Certain to Attain the Way

As Practice and Realization Are One

植て見よ Uete miyo Plant the tree!
花のそだたぬ Hana no sodatanu There is no village
里もなし Sato mo nashi where no flower grows.
心かようぞ Kokoro kayou zo The [bodhi-]mind will be penetrated
[with the buddhas’ minds],
身はいやしけれ Mi wa iyashi kere even though we are of humble birth.

This is the second of the 13 addendum waka in the Shunjusha text. This waka is included only in the Ryugenji version and the source is unknown. There is a verse almost the same in a collection of Ryokan’s waka compiled by Toyoharu Togo and published by Tokyo Sogensha in 1959 (waka number 638, p.108). This waka is widely known as Ryokan’s and is included in Great Fool : Zen Master Ryokan, Poems, Letters, and Other Writings by Ryuichi Abe and Peter Haskel. The waka in Ryokan’s collection is:

植えて見よ  /  花の育たぬ  /  里もなし  /  心からこそ  /  身はいやしけれ
uetemiyo / hana no sodatanu / sato mo nashi / kokoro kara koso / mi wa iyashikere

Go ahead, plant the seed!
There isn’t a village
Where flowers won’t grow.
The very notion of being “lowborn”
only comes from people’s minds.1

As you see, only the third line is slightly different (kokoro kayou zo / kokoro karakoso).

However, in the newer collection of Ryokan’s waka compiled by Toshiro Tanigawa and published by Shunjusha in 1996, this verse is not considered to be Ryokan’s own waka.2 It might be possible. Ryokan might have written a calligraphy of someone else’s waka but the owners of the piece thought that the verse was composed by Ryokan himself. There are many such examples. However, according to the Tanigawa’s collection, the source of this waka is not Dogen but the Mandai-waka-shu, one of the large collections of waka compiled in 1249 while Dogen was still alive. I tried to find this waka among the almost four thousand verses in the Mandai-waka-shu, but I gave it up.

It’s possible that this waka is neither Dogen’s nor Ryokan’s work However, if it was composed by Dogen, he wanted to say that there is no way that people cannot attain the Way if they practice. In Dogen’s time, the idea of mappo (the age of the Last Dharma) was very popular; people widely believed that because they lived in the degenerate age of the Last Dharma, even if they practiced it was not possible to attain the Way. That was one of the reasons Pure Land Buddhism became popular in medieval Japan. People believed the age of the Last Dharma began in 1052. However, Dogen did not agree with this theory.

In Shobogenzo Zuimonki, he acknowledged that many people believed in the age of the Last Dharma, saying, “Many people in the secular world say, ‘Although I have aspiration to study the Way, the world is in the age of the Last Dharma. People’s quality has been declining and I have only inferior capabilities. I cannot bear to practice being in accordance with the Dharma. I would like to follow an easier way which is suitable to me, to just make a connection [with the Buddha], and expect to attain realization in a future lifetime.’”

And Dogen expressed his counter-argument:

“Now, I say that this saying is totally wrong. In the Buddha Dharma, distinguishing the three periods of time — the age of True Dharma, Semblance Dharma, and Last Dharma — is only a temporary expedient. The genuine teaching of the Way is not like this. When we practice [following the teaching], all of us should be able to attain [the Way]. Monks while [Shakyamuni] was alive were not necessarily superior. There were some monks who had incredibly despicable minds and who were inferior in capacity. The Buddha set forth various kinds of precepts for the sake of bad people and inferior people. Each and every human being has the possibility [to clarify] the Dharma. Do not think that you are not a vessel. When we practice in accordance [with the Dharma], all of us should be able to attain [the Way]. Since we already have a mind, we can distinguish between good and bad. Since we have hands and feet, we don’t lack anything for doing gassho and walking. In practicing the Buddha Dharma, we should not be concerned with the quality [of people]. All beings within the human realm are all vessels [of the Buddha Dharma].3

Dogen’s opinion expressed as in this waka is that if we arouse bodhi-mind and study and practice the teaching, we are certainly able to attain the Way. This is one of the reasons he emphasized the identity of practice and realization. When we practice, realization is manifested right there. His saying about the mind agrees with what the Buddha said in the first two verses in Dhammapada:

(1) What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind.
If a man speaks or acts with an impure mind, suffering follows him as the wheel of the cart follows the beast that draws the cart.

(2) What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind.
If a man speaks or acts with a pure mind, joy follows him as his own shadow.4

— • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura-roshi

1 This is the translation in Great Fool: Zen Master Ryokan (translated with essays by Ryuichi Abe and Peter Haskel, University of Hawaii Press, 1996), p.211.
2 Ryokan Zenwakashu (The Complete Collection of Ryokan’s Waka, Toshiro Tanigawa, Shunjusha, Tokyo, 1996) p.409.
3 This is Okumura’s unpublished translation from the Choenji-version of the Zuimonki. Okumura’s translation of the same section in Menzan’s version is in Shobogenzo Zuimonk: Saying of Eihei Dogen Zenji recorded by Koun Ejo (Sotoshu Shumucho, 1988) p.154.
4 This is translation by Juan Mascaro (Penguin Books, 1973).

> Other Waka by Dōgen

Copyright 2017 Sanshin Zen Community

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