Silently Expressing Dharma

Linking the beauty of the seasons
to the waka, “Original Face

water, roots and moss

(c) Can Stock Photo / photoshot44

本来面目
Honrai no menmoku
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.

Original face is a well-known Zen phrase used to invoke fundamental truth. It dates back to Huineng, the Sixth Ancestor of Ch’an which became Zen. The Platform Sutra describes Huineng asking a former adversary to put aside dualistic thoughts of good and bad to see his original face. Today, the teaching is most often associated with the question, “What is your original face before your parents were born?”

Here’s Okumura-roshi’s take on it.

Now, we ask how the beauty of the seasons in Dōgen’s waka, Original Face, relates to this basic Zen teaching. Roshi introduces the following koan to approach an answer. It’s the very first case in the Book of SerenityShōyōroku — compiled by Ch’an Master Hongzhi, or Wanshi in Japanese. The koan is aptly titled The World Honored One Ascends the Seat.

One day, the World Honored One ascended the seat.
Manjusri struck the gavel and said,
“Clearly observe the Dharma of the King of Dharma;
the Dharma of the King of Dharma is thus.”
The World Honored One then got down from the seat.

Shakyamuni never speaks to the assembly expecting his teaching. Hōjō-san elaborates on how this represents the Zen tradition of silently-expressed Dharma.

To make a connection between the seasons and this reality beyond language or duality, we turn to a verse Master Hongzhi wrote about the koan.

The unique breeze of reality—do you see?
Continuously creation runs her loom and shuttle,
Weaving the ancient brocade, incorporating the forms of spring,
But nothing can be done about Manjusri’s leaking.

Each line presents an aspect of the raw, unprocessed reality Roshi described earlier.

The unique breeze of reality—do you see?

Continuously creation runs her loom and shuttle,

Weaving the ancient brocade, incorporating the forms of spring,

Before addressing the last line of the verse, Roshi tells us interconnectedness is what links the scenery of each season to non-dual reality — Original Face. And Manjusri’s leaking presents the conundrum of Zen. We must rely on words to relay what words cannot express. It’s an issue that confronts even the wise Bodhisattva Manjusri and Shakyamuni Buddha.

Roshi tells us Dōgen’s waka poem, Original Face, is the same as Manjushri’s leaking. It’s something extra, but through this something extra we can open our eyes to reality, itself.

 
This waka and its commentary begin HERE

— • —

Translation of Case #1 and Hongzhi’s verse by Thomas Cleary
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 2017 Sanshin Zen Community

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s