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A Comparison of Zen and Shin Buddhism: Dogen VS Shinran

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  1. Introduction
  2. Dogen and Buddha dharma
  3. The path towards realization
  4. The moon and enlightenment
  5. The essence of Zen Buddhism
  6. The essence of Shinran's teaching
  7. Conclusion
  8. Bibliography

Buddhism was not originally a Japanese religion, since the said originator of the way, Siddhartha Gautama (also referred to as Shakyamuni Buddha) was born in a region that is now Nepal, and spread his teachings mostly around northern India. China later received his teachings through various followers, and Japan was reached much later through people like Zen master Dogen Zenji, founder of the Soto school of Zen Buddhism in Japan, and Shinran Shonin, a Mahayana Buddhist who spread his somewhat original ideas throughout Japan in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries AD (wikipedia.org). These schools of Buddhism, although having their many similarities, also have profound differences in practice and especially in the type of people they reach out to. These similarities and difference will be explored through the referencing and analysis of two passages. One will be from Dogen's ?Moon in a Dew Drop?, and the other from a book written by one of Shinran's followers, Yui-en, the ?Tannisho.?

[...] The final and most distinct point in Dogen's teachings is symbolized in the final section of the passage by a conversation between Zen Master Baoche of Mt. Mayu and a monk. As the master was fanning himself, the monk said, ?Master, the nature of wind is permanent and there is no place it does not reach. Why, then, do you fan yourself?? (Tanahashi, 72) To this, the master tells the monk that although he understands that the nature of wind is permanent, he does not understand the meaning of its reaching everywhere. [...]


[...] This difficulty of passage is one of the main separations between Zen and Shin Buddhism. Shinran Shonin's ideas were quite different from those of Dogen's. Although both seeked enlightenment, Shinran said that enlightenment could not be achieved while a person is still within his or her body. A passage that greatly summarizes the essence of Shinran's belief can be found in the Tannisho: As for myself, Shinran, I simply take to the heart the words of my dear teacher, Honen, ?Just say the nembutsu and be saved by Amida,? and entrust myself to the Primal Vow. [...]

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