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Dogen Quotes for Travel

Dogen Zenji (Japanese: 道元禅師) founded the Soto Zen lineage of Buddhism in Japan during the 1200s. Dissatisfied with the politics and social posturing at the temple where he’d trained since childhood, Dogen traveled to China to study Buddhism more deeply. While traveling in China, Dogen learned of the practice of Just Sitting or Silent Illumination meditation, which he then brought back to Japan. He established Eiheiji, the first head temple of the Soto Zen school, in 1246. Dogen’s journeys heavily influenced his writing and the practices he implemented in his temple, which you can read about in his Shobogenzo (The Treasury of the True Dharma Eye). It is an extensive collection of essays and how-to guides on practicing meditation and running a temple. Let’s hope you bring back something as useful from your journey as the practice of simply being in peace. May these Dogen quotes be a guide on your travels, wherever you take yourself, even if it’s just to the grocery store down the street.

If you are unable to find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?

This is certainly true. No matter how far you travel, your brain will always be in the same place. However, Dogen did spend five years of his life traveling around temples in China to learn this.

It's too late to be ready.

Unsure about the exact source for this, so it’s possible this is not a Dogen quote, but it sounds like a Dogen quote. We so often delay doing the things we want to do until we feel some mythical sense of being ready. Maybe we’re afraid of relapse on trip. Or we’re afraid of going to therapy, we don’t feel ready to travel alone, we don’t feel ready to start the business we’ve been thinking about (forever). By the time you’ve ruminated on it, it’s already too late!

Do not view mountains from the scale of human thought.

This quote from Dogen could equally apply to how we perceive other cultures and practices. My perspective as a tourist passing by does not encompass the centuries of stories and practice present in what I see and cannot see when I travel.

Though there are many features in the dusty world and the world beyond conditions, you see and understand only what your eye of practice can reach. In order to learn the nature of the myriad things, you must know that although they may look round or square, the other features of oceans and mountains are infinite in variety; whole worlds are there. It is so not only around you, but also directly beneath your feet, or in a drop of water.

A quote from Dogen’s famous Genjokoan, this is for everybody chasing a bucketlist of places and things. It is our own personal practice that determines how we interact with this world. Taking a photo of yourself in front of the fire hydrant down the street is just as special as snapping a selfie overlooking Machu Pichu in the morning. When you can approach the both with the same sense of wonder and significance, you can appreciate the world much more.

When you locate the path you have been following, you will discover that it is the spiritual question that has been before your very eyes as you have traveled the Way. This path and this place are neither large nor small, neither ‘self ’ nor ‘other’, nor something from the past, nor something revealed in the now: It is just as It is.

This classic Zen quote was likely informed by Dogen’s own experience and reasons for traveling. He set off on his journey of spiritual discovery because he wanted to learn, if Buddha-nature is inherent in all beings, why then does anybody need to seek enlightenment or engage in spiritual disciplines?

One must be deeply aware of the impermanence of the world.

At first, this may seem scary or sad, but understanding we can lose everything is an opportunity to love and care for what’s important to us and nurture it in this moment.

Wherever you travel today, please take this understanding with you.

A drawing of Zen master Huangbo, with a moustache and small beard, heavy eyebrows and a shaved head, wearing a monk's robes and a cloak decorated with a design pattern of lines in small spirals like stars

Huangbo Travel Quotes

Huángbò Xīyùn (trad. Chinese: 黄檗希運 or Huang Po in older English-language works) was an influential Zen master in 8th and 9th century Tang Dynasty China

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