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A Burglar Breaks into an Empty House

An excerpt from The Zen Teaching of Homeless Kōdō

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KODO SAWAKI:
Once a monk asked Master Longya, “How did the ancient master finally cease doing things and completely settle down?”

Longya replied, “It was like a thief slipping into a vacant house.”

A burglar breaks into an empty house. He can’t steal anything. There’s no need to escape. Nobody chases him. It’s nothing. Understand: It’s nothing.

Satori is like a burglar breaking into an empty house. Although he had difficulty getting in, there’s nothing to steal. He doesn’t need to run. Nobody’s after him. The whole thing is a flop.

KOSHO UCHIYAMA:
Sawaki Roshi often spoke of a burglar breaking into an empty house. Someone who happened to hear this wrote that Sawaki Roshi had said, “When you do zazen, you shouldn’t do it like a burglar breaking into an empty house, because there’s no gain in that.” When I read this, I was amazed. What an unbelievable misunderstanding. If Sawaki Roshi were alive, I can’t imagine how he would react!

Discussing Buddhist teachings is totally different from ordinary discussion, which is based on common sense. We must listen carefully to a teacher and read texts with a calm mind; I recommend not trying to understand them on your own.

This “burglar breaking into an empty house” is Sawaki Roshi’s translation of Longya’s saying, “It was like a crook slipping into a vacant house.” This is the answer to the question, “How do we finally settle down?” or “Where’s the true refuge in our lives?” After all his efforts, the thief gets into a vacant house. There’s nothing to steal, nobody to flee from. There’s nothing but the self that is only the self in the empty house. At this point, there’s nothing to give or take, and there’s no relation to others. We might feel such a life is not worth living. But satori, the final place to settle down in one’s life, is to take this basic attitude: “That which lives out my life is nothing other than myself.” Satori is simply settling down here and now, where things are unsatisfactory.

SHOHAKU OKUMURA:
Longya Judun (835–923), known in Japanese as Ryuge Koton, was a disciple of Dongshan Liangjie (807–69). Known in Japanese as Tozan Ryokai, Dongshan was the founder of the Caodong school, the Chinese school that Dogen Zenji studied before he founded the Soto school in Japan. The ancient master in the monk’s question refers to Shishuang Qingzhu (807–88), or Sekiso Keisho in Japanese. Shishuang was Dongshan’s Dharma cousin.

In case 96 of the Book of Serenity, Shishuang said, “Cease doing. Stop the separation between subject and object. Be like one moment is ten thousand years. Be like cold ashes and dead trees. Be like a strip of white silk.” To be like cold ashes and dead trees is to be without discrimination; to be like a strip of white silk is to be without defilement.

The koan continues. After Shishuang’s death, his attendant asked the head monk the meaning of this saying. The monk replied, “It clarifies the matter of absolute oneness.” The attendant didn’t agree. Then the head monk died in zazen. The attendant patted his back and said, “You don’t understand the late teacher’s meaning even in a dream.”

Later a monk asked Longya about the meaning of Shishuang’s “cease doing.” Longya said, “It’s like a crook slipping into a vacant house.” This saying shows Longya’s understanding is very different from the head monk’s. He understands ceasing as relinquishing the struggle for gain based on our desires and settling down here and now. For the head monk, ceasing is equivalent to death. This is a common misunderstanding of the Buddhist teaching of emptiness.

But as Sawaki Roshi and Uchiyama Roshi have said, our zazen is not a negation of life; it’s simply stilling ourselves in the here and now without chasing satisfaction. According to Uchiyama Roshi, this is the attitude of living out our lives by ourselves, without relying on others or any particular dogma.

The Japanese haiku poet Masaoka Shiki (1867−1902) died of tuberculosis at thirty-five. In his final days he suffered unbearable pain caused by spinal decay. He couldn’t even shift in his bed. About three months before his death, he wrote in an essay for a newspaper: “Until now, I have misunderstood satori in Zen. I mistakenly thought that satori was to die with peace of mind in any condition. Satori is to live with peace of mind in any condition.”

I think this is the difference between the understanding of the head monk and Longya. In Shobogenzo Shoji (or “Life and Death”), Dogen said, “Just understand that life and death is itself nirvana and neither dislike life and death nor seek after nirvana. Only then will it be possible for us to be released from life and death…. This present life and death is the life of Buddha.”

© 2014 Shohaku Okumura. All rights reserved

Self-Centered Motivation

An excerpt from The Zen Teaching of Homeless Kōdō

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KODO SAWAKI:
Doing good can be bad. Some people do good to make themselves look good.

KOSHO UCHIYAMA:
Suppose someone visits people in long-term care with gifts, saying, “I’d like to help you receive medical care and recuperate as comfortably as possible.” Then he runs for political office and during his campaign he says, “Nice to meet you! I’m a supporter of patients throughout the country. If I win, I’ll work to construct better facilities for you.” He wins and becomes a politician. While he works to establish facilities for patients, he takes kickbacks and lines his own pockets. Is he a supporter of the patients or does he prey on them? This is a very delicate question. I regret that this is often the way of society. We should judge ourselves by ourselves, as if we were standing alone before God on Judgment Day.

In Japan right now, we’re disappointed with the government because there’s hardly anyone who devotes their wealth to politics, as in the Meiji and early Taisho eras. Now most politicians use their political activities to increase their personal holdings. Religion’s the same.

Depending whether we believe in religion for personal profit or let go of this gaining mind for the sake of faith, the meaning of our practice changes completely. The former is a heretic who exploits God or Buddha, while the latter is a truly religious person. When someone prostrates before God or Buddha and prays devoutly, it’s impossible to tell from the outside whether his faith is true or false. It depends whether we’re seeking benefit for ourselves, others, or Buddha. Even a holy person respected by many could be driven by a subtly selfish motive.

KODO SAWAKI:
We must all reflect on our motivations with eyes wide open. Somehow before we know it, we’re playing to the gallery, anxious about our popularity like an entertainer. If our practice is a performance for an audience, it cannot be Buddhadharma.

SHOHAKU OKUMURA:
This chapter again addresses defilement in the deepest layer of the mind.

Intentionally or not, we may create unwholesome karma even when doing good. We must carefully examine our motivations. Identifying twisted karma is easier when we take unwholesome actions that disturb others than when we’re trying to help; even if we fail to recognize our bad behavior at the time, other people will let us know through their advice, blame, anger, or dislike. But when we create twisted karma with our good deeds, people are usually happy and praise us, and we in turn are proud of our actions. In these cases, perceiving the deep and subtle self-centeredness within our benevolence can be very difficult. This is why our practice of zazen as repentance is significant. In zazen, we cannot hide from ourselves. As the Kanfugenbosatsugyohokyo says, “If you wish to make repentance, sit upright and be mindful of the true reality.”

For a few years in my thirties, I supported my practice by begging. I lived at a small temple as a caretaker, sat zazen, and had a five-day sesshin each month with a few people. I also worked on translating Dogen Zenji’s and Uchiyama Roshi’s books from Japanese to English. I begged a few times a month, raising barely enough to pay for health insurance, utilities, telephone, and food.

While begging, I sometimes felt guilty. People donated without knowing who I was or what I was doing. They simply trusted my Buddhist robes. The source of my guilt was that I couldn’t do anything in return for those who supported my life and practice. My zazen and translation didn’t contribute anything to their lives. Japanese people don’t need to read English translations of Buddhist texts.

Once when I was begging, a boy about ten said to me, “You want money, don’t you?” This question became my koan. I couldn’t say no because when I begged I hoped to receive money to support my life and practice. But if money were what I really wanted, I wouldn’t beg; I knew more efficient and easier ways to make money.

I believed I was doing zazen and translation for the sake of Dharma, not for my personal benefit, but I didn’t know whether anyone would want to read Zen texts translated into English by a Japanese practitioner who was neither a scholar nor a professional translator. I had to examine my motivation. Was this way of life truly for the Dharma or merely to support activities based on my personal preferences?

Now, thirty years later, some people appreciate my work, so I can say that what I was doing back then had some benefit, but at the time I couldn’t know. Actually my motives were mixed: I hoped my work would benefit people, and I also liked it. The important point is to keep investigating one’s motivations. Judging oneself is very difficult; we easily believe our motives are good, and we can even become intoxicated with our good intentions. But in zazen we let go of that belief too—that we’re good. We just do what we’re doing for its own sake.

© 2014 Shohaku Okumura. All rights reserved

Image: “Outstretched Hand” by Sarah Joy. Chalk & charcoal on cardboard [CC-BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr

The deep mountain

rain-drops-336527_1280It’s a mistake to think that the mountain is an ideal place to find calm. I knew an abbot who’d made this choice. He yawned constantly: “Oh! How long the days are! If only a visitor would think to bring me some sushi!” It might be a good idea to live deep in the mountains if they weren’t infested with demons ceaselessly prowling in the vicinity. They quickly visit, and the solitude doesn’t last long. The hermitage we’re talking about here is in a place so isolated that you don’t even hear the lowing of a cow, and where there is no human trace. Dōgen Zenji said: “The dusts of the world do not reach it.” In this place, the snow falls in silence; man is motionless.

What world is this? It’s a world of man alone with himself, his deep mountain where he withdraws far from the noise and activities of life. A world where he sees no one. When they speak of an isolated place, I always think of the toilet. There also it’s the deep mountain. No one. No link with anything. Alone with yourself.   Such is the Way of authentic religion. When we’re face to face with someone, we go on stage and play a role. The majority of things we do under the eyes of others, but the place where no one sees you, where you come to grips with yourself – this is your deep mountain.

There’s no longer any reason to lie to your parents, to your children, to your wife. At the moment when one can no longer lie to others, then one is oneself. You are in the deep mountain when you can no longer lie to yourself and this “self” can no longer deceive you. Daichi Zenji said, “Wherever you may be, when it’s no-thought, that’s the mountain. No matter where this blue mountain may be, you are at home.” This is precisely the sense of the phrase, “Entering the deep mountain.” This place does not need to be isolated or out of the range of noise. Right in the middle of the Ginza, on the bus, on the train, what does it matter? One comes to grips with oneself and doesn’t let go!

Thus, at the University I don’t even know the students’ names. It matters little to me that the supposed response they give to me may be coming from their substitute. I let it happen. I don’t worry about the truth of the signature on the attendance list. They’re free to make noise. In fact, though they may fool their professor, they can’t fool their classmates. If somebody wants to attract attention, he doesn’t deceive his buddies, who will despise him. Just as on the stock exchange, his stock will never be taken up. On the other hand, someone admired by his peers will take on worth, and this will be increased that much more as the practice of zazen brings him calm and equilibrium.

We should be able to enter the deep mountain no matter where we are, even on a train. The toilet’s not the only place we can find isolation and be completely our self. The mountain is everywhere. When one is without birth and without thought, one seeks nothing. There is no longer either joy or sorrow, neither attraction nor repulsion. If things still divide into those that one loves and those that one does not love, it’s a village, not the deep mountain.

K​​ōd​ō​ S​awaki​
Commentary​ on​ The Song of Awakening by Y​​ōka Daishi
​French translation of Japanese original by Janine Coursin
English translation from the French by Tonen O’Connor
Copyright 2014 Tonen O’Connor

Only When We Practice

An excerpt from The Zen Teaching of Homeless Kōdō

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KODO SAWAKI:
Religion is not for changing the external world. It is for transforming our eyes and ears, our habitual ways of perceiving and thinking.

KOSHO UCHIYAMA:
There was a man who behaved strangely when he drank sake. Whenever he was drunk, he wanted to talk about zazen. When this person visited Antaiji for the first time and said he wanted to talk with Sawaki Roshi, I didn’t know of his habit, so I allowed the meeting. What the man said was totally incoherent; he was simply babbling. Since I didn’t want Sawaki Roshi to get tired, I convinced the visitor to leave, after great effort.

When he came next and asked to meet with Sawaki Roshi, I remembered what had happened the last time and noticed from his breath that he was drunk. I didn’t let him meet with Sawaki Roshi but received him myself. Again, he started to say this and that about zazen, so I said, “If you want to talk about zazen, come back when you’re sober. When you sit zazen, the world of zazen opens itself without your saying anything. When you’re drunk, whatever you say is simply taking place within the world of drinking. Everything you’re saying now is just a drinking game.”

KODO SAWAKI:
Ishikawa Goemon, the famous thief whose family name means “stone river,” said in a verse, “Even if the sands of the beach or the stone river might be exhausted, in this world the seeds of the thief will never be eliminated.” This means that thief-nature permeates the entire universe. And yet we don’t actually become thieves unless we imitate Goemon and steal things. Buddhanature also permeates the entire universe, however you will never become a buddha unless you imitate the Buddha and practice. We are buddhas only when we practice Buddha’s practice.

Religion isn’t an idea. It’s something we practice. 
Our practice of religion must be real. It isn’t evidence of our virtue.

SHOHAKU OKUMURA:
In his first teaching, Shakyamuni said he had found the middle way. This middle way was the Eightfold Noble Path: right view, right thinking, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right meditation. He taught this path as the last of the Four Noble Truths—the path to the cessation of suffering.

On the day Buddha entered nirvana, the wandering ascetic Subbadha asked, “There are various religious teachers. They teach different teachings to their students. Have they all gained knowledge through their own wisdom, or have none of them any knowledge, or do some have knowledge and others do not?”

The Buddha told Subbhada not to get caught in metaphysical speculation, but to live within the truth. He said, “Never mind whether they have all gained knowledge through their own wisdom or not. Where the Eightfold Noble Path is not found, there are no enlightened practitioners. Where the Eightfold Noble Path is found, there are enlightened practitioners. If monks were to live correctly, there would be no lack of enlightened people.”

Shakyamuni taught how to live the middle way, free of extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification. Then, to explain the middle way, philosophical systems were established in various lineages of Buddhism. Many people simply studied these philosophies without actually living the Eightfold Noble Path. Such people are like bank tellers who count other people’s money.

Reading about zazen is the same—like counting other people’s money or studying recipes without cooking and tasting. Even if a medicine has hundreds of benefits, reading about them won’t cure us.

© 2014 Shohaku Okumura. All rights reserved.

Seeing the World from a Casket

An excerpt from The Zen Teaching of Homeless Kōdō

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KODO SAWAKI:

A shower
In the middle of a fight
About irrigation

After a long drought, farmers fight over water for their rice fields. In the middle of the dispute, a shower hits. Since there’s no other reason to fight, when it rains the problem disappears. There will be no difference between the beautiful and the plain when they’re eighty. The original reality is empty and clear.

KOSHO UCHIYAMA:

“Since there’s no other reason to fight, when it rains the problem disappears.” I’d like to read this sentence carefully and savor its meaning.

It’s quite possible that if I go out now, I may have a car accident that will immediately finish me off. This kind of unexpected death is more likely in modern times than before. If I were run down by a car, all the problems in my thoughts, such as “I want this, I want that”; my frustrated anger, “Oh . . . that fool!”; or my longing for a certain woman would be resolved quite spontaneously, as the argument about irrigation suddenly disappears when it rains.

As long as we’re alive, we’ll have all different kinds of problems. These troubles are the conditions of being alive. But I believe it’s important to take a fresh look at them given the assumption that in the next moment, we might be hit by a car and laid in a coffin. We can open our minds to live in a more leisurely way, knowing that we don’t have to get stuck in our self-centered opinions, gritting our teeth and furrowing our brows.

In short, zazen is seeing this world from the casket, without me.

KODO SAWAKI:

Imagine looking back on our lives after we die. We’ll see that so many things didn’t matter.

SHOHAKU OKUMURA:

Sawaki Roshi’s expression “the original reality is empty and clear” comes from “Xinxinming,” the famous Zen poem attributed to the Third Ancestor of Chinese Zen, Sengcan. The poem begins:

The supreme Way is without difficulty. It only dislikes picking and choosing. If there is neither hate nor love, It reveals itself empty and clear.

In a severe drought farmers cannot avoid picking and choosing. Their fields are not others’. If they cannot get water, their rice will die, and they’ll have no harvest. During droughts in ancient times, there were often fights among villages by the same river, and farmers in the same village, to get even a little more water for their fields. In the midst of the fight, the sky might suddenly darken, and it might start to rain. Then the farmers lost their reason for conflict.

When we soften self-centered discrimination and live without being driven by hatred and love, the supreme way beyond duality manifests itself. And when we see the true interdependent reality of all beings, we can relax and open our clinging minds. Our zazen is to sit in our own caskets and view things from nonduality, or complete interconnectedness.

As all rivers flow into the ocean, when we die we return to oneness. In fact, we always live within this ocean even though we experience our lives as separate. A Japanese poet wrote of rivers flowing within the ocean: river and ocean are both manifestations of the larger circulation of water. Depending on our perspective, we see them as separate or as one.

© 2014 Shohaku Okumura. All rights reserved.

Image by Dino Abatzidis [CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0], via Flickr

Sawaki on the poetry of Shōdōka

sakura-426877_1280Poetry gives off subtle tones that prose cannot express. The resonance of a verse awakens mysterious emotions in us. It’s a matter of a direct and personal understanding, an immediate and intuitive apprehension or, according to the expressions of Zen: “transmission from my mind to your mind,” “a special transmission outside of instruction,” or again, “beyond words and letters.” The personality of its author flows from a verse. A Zen monk who teaches the Way must be like a deaf-mute. His clumsiness matters little, what counts is the radiance he gives rise to; resonances must flow from his person. The deaf-mute expresses himself through gestures and mime and if we had to make ourselves understood like him, we would certainly be much more creative and original. In truth, the Zen monk’s transmission is situated somewhere else than in words.

The direct transmission of the spirit of the teaching of the Buddha takes very special forms of expression. Let’s say it is the originality of Zen. They always say that in Zen one has need of neither sutras nor literature, but if one consults a bibliography of Buddhist writings, one is surprised to ascertain that works of Zen are by far the most numerous. The reason for this abundant production lies precisely in the creativity and originality of Zen thought. It is truly very interesting and worth the effort of uncovering it, if only by the reading of a single sentence. But the words that express it will remain empty shells if one is unaware of its substance. The historical linguist is a blind man who contemplates the cherry trees in bloom. He hugs the trunk in his arms and asks himself if it is a cherry tree he’s clutching. There are those who see and those who do not see, and in the case of cherry trees in bloom, that makes all the difference.

Through study one can know everything there is to know about the five aggregates, six roots and twelve causalities that lie at the origin of the illusions which engender our actions, causes of our suffering in the past, present and future. This mountain of learning will perhaps be useful for passing an exam, but what does it have to do with our own self? Zen is not that. The transmission from person to person is an electric current that passes between two beings. From Shākyamuni, the current has passed to us. Conventional words are powerless to transmit the spirit of Buddha. Only poetic language can stir resonance in us. The first Zen poem that appeared in China is the Shinjinmei of the third patriarch. The second text in verse is the Shōdōka. The poem is in Chinese, but in order to render it accessible to the Japanese reader, I have introduced kana and restructured the phrases in the Japanese order.   Nevertheless, I advise the reading of it in Chinese to better appreciate its extraordinary flavor.

We know the quality of the Indian dharani, of the Japanese haiku and waka, but the resonance of Chinese poetry is completely exceptional. Zen was introduced into China at a time when the writings of Lao-tzu were in vogue and Taoism had exercised a profound influence. I am not an historian, and I cannot say if it’s due to the Zen or to the Chinese, but the poetry of this epoch sounds clear to the ear and crackles on the tongue. The highly subtle verses are sharpened like a razor. For whatever reason, a new literary genre with unique resonances was brought to life.

The verses of the Shōdōka sound clear and strong when read aloud. The rhythm of the verses and the modulation of the sounds render their recitation easy. In addition to the Shōdōka, numerous Zen songs belong to the same genre, such as the Shinjinmei, Sandōkai. and Hōkyō Zanmai, or also the poems to recite, Senshi and Shinpō, as well as the poem Sōan by Sekitō Daishi.

These long poems antedate the Hekigan. They were put to music and gave birth to the music of ceremony. The Chinese poems are rhythmic and melodious; their impact is still greater when one chants them. It is not a didactic poetry aiming at touching the intellect. Rather, it is like playing an instrument or listening to music. One experiences a religious feeling simply by reciting them.

K​​ōd​ō​ S​awaki​
Commentary​ on​ The Song of Awakening by Y​​ōka Daishi
​French translation of Japanese original by Janine Coursin
English translation from the French by Tonen O’Connor
Copyright 2014 Tonen O’Connor

True practice, true reality

208997985_692784c75f_oThe aim of the practice of Buddhism is to make us discover true reality. It immediately awakens a pressing need to know what it’s like. Now, the true character of reality has but one characteristic: an absence of character. It’s neither this nor that. All existence in the universe, all phenomena without exception are the true nature of reality. It is said in the Hannya Shingyō: “All dharmas are marked by emptiness, they do not appear nor disappear, are not tainted nor pure.” Such is the true nature of reality: without beauty, without filth, without birth, without death.

We can’t see this reality from our human point of view. The men of our time are pushing their pens hard to describe it, especially the intellectuals, those people who make it a habit to pass exams and fill a copy book no matter what the subject. But the more they seek it, the more it hides, and whatever their papers produce resembles a tiny little turd. Due to the very fact that we are human beings, it’s impossible for us to see the true nature of reality. We men can see only our world of men. A fish sees only his world of fish. A thief sees only thieves. Someone told me that a judge remarked, “I see a criminal in every man,” no doubt a true statement. As he was an expert in lies, it’s normal that he should think in terms of guilt.

If you are an antique dealer and revere a Buddha, you begin by estimating its value: “How many yen is it worth?” As soon as you see a Buddha, you put a price tag on it. This is the reason all the Buddhas have disappeared.

Regarding the world with the eye of Buddha, everything is buddha. Demons no longer exist. All beings, sentient and insentient, are the Way: grass, trees, land, planet, all is buddha. Our body, just as it is, is buddha.

An ordinary man of this world will say that I am not a Buddha, just a man like any other, because he sees me through ordinary-man-colored glasses. When he wears blue glasses, he sees the world in blue. If they have the color of desire, in this world he sees only objects of desire.

We must then comprehend true reality. Still, it is not an easy task, since the human condition is opposed to it. Here, all is illusion. In everything in the world, nothing exists besides illusions. Everything without exception is illusion. Let’s just say that it’s all karma. A man has stolen something, is afraid, and runs away. A policeman pursues and stares at each passerby, wondering if the guy in front of him might be the thief. In consequence, the pursued and the pursuer each go along in completely different worlds. This is why it’s so difficult for us to understand. To discover the true nature of reality is to embrace the panorama of the universe in a single glance. When we have vision like this, we have comprehended the teaching of the Buddha.

It’s not necessary to use a telescope or bend over a microscope to contemplate the spectacle of the universe. There’s no need to take so much trouble. It’s sufficient to refuse to perceive as true all the illusions that blind us. We must say to ourselves:

“My ideas are false: this one, that one, all is false. I reject them.” If we chase them all away, nothing exists in us any longer. It is written: “In cutting the bonds of karma, one finds calm in all things. One no longer thinks in terms of good or evil, one no longer distinguishes the true from the false.” In short, one has a total and immediate vision of the real. Thus it best serves our purpose to look over our glasses or, better yet, to take them off.

Seizing the universe at a glance is a problem of quality, not quantity. Even when the distance to the limits of the universe is measured in thousands of light years, beyond that remains the unknown. In the Lotus Sutra the duration of the universe is estimated as five hundred cosmic cycles. Whether infinitely large or infinitely small, the world is unlimited. The true problem is neither time nor space, but the essence of the universe.

We do not embrace the universe with a single glance and so we weep and we laugh. When our vision is total there’s neither attraction nor repulsion: things are simply what they are, that’s all. This is only this; that is only that. Yet we can’t comprehend that social work, whose purpose is to do good, may not make the beneficiary happy. As a matter of fact, by giving charity to the man who suffers from being poor we thus augment his humiliation and leave him more unsatisfied than before. I always say that one ought to beg from the poor. The indigent person thus thinks: “They can still ask something of me,” and he instantly rediscovers his dignity as a man. This is why Shākyamuni sought alms of the most miserable of the miserable. When one gives, one is not poor. The proof is that a rich man abhors being given alms, for it devalues his most important attribute, money, without which he no longer exists. He loathes receiving as a gift his most valued possession, money. In this example we’ve seized at a glance the essence of the universe. So lucid a gaze is not explicable: it’s to have the eye.

In the old days, there were no glasses for regarding the sky, nor x-rays, nor microscopes. None of these existed, so you had to equip yourself by yourself with eyes capable of seeing well without instruments to assist you. Then one day an eye perceived reality in its totality. This extraordinarily piercing eye saw itself, as well as others. It penetrated happiness and unhappiness. Regarding all things with his prodigious eye, for the first time a world appeared to him where absolutely nothing existed.

One day in the outhouse a worm fell on a sheet of ice. A compassionate soul saw this pitiable worm in great danger and deposited it in a place where it could be warm all night. The next morning it was dead. What the man thought of as good luck was not good luck for the worm. We’re wrong to think that what makes for the happiness or unhappiness of some does so for others as well.

We must develop the power of our eye to see with a single glance rich and poor, man and woman. If we consider only the happiness of one or the other, we see nothing at all. When we embrace all things at a single glance, we have mastery over the universe. However, we can’t do things by half or stop along the way. We can’t remain suspended in confusion. We must go to the end to the point where we awaken to true reality.

K​​ōd​ō​ S​awaki​
Commentary​ on​ The Song of Awakening by Y​​ōka Daishi
​French translation of Japanese original by Janine Coursin
English translation from the French by Tonen O’Connor
Copyright 2014 Tonen O’Connor

Image by Su Neko [CC-BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr