In Praise of Bodhi-mind

Poem on “Mind of the Way”

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草庵に kusa no io ni In my grass-hut,
起きてもねても okite mo nete mo either standing or lying down,
申すこと mousu koto I constantly say:
我より先に ware yori saki ni I vow to ferry others
人を渡さん hito wo watasan before myself.

Mousu (申す)” is a humble expression of “to say” or “to speak.” Dogen is saying this to the Buddha, or the Three Treasures, as the expression of his vow. The first three lines of this waka is almost the same as the following waka:

In my grass-hut
While I sleep or awake
What I always recite is;
“I take refuge in Shakyamuni Buddha
Bestow your compassion!”

And the meaning of the last two lines is the same as this waka:

Even though, since I am dull-witted,
I will not become a buddha,
I wish being a monk
helping all living being
crossing over.

In Shobogenzo Hotsu-bodaishin (Arousing Bodhi-mind), Dogen Zenji quotes a verse from the Mahayana Parinirvana Sutra in which Kasyapa Bodhisattva praises Shakyamuni Buddha:

Arousing [bodhi-]mind and the [mind of] the ultimate stage are not different;
between these two [stages of] the mind, the former is more difficult [to arouse].
[It is the mind of] ferrying across others before oneself.
For this reason, I [respectfully] make prostrations to [those] who have first aroused [bodhi-]mind.
When they first arouse [bodhi-mind], they are already the teachers of human and heavenly beings.
They are superior to sravakas and pratyekabuddhas.
Arousing such [bodhi-]mind surpasses the triple world.
Therefore, it can be called the unsurpassable.

Arousing bodhi-mind (hotsu-bodaishin) is one of the key phrases in Dogen’s teaching. According to his writings, there are three aspects in the way bodhi-mind functions. It works as compassion, as he writes in this poem and in Shobogenzo Hotsu-bodaishin. It also works as wisdom to see impermanence. And, another way it works is as the mind of transmitting and maintaining the traditional way of practice.

In Gakudo-Yojinshu (Points to Watch in Practicing the Way), he writes about bodhi-mind as wisdom:

The Ancestral Master Nagarjuna said that the mind that solely sees the impermanence of this world of constant appearance and disappearance is called bodhi-mind …Truly, when you see impermanence, egocentric mind does not arise, neither does desire for fame and profit.

Dogen writes about the third aspect in Pure Standard for the Temple Administrators (Chiji Shingi):

What is called the mind of the Way is not to abandon or scatter about the great Way of the buddha ancestors, but deeply to protect and esteem their great Way. …After all, not to sell cheaply or debase the worth of the ordinary tea and rice of the buddha ancestors’ house is exactly the mind of the Way.

“Mind of the Way (do-shin, 道心)” is another translation of bodhi-mind.

— • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi

> Other Waka by Dōgen


Copyright 2016 Sanshin Zen Community

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