The Dark Side of the Mirror: Forgetting the Self in Dōgen’s Genjō Kōan (Paperback)


A new commentary on a key Zen text. This new commentary on Dōgen’s Genjō Kōan by Buddhist teacher and author David Brazier draws back the curtain to reveal the deeper meaning of the text, in language that will be as transparent to the general reader as it is informative to the specialist. The Dark Side of the Mirror reveals the pivotal principle at the heart of Dōgen’s Zen and shows how his revelation of it was rooted in his personal experience, as well as in the religious consciousness of his time.

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In this video, David Brazier explains what Dōgen means by ‘kōan’ in Genjō Kōan and explores the central metaphor of the text which communicates the essence of what Dōgen has to say about the nature of spiritual enlightenment.

In this video, John de Weerdt interviews David Brazier about his reasons for writing The Dark Side of the Mirror: forgetting the self in Dōgen’s Genjō Kōan.


This is a beautifully written book, highly readable and full of precious insights. This classic text of Zen Buddhism comes to life through Brazier's translation and comments. I have added it to my shelf of spiritual classics. – Miguel Farias, DPhil., co-author of The Buddha Pill; Director of the Brain, Belief, & Behaviour Lab

Brazier makes this medieval Japanese text highly accessible to the modern reader – and to the student of Dōgen – by focusing on the text as a fundamental guide to Zen Buddhist practice. His interpretation also locates the text within the philosophy and teaching of Chinese Taoism, which enriches the meaning and also reflects the importance of Dōgen’s studies in China. Throughout Brazier masterfully simplifies Dōgen’s teaching and inspires us with its fundamental truths. – Ryugin Rita Cummings, San Francisco Zen Center

This work by David Brazier is an excellent book. It is subtle, clarifying and often surprising in a positive way. As an ‘all round Buddhist’ in scholarship and practice, and as a psychotherapist and philosopher, he offers fascinating and new perspectives on Dōgen’s personal life, vision and work. Further, he takes Dōgen as a starting point for a critical consideration of our contemporary vision of Buddhism that so easily reflects only what suits our prior expectations and preferences. The book thus makes one reconsider our own understanding and practice. In short: enriching and definitely worth reading! – Willem Scheepers, Zen teacher and Dharmaholder in the Soto lineage of Maezumi Roshi

David Brazier’s remarkable book transcends the limited and stereotypical perception of Dōgen prevalent in the West. It does so by placing Dōgen squarely within the broader religious milieu of his time and capturing Dōgen’s distinctive spiritual insights expressed in his Genjō Kōan. – Kenneth K. Tanaka, Professor Emeritus, Musashino University, and Past President, International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies

I have been reading The Dark Side of the Mirror, and I think it magnificent. Your insightful commentary, your ability to articulate the many subtleties one encounters in Genjokoan, the grounding of your comments in so great a breadth of knowledge, and the distinctiveness of what you bring to the text – it's really quite an exceptional book. Congratulations on both the quality of the book and on completing so ambitious a project! – Andrew Cooper, Editor, Tricycle magazine


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