Thunderbolts That Help Lotuses Open

Dōgen’s Chinese Poems (65)

Thunderbolts That Help Lotuses Open
298. Dharma Hall Discourse in Appreciation of the Previous Inō

「謝維那」  (「維那を謝す」)

無孔鐵鎚亙霹靂 (無孔の鐵鎚亙に霹靂す)
當時撃破野狐禪 (當時撃破す野狐の禪)
今朝要得知端的 (今朝端的を知るを得んと要すや)
大庾嶺頭臘月蓮 (大庾嶺頭臘月の蓮)

An iron hammerhead without a hole is always like a thunderbolt,
Immediately dispersing wild-fox Zen.
This morning, would you like to know the ultimate summit?
On top of Dayu Peak there is a lotus flower on the twelfth month.[1]

This is verse 64 in Kuchūgen and Dharma Hall Discourse (上堂, jōdō) 298 in Volume 4 of Eiheikōroku. The dharma hall discourse consists only of this poem, without any accompanying speech. It was given sometime after the 8th day of the 12th month and before the 25th day of the same month in 1248. This verse in Manzan’s version is almost the same as Monkaku’s version, but there is one character’s difference in the first line.
                    無孔鐵鎚霹靂 (無孔の鐵鎚霹靂を轟かす
                    An iron hammerhead without a hole resounds like a thunderbolt,

Thunderbolts That Help Lotuses Open
Dharma Hall Discourse in Appreciation of the Previous Ino

This poem is presented on the occasion of the stepping-down of the person who had been the inō. Inō (維那, Ch. weinuo) is a translation of the Sanskrit word karma-dāna (the Chinese transliteration is 羯磨陀那, the Japanese pronunciation is katsuma-dana). Another Chinese translation is 綱維 (kōi, disciplinarian). The Japanese word inō (Ch. 維那, weinuo) is formed by combining the second character of the Chinese translation i (維, wei) and the last part of the transliteration na (那, nuo).[2] This word can be translated into English as “rector.” This position is also called 悦衆(esshu, giving joy to the sangha).

According to a Vinaya text, the origin of this position in Indian Buddhist monasteries is explained as follows. When the Buddha was staying at the Jetavana-vihara in Sravasti, the capital of Kosala, there was no monk in the monastery who was in charge of announcing time, who used the mallet to make announcements to the sangha, who kept the lecture hall and eating place clean, who set the seats neatly, who washed fruits and vegetables to eat, who checked vinegar to see if there were insects in it,[3] who served water for monks when they had meals, and who snapped their fingers to make a sound and warn monks when they talked noisily and chaotically. When the monks reported this condition to the Buddha, he said, “We should choose a monk as karma-dāna.

According to the Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, karma-dāna in this story may not necessarily refer to a specific monastic office, but rather to the general act of “assigning” (lit. dāna, giving) “duties” (karman, action) within a monastery. So, what the Buddha said in the story may not mean that the community needs to select a single officer to take care of all those activities, but rather they should select monks to be in charge of each of such matters. This might have occurred in the process of establishing monasteries and organizing community practice systems in the history of early Indian Buddhism.

A Chinese translation of karma-dāna is 綱維 (kōi). Both 綱 () and維 (i) refer to a rope used for making a loaded burden on the carrier settled and unmoved. The word 綱維 (kōi) refers to the rules to keep the monastic community orderly and harmonious. It also refers to the person or the position of a supervisor who enforces such disciplinary rules.

In Eihei Chiji Shingi (永平知事清規, Pure Standards for the Temple Administrators), Dōgen quotes Chanyuan Qinggui (禅苑清規, Zen’en Shingi, Pure Standard for Zen Monastery) compiled in 1103, in which the inō’s duties as the supervisor of various activities by monks of the assembly are listed rather extensively.[4]

*The inō is responsible for all matters regarding the monastic community staying in the monks’ hall. When there are newly arrived monks, the inō checks their ordination certificate issued by the government to make sure of their dharma-age,[5] to make a determination of the order of seniority of monks, and to arrange the appropriate seat in the monks’ hall. If there is something questionable regarding someone’s certificate, the inō should contact the government through the temple office to clarify it. When a monk dies, the inō should report the death of the monk and return his certificate of ordination to the government.

*The inō should keep the temple facilities such as the monks’ hall, dormitories, etc. in good shape and make seasonal changes so that monks can practice comfortably. The inō also assigns the monks who are in charge of such minor work.

*The inō makes necessary arrangements for sick monks to be well taken care of.

*When there is a serious violation of the rules, the inō should report it to the abbot to get approval, then expel the person from the temple. When the violation is minor, the inō should change the person’s work position and/or resting place.

*When there is a conflict or dispute among monks, the inō should pacify the conflict by having both parties courteously reconciled. If both parties do not accept the mediation, the inō should judge them according to the rules.

*When there is something to announce to the monks, the inō should hit the tsui-chin (mallet) placed beside the Manjushri altar in the monks’ hall, and make the announcement.

*The inō is in charge of leading the formal chanting at daily services, and formal meals in the monks’ hall.

*The inō should make it clear that all monks including the abbot participate in communal work.

An iron hammerhead without a hole is always like a thunderbolt,
Immediately dispersing wild-fox Zen.

The first line of this poem refers to one of the inō’s jobs: to hit the tsui-chin (槌砧) to make announcements. In Eihei Chiji Shingi, Dōgen introduces a kōan story about the inō’s making an announcement:

Great Teacher Baoji of Huayan Temple in Jingzhao, whose personal name was Xiujing, was a successor to Dongshan [Liangjie]. Jingzhao became inō at Yaopu. [One day] he hit the tsui chin to announce community work and said, “Those in the north half will carry firewood, and those in the south half will plow the ground.”
Then the head monk asked, “What about Manjushri [on the central altar]?”
[Baoji] Jingzhao answered, “In the hall, [he] does not sit straight; how can he go to work on both sides?”[6]

Tsui(槌)is a wooden instrument looks like an octagonal hammerhead with a very short wooden handle by which it cannot actually be grasped. This is placed on a wooden octagonal stand called chin(砧)that is about three to four feet high. The octagonal shape refers to the eight directions of Mt. Sumeru in Buddhist cosmology. When the inō makes an announcement, he grasps the hammerhead and hits the stand to make the monks be quiet and pay attention to his announcement.[7]

In the first line of this poem, tsui-chin is mentioned as “an iron hammerhead without a hole (無孔鐵鎚, muku no tettsui). This is an expression used in Zen literature; for example, in the verse of case 14 of Blue Cliff Record:

無孔鐵鎚重下楔。  (無孔の鐵鎚重ねて楔を下す。)
He wedges a stake into the iron hammerhead with no hole.[8]

This means trying to make a hole in and put a handle on the ultimate reality, which is without hole and handle—meaning trying to think of and grasp the ultimate reality beyond human conceptual thinking.

Here, Dōgen means the inō made announcements while he was in the position, using the hammer of ultimate reality which cannot be changed by anyone, and doing so, he made a sound like a thunderbolt.

The inō’s announcement is not to allow wild-fox Zen to stay in the community. Wild-fox Zen came from the story of Baizhang Huihai and a wild fox.[9] It refers to practitioners who behave pretending that they are enlightened without genuine practice and realization. The inō’s job is to keep the sangha in a healthy and harmonious condition without being influenced by such people.

In fascicle 8 of Chanyuan Quinggui, it is said that if the assembly members are not in peace because false practitioners without genuine bodhi-citta do not leave the community, the inō is not fulfilling the duty of giving joy to the assembly.

This morning, would you like to know the ultimate summit?
On top of Dayu Peak there is a lotus flower on the twelfth month.

Dōgen is asking his assembly monks a question concerning the inō—what can be the ultimate reality this person has been expressing while making announcements and performing other necessary work during his time as inō? “The ultimate summit” is a translation of 端的(tanteki), which literally means, as an adverb, “directly,” “straightforwardly,” and as a noun, “the very thing”—that is, “ultimate reality itself.” Here we translated this term as the “ultimate summit,” to make a connection with the top of Dayu Peak in the next line.

Dayu Peak is a translation of 大庾嶺 (Ch. Dayuling, Jp. Daiyurei) which is a part of the Nanling mountain range (南嶺山脈), a border of Central China and South China. In ancient times, south of the mountain range was considered the land of southern barbarians. In Zen literature, there is a famous story about the Sixth Ancestor, Huineng when he first visited the Fifth Ancestor.

The Fifth ancestor asked, “Where are you from?”
The sixth ancestor said, “I am a man from Lingnan.”
The fifth ancestor said, “Coming here, what do you seek after?”
The sixth ancestor replied, “I am seeking to become a buddha.”
The fifth ancestor said, “A person from Lingnan has no buddha-nature. How can you become a buddha?”[10]

“Lingnan (嶺南)” means the south of the Nanlin mountain range. According to a story, after secretly receiving dharma transmission, Huineng escaped from the fifth ancestor’s monastery to his homeland. At Dayu Peak, Huiming, one of the other monks, caught up with Huineng and tried to take back the robe and bowl given Huineng by the fifth ancestor as proof of the transmission. Huineng taught Huiming saying, “Think neither good nor evil. At the very moment, what is the true face of Huiming?”[11]

“A lotus flower on the twelfth month (臘月蓮, rogetsu no hasu),” refers to something very rare, because a lotus flower does not bloom in the winter. This is like the uḍumbara flower that blooms once every three thousand years. Dōgen is saying that what the person who had been inō expressed using the mallet is the rare dharma taught by the sixth ancestor at Dayu Peak, that is, the true face of one’s own self. Although most of the announcements by the inō are day-to-day matters to keep community practice smooth and in harmony, what he really expresses is the ultimate truth beyond discrimination. Here we see the interpenetration of the ultimate reality and day-to-day conventional matters as bodhisattva practice.

Dōgen writes in Shōbōgenzō Not Doing Evil (諸悪莫作, Shoaku-makusa):

We hear of this supreme awakening, sometimes following a teacher and sometimes following the sutras. At the beginning, it sounds like, “Do not do any evil.” If we don’t hear “Do not do any evil,” it is not the true Dharma of buddhas; it must be a suggestion of demons.[12]

 — • —

[1] Dōgen’s Extensive Record volume 4, dharma hall discourse 298, p.279 © 2010 Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, Dōgen’s Extensive Record. Reprinted by arrangement with Wisdom Publications, Inc.,
[2] Since Zen Buddhism was introduced to Japan during Song Dynasty China, many Zen terms are pronounced with Song sounds. That is why, in Japanese, we pronounce this word as inō instead of ina.
[3] In the Vinaya precepts, to drink water, vinegar, or other liquid in which there are insects is prohibited because by drinking it, insects would be killed.
[4] For a full translation, please see Dōgen’s Pure Standards for the Zen Community: A Translation of Eihei Shingi (Translation by Taigen Leighton & Shohaku Okumura, State University of New York Press, 1996), p. 167–170.
[5] Dharma age (法齢) is number of the years after a monk has been fully ordained at an official precepts-platform and has received the certificate of ordination (度諜) issued by the government office. All monks need to carry the certificate all the time.
[6] Dōgen’s Pure Standards for Zen Community, p.135. A monks’ hall is commonly built facing east. The abbot, the headmonk, and senior monks sit in the north half in order of dharma-age, so that this is called the upper half (上間, jōkan); the south side is called the lower half (下間, gekan). The Manjushri altar is in the center.
[7] The way the inō hits the tsui-chin is mentioned in fascicle 6 of Chanyuan Qinggui. See The Origins of Buddhist Monastic Codes in China, p. 200.
[8] The Blue Cliff Record (Thomas Cleary), p. 95.
[9] Dōgen wrote about this story in Shōbōgenzō Great Practice (大修行, Daishugyō) and Deep Faith in Cause and Result(深信因果, Jinshin Inga. See, Treasury of the True Dharma Eye (Kazuaki Tanahashi), p.705, and p.851.
[10] Okumura’s translation. Dōgen quotes this story in Shōbōgenzō Busshō (佛性 Buddha Nature).
[11] See case 23 of Mumonkan (無門関). Zen Comments on the Mumonkan (Zenkei Shibayama, Harper & Row, 1974), p.166.
[12] Okumura’s unpublished translation. Another translation is in Treasury of the True Dharma Eye (Kazuaki Tanahashi), p.96.

 — • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi.

— • —

For further study:
See Dōgen’s Extensive Record.

> More of Dōgen Zenji’s Chinese Poems

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