Expounds the dharma of impermanence.

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


山深み 峯にも谷も 声たてて 今日もくれぬと 日暮ぞなく

Yama fukami / mine nimo tani mo / koe tatete / kyo mo kurenuto / higurasi zo naku

 Deep in a mountain,
Both on the peak and in the valley,
Raising large voices,
Higurashi cicadas are chirping,
“This day is already coming to end.”

Higurashi (Tanna japonensis) is a kind of cicada spread all over Japan. It chirps in the evening and in the early morning. In haiku, higurashi is the seasonal word (kigo) of early autumn but actually it chirps from the early summer. “Higurashi” means the “day closer.” A summer day is long, but if we spend our time carelessly and wastefully, there is no way to retrieve it. The cicada is a representative of short life. It stays underground for some years as a nymph, but when it matures and emerges in the air, it lives one week or less. It sings wholeheartedly while it can, without wasting time. Its song expounds the dharma of impermanence, telling us to live mindfully and attentively each day without wasting time.

Dogen Zenji discussed the preciousness of each day with diligent practice in Shobogenzo Gyoji (Continuous practice), “Thus, a single day must be of great importance. If we would live vainly even for a hundred years, we would regret the days and months we had wasted, and we would be sad for our own body. Although we were to run around as a slave to sounds and sights for a hundred years, within that time if we are able to practice even for just one single day, not only we would be putting our whole life of a hundred years into the practice, we would also be save the hundred years of the other life time. We should cherish this body and life of one day [with practice], we should respect this body [with practice].

Copyright 2013 Sanshin Zen Community

This is the last poem in this series. Look for a beautiful, limited print edition of this series coming from the Dogen Institute later this year. A new series of poems will begin on these pages soon.

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