Grasping.

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此経の   心を得れば   世の中に   売り買う声も   法を説くかな
Kono kyo no   kokoro wo ureba   yononaka ni    uri kau koe mo   nori wo toku kana

Grasping the heart of this Sutra,
even the voices of selling and buying in the marketplace
expound the Dharma.

This is Dogen’s third waka on the Lotus Sutra. This waka says that not only the sounds in nature, but also the voices of merchants in the marketplace expound the Dharma. In his commentary on the Lotus Sutra, Tiantai Zhiyi said, “All means of livelihood and industries in the world, without exception, are not different from true reality.”

In Shobogenzo Bodaisatta-Shishobo (The Bodhisattva’s Four Embracing Actions), Dogen says:

To launch a boat or build a bridge is the practice of dana-paramita. When we carefully study the meaning of giving, receiving our body and giving up our body are offering. Earning a livelihood and managing a business are, from the outset, nothing other than giving. [1]

According to commentaries, this poem expresses the meaning of a koan in which a Chinese Zen master was enlightened by the words of a merchant in the marketplace. Dogen Zenji quoted the koan in Eiheikoroku Vol. 9 :

Once Panshan [Baoji] was walking through the marketplace and saw a customer buying pork. Panshan heard the customer say, “Cut me one good piece.” The butcher put the knife down, stood with hands folded in shashu, and said, “Sir, which is not a good piece?”
Upon hearing these words, Panshan had insight. [2]

In Dogen’s time, this must have been true. However, I wonder if it is possible for us in modern times to say that all the commercial messages in various media that stimulate our desire and greed still are expounding the Dharma.

[1] The Bodhisattva’s Embrace (by Alan Senauke, Clear View Press, Berkeley) p.213.
[2] Dogen’s Extensive Record Vol.9, p.582


This is the third of five waka poems on The Lotus Sutra by Dogen, translated by Rev. Okumura.


Copyright 2014 Sanshin Zen Community

2 thoughts on “Grasping.

  1. Pingback: If Not Now, When? | The Dōgen Institute

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