True Reality

Honrai no menmoku wo yomu
Poem expressing “Original Face”


春は花 Haru wa hana Spring, flowers
夏ほととぎす natsu hototogisu summer, cuckoos
秋は月 aki wa tsuki autumn, the moon
冬雪きえで fuyu yuki kiede winter, snow does not melt
すずしかりけり Suzushi kari keri All seasons pure and upright.

Dōgen Zenji embraces skillful means with this waka to bring a basic Zen teaching to his contemporaries. Their intrinsic sensitivity to each season’s beauty provides a way to give his message familiarity. Using what they already know, he can indicate what’s less comprehensible.

Okumura-roshi reads his translation of this waka and continues his commentary in the following video clips.

Roshi elaborates on the bittersweet quality of flowers in the spring, especially cherry blossoms. They’re so beautiful, yet so profoundly short lived. After relating them to life’s impermanence, he briefly touches on how birds, moon and snow represent their respective seasons. Then he categorizes the first four lines as an unremarkable setup the for the last one.

In referring to the seasons as “pure and upright,” Dōgen suggests what we witness throughout the year is at the core of Zen teachings. These everyday, natural occurrences take place in an unconditioned manner, not tainted by a sense of self.

Without a doubt, Original Face reveals itself in seasonal changes. But how do words about the seasons relate to a teaching words cannot describe? Roshi makes that connection HERE.

— • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura-roshi
– Video excerpts are from a September, 2016 talk at the Zen Center of Asheville in North Carolina.

> Other Waka by Dōgen

Copyright 2016 Sanshin Zen Community

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.