Okumura Roshi is translating a selection of Dogen’s poems, one for each month of the year.


Dogen Zenji’s September waka

In the fifth year of Kencho (1253), on the fifth day of the eighth lunar month, the Founder (Dogen Zenji) went to the capital, Kyoto. On the day he arrived, he composed a poem:

草の葉に かどでせる身の 木部山 雲にをかある 心地こそすれ
Kusa no ha ni / kadode seru mi no / konobeyama / kumo ni oka aru / kokochi koso sure

Having left [Eiheiji] while the leaves of grasses [were vigorous].
[When I arrived at the peak of] Konobeyama mountain,
I felt like I was walking within the clouds.

In the first lunar month of 1253, Dogen Zenji wrote Shobogenzo Hachidainingaku (Eight aspects of Great Beings’ awakening). The main part of this fascicle is a quote from the eight aspects of awakening in The Sutra of Buddha’s Final Teaching (Butsu Yuikyo gyo). He wrote very short comments before and after the quote. It seems that by this time he knew he was dying. Ejo, the successor of Dogen wrote in the afterward that the teaching on the eight aspects of awakening is Shakyamuni Buddha’s and also Dogen Zenji’s will for their descendants.

His disciples and supporters asked him to go to Kyoto to get some treatments. In the beginning of the eighth lunar month (September in the solar calendar), he left Eiheiji while the leaves of grasses were still vigorous. In Kenzeiki his Chinese poem about this travel is included:

Having been eating rice of Eiheiji for ten years,
I have been lying in the sick bed for the last seven months.
I am going to the city to search for medicine.
The Tathagata allows me to meet the Medicine King.

In Kyoto, he stayed at the house of one of his lay students, Kakunen. This poem is about his travel from Eiheiji to Kyoto. This trip must have been extremely hard for his body. Not far from Eiheiji, on his way, there was a mountain named Konobeyama. On the top of the mountain, he took a break. Probably he knew this was the last time for him to see the mountains of Echizen, but he could not see them because the peaks were covered by misty clouds. Here clouds are symbolic of emptiness. Within emptiness, he was traveling with his sick body.

Copyright 2013 Sanshin Zen Community

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