Lectures and Articles by Gudo Nishijima Roshi
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- Three talks given by Nishijima Roshi on Japanese
Radio in December 1994. The talks are titled: Buddhism &
Action, Action & Daily Life, and Buddhism & Zazen.
- PDF file (40KB): B&A.pdf
- Nishijima discusses what the Buddhist precepts are.
His view is that the precepts are not theoretical or romantic.
They are very concrete and practical. In this they reflect the
fundamental character of Buddhism. Buddhism is a practical
philosophy. It is concerned with finding the right way to live.
But to live correctly is not so easy. When we are beginning our
Buddhist life we need some guidelines: some criteria by which to
decide what we should do and what we should not do. The precepts
were created to fulfill that function. The were made to help us
live properly and correctly. In other words, the precepts teach us
how to live a happy life.
- PDF file (186KB): Precepts.pdf
Philosophies & One Reality (The Basic Philosophy of
- This booklet is an edited collection of seven talks
given on Buddhism by Master Nishijima to the weekly seminar he
held in Tokyo. Master Nishijima bases his explanations of Buddhist
theory on the Shobogenzo, the central work of the Buddhist priest
and philosopher known as Master Dogen. Though a brilliant and
original thinker adept with words and the complexities of Buddhist
logic, Master Dogen never lost sight of the gulf that separates
ideas and reality. He found the true foundation of Buddhist life,
not in theories but in the simple sitting practice called Zazen.
His thought is thus entirely practical and realistic, and his
insight remains as fresh and pertinent today as it was eight
hundred years ago.
- PDF file (70KB): 4Philos.pdf
- Understanding The Shobogenzo
- Master Nishijima gives his views on understanding the
Shobogenzo, a Buddhist text written in Japanese by Master Dogen in
the 13th century. Master Nishijima writes:
- "Most people's reaction on first reading the
Shobogenzo is that it seems very difficult to see clearly what the
writings mean. This is a natural reaction because when we read a
sentence, we usually expect to be able to understand the meaning
of what we read immediately. The first time that I picked up a
copy of the Shobogenzo, I found that I could not understand any of
it, although I was reading a book written in my own native
language. Of course, reading the Shobogenzo in translation
introduces a new set of problems related to the skill and
knowledge of the translator, and to the similarities of the
languages.Attempts to elucidate the problems that the
Shobogenzo presents to the reader bring me to four main reasons:
- The Shobogenzo is written with a unique logical
structure, which I have called "Four Views" or "Three
Philosophies & One Reality." I explain this system of logic
in a later section.
- Master Dogen wrote using many phrases and
quotations from Chinese Buddhism which are relatively unknown to
the layman, and difficult to render into other languages. These
phrases appear in the Shobogenzo in their original Chinese form,
making some parts of the book a commentary in 13th century
Japanese on Chinese phrases from even older sources. In the
translated version, we have the additional problems of
representing these phrases in a very different target language.
- The concepts that Master Dogen wanted to express
were profound and subtle. Even in his own language it was
necessary for him to invent many new words and phrases to put
over what he wanted to say. These new words were largely not
adopted into the Japanese language, and so are unfamiliar to us
- Master Dogen wrote the Shobogenzo in order to
explain his experience of reality gained from practicing Zazen.
His words are based on this experience. It is normal these days
to think that anything philosophical can be understood
intellectually, as an intellectual exercise. We do not have much
experience of philosophies which are pointing to physical
practice. We think that just reading the book should be enough
to understand what is written in it."
- PDF file (80KB): Und-Shob.pdf
- Japanese Buddhism & The Meiji Restoration
- Master Nishijima presented this paper at the Annual Meeting of the American
Academy of Religion in San Francisco in November 1997.
- "The Meiji Restoration that engulfed Japan in 1868,
although described as a "restoration," was in fact a complete
revolution, which affected all levels of society, ...and which had
an impact on every facet of life-cultural, economic, and
- "...Religions too were caught up in the sweeping
changes, and Buddhism was no exception. The historical events that
unfolded in Buddhism in Japan caused major destruction and
irreversible changes to many aspects of the religion and its
practices. In this paper, I would like to discuss the concrete
nature of some of these changes, in order to set the modern face
of Buddhism in Japan within a historical and philosophical
- PDF file (450KB): AAR.pdf
- Zazen, a Better Way of Experiencing Pain
- In November 2002 Master Nishijima attended a
conference in Montpellier, France, that discussed the theme "Has
Pain a Meaning." In his talk at the conference, Master Nishijima
outlined his ideas on the meaning of pain from a Buddhist
- PDF file: 12KB - Zazen&Pain
- Buddhism & The Autonomic Nervous System
- A short talk Master Nishijima gave to a group of
Buddhists and Christians at a retreat in Brussels in November
2002. In this talk, Nishijima Roshi outlines his idea about how
the autonomic nervous system becomes balanced when we practice
Zazen, enabling us to experience a similar state to Buddhas.
- PDF file: 10KB - Buddhism
- 30 Questions and Answers on Buddhism
- Master Nishijima's answers
some questions he received about Buddhism.
- Nishijima Roshi's Zazen Retreat Lectures
lectures from a Buddhist Retreat held by Master Nishijima at
Tokei-in Temple in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan (external link).
on how to practice zazen sitting meditation (external link)