Posted inArt and Poems, Dogen, Koans, Other Teachings

Unborn and Undying, from Genjokoan

June 24, 2016

2180452793_836ee65154_zOnce firewood turns to ash, the ash cannot revert to being firewood. But you should not take the view that it is ashes afterward and firewood before.

You should realize that although firewood is at a dharma-stage of firewood,  and that this is possessed of before and after, the firewood is at the same time independent, completely cut off from before, completely cut off from after.

Ashes are the dharma-stage of ashes, which also has a before and after.

Just as firewood does not revert to wood once it has turned to ash, human beings do not return to life after they have died.

Buddhist do not speak of life becoming death. They speak of being unborn.

Since it is a confirmed Buddhist teaching that death does not become life, Buddhists speak of being undying.

Life is a stage of time, and death is a stage of time. It is like winter and spring. Buddhists do not suppose that winter passes into spring or speak of spring passing into summer.


From The Heart of Dogen’s Shobogenzo, Suny Press, 2002
Norman Waddell and Masao Abe, translators

Image: Ashes, by Pirate_Renee, CC BY 2.0, from
Featured Image: Ash 075, by felizfeliz, CC by ND 2.0, from


footer support banner image

Support Mountain Cloud

You can show your gratitude for Mountain Cloud events, retreats, podcasts and other teachings by making a one-time gift, or by becoming a supporting member.

Donate to Mountain Cloud Become a Member