Other than this, not a thought’s in my mind

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(c) Can Stock Photo / eskaylim

Dogen’s Chinese Poems (5)

「同(山居)」

Mountain Dwelling (3)

Sitting as the night gets late, sleep not yet arrived,
Even more I realize engaging the way is best in mountain forest.
Sound of valley streams enters my ears; moonlight pierces my eyes.
Other than this, not a thought’s in my mind.[1]

夜坐更闌眠未至 (夜坐更闌けて眠り未だ至らず、)
彌知辨道可山林 (彌いよ知る辨道は山林なるべし、)
溪聲入耳月穿眼 (溪聲耳に入り月眼を穿つ)
此外更無一念心 (此の外更に一念の心無し)

This is verse 5 in Kuchugen and verse 101 of vol. 10 of Eihei Koroku (Dogen’s Extensive Record, p.638), one of the poems about mountain dwelling. Line 4 in Manzan’s version is:

此外更須何用心  (此の外更に何の用心をか須いん。)

Beside this, nothing to pay attention in my mind.

更 (kou) is the word to measure the length of nighttime between sunset and sunrise. One night is divided into 5 kou. Therefore, the length of one kou varies depending upon the season. For example, when the nighttime is 10 hours long from 7pm to 5 am, one kou is two hours. The first kou is 7 – 9 pm; the second kou is 9-11 pm; the third kou is 11 pm – 1 am; the fourth kou is 1-3 am, and the fifth kou is 3-5 am.

In Bendoho (The Model for Engaging the Way), Dogen described how they practiced throughout day and night in the monks’ hall at Daibutsuji (later renamed as Eiheiji). A day of practice in the monks’ hall began with the evening zazen. Dogen wrote, “When evening zazen is supposed to end, during the second or third watch [kou] at either the first, second, or third portion according to the abbot’s direction, the han (a hanging wooden block) is sounded.”[2] It seems they sat until 11 pm or midnight.

Regarding the time when they woke up Dogen wrote, “Toward the end of night, hearing the sound of the han in front of the head monk’s office (which is sounded at the fourth or fifth part of the third watch [kou] or the first, second, or third part of the fourth watch [kou] according to the abbot’s decision), the assembly gets up gently, not rising precipitously.”[3] If it was the third part of the fourth watch [kou] – that is, the latest – they woke up a little before 3 am.

Sitting as the night gets late, sleep not yet arrived.” They are sitting until around midnight; Dogen says he is not yet disturbed by sleepiness. Rather, he feels that remote mountain dwelling in the forest is the best place to practice. He and his monks do not need to think or worry about any mundane affairs, but can really just be there and sit.

Sound of valley streams enters my ears; moonlight pierces my eyes.” Sound of valley stream – Buddha’s voice of teaching – comes into his ears, and boundless moonlight – Buddha’s bright and boundless wisdom – pierces his eyes. They are not the objects of his sense organs; he does not hear or see them. Separation between subject and object and interactions between them are not there. He is just sitting, the valley stream is just flowing, expounding the teaching without thinking, and the moon is simply shining in the sky without making discrimination between monks sitting and other people in the world.

Other than this, not a thought’s in my mind.” I practiced at Valley Zendo in the woods of western Massachusetts for about five years. Not many people knew the small Zendo. We did not have TV or radio, and we did not read the newspaper. We did not hear any news of the world unless visitors told us. We only thought of how we could make the land livable and how we can continue to practice zazen with five-day sesshin each month. I knew nothing about what happened in the world during those five years.

Our life there might have been similar to Dogen Zenji’s life at the newly built temple in the deep mountains in Echizen. While he lived at Koshoji in Fukakusa, even if he was not interested, I suppose that many people visited him, and talked about various things happening in the political world of the emperor’s court, or about the relations between the emperor’s court and the Kamakura Shogunate government. His family and relatives were right within such a mundane world. When he heard such things related to his family, I suppose he could not avoid thinking about such affairs. He might also need to think about the relations between his sangha and other Buddhist institutions, particularly the Tendai school.

After I went back to Kyoto from Valley Zendo, I lived alone at a small temple as the caretaker. Each day, after morning zazen, service, and breakfast, I had a cup of tea and read a newspaper. After five years of living without any information about the world, it was my pleasure. However, I found that many Japanese people watch TV for many hours a day, even while eating meals. It seemed that the “big news” happening around the world was much more real and important than people’s own nothing-special day-to-day lives. I thought that was a kind of up-side-down way of viewing things.

[1] (Dogen’s Extensive Record 10-101, p.639) © 2010 Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, Dōgen’s Extensive Record. Reprinted by arrangement with Wisdom Publications, Inc., wisdompubs.org.

[2] Dogen’s Pure Standards for the Zen Community: A Translation of Eihei Shingi (translated by Taigen Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, (State University of New York Press, 1996) p.64.

[3] Ibid., p.65

— • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi.

Waka by Dōgen


Copyright 2018 Sanshin Zen Community

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