Wholehearted Practice of Zazen

詠坐禅工夫意

Zazen

しづかなる Shizuka naru [Being illuminated by]
心の中に kokoro no uchi ni the moon dwelling in
栖む月は sumu tsuki wa the quiet mind,
波もくだけて nami mo kudakete Even waves are breaking down,
光とぞなる hikari to zo naru and becoming the light.

“Quiet mind” is the mind in zazen. In Shōbogenzō Hachidaininngaku (Eight Aspects of Great Beings’ Awakening), Dōgen Zenji quoted the Sutra of the Buddha’s Last Teaching on the third aspect, “The third is to enjoy serenity. Departing from the crowds and noise and staying alone in a quiet place is called ‘to enjoy serenity.’”

“Serenity” is a translation of jakujo (寂静), “quiet,” “tranquil,” “serene,” or “solitary.” This does not simply mean silent or without noise in the external world. When our mind is torn into two or more pieces, there are always dispute, conflict, or anxiety. Such conditions make our mind unsettled and agitated. More often, when we sit in the quiet zendo, we begin to hear the noise from inside. Our zazen of letting go of thoughts allows us to sit immovably without being pulled by those conditions.

In this waka, Dōgen describes zazen using the scenery of a rocky coast of the ocean where the waves incessantly hit the rocks and break down into tiny drops of water. On each and every drop, the moon light is reflected. In our zazen, each thought, image, memory, etc. are like waves that are constantly coming and going, but when we let go of them they cease to be “my” thinking. Thoughts are coming and going but we don’t think. We are not deceived and controlled by them. We don’t take any action based on these waves. Within zazen, each thought coming and going without being grasped becomes simply a scenery of our zazen.

This waka is fourth of the 13 addendum waka in the Shunjusha text. This waka appears only in two versions of Kenzeiki. Almost the same waka is included in Menzan’s version, and that is the sixth of addendum waka entitled “Zazen” in the Shunjusha text.

にごりなき  /  こころのみずに  /  すむ月は  /  なみもくだけて  /  ひかりとぞなる
Nigori naki / kokoro no mizu ni / sumu tsuki wa / kokoro kara koso / nami mo kudakete / hikari to zo naru

Zazen
[Being illuminated by] the moon dwelling in
the mind-water without cloudiness,
Even the waves are breaking down,
and becoming the light.

Only the first two lines are slightly different. I think these are not two independent waka, but rather two versions of the same waka. There is no evidence to judge which is Dogen’s original, or even whether either version was composed by Dōgen or not. But if this is made by Dogen, what is said here is connected with what he wrote in Shōbōgenzō Genjōkoan:

(09) When a person attains realization, it is like the moon reflecting on the water. The moon never becomes wet, the water is never destroyed. Although it is a vast and great light, it reflects itself on a small amount of water. The whole moon and even the whole sky reflects on even a drop of dew on a blade of grass or a single tiny drop of water. Enlightenment does not destroy the person as the moon does not make a hole in the water. The person does not obstruct realization as a drop of dew does not obstruct the moon in the sky. The depth is the same as the height. [In order to investigate the significance of] the length and shortness of time, we should consider whether the water is great or small, and understand the size of the moon in the sky. 1

In Tenzōkyōkun (Instructions for the Tenzō), Dōgen quotes a verse by Xuedou Chongxian (Seccho Juken, 980 – 1052):

One character, three characters, five, and seven characters.
Having thoroughly investigated the ten thousand things,
None have any foundation.
At midnight the white moon sets into the dark ocean.
When searching for the black dragon’s pearl,
You will find they are numerous. 2

There is Samadhi described in the Kegonkyō (Avatamsaka Sutra, Flower Ornament Sutra) called ocean-seal samadhi (海印三昧kaiin-zanmai). According to this teaching, water is the original mind-nature that is peace and quiet and reflecting everything as it is like a clear mirror. But when the wind of ignorance begins to blow, the water’s surface is agitated, and waves are aroused. Then the surface of the ocean is not able to reflect things as they are. In this teaching, meditation practice is a method to restore the original calmness by stopping the wind of ignorance that is discriminative thinking so that the water can again reflect all things as they are. The ocean water becomes like a seal or a stamp, which copies exactly the same thing on the paper. In the teachings of Kegaon School, this sort of meditation is called mojin-gengen-kan (妄尽還源観), the contemplation for eliminating delusory thoughts and returning to the source. Dōgen wrote in Shōbōgenzō Zazenshin (Accupuncture Needle of Zazen)

Their writings seem only discuss going back to the source or returning to the origin, and vainly endeavoring to stop thinking and become absorbed in tranquility. …How could [those people] have received the single transmission of zazen of the buddhas and ancestors? Since the chroniclers of the Song Dynasty have mistakenly included [those writings], students in later ages should discard them without reading them. 3

Dōgen Zenji wrote a fascicle of Shōbogenzō Kaiin-zanmai (Ocean Seal Samadhi), and wrote about his understanding of kaiin-zanmai that is pretty different from that in the Kegon teaching:

To be the buddhas and ancestors is always the ocean-seal samadhi. As they swim in this samadhi, they have a time to teach, a time to verify, a time to practice. Their virtue of walking on the ocean goes to its bottom: they walk on the ocean as “walking the floor of the deepest ocean.” To seek to cause the currents of birth and death to return the source is not “what are you thinking?” 4

What he is saying here is that his practice of zazen is not a method to stop the wind of ignorance, that is, to discontinue thinking and make the ocean surface completely quiet so that it can reflect all things as they are. Rather, in this waka, Dōgen says that, even the waves become the light of the moon.

— • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura-roshi

1 Realizing Genjōkōan (Shōhaku Okumura, Wisdom Publications,2010) p.3.
2 Dōgen’s Pure Standards for the Zen Community: A Translation of Eihei Shingi (translated by Taigen Daniel Leighton and Shōhaku Okumura, SUNY,1996) p.43.
3 Okumura’s unpublished translation.
4 Carl Bielefeldt’s translation (Soto-shu Translation Project.)

> Other Waka by Dōgen


Copyright 2017 Sanshin Zen Community

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