Monkey-mind horse-will

Copyright©2021 Misaki C. Kido

Dōgen’s Chinese Poems (47)
Verse from Dharma Hall Discourse 348

Like a Lotus in Flames
348. Dharma Hall Discourse

The sitting cushions of the seven buddhas are now about to be worn through;
The sleeping stick of my former teacher [Tiantong Rujing] has been transmitted.
Eyes and nose should be upright and straight,
Headtop reaching up to the blue sky, and ears aligned above the shoulders.[1]

「示衆」(示衆)
七佛蒲團今欲穿 (七佛の蒲團今、穿なんとす、) 
先師禪板已相傳 (先師の禪板、已に相傳す。)
眼睛鼻孔可端直 (眼睛鼻孔、端直なるべし)
頂對青天耳對肩 (頂きは青天に對し、耳は肩に對す)

— • —

This is verse 46 in Kuchūgen and Dharma Hall Discourse (上堂, jōdō) 348 in Volume 5 of Eihei Kōroku. This verse in Manzan’s version is the same as in Monkaku’s version. After reciting this verse in his discourse, Dōgen added a short comment.

At this very time, how is it?
After a pause Dōgen said: Do not control the monkey mind or horse will. Make an effort like a lotus in fire.

正当恁麼時、又作麼生。良久云、莫管他心猿意馬。功夫猶若火中蓮。
(正当恁麼の時、又た作麼生。良久して云く、管すること莫れ、他の心猿と意馬と。功夫は猶お火中の蓮の若し。)

348. Dharma Hall Discourse

This Dharma Hall Discourse was given in the ninth lunar month in 1249. The ninth lunar month is the last month of autumn, called nagatsuki (長月); this is an abbreviation of yonagatsuki (夜長月), which means the month in which night is getting longer. In the solar calendar this would be somewhere between the end of September and the beginning of November. Heat is over but it is not yet too cold, so it is a good time for zazen practice. In this jōdō, Dōgen Zenji first introduces the verse, and after a pause he makes a short comment that clearly shows a characteristic of his zazen practice.

The sitting cushions of the seven buddhas are now about to be worn through;
The sleeping stick of my former teacher [Tiantong Rujing] has been transmitted.

At Dōgen’s monastery Eiheiji, monks devoted themselves to zazen practice so much that their cushions are almost worn through. He says that their cushions (zafu) have been transmitted from Vipaśyin Buddha, who is the first of the seven buddhas of the past (before Shakyamuni Buddha) as we count back through all of the buddha-ancestors. Of course, it is not the cushion but zazen that has been transmitted. The phrase about sitting cushions being worn through comes from the expression “habuton (破蒲團),” literally, “breaking a cushion.” For example, in the section concerning Changqing Huileng (Chōkei Eryō長慶慧稜, 854–932) of Shōbōgenzo Gyōji (行持下, Continuous Practice, part 2), Dōgen praises Changqing, a disciple of Xuefeng (雪峰, Seppō), saying:

Master Huileng of Changqing was a venerable master [in the assembly of] Xuefeng. He studied and practiced going back and forth between Xuefeng and Xuansha for almost twenty-nine years. During those years and months, he broke twenty sitting cushions. Among todays’ people who love zazen, Changqing is considered to be the excellent example of yearning for the ancient [style of practice]. Although there are many who adore him, few of them are equal to him.[2]

“The sleeping stick” is zenpan (禅板). It is a flat wooden board about 1.7 feet long and 2 inches wide, and there is a hole in the upper part. This is used to support the sitter’s body when they sleep in the zazen posture. Originally in China, they put a cord into the hole and tied the rope behind their seat to support the body. In Japan, a sitter placed a zenpan on their hands and supported their chin. Zenpan is mentioned in case 20 of Blue Cliff Record; Lung Ya’s Meaning of the Coming from the West:

Lung Ya asked Ts’ui Wei, “What is the meaning of the Patriarch’s coming from the West?”
Wei said, “Pass me the meditation brace.”
Ya gave the meditation brace to Wei; Wei took it and hit him.
Ya said, “Since you hit me I let you hit me. In essence, though, there is no meaning of the Patriarch’s coming from the West.”

I have never seen a zenpan in use today. It seems that Dōgen Zenji received a zenpan from Tiantong Rujing. This means that Dōgen’s sangha practiced zazen in the style of Rujing transmitted by Dōgen.

Eyes and nose should be upright and straight,
Headtop reaching up to the blue sky, and ears aligned above the shoulders.

In the third and fourth lines of the verse, Dōgen describes their zazen posture simply, and in accordance with what he wrote in Fukanzazengi and Shōbōgenzo Zazengi:

Sit in upright posture. Do not lean either to the left or right, either to the front or back. The line connecting your ears should be parallel with the line connecting your shoulders without fail. Your nose should be in line with your navel. Your tongue should be placed against the roof of your mouth. Breathe through your nose. Your lips and jaw should be closed. Keep your eyes open, neither too wide nor too little.[3]

Thus, the verse is a simple description of their zazen transmitted from the buddhas and ancestors through Dōgen Zenji. After reciting this verse, Dōgen asks the monks, “At this very time, how is it?” It is not clear if the monks offered some answers or not. In Eihei Kōroku, the monks’ reaction to Dōgen’s presentations is not recorded at all. Dōgen keeps silence for a while and offers a final comment:

Do not control the monkey mind or horse will. Make an effort like a lotus in fire.
莫管他心猿意馬。功夫猶若火中蓮。

I think this comment clearly expresses Dōgen’s Zazen practice. “The monkey mind or horse will” is a translation of shin’en iba (心猿意馬), shin (心) is mind, en (猿) is monkey, i (意) is will, or more commonly in Buddhist terminology, the sixth sense organ “mind.” Ba (馬) is horse. In this case, shin and i are not different. In Tenzokyōkun, Dōgen writes:

This principle is a certainty that you still do not yet clearly understand, only because your thinking scatters like wild birds (horses) and your emotions scamper around like monkeys in the forest. If those monkeys and birds (horses) once took the backward step of inner illumination, naturally you would become integrated. This is a means whereby, although you are turned around by things, you can also turn things around. Being harmonious and pure like this, do not lose either the eye of oneness or the eye that discern differences.[4]

He does not say that we should control our thinking mind; instead, he says, “If those monkeys and birds (horses) once took the backward step of inner illumination, naturally you would become integrated.” “Taking the backward step of inner illumination” (回光返照退歩, ekō henshō taiho) and “becoming integrated” (打成一片, dajō ippen)[5] are the same expressions Dōgen uses in Fukanzazengi, Universal Recommendation of Zazen. This is the opposite of what was said by Yuanwu, the Rinzai Zen Master who made The Blue Cliff Record: “Let the mind-monkey completely die and kill the mind-horse. (死却心猿殺却意馬).”[6]

In Shōbōgenzo Sanjūshichihon Bodaibunpō (三十七品菩提分法), Dōgen says this about right thinking in the eightfold noble path:

An ancient buddha [Yaoshan] said, “Think of not-thinking. How do you think of not-thinking? Beyond thinking.” This is right thinking, right cerebration. Breaking through the zazen cushion is right cerebration.”[7]

古佛いはく、「思量箇不思量底、不思量底如何思量、非思量。」これ正思量正思惟なり。破蒲團これ正思惟なり

In Dōgen’s practice, zazen of hishiryō (非思量, beyond thinking) which includes both thinking (思量, shiryō) and not-thinking (不思量, fushiryō) is the foundation of “right thinking” and “mindful work” in the kitchen and other places.

— • —

[1] (Dōgen’s Extensive Record volume 5, Dharma Hall Discourse 348, p.312) © 2010 Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, Dōgen’s Extensive Record. Reprinted by arrangement with Wisdom Publications, Inc., www.wisdompubs.org.
[2] This is Okumura’s unpublished translation. Another translation is in Treasury of the True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dōgen’s Shobo Genzo (edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi), p.368.
[3] Okumura’s unpublished translation.
[4] This is the translation in Dōgen’s Pure Standards for the Zen Community: A translation of Eihei Shingi (translated by Taigen Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, SUNY, 1996), p.37-p.38. In a note, it says, “Instead of ‘birds,’ the common rufubon edition has ‘horses.’” (p.51)
[5] Literally, “becoming one-piece.”
[6] This is Okumura’s translation of the sentence from Recorded Sayings of Zen Master Yuanwu (圓悟佛果禪師語録). I cannot find another English translation.
[7] This is Okumura’s translation. Another translation is in Treasury of the True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dōgen’s Shobo Genzo (edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi, Shambhala), p.682.

— • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi.

— • —

For further study:

> More of Dōgen Zenji’s Chinese Poems


Copyright©2021 Sanshin Zen Community

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