CITATION from Commentary on DOGEN ZENJI'S
UJI (有時): Just for the Time Being, Just for a While,
For the Whole of Time is the Whole of Existence
from Shobogenzo, translation and notes by Hubert Nearman
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Translator’s Introduction
Uji” is Dōgen’s discourse on the significance of anatta and anicca—the Buddhist terms for ‘no permanent, abiding self’ and ‘continual change’—and their application to treading the paths of Right Understanding and Right Thought. It is not, strictly speaking, a discourse, for Dōgen gave the text to his monks in written form, which suggests that he intended it to be read over and studied carefully, rather than to be absorbed by hearing it only once.

Because it is linguistically possible to translate the title as ‘Being and Time’, some modern scholars have been led to assume that Dōgen was engaging in a form of philosophical speculation akin to that of some Western existentialists. Such an approach, however, would seem counter to the purpose behind a discourse given by a Buddhist Master, since speculative thinking—philosophical or otherwise—is a type of mentation that trainees are working to disengage themselves from so that they may progress towards realizing spiritual Truth, which lies beyond the reaches of speculation.

The key term, which is presented as the title, has meanings which no single English rendering fully encompasses. To begin with, uji (the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese you-shih) has long been a common, everyday phrase in China, as it has been for the Japanese when read as aru toki, encompassing in both languages such English equivalents as ‘just for the time being’, ‘there is a time when’, ‘at some time’, ‘now and then’, and the like. During his presentation, Dōgen also explores the two components from which the word uji is made, drawing examples of their usage from everyday Japanese. The first half (u) refers to ‘existence’ or ‘being’; the second (ji) has a variety of close English equivalents, including ‘time’, ‘a time’, ‘times’, ‘the time when’, ‘at the time when’ (as well as ‘hour’ or ‘hours’ when used with a number) or as signifying what is temporal (‘sometime’, ‘for a time’, etc.). The phrase aru toki has already appeared with some frequency in several of Dōgen’s earlier discourses, particularly as a phrase in an extended kōan story to signal that an important event is about to happen, such as a one-to-one exchange with a Master that will trigger the disciple’s realization of what Truth is. In this context, it conveys the sense of ‘and then, one day’.
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(Zen Master) DOGEN ZENJI'S (道元禅師)
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