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


Dogen Zenji’s December Waka


On the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month of the second year of the Kangen era (1244), the first snowfall of more than one foot deep fell. On that occasion Dogen Zenji composed this poem.

長月の        紅葉の上に     雪ふりぬ    見ん人誰か       歌をよまざらん

Naga-tsuki no / momiji no ue ni / yuki furinu /   min hito dareka /   uta wo yoma zaran

In the month of long nights,
On the colorful leaves,
Snow falls.
Why do those who see this rare and beautiful scenery,
Not compose a poem?

Naga-tsuki is the shortened form of Yonaga-tsuki, which means the month in which night is getting longer, the ninth lunar month, (from the end of September to the beginning of November in solar calendar). This is the season of changing of the color of leaves but it rarely snows yet. But this time, the first snowfall of the year occurred while the leaves were still on the trees with various beautiful colors such as yellow, red, and vermilion etc.

These various colors of the leaves refer to multiplicity. Each tree has its own unique nature, shape, height, flower, fruit and color of leaves in the fall. The white color of snow is oneness. Multiplicity of the colors of the leaves and oneness are both there. How shall we express this interpenetration of the absolute reality, oneness and equality, and the conventional reality of multiplicity and diversity? This is one of the essential points of our dharma study and practice within everyday life. How can we see and express equality and oneness of all things within each different thing we encounter? Dogen Zenji put emphasis on expression (dotoku) of the dharma based on our practice and experiences.

Copyright 2013 Sanshin Zen Community

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