Through Your Parents’ Eyes

Poem on “The Eyes Received from Father and Mother at Birth”
詠父母初生眼   Fubo shoshogen wo yomu

parentseyes-400x267

尋ね入る Tazune iru
みやまの奥の miyama no oku no The village in the deep mountains
里なれば sato nareba I have entered seeking [the Way],
本とすみなれし moto sumi nareshi is nowhere but the capital city
京なりけり miyako narikeri I have been always accustomed to live.

The title of this poem is taken from the nineteenth chapter of the Lotus Sutra,”The Blessing of the Dharma Teacher”. In this chapter, the Buddha says that the dharma teachers who receive and uphold, read, recite, explain, and copy the Lotus Sutra will obtain numberless blessings on their six sense organs. Their six sense organs will be adorned by the blessings and become pure, without defilements.

When we thoroughly study and understand the truth taught in the Lotus Sutra, we can see the true reality of all being with our own physical eyes received from our parents when we were born. That is, we don’t need to attain the divine eyes which are one of the six supernatural powers.

As Dōgen says in the waka on the Lotus Sutra, this is when we see the colors of mountains as Buddha’s appearance, and hear the sound of valley streams as the Buddha’s voice. Or, when all dharmas are Buddha Dharma, as he wrote in the beginning of Genjokoan.

In the case of eyes, it is said:

“Such good sons or good daughters, with the pure physical eyes received from their parents at birth, will see whatever exists, whether exposed or hidden, in the three-thousand great thousandfold world — the mountains, forests, rivers, and seas down to the deepest purgatory and up to the highest heaven. They will see all the living beings in it and recognize both all of the causes and conditions and all of the effects and consequences resulting from their past actions.”

“The village in the deep mountains,” probably refers to the place in Echizen where Dōgen and his sangha moved from Kyoto. The name Kyoto literally means the Capital City. He moved to the remote mountains from the capital city to found a new monastery for the genuine study and practice of the Dharma with his sangha. Even though geographically it was a remote corner of the country, for him, seeing with the pure eyes of the Dharma, the place was the true capital city he had been always accustomed to live in.

Some scholars think that Dōgen failed in the competition to establish a larger Zen monastery than other Zen masters such as the Rinzai Zen master, En’ni Bennen, the founder of Tofukuji, and so escaped from the capital city. At least for Dōgen, the move was not an escape because he lost the competition. I believe he escaped rather from the competition itself. Kyoto was real samsara, a world of competition and conflict based on three poisonous minds (greed, anger/hatred, and ignorance) within the mundane values system. When he moved to the mountains, he found that was the true capital city (nirvana) of the Dharma where he could truly focus on studying and practicing Dharma to educate his disciples.

In Zen literature, the capital city refers to the capital of Tang dynasty, Changan (長安, Eternal Peace). For an example there is a dialogue between Zhaozhou and a monk:

A monk asked, “Does a dog have Buddha-nature or not?”
The Master said, “The door of every house leads to the capital (Chan-an).”

— • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi

> Other Waka by Dōgen


Copyright 2016 Sanshin Zen Community

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