Eyes Wide Open

Copyright©2023 Misaki C. Kido

Dōgen’s Chinese Poems (61)

Eyes Wide Open
Dharma Hall Discourse in Appreciation of the New and Former Tenzo and Director


糴得州中黄米來     (州中の黄米を糴得し來る、)
柴頭帶火上山隈    (柴頭、火を帶びて山隈に上る。)
風雲感會龍得水    (風雲感會して、龍水を得たり。)
功徳圓成眼豁開    (功徳圓成し眼、豁開す。)

[The directors and tenzos] buy yellow rice throughout the province for us,
and [arrange] for firewood to be carried up to this nook in the mountains.
With wind and clouds in cooperation, the dragons gain the water.
With this merit completed, their eyes are wide open.[1]

This is verse 60 in Kuchūgen and Dharma Hall Discourse (上堂, jōdō) 214 in Volume 3 of Eihei Kōroku. The date of this dharma hall discourse is not recorded, but it is presented in the volume between the dharma hall discourse on the occasion of rōhatsu (8th day of the 12th month, Buddha’s Enlightenment Day) in 1246 and the New Year’s Dharma Hall Discourse of 1247. Manzan’s version is the same as Monkaku’s version.

Eyes Wide Open
Dharma Hall Discourse in Appreciation of the New and Former Tenzo and Director

According to the Pure Standard for the Zen Monastery (禅苑清規, Ch. Chanyuan Qinggui, Jp. Zen’nen Shingi) which appeared in 1103 during the Northern Song Dynasty (960–1126), in a Zen monastery there were four temple administrators: director (監院, kan’nin), supervisor of monks (維那, ino), chief cook (典座, tenzo), and work leader (直歳, shissui).

Later, in Southern Song Dynasty (1127–1279), when Dōgen visited, because Zen monasteries had become larger and administrative work had gotten more complicated, the position of director was divided into three positions: general director (都寺, tūsu ), assistant director (監寺, kansu), and treasurer (副寺, fūsu). Therefore, in the very beginning of Instructions for the Tenzo (典座教訓, Tenzokyōkun), Dōgen wrote, “From the beginning in Buddha’s family there have been six temple administrators. They are all Buddha’s children and together they carry out Buddha’s work.”[2]

On June 15, 1246, during summer practice period, Dōgen changed the temple name of his monastery from Daibutsuji (大仏寺, Great Buddha Temple) to Eiheiji (永平寺, Eternal Peace Temple). In the colophon of Pure Standards for the Temple Administrator (知事清規, Chiji Shingi), Dōgen wrote, “In the summer of the fire-horse year [1246] of the Kangen Period [1243–1247], the fifteenth day of the sixth [lunar] month, this was composed by the monk Dōgen, founder of Eiheiji temple in Echizen.”[3] Chiji Shingi could not have been written in one day. Probably this is the date he officially made the writing public. Different from philosophical writings such as the fascicles of Shōbōgenzō, the Shingi was not simply for expressing his insight and ideas; what was written in the text needed to be carried out by the assembly of monks. To do so, Dōgen had to explain the meaning and train them all to actually work in their designated positions with the spirit described in the writing. It must have taken him much time. It seems he did not write anything for about ten months prior to this date.

Since this dharma hall discourse was given in the 12th month of 1246, possibly the previous director and tenzo mentioned in this poem were the first people to serve in those positions after Chiji Shingi was written; in other words, the monastic system of both practice in the monks’ hall and the administrative work were established and had begun to function. That made Dōgen think that his sangha was ready for changing the temple name to Eiheiji.

Eihei (eternal peace) was the name of an era of the Later Han Dynasty in China. It was thought by Chinese Buddhists to be the era when the Buddhadharma was first officially introduced from India, in 67 CE. At the time Dōgen completed writing Chiji Shingi, he was confident that the first true Buddhist monastic community had been established in Japan. This verse was written when those first officers were stepping down from the positions and the new people were stepping up. I am sure Dōgen deeply appreciated their efforts.

[The directors and tenzos] buy yellow rice throughout the province for us,
and [arrange] for firewood to be carried up to this nook in the mountains.

The first line of this poem is taken from a story regarding a director and a tenzo which appears in the Record of Linji (臨済録, Linjilu, Rinzairoku). One day, the director went out to the town and returned to the monastery:

Linji asked, “Where have you been?”
The director said, “I went to the provincial office to sell waxy rice.”
Linji asked, “Did you sell all the rice?”
Director said, “Yes, I sold it all.”
Linji took his staff and drew a stroke and asked, “Did you sell this too?”
The director gave a shout.
Linji hit him.
Then the tenzo came.
Linji talked about the previous exchange with the director.
The tenzo said, “The director did not understand the meaning.”
Linji asked, “What about you?”
The tenzo made a prostration.
Linji hit him.[4]

I am not sure the meaning of Linji’s hitting, the director’s shouting, and the tenzo’s making a prostration, because I have never practiced Rinzai Zen and studied Rinzai teachings. Did Rinzai hit them because he was disappointed by how they worked in their positions, or was he expressing his satisfaction and appreciation, or just hitting without any such value judgement? Aside these actions, this conversation is about the relation between the worldly dharma and beyond-worldly dharma, or between conventional reality and absolute truth. Though the people in this conversation study and practice beyond-worldly dharma, as their work they have to deal with worldly reality.

The director’s first saying, “I went to the provincial office to sell waxy rice,”[5] is a translation of the Chinese sentence, “州中黄米來.” Dōgen made small changes and turned this line into the first line of the poem, “糴得州中黄米來.” First, Dōgen added one character, 得, to make the line seven characters according to the rules of Chinese poetry. Then he changed the character (tiao, cho) to (di, jaku). These are similar characters but have opposite meanings. The right-hand side of both characters, which is翟 (zhai, jaku), shows the sound.[6] The left-hand side of the first character has two parts: 出 (going out) and米 (rice). In the second character, the left-hand side is入 (coming in) and米 (rice). According to Prof. Seizan Yanagida, these two characters were used at the provincial government offices.[7] During the Tang Dynasty, provincial government offices had a system in which they would buy rice and store rice during the years of good rice harvest and low prices. In the years of poor harvest, the government offices would sell the stored rice to prevent the cost of rice from becoming too high. In that system, when they bought rice, 糴was used, and when they sell stored rice, 糶was used. In the story of the Linji and his director, they used 糶, which means Linji’s monastery sold rice to the government office. It is not clear if the rice was produced by the monks’ labor or donated by farmers. In either event, they had more than enough rice to feed the monks.

In Dōgen’s poem, 糴was used, which means the director of Eiheiji bought rice in the province. I am not sure if such a government system existed in Japan. But it is clear that Buddhist monasteries were within the economic system of the country and the director was the person who needed to take care of such mundane business to maintain the community in good shape.

The second line: “柴頭帶火上山隈” is about the tenzo’s work. A more literal translation of this line is, “With the fire on the top, brushwood is carried up to this nook in the mountain.”

In this case, “fire” refers to the tenzo’s bodhi-mind, not to the tenzo carrying burning brushwood. I suppose this expression came from the story of Guishan Lingyou (潙山霊裕, Isan Reiyū, 771–853) when he served as tenzo in the monastery of his master Baizhang Huaihai (百丈懐海, Hyakujō Ekai, 720–814). First, Guishan had an awakening when he was asked by Baizhang about fire in the ashes.

One day he (Guishan) was standing by the abbot’s room.
The abbot (Baizhang) asked, “Who is it?”
Guishan said, “Lingyou.”
Baizhang said, “Would you dig in the fire pot and see if there is fire or not.”
Lingyou stirred it and said, “No fire.”
Baizhang got up and dug deeply [in the fire pot] and found a small ember. He held it up and said, “Isn’t this fire?”
Lingyou was enlightened and prostrated himself in gratitude, then expressed his understanding.[8]

In this conversation, “fire” refers to bodhi-mind. No matter how small it might be, we find fire in the ash. One day after this conversation, Baizhang and Guishan were working together in the mountain.

The master (Baizhang) asked, “Is there fire or not?”
Guishan answered “There is.”
The master asked, “Where is it?”
Guishan grabbed a stick of brushwood, blew on it a few times and passed it to the master.
The master said, “It is like a worm eating wood.”[9]

This story appears in volume 6 of The Transmission of the Lamp (景徳伝灯録, Keitoku Dentōroku). Regarding this story, Dōgen wrote in Tenzokyōkun, “If Zen Master Guishan had not written the word “great,” he could not have taken a stick of firewood and blown on it three times.”[10]

With wind and clouds in cooperation, the dragons gain the water.
With this merit completed, their eyes are wide open.

The third line refers to meeting with good circumstances in order to practice; it may mean that the director and the tenzo could do their good jobs because of the diligent practice of other members of sangha, including Dōgen as the abbot. These directors and tenzos are like the dragons that gain the water, and the rest of the sangha are like wind and clouds.

In Zuimonki Dōgen said:

Each of us attains the Way because of the power of the assistance from people in the sangha. Although everyone is sharp-witted, we can [only] practice the Way because of the power of the assembly. Therefore, we should now unify our minds to study and investigate [the Way] together. A jewel becomes a vessel by being polished. People become benevolent through cultivation.[11]

The Chinese dragon is a sacred animal that controls water. When a dragon gains wind and clouds, it gains huge power to send rain that can be either beneficial or harmful. Therefore, people worship dragons to receive a sufficient amount of rain, but not too much. Fukanzazengi says this about the power of zazen: “When you grasp this, you are like a dragon with water, or a tiger in the mountain.”

In the fourth line, Dōgen says when these previous and new directors and tenzos serve sincerely and diligently to support the community, their merits are completed, their dharma eyes are wide open, and they can see both absolute oneness and relative diversity. In Tenzokyōkun, Dōgen says:

If those monkeys and birds 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. Take one stalk of vegetable to make the six-foot body [of buddha]; invite the six-foot body to make one stalk of vegetable. This is the divine power that causes transformations and the buddha work that benefits beings.[12]

   — • —

[1] (Dōgen’s Extensive Record volume 3, Dharma Hall Discourse 214, p.224) © 2010 Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, Dōgen’s Extensive Record. Reprinted by arrangement with Wisdom Publications, Inc., www.wisdompubs.org.
[2] Dōgen’s Pure Standards for the Zen Community: A Translation of Eihei Shingi (Taigen Dan Leighton & Shohaku Okumura, SUNNY, 1996), p.33.
[3] Ibid. p.181
[4] This is Okumura’s unpublished translation. Another translation is in The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-Chi (translated by Burton Watson, Shambhala, 1993), p.89.
[5] The Chinese characters黄米literally mean yellow rice, but according to a dictionary this refers to proso millet or glutinous rice, in modern Japanese 餅米 (mochigome).
[6] Today’s pronunciation of these characters seems to be different.
[7] 仏典講座 臨済録 30 (柳田聖山、大蔵出版、1972)p.208
[8] Dōgen’s Pure Standards for the Zen Community (Taigen Leighton & Shohaku Okumura), p.136.
[9] Okumura’s unpublished translation. Another translation is in Records of the Transmission of the Lamp vol.2 (translation by Randolph Whitfield), p.166.
[10] Dōgen’s Pure Standards for the Zen Community (Taigen Leighton & Shohaku Okumura), p.49.
[11] Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō Zuimonki (Shohaku Okumura, Wisdom 2022), p.197.
[12] Dōgen’s Pure Standards for the Zen Community, p.37–38.

                                                           — • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi.

                                                                    — • —

For further study:
See Dōgen’s Extensive Record.

> More of Dōgen Zenji’s Chinese Poems

Copyright©2023 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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.