Someone said, “We are living in the last period of the dharma, and ours is a country remote from the Buddha’s land. The buddha-dharma can flourish here and its benefit spread widely only by living at ease in a quiet hermitage without worrying about food and clothing coming from lay supporters, and by practicing the Buddha-way only after being sufficiently provided for.”
Now, as I think about this, it is not so. When people gather together to study who are only able to see the form of things and who cling to their egos, surely not a single one among them will arouse bodhi-mind. Even if a thousand or ten thousand people who were attached to profit and indulging only in their desire for possessions were to gather together, it would be worse than if no one were to come. This is because only the karma which causes falling into the evil realms of samsara would accumulate naturally of itself and there would be no aspiration to practice the buddha-dharma. If we remain pure and poor and practice the Way while enduring hardship in begging for food, eating wild nuts or fruit, and enduring hunger, a single person hearing about us and coming to practice will be one possessing true bodhi-mind. I think this is the way the buddha-dharma can truly flourish. To have no disciples because of hardship or pure poverty and to have many people gather together because of abundant food and clothing while lacking the buddha-dharma is six of one and half a dozen of the other (Shobogenzo Zuimonki, Book 2, Chapter 6).
Someone advised me saying, "Your way of practice is extreme. You don’t understand this age and do not reflect upon our capability. Our nature is inferior and this is the degenerate age. If we continue to practice in such a way, it will become a cause of backsliding from the Way. Seek the support of some patron, take care of your body by living in a quiet place without worrying about food or clothing, and practice the Buddha Way peacefully. This is not greed for property or belongings. You should practice after having provided for your temporal means of livelihood."
Although I listened to his advice, I do not believe it. Just study carefully the conduct of Zen monks, along with the lifestyle of the buddhas and patriarchs. Although the customs of the three countries are different, those who truly study the Way have never practiced in the manner described. Just do not be attached to worldly affairs but study the Way in a straightforward manner (Zuimonki, 1-16).
Most people today mistakenly think that constructing buddha-images and building stupas helps the buddha-dharma flourish. Even though we might erect huge temples adorned with polished jewels and gold, we cannot attain the Way by these works. This is nothing more than merit for lay people enabling their wealth to enter into the world of the buddha and allowing people to do good. Although they might receive a great result from a small cause, for monks to be involved in such things has nothing to do with the flourishing of the buddha-dharma. To learn even a single phrase of the dharma-gate (teaching) or to practice zazen while living in a thatched hut or under a tree even for a single period shows the true flourishing of the buddha-dharma.At present I am appealing for donations and working as much as possible to construct a sodo. Still, I do not think that this necessarily contributes to the flourishing of the buddha-dharma. Only because there are few people who are studying the Way right now and because I am spending my days leisurely do I think it better to engage in these activities than be idle. I hope this will enable deluded people to form a connection with the buddha-dharma. Moreover, I am working on this project for the sake of founding a dojo for zazen practice for people studying the Way in this age. I will have no regrets even though what I have wished for and begun might not be realized. I do not mind if but one single pillar is erected as long as people in later generations know that someone had the aspiration to carry out such a project (Zuimonki, 2-6).
Once, someone urged Dogen to go to Kanto to help the Buddha-dharma flourish. "Kanto" refers to the eastern part of Japan, in this case Kamakura, where the shogunate government was located. At the time, the samurai who took over political power from the court in Kyoto had accepted Zen Buddhism. Several Chinese Zen masters came from China and a number of Zen temples were founded there. The person was suggesting that Dogen go there to gain the support of the shogunate government.Dogen refused. “If someone aspires to practice the buddha-dharma, he will come and study it even if he has to cross mountains, rivers, and oceans. If he lacks such resolution, there is no certainty that he will accept it, even if I go and urge him to practice it. Shall I fool people merely for the sake of material support? Isn’t this just greed for wealth? Since it would just tire me out, I feel no necessity to go.” Later, however, after Dogen moved into Eiheiji, he did visit Kamakura and stayed there for half a year (Zuimonki, 2-7).
There are three steps in the manifestation of virtue. Firstly, it becomes known that the person is practicing the Way. Next, people who aspire to the Way come to that person. And lastly, people learn the Way and practice with him in the same way. This is called the manifestation of the virtue of the Way (Zuimonki, 2-3).