BOOK> Steven Heine, Flowers Blooming on a Withered Tree: Giun's Verse Comments on Dōgen's Treasury of the True Dharma Eye

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Steven Heine, Professor and Director of Asian Studies at Florida International University, announces a new publication titled Flowers Blooming on a Withered Tree: Giun's Verse Comments on Dōgen's Treasury of the True Dharma Eye.


This book provides a translation and critical bilingual edition on the Verse Comments on the Treasury of the True Dharma Eye. The Verse Comments by Giun (1253-1333), the fifth abbot of Eiheiji temple, is an important early medieval Japanese commentary on the 60-chapter edition of the Treasury of the True Dharma Eye (Shōbōgenzō), one of the main versions of the masterwork written by Eihei Dōgen (1200-1253), the founder of the Soto Zen sect in Japan who established Eiheiji in the mid-1240s.


Giun's Verse Comments was one of only two commentaries of the Treasury written during the Kamakura era, with the other being a prose analysis of the 75-chapter edition, called Prose Comments on the Treasury of the True Dharma Eye, often abbreviated to Distinguished Comments (Gōshō). While the Prose Comments fell into disuse rather quickly and was only revived nearly three hundred years later, the Verse Comments was circulated widely from the time of its composition and read by many Soto monks over the next couple of centuries. Offering poems and cryptic expressions that seek to capture the spiritual flavor and essential meaning of Dōgen’s thought as suggested in each chapter, the Verse Comments is crucial for understanding how Dōgen’s Treasury was received and appropriated in the religious and literary context of medieval Japan.


In this book, Steven Heine's careful interpretations, historical investigations, and theoretical reflections demonstrate the significance of Giun's writings in light of the history of pre-modern and modern commentaries on Dōgen's masterwork, the Treasury of the True Dharma Eye.


This is the second major monograph published by Steven Heine this year on Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō, following Readings of Dōgen’s Treasury of the True Dharma Eye (Columbia University Press, 2020).




Part I. Historical Investigations
1. A Mystical Path Stemming from Eiheiji: The Significance of Text and Author
2. Nothing Hidden in the Entire Universe: Giun and the Formation of the 60-Fascicle Edition
Part II. Translations and Interpretations
3. Giun's Verse Comments with Capping Phrases: Full Text with Glosses
4. Selected Supplementary Poems: By Giun and Other Relevant Monk-Poets
Epilogue. Before, During, and After the Ban: History of Commentaries on Dōgen's Treasury



This book is a major breakthrough for all who study and practice Eihei Dōgen’s Zen and the Sōtō tradition he inspired. Steven Heine, the most eminent and prolific modern scholar of Dōgen, introduces Giun, the fifth abbot of Eiheiji, who wrote illuminating verse comments on the sixty-essay version of Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō, The Treasury of the True Dharma Eye. For centuries Giun’s verses became the most influential commentary on Dōgen. Heine provides a clear, complete translation of and skillful guidance for Giun’s verses, very helpful for appreciating Dōgen’s teaching.”

—TAIGEN DAN LEIGHTON, author of Visions of Awakening Space and Time: Dōgen and the Lotus Sutra


Flowers Blooming on a Withered Tree is a meticulously researched and fascinating study of one of the earliest commentaries on Dōgen’s masterwork, The Treasury of the True Dharma Eye (Shōbōgenzō). Heine reveals the doctrinal and historical reception of the Treasury in medieval Zen for the first time in Western scholarship, detailing the evolution of the diverse editions of the Treasury and the development of the later commentarial tradition. Thus, he once again makes a much-needed contribution to Zen studies. This book will be of great interest to scholars of East Asian Buddhism, medieval Japanese religions, and Japanese poetry, as well as to Zen practitioners.”

—MICHAELA MROSS, Assistant Professor of Japanese Religions at Stanford University


“An ancient but little-known jewel in the vast field of Dōgen Zen literature is now available for our study and enlightenment. Steven Heine has given us a wonderful translation of Zen master Giun’s Verse Comments on Dōgen’s Treasury of True Dharma Eye, as well as his thorough, insightful, and eloquent guidance into the critical-historical context of the Verse Comments. Here we have a great and auspicious opportunity to look through the eyes of one of Dōgen’s pivotal disciples.”

—TENSHIN REB ANDERSON, Senior Dharma Teacher at the San Francisco Zen Center