Not in vain.

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


Dogen Zenji’s November Waka

守るとも 覚えずながら  小山田の  いたづらならぬ かがしなりけり
Mamoru tomo / omowazu nagara / oyamada no / itadzura naranu / kagashi narikeri

Without thinking that he protects [the rice crop],
The scarecrow
In the small rice paddy in the mountain
Is not in vain

In the fall, when rice becomes ripe, many birds come to eat the crop. The farmer puts a scarecrow in his small rice paddy in the mountain to protect the rice. Scarecrows in Japan often look like a monk wearing a black robe and a bamboo hat. Since this is a small rice paddy in the hidden mountains, no one comes to see and appreciate the scarecrow. Even the scarecrow himself does not think that he is protecting the rice but just standing in the field. However he is actually protecting the rice.

In Menzan’s version, the title of this waka poem is Zazen. Zazen is not for the sake of our personal benefit. Sawaki Roshi said Zazen is like a bandit who sneaks into an empty house. Although the bandit enters the house with strenuous effort, there is nothing to gain. In the worldly view, it is a waste of labor. And yet, it provides benefits beyond our evaluation. Sawaki Roshi continues that, because it is an empty house, the bandit does not need to escape and no one chases after him. This is what Dogen Zenji meant when he wrote in Genjokoan, “When buddhas are truly buddhas they don’t need to perceive they are buddhas; however, they are enlightened buddhas and they continue actualizing Buddha.”

Copyright 2013 Sanshin Zen Community

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