teacher of the Milwaukee Zen Center

"Thank you so much for the the translation of Dogen's weighty tome. The many hours of dedicated work will be much appreciated by all of us now and in the future who value Dogen's inspired writing and talks."

--Mel Weitsman, abbot of the Berkeley Zen Center

"I am filled with deep appreciation for your generosity and effort in making these teachings accessible to the West. The book is wonderfully edited and translated and it is completely reassuring to have such a clear eyed teacher bringing Dogen's teachings to us."

--Dae Gak, Zen Master of Furnace Mountain Zen Center, Kentucky

"This massive work will be a valuable asset for all students of Zen and Buddhism in general. The Extensive Record allows us to see Dogen lecturing and performing as a teacher. The translators, Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, two Soto Zen teachers active in North America, have done an admirable job of rendering Dogen's thirteenth-century Chinese into modern English. The text is remarkably easy to read while also remaining faithful to Dogen's idiom. The translation and introductions meet high academic standards. Leighton provides extensive suggestions on how one might read Dogen's Extensive Record as a tool for improving one's daily practice. This translation allows Western readers to discover a new side of Dogen, the side he presented to his own students on a daily basis. It will reward careful study."

--William Bodiford, Professor, East Asian Languages and Cultures, UCLA

Faces of Compassion: Classic Bodhisattva Archetypes and Their Modern Expression . Revised Edition. Formerly published as Bodhisattva Archetypes:Classic Buddhist Guides to Awakening and Their Modern Expression.

(Wisdom Publications,2003)

Read some excerpts from this book

This book provides a practical introduction to the psychology of Bodhisattva practice, imagery, and imagination through the seven major archetypal bodhisattvas celebrated in East Asian Buddhism. Surveys of the iconography, basic Schools and teachings, colorful folklore, cultic history, and their primary liberative practices are presented for figures such as Manjushri, the sword-wielding prince of wisdom; Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion known as Chenrezig in Tibet, Kannon in Japan, and Guanyin "Goddess of Mercy" in China; Jizo, the monk/earth mother guardian of the afterlife and of hell beings; Maitreya, the next future Buddha, celebrated in China in his incarnation as Hotei, the fat "laughing buddha"; and Vimalakirti, trickster and vastly enlightened lay-disciple of the historical Buddha. In addition, modern culture figures who exemplify aspects of the archetypal qualities and spiritual values and strategies of the different bodhisattvas are suggested, including persons ranging from Einstein, Dr. King, Gandhi, and Mother Teresa, to Bob Dylan, Gloria Steinem, Muhammad Ali, Elie Weisel, Toni Morrison, Rachel Carson, Thomas Merton, Tom Jefferson, Helen Keller, and Clint Eastwood.

Praise of Bodhisattva Archetypes:

"Vigorous and inspiring, Bodhisattva Archetypes guides the reader into the clear flavors of the awaking life within both Buddhist tradition and our broad contemporary world. This is an informative, useful, and exhilarating work of deeply grounded scholarship and insight."

--Jane Hirshfield, author of Woman in Praise of the Sacred

"Such a useful book. Mr. Leighton clarifies and explains aspects of Buddhism which are often mysterious to the uninformed. The concept of the Bodhisattva--one who postpones personal salvation to serve others--is the perfect antidote to today’s spiritual materialism where "enlightened selfishness" has been enshrined as dogma for the greedy. This book is useful as a fine axe."

--Peter Coyote, actor and author of Sleeping Where I Fall

"I appreciate Taigen Daniel Leighton’s elucidation of the bodhisattva as archetypes .... In naming, describing, and illustrating the individual bodhisattvas, his book is an informative and valuable resource."

--Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D., author of Goddesses in Everywoman and Gods in Everyman

"In Bodhisattva Archetypes Taigen Leighton provides us with a clear-as-a-bell introduction to Buddhist thought, as well as a short course in Far Eastern iconography and lore that I intend to use as a desk reference. What astonishes me, however, is that along the way he also manages, with surprising plausibility, to portray figures as diverse as Gertrude Stein, Bob Dylan, and Albert Einstein, among many likely and unlikely others, as equivalent Western expressions of the bodhisattva archetype. His discussion provides the sort of informed daring we need to make Buddhism our own."

--Zoketsu Norman Fischer, Co-Abbot San Francisco Zen Center, author of Jerusalem Moonlight

"Like boys flying kites, spiritual writers tend to let their teachings jounce high in the clouds somewhere. Not so Taigen Daniel Leighton. He resolutely reels them down. In Bodhisattva Archetypes he presents Buddhist ideas and ideals embodied in flesh-and-blood people, examples whom we can love, admire, emulate: a stroke of genius. The result: A sparkler among contemporary Buddhist writings."

--Brother David Steindl-Rast, O.S.B., author of Gratefulness the Heart of Prayer

Cultivating the Empty Field: The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi

translated by Taigen Daniel Leighton with Yi Wu.

(revised, expanded edition, Charles E. Tuttle Co., 2000)

Read some excerpts from this book

Hongzhi–twelfth century Chinese Zen master who was predecessor of the famed Japanese spiritual writer Dogen–is celebrated in Zen literature as one of its most artistically graceful stylists. In these inspirational writings Hongzhi uses nature metaphors and poetical prose to articulate the experience and awareness of silent illumination, the nondual objectless meditation commonly known to modern Zen students as "just sitting." The introduction places his writings in the Zen tradition, including a discussion of the five ranks and the dialectics of Zen philosophy.

Comment on Cultivating the Empty Field :

"An inspiring book and an important document in the Zen tradition. While Chinese poetry and philosophy is loaded with metaphors drawn from nature, few poets employ metaphors in such an engaging manner as does Hongzhi." Tricycle magazine.

The Wholehearted Way: A Translation of Eihei Dogen’s "Bendowa" with Commentary by Kosho Uchiyama Roshi

translated by Taigen Daniel Leighton and Shohaku Okumura. (Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1997) ISBN: 0-8048-3105-X

Zen Master Dogen (1200-1253) is widely considered one of the most profound, poetic, and insightful writers of the Buddhist tradition. This book includes an annotated translation of Dogen’s primary essay about the essential meaning and spirit of Zen meditation, along with an extensive, down-to-earth, and entertaining commentary by a prominent modern Japanese Zen Master, Uchiyama Roshi.

Comments on The Wholehearted Way :

"This book will take Dogen Zenji’s teachings on practice/enlightenment into the 21st century. ... presented with such clarity and precision by Shohaku Okumura and Taigen Dan Leighton that we enter Dogen Zenji’s presence as though in dokusan."

Zenkei Blanche Hartman, Abbess of San Francisco Zen Center

"A fine introduction to the spirit of Zen, both past and present. Dogen’s famous text on Zen practice comes alive. ... The translation well captures both the sense of Dogen’s original text and the clarity and humanity that have made Uchiyama Roshi one of the most attractive Zen teachers today."

Carl Bielefeldt, Professor of Religious Studies, Stanford University  

Dogen’s Pure Standards for the Zen Community: A Translation of "Eihei Shingi"

translated by Taigen Daniel Leighton and Shohaku Okumura; Edited with Introduction by Taigen Daniel Leighton. (State University of New York Press, 1996)

This book is a complete translation of "Eihei Shingi," the major writing by the great thirteenth century Japanese Zen master Eihei Dogen about monastic practice and the role of community life in Buddhism. In addition to detailing procedural guidelines and instructions for monastic forms, in this work Dogen, noted for his profound and poetic insight, focuses on the appropriate attitudes and psychology for practitioners in community, and provides a collection of koans, or teaching stories, about spiritual community life. Along with the translation, the book includes a substantial introduction, informative annotation, and glossaries of persons mentioned in the stories and of traditional technical terms.

Comment on Dogen’s Pure Standards for the Zen Community :

"A very careful and readable translation of a very important work by Dogen which has just begun to receive attention. ... A ‘must read’ for those interested in studies of Dogen, Zen, and Japanese Buddhism."

Steven Heine, Professor of Religious Studies, Florida International University

Other recommended reading for Dharma students
The following limited selections are useful readings for Soto Zen practitioners, but there is now a wealth of good material in English on Buddhist practice. Inquiries are welcome for more reading suggestions for any specific Dharma topics.

Dogen Translations and Commentaries
Moon in a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dogen , edited and trans. by Kazuaki Tanahashi (North Point Press, 1985).
Co-Translated with elders of San Francisco Zen Center, including Taigen, this is one of the best introductory collection of Dogen’s writings.

Enlightenment Unfolds: The Essential Teachings of Zen Master Dogen , edited and trans. by Kazuaki Tanahashi (Shambhala, 1999).
Another good Dogen collection, also co-translated with elders of San Francisco Zen Center, including Taigen on Muchu Setsumu “Expressing the Dream Within the Dream,” and Temborin “Turning the Dharma Wheel.”

Beyond Thinking: A Guide to Zen Meditation; Zen Master Dogen, edited and trans. by Kazuaki Tanahashi (Shambhala, 2004).
Third volume of Dogen selections from Kaz Tanahashi, also co-translated with elders of San Francisco Zen Center, including Taigen on Gyobutsu Igi "The Awesome Presence of Active Buddhas."

The Heart of Dogen’s Shobogenzo , translated by Norman Waddell and Masao Abe (State University of New York Press, 2002).
These translations, with excellent annotation, were originally published in “Eastern Buddhist” in the early 70s, but remain among the very best renditions of key Dogen writings.

Shobogenzo: Zen Essays , trans. by Thomas Cleary (University of Hawaii Press, 1986).
Another excellent collection of translations, with useful commentary.

Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist, by Hee-Jin Kim (new edition, Wisdom Publications, 2004).
An excellent, comprehensive discussion of Dogen's thought and practice, with new Foreword by Taigen Leighton.

Dogen and the Koan Tradition, by Steven Heine (State University of New York Press, 1994). .
An academic work, and dense reading, but a clear, excellent presentation of how Dogen developed the Koan practice tradition as he introduced it to Japan.

Chinese Chan/Zen Sources
Book of Serenity, trans. by Thomas Cleary (Shambhala, 1998).
A primary collection of 100 koans collected with verse comments by Hongzhi Zhengjue. A bit more reader-friendly than other collections such as the Blue Cliff Record.

Sun Face Buddha: The Teachings of Ma-tsu and the Hung-chou School of Ch’an , trans. with intro. by Cheng Chien Bhikshu (Jain Publishing Co., 1993).
This and the next three selections are good translations of traditional Recorded Sayings attributed to the great classic Chan masters.

The Recorded Sayings of Zen Master Joshu , trans. by James Green (Shambhala, 1998).

The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-chi (Rinzai) , trans. Burton Watson (Columbia Univ. Pr., 1999)

Master Yunmen: From the Record of the Chan Teacher , trans. & edited by Urs App
(Kodansha, 1994).

Minding Mind: A course in Basic Meditation, trans. by Thomas Cleary (Shambhala 1995).
A useful collection of classic Zen meditation manuals from Japan and Korea as well as China.

Mahayana Sutras and Commentaries
Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma , trans. by
Leon Hurvitz (Columbia University Press, 1976).
This and the next volume are useful translations of arguably the most important East Asian sutra.

The Threefold Lotus Sutra , trans. by Butto Kato, Yoshiro Tamura, & Kojiro Miyasaka (Weatherhill, 1975).
This edition includes the significant “opening” and “closing” sutras.

Flower Ornament Scripture: A Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra , trans. by Thomas Cleary (Shambhala, 1993).
A vast, panoramic, psychedelic vision of the workings of bodhisattvas.

Entry into the Inconceivable: An Introduction to Hua-yen Buddhism , trans. by Thomas Cleary (University of Hawaii Press, 1995).
Translations of primary commentaries from the Chinese Hua-yen school, which developed a profound Mahayana dialectical philosophy based on the Avatamsaka Sutra.

The Holy Teachings of Vimalakirti , trans. by Robert Thurman (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1976).
Highly entertaining sutra recounting the inconceivable displays of the great enlightened layman of Buddha’s time.

The Eternal Legacy: An Introduction to the Canonical Literature of Buddhism, Sangharakshita (Tharpa Publications, 1985). A good survey resource for Buddhist sutras.

Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations , Paul Williams(Routledge, 1989).
A fine survey introduction to the range of Mahayana Philosophy.

Japanese Buddhism
Soto Zen in Medieval Japan , William Bodiford (University of Hawaii Press, 1993).
An excellent academic history of the development of Soto Zen in Japan after Dogen.

Ryokan: Zen Monk-Poet of Japan , trans. by Burton Watson (Columbia University Press, 1992).
This and the next selection give the fine poetry & teachings of Ryokan, the beloved nineteenth century Soto Zen monk/fool.

Zen Master Ryokan: Poems, Letters, and Other Writings , trans. with Essays by Ryuichi Abe and Peter Haskel (University of Hawaii Press, 1996).

The Essential Teachings of Zen Master Hakuin , trans. by Norman Waddell (Shambhala, 1994).
Teachings of the great, dynamic eighteenth century Japanese Rinzai master Hakuin.

American Buddhism
Being Upright: Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva Precepts , Reb Anderson (Rodmell Press, 2001).
Excellent, helpful discussions of bodhisattva precepts and their multiple levels in practice, as well as the ethical implications of meditation.

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind , Shunryu Suzuki (Weatherhill, 1970).
THE classic cherished teachings on modern Western Zen practice.

Not Always So: practicing the true spirit of Zen, Shunryu Suzuki (Harper Collins, 2002). More teachings from the founder of the San Francisco Zen Center, edited by Ed Brown, author of Tassajara Bread Book and Tassajara Cooking.

Branching Streams Flow into the Darkness: Zen Talks on the Sandokai , Shunryu Suzuki (University of California Press, 1999).

Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Zen Teachings of Shunryu Suzuki , David Chadwick (Broadway Books, 1999).

Practice of the Wild , Gary Snyder (North Point Press, 1990).
An important, liberating book by one of the great founders of American Zen, this work connects the wilderness of Nature and Mind.

Mountains and Rivers Without End , Gary Snyder (Counterpoint, 1996).

World as Lover, World as Self, Joanna Macy (Parallax Press, 1991).

Returning to Silence: Zen Practice in Daily Life , Dainin Katagiri (Shambhala, 1988).

Art of Just Sitting, edited by Daido Loori (Wisdom Publications, 2002). Essays and talks about shikantaza from a wide range of sources from China, Japan and America. Preface is by Taigen (see "Hongzhi, Dogen and the Background of Shikantaza" on the Articles and Essays link on this site).

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