Child's Play
Citations from COMMENTARY on Dogen Zenji's
SHOAKU MAKUSA (諸悪莫作, Do No Evil)
from The Deeper Meaning of Precepts
Roar of the Tigress, Vol. II: Zen for Spiritual Adults
[Lectures on Dogen's Shobogenzo] by Abbess Houn Jiyu-Kennett, Roshi
__ __ __
THE POET Haku Rakuten (C. Po Chu-i) of the T'ang Dynasty was a lay disciple of Meditation Master Bukko Nyoman... When Rakuten was governor of Hangchow, he trained under Meditation Master Dorin (C. Tao-lin) of Choka (C. Niao-k'o) He once asked Dorin, "Just what is the major intention of the Buddha Dharma?" Dorin replied, "Refrain from all evil whatsoever, uphold and practice all that is good." Rakuten said, "If that's all there is to it, even a child of three knows how to say that!" Dorin said, "Though a three-year-old child can say it, there are old men in their eighties who still cannot put it into practice." Upon hearing the matter put this way, Rakuten then bowed in gratitude [...]
__ __ __
Befuddled Rakuten  had never heard what a three-year old child had to say, and so he had never questioned himself as to what the Matter was, but made the kind of remark he did. He did not hear what Dorin was voicing though It resounded louder than thunder. In speaking of That which cannot be put into words, Rakuten had said, "Even a child of three knows how to say that." Not only did he not hear the child's lion roar, he also stumbled over the Master's turning of the Wheel of the Dharma.
The Master, out of pity, could not give up on Rakuten and went on to say, "Though a three-year-old child can say it, there are men in their eighties who still cannot put it into practice." The heart of what he said exists in what a child of three can say, and this we must thoroughly investigate. Also, there is the practice which eighty-year-olds may not be doing, but which we must diligently investigate. Also, there is the practice which eighty-year-olds may not be doing, but which we must diligently engage in. What he has told us is that what the child is capable of saying has been entrusted to us, though it is not the task for old men such as these. In a similar way do we keep the Buddha's dharma in mind and take It as our foundation, so that we may make It our reason for training. (*)
__ __ __
Commentary by Jiyu-Kennett, Roshi:
Although  a child may not fully realize what he or she is saying, yet there can still be Truth within his words. That Truth has been entrusted to you, to your own deep study and your own purification of your heart. The practice which many old men neglect has also been entrusted to you, and it, too, depends on how deeply you study the Way. We must study the meaning of these things with great care. Know that to purify the heart is, indeed, to have the intention and practice of refraining from all evil whatsoever. Know that beyond "good" and "evil" there are simply things which are to be done and things which we do not do.
__ __ __
Secondary Source Note: 
Rev. Jiyu Kennett indirectly comments on this koan in "The Education of the Buddhist Child" (republished in CARETAKING A NEW SOUL, edited by Anne Carson):
"I am often asked,  'How do you teach meditation to a child and what is the best age to start at?' In the east the average child is taught to meditate as soon as it is possible for it to sit upright; i.e. around one or two years old. No doctrine is put into the child's head. The mother and father, and the rest of the family, will sit quietly in front of the family altar; the child, without being restrained, will either sit on the floor for a few moments or roll around on the floor with the parents taking no notice. The parents thus express their knowledge of the child's latent understanding and do not treat it as less than themselves. In a very short time the child wants to sit like the parents, as does, interestingly enough, the dog and the cat. I have sat down to meditate, and my cat has come up, looked at the wall and then sat down to look at it with me. Thus, if the parents meditate, the child will meditate too. I have seen children at the age of two and a half doing formal meditation in the laymen's meditation hall in Sojiji — and doing a wonderful job. [...] These children do a meditation so pure and exquisite it is unbelievable to watch; but they would not be able to discuss the Buddha Nature with you, nor would they be able to put into words the doctrine of the Trikaya — nor would they be able to explain the 'all is one' and the 'all is different' — they will express the Buddha Nature for they have learned to meditate with their whole being untrammeled by duality. They are indeed whole creatures and can teach us much."
__ __ __
(*) Dogen citation quoted by RM Jiyu-Kennett from the translation 
by Hubert Nearman, Shasta Abbey.

(Zen Master) DOGEN ZENJI'S (道元禅師)
(Gender Inclusive) STUDIES OF THE WAY (學道) | (INDEX)
95-Fascicle SHOBOGENZO (正法眼蔵) & Other Writings
photo (Top):