Neither Naughty nor Nice by Nature

Poem on “Malleable Mind”

© Can Stock Photo / vencavolrab

© Can Stock Photo / vencavolrab

心とて Kokoro tote There is no form
人に見すべき Hito ni misubeki to show people
色ぞなき Iro zo naki as my mind.
只露霜の Tada tsuyushimo no Only dew-frost
結ぶのみにて Musubu nomi nite is being formed.

Kokoro ( 心 )” is mind. “Iro ( 色 )” is color but the same kanji can mean form (siki in shiki soku ze ku; 色即是空, form is emptiness). It is possible to translate this as “there is no color to show people as my mind”. “Tsuyu” is dew and “shimo” is frost. Usually these are interpreted as two different things. Dew is a water droplet on a leaf, or is formed when the temperature is lower than the dew-point during the late summer to autumn, and frost is frozen water when the temperature is under the freezing point during the late autumn to winter.

However, Keizan Jokin (fourth generation ancestor of Dōgen  and  founder of Sojiji monastery) thought, in this case, tsuyushimo (or tsuyujimo) is one word (dew-frost). He quoted this waka by Dōgen in his Dharma Words (Hogo) to his patron, whose Dharma name was Myojo, who donated the land for establishing Yokoji monastery. About “tsuyushimo,”Keizan said, “In the end of the autumn or the beginning of the winter, we see tsuyushimo, that is neither dew nor frost.”

Dōgen Zenji encourages his students to be a friend of good people and listen to their words and do good things with them. Then our minds are influenced by them and become good.
—Shōhaku Okumura Roshi

Depending upon the subtle difference of temperature in the transition from autumn to winter, water on a leaf becomes dew, frost, or frozen dew (white dew). If the temperature goes down to freezing point after dewdrops are formed, they become frozen dew, that is different from frost. Frozen dew is not crystallized like frost. Here are three different phenomena but they are all similar; autumn/winter, dew/frost and half way between them. The reality at the moment is neither autumn nor winter, and we see something neither exactly dew nor frost. With which name should we call this moment and this phenomenon?

Dōgen Zenji said in Shobogenzo Zuimonki:

“Originally human mind is neither good nor evil. Good and evil arise depending upon the situation. For example, when a person arouses bodhi-mind and enter a mountain or forest, the person thinks a dwelling in the woods is good and in the human world is bad. And when the person’s mind has regressed and leave the mountain or a forest, the person think mountain is bad. This is because human mind has no fixed characteristics; it changes in this way or that way being influenced by the circumstances. Therefore, if we encounter good circumstances, our mind becomes good; if we are familiar with bad circumstances, our mind becomes bad. Do not think that our mind is by nature evil. We should simply follow good circumstances.”

Dōgen Zenji encourages his students to be a friend of good people and listen to their words and do good things with them. Then our minds are influenced by them and become good. It is like when we walk in the mist, our clothing will be wet little by little without knowing. Sawaki Roshi said that we have both buddha-nature and thief-nature. When we are beginners as bodhisattvas, even though we have aroused Bodhi-mind, take the bodhisattva vows and precepts, our mind is not yet stable. Depending upon the situation, our mind becomes frozen and we may take actions expressing our thief-nature. However when the situation changes a little bit, our mind is defrosted, flexible, open, and warm. It is important to be in a good circumstance and with good people.

— • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi

> Other Waka by Dōgen


Copyright 2016 Sanshin Zen Community

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