Category Archives: Dōgen Poems

Emptiness grasping emptiness

Copyright©2020 Misaki C. Kido

Dōgen’s Chinese Poems (31)
The Night of the Seventeenth;
Verse on “Riding on a whale, they grasp the moon.”
十七夜、頌騎鯨捉月 (十七夜、「鯨に騎って月を捉う」を頌す)

Wearing dragon scales, rabbit horns, and turtle hair,
With falling rain and rising clouds, we see the path is slippery.
Gouging out the empty sky, seeking has not ceased.
Tonight, finally, I grasp the moon in the water.[1]

龍鱗兎角帯亀毛、 (龍鱗兎角亀毛を帯び、)
致雨興雲見路滑、 (雨を致し雲を興して路の滑らかなるを見る、)
剜掘虚空索未休、 (虚空を剜掘して索むること未だ休まず、)
今夜始捉水中月。 (今夜始めて捉う水中の月。)

This is verse 30 in Kuchugen and verse 86 of volume 10 of Eihei Koroku (Dōgen’s Extensive Record). This is the sixth and last of the poems about “harvest moon” in Kuchugen based on Rujing’s dharma hall discourse I have commented upon before. This poem in Manzan’s version has some differences in the first and second lines:

龜毛兎角鼓溟渤 (龜毛兎角溟渤を鼓す、)
Wearing turtle hair and rabbit horns, [the whale] swims in the great ocean.
霓背龍鱗任出沒 (霓背龍鱗出沒に任す、)
Riding on the back of whale covered with dragon’s scales, I freely appear and disappear.

 

Wearing dragon scales, rabbit horns, and turtle hair,
With falling rain and rising clouds, we see the path is slippery.

Ryurin (龍鱗) is dragon’s scales, tokaku (兎角) is rabbit horn, and kimo (亀毛) is turtle hair. These are all things that do not really exist. In Chinese Buddhist texts, dragon (龍) is used as a translation of the Sanskrit word naga. In India, naga is serpent (cobra); nagas often appear in Buddhist scriptures. According to the Jataka stories, when Shakyamuni was born in Lumbini park, two nagas appeared in the sky and rained down cold and warm showers to wash the baby Buddha’s body. When Shakyamuni was older, and sitting under the bodhi tree, a naga protected him from a rainstorm. Nagas were considered as one of the eight kinds of guardians of the Dharma. It is also said that the Naga king had a palace in the ocean and that the Mahayana sutras had been stored there until Nagarjuna visited the palace to study the teachings. In China, since naga was translated with the Chinese character 龍 (long, ryu), the Indian image was combined with the dragon which appears in Chinese culture. The Chinese dragon was a god with great power to cause clouds, heavy wind, and rain. For example, Dōgen wrote in Fukan Zazengi (普勧坐禅儀 The Way of Zazen Recommended Universally):

若得此意、如龍得水、似虎靠山。
When you grasp this, you are like a dragon with water, or a tiger in the mountain.[2]

In this case, a “dragon” refers to Yan energy and a tiger refers to Yin energy. This dragon has nothing to do with the naga in Indian Buddhist scriptures.

Rabbit horns and turtle hair were used in the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra as examples of things which have only name but no substance:

O good man! I call such as the following secular truth: a being’s life, knowledge, growing up, manhood, the doer [of deeds], the recipient [of karmic consequences], a mirage in the hot season, a gandharvan castle, the hairs of a tortoise [i.e. which do not exist], the horns of a hare [which again do not exist], a circle of flame, all such things as the five skandhas, the eighteen realms, and the twelve spheres.[3]

In Rujing’s dharma discourse, since the subject of riding on a whale is “practitioners,” Taigen Leighton and I translated it in Dōgen’s Extensive Record as “they grasp the moon,” but in this verse, I think, Dōgen himself is riding the whale. Dōgen Zenji says that he wears dragon scales, rabbit horns, and turtle hair, things which are all empty and without any substance. I think that means he himself is emptiness. As it is said at the beginning of the Heart Sutra, when Avalokiteshvara practiced prajna paramita, wisdom that sees emptiness, he clearly saw that the five aggregates are empty. Avalokiteshvara himself/herself was nothing other than the five aggregates and emptiness. In the title of this verse, Dōgen practices riding the whale to catch the moon. But he writes in the previous verse that he has been riding on the moon for fifty years. This means he is trying to catch the moon riding on the moon. The whale and the moon are the same thing, that is, the entire network of interdependent origination. The total function of this network causes not only rain and clouds but all other phenomena in the world, positive and negative. We are also parts of this network. The path of this practice is very slippery.

The expression, “the path is slippery,” comes from the story about Deng Yinfeng (To Inbo), a disciple of Mazu (Baso), who was visiting Shitou (Sekito) to examine him. Mazu cautioned him, “The path of Shitou is slippery.” Deng Yinfeng visited Shitou twice, but both times he was defeated. Then Mazu said again, “I told you Shitou’s path is slippery!”[4] In this case, “the path is slippery” means the path of bodhisattva practice together with all beings is not easy to walk.

Gouging out the empty sky, seeking has not ceased.
Tonight, finally, I grasp the moon in the water.

Our practice is clarifying emptiness with our body and mind that are also empty. This practice is together with all beings that are all empty. Therefore, our practice is good for nothing. We cannot expect to gain anything, and it is really endless, never ceasing. However, this practice is not passive, motionless, or lifeless. This practice makes us into ourselves as a bodhisattva.

In Shobogenzo Koku (Empty Space), Dōgen introduced the story of another disciple of Mazu, Shigong Huizang (Sekkyo Ezo) and his dharma brother Xitang Zhizang (Saizo Chizo), about grasping empty space. When Shigong asked Zitang if he knew how to grasp empty space, Xitang pinched empty space. Then Shigong said that was not right. When Xitang asked, how did Shigong grasp empty space, he grabbed Xitang’s nose.[5] In his comment on this story, Dōgen says, “The buddha ancestors’ making efforts in wholehearted practice of the Way; arousing bodhi-mind, practice-verification, expressing and questioning it is nothing other than grasping empty space.”[6]

The last line of this verse says, “Tonight, I finally grasp the moon in the water.” “The moon in the water” is also a metaphor of emptiness. Actually, the empty-self studies and practices, grasps, and expresses emptiness. We gain nothing and our practice is ceaseless. Sawaki Roshi said that our practice 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.”[7] Self is selfing the self; emptiness is emptying emptiness. Nothing is there, but everything is there; dynamic and boundless activities of emptiness together with all beings.

As I wrote when I introduced Rujing’s dharma discourse, Dōgen divided Ruijing’s discourse into nine parts. Dōgen had a poem writing gathering with his assembly monks on 15th, 16th, and 17th evenings of the 8th month, probably for two years in a row. He wrote six poems in those two years. There is no way to know if the same gathering was held in the third year, and if Dōgen composed three more verses and those are missing, or if for some reason he could not have a gathering in the third year. I cannot imagine that he lost his interest in having such a gathering, though it is possible. From 1249 to 1252, each year, he gave formal dharma hall discourse on the 15th day of the 8th month. The final one, dharma hall discourse 521, in 1252 was quite a long discourse. But as I wrote at the start of this series, it’s possible that he was not able to have a gathering on the occasion of the mid-autumn day in that third year because of his health. Dōgen died in 1253.

— • —

[1] (Dōgen’s Extensive Record 10-86, p.634) © 2010 Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, Dōgen’s Extensive Record. Reprinted by arrangement with Wisdom Publications, Inc., http://www.wisdompubs.org.
[2] Okumura’s translation.
[3] Translation by Kosho Yamamoto, 1973. The Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra; Chapter twenty: On Holy Actions (b) p. 183 (www.shabkar.org ). Underlines are by Okumura.
[4] This story appears in the book 6 of Records of the Transmission of the Lamp volume 2 (translated by Randolph S. Whitefield), p.144
[5] This story appears in the book 6 of Records of the Transmission of the Lamp volume 2 (translated by Randolph S. Whitefield), p.158
[6] Okumura’s translation.
[7] Zen Teaching of Homeless Kodo, p.193.

— • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi.

— • —

For further study:

> More of Dōgen Zenji’s Chinese Poems


Copyright 2020 Sanshin Zen Community

 

 

The woodcutter

Copyright©2020 Misaki C. Kido

Dōgen’s Chinese Poems (30)

The Night of the Sixteenth;
Verse on “Practitioners in each place share the bright moon.”
十六夜、頌処処行人共明月 (十六夜、「処処行人明月を共にす」に頌す)

Without discussing south and north or east and west,
For fifty years I have been riding this moon.
How regrettable, the silver laurel branch of the heavens
Is mistakenly called a dried shitstick by people.[1]

不論南北及東西、 (論ぜず南北及び東西、)
五十年来乗此月、 (五十年来此の月に乗ず、)
可惜上天銀桂枝、 (惜しむべし上天銀桂の枝、)
人間錯道乾屎橛。 (人間錯って道う乾屎橛と。)

 
This is verse 29 in Kuchugen and verse 85 of volume 10 of Eihei Koroku (Dōgen’s Extensive Record). This is the fifth of the six poems about “harvest moon” in Kuchugen based on Rujing’s dharma hall discourse, which I commented on earlier in the series. Manzan’s version of the poem is exactly the same as the Monkaku-bon version.
 

Without discussing south and north or east and west,
For fifty years I have been riding this moon.

Without discussing south and north or east and west (不論南北及東西) refers to seeing the world with the prajna eye which sees emptiness. Dōgen Zenji introduced Rujing’s poem on the wind bell in Shobogenzo Makahannyaharamitu (Mahaprajnaparamita):

The whole body [of the wind bell] is like a mouth hanging in empty space-
Without distinguishing the winds from east, west, south, or north
Together expressing prajna equally to all beings-
Di ding dong liao di ding dong[2]

The shape of a wind bell hanging from the eaves of a large temple building is like a mouth. Within the empty space inside the bell, a piece of metal called zetsu (舌tongue) is hanging. When the wind blows the bell, the metal piece hits the bell and make sounds. Rujing used the wind bell as a metaphor of prajna, the wisdom that sees and expounds the emptiness of all things without discrimination.

The directions of east, west, north, and south are concepts created by the human mind to make our world understandable and share information among people. We call the direction from which the sun rises east, the direction in which the sun sets west, and when facing the rising sun, the left-hand side is north and the right-hand side is south. This definition works in most parts on the earth, except at least two points, the north pole and the south pole. When we are at the exact point of the north pole, all directions are south. There are no east and west. At the south pole, it is the same. Conventionally, we use the names of the directions because it works for us human beings. However, before human beings appeared and tried to think and share information, there were no such directions.

In Japan, after a funeral ceremony is done at the home of the deceased or at a temple, the mourners walk in procession to the burial yard. A few of the people walk each holding a banner on which a Buddhist verse is written, such as these:

迷故三界城 Because of delusion, the three worlds [in samsara] is like a fortress.
悟故十方空 Because of realization, the ten-direction [world] is empty.
本来無東西 Originally there is no east or west.
何処有南北 Where is south or north.

We have certain images about each direction in the human world depending upon where we are. In Japanese culture, the east refers to the Tokyo area, and the west refers to the Kyoto, Osaka area. There are some historical and cultural differences between these two areas. Sometimes people compare them, and look down and insult each other in a stereotypical way. On a larger scale, the East means Asia and the West means Europe and America.

However, in emptiness there is no such separation, the entire earth is one; even the entire universe is one without any separation. Prajna wisdom is free from our conceptual and discriminative way of thinking about our images of the differences between Osaka and Tokyo, or between Eastern or the Western civilizations. That is what Rujing is saying in his poem about the wind bell’s ringing working together with the wind from any direction. In this poem, Dōgen is also talking about the reality of our life seen with prajna wisdom, without discrimination. Each and every thing in this entire world is illuminated by the boundless moonlight, the metaphor of prajna wisdom. We are living within a certain karmic, conditioned way, but at the same time, we are living the reality beyond discrimination.

Dōgen says he has been living in the world of emptiness for fifty years. This means that even before he became a Buddhist monk, and studied and understood emptiness, he lived in the world of emptiness. This poem was composed on the sixteenth day of the eighth month, so if he was exactly fifty years old, it was written in 1249.[3] Dharma hall discourse 344 in Dōgen’s Extensive Record was given the day before he wrote this poem. At the end of that discourse, Dōgen said, “Why has our ancestor Yunyan’s ‘Which moon is this?’ suddenly appeared as a round sitting cushion?”[4] Yunyan’s saying is from his conversation with his dharma brother Daowu, from case 21 of Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku):

As Yunyan was sweeping the ground, Daowu said, “Too busy.”
Yunyan said, “You should know there’s one who isn’t busy.”
Daowu said, “If so, then there is a second moon.”
Yunyan held up the broom and said, “Which moon is this.”[5]

In his discourse 344, Dōgen goes on to say that the full moon becomes the round cushion we use for our zazen practice.

How regrettable, the silver laurel branch of the heavens
Is mistakenly called a dried shitstick by people.

In the previous poems, Dōgen mentioned two living beings dwelling in the moon according to Chinese mythology; a toad and a rabbit. Here he refers to another one. It is said that there is a woodcutter living in the moon and cutting a laurel tree. Actually, in the same Dharma hall discourse 344, Dōgen quotes Hongzhi (Wanshi)’s discourse directly. At the end of his discourse, Hongzhi said, “Completely break the laurel tree in the moon and the clear light will increase.”

This man’s name is Wu Gang (呉剛, Go Gou). It is said that he was forced to cut the tree every thousand years, otherwise, the tree grows too big and darkens the moonlight. This is what Hongzhi was referring to. In another version of the story, as punishment for something he did, he has to cut the tree every day, but the tree grows an equal amount each day. This version of the story reminds me the story of the stone of Sisyphus.

The name of the tree in Chinese is 桂花 (guihua) or in Japanese 月桂樹(gekkeiju, katsura tree in the moon). Often this tree is mentioned as laurel, and “laurel wreath” is translated into Japanese as gekkeikan (月桂冠). (Sake lovers may be familiar with this word.) However, the tree in the moon is not laurel, but mokusei (木犀, Osmanthus fragrans). The flower of this tree has a strong fragrance and blooms around the time of the mid-autumn moon. Chinese people drink osmanthus wine on the occasion of the moon festival.

In this poem by Dōgen, the silver laurel branch of the heavens (上天銀桂枝) refers to the moonlight. When Dōgen uses the image of moonlight, he is referring to the true reality of all beings; moonlight illuminates all things without discrimination.

In the final line, Dōgen says that in Zen literature, this fragrant branch of the laurel tree in the moon is called “a dried shitstick.” “A dried shitstick” is a well-known expression in Zen. For example, Linji (臨済 Rinzai) said:

The Master ascended the hall and said, “Here in this lump of red flesh there is a True Man with no rank. Constantly he goes in and out the gates of your face. If there are any of you who don’t know this for a fact, then look! Look!”
At that time there was a monk who came forward and asked, “What is he like – the True Man with no rank?”
The Master got down from his chair, seized hold of the monk and said, “Speak! Speak!”
The monk was about to say something, whereupon the Master let go of him, shoved him away, and said, “True Man with no rank – what a shitty ass-wiper!”
The Master then returned to his quarters.[6]

Traditionally, 乾屎橛 (kanshiketsu) was interpreted as a wooden spatula used to wipe oneself in the toilet, before toilet paper began to be used. But these days, scholars think this may refer to dried shit itself. Another well-known example is from Yunmen (雲門 Unmon):

Someone asked. “What is Shakyamuni’s body?”
The Master said, “A dry piece of shit.”[7]

Dōgen did not use this expression in Shobogenzo at all, but he used it in Eihei Koroku (Dōgen’s Extensive Record) about ten times. It is said that when Dōgen used this expression in his dharma discourse while he was at Koshoji near Kyoto, a high-ranking Pureland Buddhist priest in the audience said, “Zen teaching is terrible. They use such a nasty word to refer to the sacred teaching of the Buddha.” Upon hearing that, Dōgen Zenji said, “I would like to cry. Such an eminent priest said such a foolish thing.” In this poem also, I think, “dried shitstick” is used in a positive way, even though he says this expression is mistakenly used. This is an expression by Zen masters to show that we need to go beyond the dichotomy between sacred dharma teaching and mundane things. As a dharma teaching, this means the same thing as the full moon becoming a round cushion for our zazen practice.

— • —

[1] Dōgen’s Extensive Record 10-85, p.634 © 2010 Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura. Reprinted by arrangement with Wisdom Publications, Inc., http://www.wisdompubs.org.
[2] Okumura’s translation in Deepest Practice, Deepest Wisdom (Wisdom, 2018) p.6.
[3] The traditional Japanese way of calculating a person’s age is different from the current way. Traditionally, when a person is born, the person is 1 year old.
[4] Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, Dōgen’s Extensive Record (Wisdom) p.309.
[5] Translation by Thomas Clearly in Book of Serenity (Lindisfarne Press, 1990) p.91.
[6] Translation by Burton Watsom, The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-chi (Shambhala, 1993) p.13.
[7] Translation by Urs App in Master Yunmen, (Kodansha America, 1994) p.127.

— • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi.

— • —

For further study:

> More of Dōgen Zenji’s Chinese Poems


Copyright 2020 Sanshin Zen Community

Staring at the moon

Copyright©2020 Misaki C. Kido

Dōgen’s Chinese Poems (29)

The Night of the Fifteenth;
Verse on “Before the gates of each house, the moon shines bright.”
十五夜、頌家家門前照明月 (十五夜、「家家の門前明月を照らす」を頌す)

Eyelids cut off, also his front teeth broken,
He aimed his eyes high to clearly see the moon.
The toad in the sky’s brightness reaches even the black mountain.
Nevertheless, the jade rabbit falls into the demons’ cave.[1]

眼皮綻又歯門闕、 (眼皮綻び又た歯門闕けたり、)
高著眼睛明見月、 (高く眼睛を著けて明らかに月を見る、)
空表蟾光縦黒山、 (空表の蟾光は縦い黒山なりとも、)
従他玉兎落鬼窟。 (他の玉兎の鬼窟に落つるに従す。)

 

This is verse 28 in Kuchugen and verse 84 of volume 10 of Eihei Koroku (Dōgen’s Extensive Record). This is the fourth of the six poems about “harvest moon” in Kuchugen based on Rujing’s dharma hall discourse. This poem is composed on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, probably in the year after Dōgen composed the previous three poems. This poem in Manzan’s version is quite different in all four lines:

箇箇圓成無欠闕 (箇箇圓成欠無し)
Each and every one is perfectly completed, lacking nothing,
家家門巷照明月 (家家門巷明を照らす)
The gate of each and every house is illuminated by the bright moon.
銀蟾假使沈黒山 (銀蟾たとえ黒山に沈むとも)
Even if the silver toad sinks into the black mountain,
玉兎從他墮鬼窟 (玉兎さもあらばあれ鬼窟に墮すことを)
Even if the jewel rabbit falls down to the demon’s cave, [it continues to illuminate each and every one].

 

Eyelids cut off, also his front teeth broken,
He aimed his eyes high to clearly see the moon.

Ganpi (眼皮) literally means eye-skin, in other words, eyelid. Hokorobi (綻) as a noun means “an open seam,” or “a seam that has come apart,” and as a verb (hokorobu), “to come apart at the seam,” “to begin to open” (like a flower), or to smile broadly (probably because when we smile our mouth is open). In this poem, “eyelids cut off” means that the eyes are open.

“His front teeth broken,” refers to what Rujing said in the final line of the verse in his dharma discourse: “How laughable; the barbarian monk with front teeth broken.” According to a legend, Bodhidharma’s teeth were broken by his debate opponents, so that he could not say anything. But Rujing says it is laughable that his opponents attacked Bodhidharma to keep him silent, because even if Bodhidharma had teeth, in order to perfectly express the beauty of nature illuminated by the moon, he would not say anything. Another interpretation could be that he does not need his mouth to express the ultimate truth beyond language– his nine-year sitting facing the wall was a perfect expression of it. Here Dōgen meant he (she, Bodhidharma, Rujing, Dōgen, or anyone else who is sitting) does not say anything. In the original Chinese, there is no subject in these two lines. I think Dōgen meant in zazen, the person sitting opens his/her eyes and closes his/her mouth.

In our zazen, we sit in the upright posture, keep our eyes open and close our mouth. This zazen is itself aiming our eyes high to see the moon clearly. In this case, the moon is not the object of our eye-consciousness, as Dōgen says in this waka poem:

大空に  Ozora ni
心の月を  kokoro no tsuki wo
ながむるも nagamuru mo
闇に迷ひて yami ni mayoi te
色にめでけり iro ni medekeri

Despite beholding the moon of the mind
in the great sky,
deluded in darkness
I praise its shape and color.

This moon of interconnectedness swallows the person sitting and the zazen of the person sitting swallows the entire network of interconnectedness. Our zazen is itself prajna, clearly seeing the emptiness of the five aggregates and interconnectedness. This is how we clearly see the moon by just sitting without seeing. When we sit and open the hand of thought, we are like the great sky that does not disturb the white clouds floating freely.

The toad in the sky’s brightness reaches even the black mountain.
Nevertheless, the jade rabbit falls into the demons’ cave.

“The toad in the sky’s brightness” and “the jade rabbit” appeared in the previous poem. These refer to the boundless moon that illuminates each and every phenomenal thing.

“The black mountain” (黒山, kokusan) and “the demons’ cave” (鬼窟, kikutsu) need some explanation. In Buddhist cosmology as described in the Abhidharmakosha, it is said that in the southern continent called Jambudvipa where we live, there are three groups of three black mountains south of Himavat (Himalaya). These black mountains are mentioned in various sutras. In one sutra, it is said that a traveler was in trouble when he encountered a demon in the black mountains; however, I don’t find any examples in the Abhidharmakosha in which the black mountain and the demon’s cave are combined.

It seems that these two are used together only in Zen texts. There are two ways this expression is used. One is sitting in zazen closing our eyes. For example, we read in Chanyuan Qinggui (禅苑清規, Zennen Shingi) Zazengi, “Zen master Fayun Yuantong (Houn Entsu) also admonished his students who sat zazen with their eyes closed, saying, “You are sitting in the cave of demons in the Black Mountain. (法雲圓通禪師、亦訶人閉目坐禪、以謂黒山鬼窟。)”[2] Yunmen (雲門, Unmon) also used this expression with this meaning in a dharma hall discourse.[3]

Another usage of this expression is, for example, in the case 25 of Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record): “As soon as you make a comparative judgment, you’re in the demon cave of the mountain of darkness making your living.”[4] In this case, “being in the demon’s cave in the black mountain,” means staying within the habitual dualistic way of thinking. This is the same meaning as is used in the Diamond Sutra: “Subhuti, imagine a person who enters a dark place and who can’t see a thing. He is like a bodhisattva ruled by objects, like someone practicing charity ruled by objects.”[5] In this sutra, the Buddha said that a bodhisattva should practice dana (giving, charity) without attachment to the giver, the receiver, or the gift. But people who are not free from the separation between subject (giver), object (receiver), and gift are in a dark place where the giver is ruled by the objects, that is, the receiver and the gift, and where the giver is also ruled by the result of his/her giving— he/she expects to receive a reward.

This expression is also used in the dialogue between Xuansha (玄沙, Gensha) and a monk about one bright jewel:

Once a monk asked, “I have heard that you said that the entire ten-direction world is one bright jewel. How can this student (I) understand it?”
The master said, “The entire ten-direction world is one bright jewel. What is the use of understanding it?”
The next day, the master asked the same monk, “The entire ten-direction world is one bright jewel. How do you understand it?”
The monk said, “The entire ten-direction world is one bright jewel. What is the use of understanding it?”
The Master said, “I know that you are making a livelihood inside a demon’s cave in the black mountain.”

In his comments on this koan story in Shobogenzo Ikka Myoju (One Bright Jewel), Dōgen changed the meaning of the expression, “making a livelihood inside a demon’s cave in the black mountain” and said, “Therefore, forward steps and backward steps within the demon’s cave in the black mountain are nothing other than the one bright jewel.”[6] Here he interpreted “a demon’s cave in the black mountain” as the “darkness” from the pairing of “brightness and darkness” in Sandokai. In this interpretation, “darkness” is beyond discrimination, and “making a livelihood” is making discriminations and choices to do things in our daily lives.

In the poem we are studying, Dōgen uses “black mountain and demon’s cave” in its common meaning, with negative connotations: the habitual, discriminative, conceptual, dualistic way of thinking with some self-attachment. But in our zazen, we are illuminated by the boundless moonlight, the reality beyond discrimination. Here, “the demon’s cave in the black mountain” and the moonlight are completely inter-penetrating each other. By opening the hand of thought (letting go of thought), the discriminative thinking produced in our brain which is continuously coming and going is not grasped. In our zazen, we are determined not to take any action based on our thoughts, therefore we are not defiled by them. The poisons in our three poisonous minds are still coming and going, and yet, our minds are detoxified.

In Kuchugen poem number 26 (Verse on “This very mind watches the moon”), Dōgen says that we have to continuously make efforts to attain the mid-autumn full moon with both body and mind. In Kuchugen poem 27 (Verse on Raising His Whisk and saying, “Look!”), he mentions his teacher Rujing as an example of the perfect manifestation of the full moon. Here, in poem 28, Dōgen says that in our zazen, we are not different than Rujing. As Dōgen said in Shobogenzo Bussho (Buddha-nature) describing the example of Nagarjuna, in zazen in which we let go of our self-centeredness, our body manifests the full moon:

Body manifesting a round moon shape,
Expressing thereby the body of the Buddhas;
Expounding Dharma, without any form,
Expounding without sight or sound.[7]

— • —

[1](Dōgen’s Extensive Record 10-83, p.634) © 2010 Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, Dōgen’s Extensive Record. Reprinted by arrangement with Wisdom Publications, Inc., http://www.wisdompubs.org.
[2] Okumura’s unpublished translation.
[3] See Master Yunmen: From the Record of the Chan Teacher “Gate of the Clouds” (Urs App, Kodansha International, 1994), p. 145.
[4] Thomas Cleary’s translation in case 25 of The Blue Cliff Record (Shambhala), p.168
[5] Translation by Red Pine in The Diamond Sutra (Counterpoint, 2001). P. 14.
[6] See my commentary on Shobogenzo Ikka Myoju in Dharma Eye, #44. https://global.sotozen-net.or.jp/eng/library/journal/index.html
[7] The Heart of Dōgen’s Shobogenzo (translated by Norman Waddell and Masao Abe, SUNY, 2002), p.77-78.

— • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi.

— • —

For further study:

> More of Dōgen Zenji’s Chinese Poems


Copyright 2020 Sanshin Zen Community

Look!

Copyright©2020 Misaki C. Kido

Dōgen’s Chinese Poems (28)

十七夜、「挙払子云看」を頌す
The Night of the Seventeenth;
Verse on Raising His Whisk and saying, “Look!”

With no fog or mist, and no green waves,
There is toad or rabbit [of the moon], cold to the bone.
People cherish [the moon], even hidden by mountains, reflected in waters.
He raised [his whisk] and fooled the heavens; look carefully.[1]

無霧無霞無碧浪、 (霧無く霞無く碧浪無し、)
有蜍有兎有毛寒、 (蜍有り兎有り毛寒有り、)
隠山落水人縦惜、 (山に隠し水に落として人縦い惜しむとも、)
豎起瞞天著眼看。 (豎起して天を瞞ず眼を著けて看よ。)

This is verse 27 in Kuchugen and verse 83 of volume 10 of Eihei Koroku (Dōgen’s Extensive Record). This is the third of six poems about the “harvest moon” which are based on Rujing’s dharma hall discourse. In Menzan’s version, this poem has some differences in the first three lines:

無霧無霞波浪靜 (霧無く霞無く波浪靜なり、)
With no fog or mist, and waves are quiet,
有蟾有兎毛寒 (蟾有り兎有り毛寒し、)
There is toad or rabbit [of the moon], cold [not only] to the hairs [but also] to the bones,
夜深太白手中拂 (夜深けて太白手中の拂、)
Late in the night, the whisk in the hand of Taibai,[2]

 

With no fog or mist, and no green waves,
There is toad or rabbit [of the moon], cold to the bone.

On the mid-autumn night Rujing gave his dharma hall discourse, the sky was completely clear, without fog or mist, and the ocean was still, without winds or waves. The moon toad and the moon rabbit refer to the moon based on ancient Chinese mythical stories about the moon goddess Chang’e (嫦娥, Joga in Japanese). It seems there are many different versions of her story. One version says that she attained immortality and lived in the moon. Her husband on the earth made an altar and made offerings on the mid-autumn day. This was the origin of the mid-autumn moon festival. Another version says that somehow, Chang’e became a toad and still lives in the moon. Dwelling in the moon together with the toad, the moon rabbit makes an elixir for gaining eternal longevity with a mortar and pestle. In Japan, people thought that the rabbit is making mochi, pounded rice cake. The rabbit was called “jewel rabbit” (玉兎, gyokuto) or “golden rabbit” (金兎, kinto). Dōgen uses the images of the toad and rabbit and says that since the sky is beautifully clear, the toad and rabbit are clearly seen.

There is Buddhist version of the story about the moon rabbit from the Jataka tales, as well as similar stories with some variations. In those stories, the rabbit jumped into a fire to offer its body to a hungry old man, since the rabbit could not find anything else to offer. The old man was actually the god Sakra in disguise. Sakra took the rabbit to the moon, so that everyone could see and remember the rabbit’s virtuous action.

However, to me, it is strange that Dōgen says that the moon was “cold to the bone.” The mid-autumn day falls during September or October in solar calendar, so it must have been cool but could not have been “cold to the bone.” I suppose the moon is a metaphor of a bodhisattva’s awakening and nirvana. This might have something to do with the expression “the clear and cool moon of the bodhisattva (菩薩清涼月, bosatu shoryo no tsuki) from the Avatamsaka Sutra (Flower Ornament Sutra). In this case, shoryo, clear and cool, refers to nirvana; that is, being free from the heat of the burning house of samsara. There is a verse in the Avatamsaka Sutra about the moon of the light of wisdom of a bodhisattva (菩薩智光月, bosatu chiko no tsuki), which contains a slightly different expression referring to the same “clear and cool moon”:

The moon of the light of knowledge of enlightening beings
Has the realm of reality for its sphere,
Coursing through ultimate emptiness,
Seen by all the world.
In the minds of consciousness of the three worlds,
It waxes and wanes through time.[3]

This verse sounds similar to what Dōgen says in Genjokoan:

When a person attains realization, it is like the moon’s reflection in water. The moon never becomes wet; the water is never disturbed. Although the moon is a vast and great light, it is reflected in a drop of water. The whole moon and even the whole sky are reflected in a drop of dew on a blade of grass or a single drop of water. Realization does not destroy the person, as the moon does not make a hole in the water. The person does not obstruct realization, as a drop of dew does not obstruct the moon in the sky.[4]

Even though in the previous verse of Kuchugen[5] Dōgen said that complete interpenetration between the self and the moonlight is the ultimate reality, practically speaking, we continuously need to treat this as a koan and examine whether we put too much emphasis either on our body or on our mind. In our mind (consciousness of the three worlds) the interpenetration waxes and wanes through times and occasions. However, Dōgen met at least one person in whom he felt the full moon was completely actualized. That person was his master Tiantong Rujing, who raised his whisk and said, “Look!” The whisk was Rujing himself completely interpenetrated with the moonlight.

Rujing gave his dharma hall discourse at Qingliang Temple (Seiryoji, 清涼寺), probably in 1212. Dōgen did not actually listen to his teacher on that occasion. But he could still feel the great power of Rujing’s saying, “Look!” overlapping his own experience of hearing Rujing’s statement given on the occasion of entering the abbot’s room (入室, nyusshitu) in the third lunar month in the spring of 1226. Dōgen precisely recorded this experience in Shobogenzo Shohojisso (The True Reality of All Beings):

For entering the room, he said, “A cuckoo cries and the mountain bamboos split.” This is the announcement for entering the room. He said nothing else. Although there were many monks, no one said anything. They were greatly impressed and simply awed.[6]

Even though the mid-autumn night was not really cold, in this poem, using the expression “cold to the bone,” Dōgen expresses the extreme strength of Rujing’s utterance, which might have given people goose bumps.

People cherish [the moon], even hidden by mountains, reflected in waters.
He raised [his whisk] and fooled the heavens; look carefully.

Like the poet Li Bai who tried to catch the moon he saw on the water and died, people love the moon, even if the moon is behind mountains or reflected on the water. When Tiantong Rujing raised his whisk and said, “Look!” Rujing was the true full moon itself, more true than the moon in the sky. Dōgen urges us as his students to look at it carefully, as the reality of our own self.

— • —

[1] (Dōgen’s Extensive Record 10-83, p.633) © 2010 Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, Dōgen’s Extensive Record. Reprinted by arrangement with Wisdom Publications, Inc., http://www.wisdompubs.org.
[2] Taibai is another name of Mount Tiantong. This is also the courtesy name of Li Bai who tried to catch the moon on the water.
[3] Translation by Thomas Cleary, “The Flower Ornament Scripture: a translation of the Avasamsaka Sutra” (Shambhala, 1993) p.1154. This is a translation of 80-volume Avatamsaka Sutra; “The clear and cool moon” appears in the 40-volume version of the same sutra. “Knowledge” in this translation is the same as “wisdom,” and “enlightening beings” is a translation of “bodhisattva.”
[4] Okumura’s translation, Realizing Genjokoan (Wisdom Publications, 2010) p.3.
[5] See the post, This very mind watches the moon.
[6] Okumura’s unpublished translation.

— • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi.

— • —

For further study:

> More of Dōgen Zenji’s Chinese Poems


Copyright 2020 Sanshin Zen Community