Poem on “Realizing the Way upon seeing peach blossoms”
詠見桃花悟道 “Ken toka godo” wo yomu
|春風に||Harukaze ni||Being blown by the spring wind,|
|綻びにけり||hokoribi ni keri||peach blossoms|
|桃の花||momo no hana||are in full bloom,|
|枝葉にわたる||eda ha ni wataru||without any doubts|
|疑ひもなし||utagai mo nasi||extending branches and leaves|
“Realizing the Way upon seeing peach blossoms” comes from the famous story of Lingyun Zhiqin, one of the dharma heirs of Guishan Lingyou. Dōgen introduces the story in Shōbōgenzō Keisei-sanshoku (Sound of Valley Stream, Colors of mountains).
Lingyun had been practicing the Way for thirty years. Once, in Springtime, while walking in the mountains, he sat down to rest at the foot of a mountain and saw a distant village. He saw the peach blossoms, which were in full bloom and suddenly realized the Way. He composed a verse and offered it to Guishan:
For thirty years, I have been looking for the sword,
How many times have the leaves fallen and the branches grown anew?
Since once seeing the peach blossoms,
Up to the present, I never had any more doubts
“Looking for the sword” refers to the story of a person whose sword fell into the water while riding a boat. He marked a sign on the side of the boat where he lost the sword. A person asked, “What are you doing?” He said, “I will look for the sword when the boat reaches the shore.”
Lingyun says his thirty years of seeking the Way was like the person who lost his sword in the boat and looked for it after reaching the shore. The sword was already far away. During that time, the leaves fell each autumn and the branches grew anew each spring.
Lingyun did not realize that the Way was right there where he was walking, where the blossoms bloom, the leaves fall, the branches grow, and the new leaves appear.
In Shōbōgenzō Busshō (Buddha-nature), Dōgen says, “The roots, stem, branches, twigs, and leaves are each equally the Buddha-nature — living the same life and dying the same death as the same entire being.” (translation by Norma Waddell and Masao Abe, The Heart of Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō, p.65).
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Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi
Copyright 2016 Sanshin Zen Community