One horse, one sky, and the autumn

Copyright©2020 Misaki C. Kido

Dōgen’s Chinese Poems (25)

When Master Tiantong Rujing dwelled at Qingliang temple, in mid-autumn he spoke to the assembly and said, “Clouds disperse in the autumn sky. This very mind watches the moon.” He raised his whisk and said, “Look!” The teacher Dōgen together with his brother monks, divided the three parts [of this Dharma hall discourse from Rujing], and gave appreciation for them over three nights.



This is the introduction for verses 25, 26, and 27 in Kuchugen. Last month, I introduced Tiantong Rujing’s jodo (Dharma Hall discourse) on the occasion of the mid-autumn day. The mid-autumn day is the 15th day of the eighth month, the harvest moon day. It seems Dōgen Zenji had poem-making gatherings on the 15th, which is the night of full moon, and on the next two days. Dōgen divided Rujing’s discourse into nine parts. Kuchugen 25 is Dōgen’s poem on the first part:


The night of the Fifteenth;
Verse on “Clouds disperse in the autumn sky.”

Morning clouds reach the peaks and finally night ends.
All mountains and the whole ocean are within the round moon.
Do not let direct pointing [at the moon] symbolize heaven and earth.
A horse in the single sky of autumn is empty.[1]

至嶠朝雲終不夜、 (嶠に至りし朝雲終に夜ならず、)
透山尽海月円中、 (山を透り海を尽して月円かに中れり、)
莫教直指喩天地、 (直に指して天地に喩えしむることなかれ、)
一馬一空秋也空。 (一馬一空秋も也た空なり。)

This also appears as verse 81 of volume 10 of Eihei Koroku (Dōgen’s Extensive Record). It is the first of the six poems about “harvest moon” in Kuchugen. In Menzan’s version, there are slight differences in lines 1 and 2.

Morning clouds on the Mt. Wu finally [disappear] before the night
Penetrating mountains and exhausting the whole ocean, the moon illuminates [the entire world],


Morning clouds reach the peaks and finally night ends.
All mountains and the whole ocean are within the round moon.

In Manzan’s version, “the peak” refers to the peak of the particular mountain named Mt. Wu (巫). There is a legend about this mountain peak. The goddess of the mountain fell in love with the emperor. To meet with her lover, the goddess appeared every morning as clouds and every evening as drizzling rain on the peak. The mountain peak was often covered with clouds or rain. But on this day, there were clouds in the morning, and it became clear by the evening. According to Kodo Sawaki Roshi, this means that discriminative and dualistic thoughts and the human emotions influenced by them dispersed, and the sky cleared up in emptiness.

I think the original translation we made in Dōgen’s Extensive Record, “finally night ends” does not make sense, because Rujing and Dōgen are both writing about the night of the full moon. The phrase 終不夜 is difficult to understand. 終 means “end” or “finally.” 不夜 means “not night.” I suppose this means that the goddess did not appear that night, so that by the time the moon crossed the meridian, it was illuminating the entire mountains and oceans with its transparent light. This is the scenery of zazen expressed in Zen master Panshan Baoji’s saying, which Dōgen quoted in Shobogenzo Tsuki (Moon):

Zen Master Panshan Baoji said, “The mind-moon is alone and completely round. Its light swallows the myriad phenomenal things. The light does not illuminate objects. Nor do any objects exist. Light and objects simultaneously vanish. Then what is this?[2]


Do not let direct pointing [at the moon] symbolize heaven and earth.
A horse in the single sky of autumn is empty

These two lines have to do with something which is mentioned in Chapter 2, All Things Being Equal of Chuang Tzu:

Heaven-and-earth is one finger. All ten thousand things are one horse.[3]

“Direct pointing” is a translation of 直指 (jikishi). Jiki is directly, shi is “a finger” or “point to.” Chuang Tzu said that the great Heaven-and-earth and one tiny finger are the same, and all ten thousand phenomenal things and one single horse are the same. In Laotsu, it is said that Dao (nothingness) gives birth to oneness (being), oneness gives birth to duality (Yin and Yang), duality gives birth to three-ness (heaven-and-earth, yin and yan), and the three-ness gives birth to multiplicity (all myriad things). Chang Tzu’s saying means that all things are in oneness beyond duality.

In the Dharma Hall discourse on the first day of the tenth month in the same year, Tiantong Rujing quoted this saying from Chuang Tzu and added a saying from Xinxinming (Shinjinmei, 信心銘):

The two exist because of the One;
But hold not even to this One;[4]

I think Dōgen is saying the same thing. In Shobogenzo Shohojisso (The True Reality of All Beings), Dōgen says:

Nevertheless, these days thoughtless people in Song China do not know where we should settle down, do not see where the treasure is, and consider the expression “true reality” as if it were a vain fabrication; and furthermore, they study the words and phrases of Laotzu and Chuangtzu. They say that these are the equals of the great way of the buddha-ancestors. They also claim that the three teachings (Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism) are identical. Or they maintain that these three teachings are like the three legs of a tripod kettle, and that if one of them is missing, the kettle will topple over. This is outrageous and incomparable foolishness.

These days, I would translate the last two lines of Dōgen’s poem in this way:

Do not let direct pointing [at the moon] symbolize heaven and earth.
One horse, one sky, and the autumn [of the entire heaven-and-earth] are all empty.

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[1] (Dōgen’s Extensive Record 10-81, p.632) © 2010 Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, Dōgen’s Extensive Record. Reprinted by arrangement with Wisdom Publications, Inc.,
[2] Okumura’s unpublished translation
[3] Translation by Sam Hamill & J.P. Seaton, The Essential Chuang Tsu (Shambhala, 1998) p.12
[4] In Chinese, this is: 二由一有一亦莫守. Translation by D.T. Suzuki; Manual of Zen Buddhism, p.78

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Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi.

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For further study:

> More of Dōgen Zenji’s Chinese Poems

Copyright 2020 Sanshin Zen Community

Leaving home

Abanindranath Tagore [Public domain]

Those who are clear inevitably leave family life. Those who are dull end their lives at home, which are the causes and conditions of bad karma. – Dōgen[1]

Dōgen’s tone is quite harsh. What’s the positive intention he’s trying to convey here about leaving home to become a monk?

Okumura Roshi:
This is from Shukke-kudoku, the last chapter of the 75-chapter version of Shobogenzo. Shukke is home-leaving and kudoku is virtue or merit. It’s said that after finishing this, Dōgen wanted to make Shobogenzo into 100 chapters. He started to write, but only completed 12 of the additional 25 fascicles before he died. The very first chapter of the 12-chapter version of Shobogenzo was again Shukke-kudoku, Around this time, late in his life, home-leaving, or what becoming a Buddhist monk means seems very important to Dōgen. In Shukke-kudoku he praised the virtue or merit of home-leaving.

Dōgen’s statement here is very strong. He shows discrimination between lay practitioners and monks. Yet when he was young in Kyoto, around the time he wrote Bendowa and Genjokoan, he said in one of the Hogo[2] that there are two ways of practice in Buddhism: one is staying on a mountain or in a forest, and another is to live in the city. Within this hogo, he expressed that he didn’t want to leave the city. When he was young he made a choice to stay in the city and practice with a larger range of people in society. But when he left Kyoto, and especially later, after he came back to Echizen and Eiheiji from a visit to Kamakura, I think he developed a different idea. Kamakura was the seat of the Shogunate or the Samurai government, and Dōgen stayed in Kamakura for about eight months during 1247 and 1248. When he came back he told his monks that he really loved the mountains. Shukke-kudoku was probably written after that. The date is not clear. There was some change of opinion that had happened within him over those years.

To understand what this means is a koan. If I want to be Dōgen’s student, I have to think about this in order to make a decision about how I practice. This is a very important point. The first thing is to clearly see Dōgen’s change of attitude, this transformation. The next thing is to see the reason he made this change. This has been a koan for me for many years; even today I cannot make a clear decision which is better. When I was young, I think I had the same idea as Dōgen when he was young. This dharma should be recommended to all living beings, without any distinction between lay people and monks. That’s what he wrote in Bendowa. At that time, I think he really tried to share the dharma he studied and practiced in China. But I think he had some disappointment when he practiced and tried to recommend this genuine practice to people, especially to the high-class people in Kyoto, and the high-class government officials in Kamakura.

I think he may have found that in the Chinese stories which he described in Bendowa, stories about emperors and ministers and high government officials who practiced Zen, that what they called Zen practice or Buddhist practice was kind of insincere. For example, from my own experience, one time a Japanese prime minister had a photo of himself in the newspaper sitting zazen— and I really know that was insincere, without any question. I’m not sure if Dōgen really thought these Chinese examples were insincere, maybe he did, maybe not. He might have thought that those were really good examples and it was an ideal situation, but that it just didn’t work in Japan.

Even in Japan after Dōgen, there were many shogun, samurai, and famous people in high-class society who practiced Zen. But I think that possibly from Dōgen’s point of view their practice is not really the true practice of dharma. I don’t think those aristocrats in Kyoto and samurais in Kamakura at the time of Dōgen were so different from that prime minister. Dōgen had some disappointment after working hard with those aristocrats. I think he had some disillusionment about the people in the upper class of society, like emperors. He knew emperors because his family belonged to that society. His father was a secretary of the emperor. His grandfather was a prime minister— so he knew that society. When he was young, he was kind of idealistic, he thought that if he presented genuine dharma, people would accept it and support him and create a good dharma-world. But after ten years of his practice in Kyoto he found that was a dream. That is my understanding for now.

In any event, I think that he gave up the idea he described in Bendowa. What he next wanted to try to do was to create a small place where people with a very sincere aspiration can get together, and he felt it must be remote from the capital. He wanted to create a place where sincere people can get together and practice with him. To encourage those people who came to practice with him at this remote place, he wrote this kind of admonition or warning to his disciples, not to be involved in that kind of world. I’m not sure that he wanted to return to a separation between lay and monastic practice, but he wanted to make a small place where a small number of people could practice. I don’t think he rejected lay people, but his idea was for a small number of monks to practice at the monastery in a quiet place, and for lay people to support and join the practice whenever they can. That is similar to the original form of the Buddhist sangha. Again, that is my understanding for now.

After Dōgen, Soto Zen and the Soto School had eight hundred years of history. Neither of his two plans became actualized. That is a challenge for the Soto School today. Sotoshu is among the biggest Buddhist orders in Japan now. It has fifteen thousand temples, and more than twenty thousand priests. But the reason why the Soto School became big was not because people accepted Dōgen’s teaching of just sitting. There are other reasons, many different reasons, but it’s not because clergy and practitioners understood what Dōgen taught, and their practice was not necessarily what Dōgen taught.

Our koan for now is “so what?” What should we do in this country? Which is a better picture? The one in Bendowa or the one Dōgen presented after he moved to Eiheiji? Might there be something in the middle? What is that? This is a very important koan for Buddhist practitioners in this country right now. What we are doing creates the next generation, the history of Buddhism in this country. What I’m doing, or what we’re doing here is one attempt to find a middle way, at least to me. When I was in Massachusetts at Valley Zendo, I was very clear I didn’t want to practice in a city with a big group. I just wanted to keep this small quiet place, and that’s it. But after five years of that experience I had a question— why was I there? We had only five-day sesshin, without anything but zazen, every month, twelve times a year. I found that not many American people could sit that much. So in a sense, offering that amount of zazen is a kind of rejection of people. Of course, some people could do it but could not continue, because they had a job and a family. They didn’t have enough time or energy to practice in this way. So to offer practice in that way was a kind of a rejection. If we just wait for the very firmly determined people who are ready to practice in this way, I don’t think I need to be in this country. If such people exist, they could come to Japan. I couldn’t find any good reason to practice in that way in this country.

When I came to this country again in 1993 and started my own place, I wanted to find a middle way between what we did at Valley Zendo and spreading dharma. Now we have a five-day sesshin, not every month, but five times a year. Another thing I found is that it’s kind of dangerous to sit that amount of zazen without a clear understanding of the meaning of that practice. That’s why I started Genzo-e. I try to keep the gate a little broader. To me this is like a middle path. But still, it can be too difficult for many American people, especially American lay people. For some people, what I’m doing is still a kind of extreme. It’s kind of difficult to find where is the middle. We can’t say before we start. So while we are trying to continue to practice, we have to make some adjustments. But as a person who studied dharma and trained in Japan, and as a dharma-heir of my teacher, I myself cannot and don’t want to make such a big change. I’d like to continue to practice with a relatively small number of people. American people who practice and study with me can make a change to make this practice more accessible for a larger range of people in this country for the future. That is my wish.


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[1] Okumura’s translation.
[2] Hogo can be translated as “Dharma words.” These are often letters of practice instruction to students. For this particular hogo, see p. 498-500 in Taigen Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, Dōgen’s Extensive Record: A translation of the Eihei Koroku (Wisdom Publications,2004), p. 632-733.

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Commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi

The Dōgen Institute offers an occasional series of questions from students with responses from Okumura Roshi  about practice and study. These questions and responses are from Okumura Roshi’s recorded lectures, and are lightly edited.

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For further study:

> Other Questions and responses

Copyright 2020 Sanshin Zen Community

Riding the whale, grasping the moon

Copyright©2020 Misaki C. Kido

Dōgen’s Chinese Poems – Introduction to verses 25-30

The next six verses by Dōgen (25 to 30) are poems about Tiantong Rujing’s dharma hall discourse on the occasion of the mid-autumn day (the 15th day of the eighth month), the harvest moon day. Dōgen Zenji divided his teacher Rujing’s discourse into nine parts. Probably Dōgen planned to compose nine verses; one verse each day— on the 15th, 16th, and 17th days of the eighth month— for three years. In Eihei Koroku, only six verses are included, probably composed in the first two years. There is no way to find out if the final three verses were written but not preserved, or if Dōgen did not have the verse-making gathering in the 3rd year. In verse 29, he writes, “For fifty years I have been riding this moon.” I think it is certain that these six verses were composed later than 1249. In the Japanese traditional way of counting people’s age, Dōgen became 50 years old in 1249. 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. If so, we can more deeply appreciate his feeling when he wrote his final waka poem in Kyoto on the 15th of the 8th month in 1253, less than two weeks before his passing away:

I wasn’t sure if I could expect to see autumn again
gratefully I view tonight’s full moon
How is it possible to sleep?[1]

また見んと 思ひし時の 秋だにも 今夜の月に ねられやはする
Mata min to / omoishi toki no / aki da nimo / koyoi no tsuki ni / nerare yawasuru

This month, I will discuss Rujing’s dharma hall discourse as an introduction to the next six verses in Kuchugen. Here is the discourse in its entirety:

Dharma Hall Discourse on the mid-autumn day

“Clouds disperse in the autumn sky. This very mind watches the moon.”
He raised his whisk and said, “Look!”
“Before the gates of each house, the moon shines bright.
Practitioners in each place share the bright moon.
Riding on a whale, they grasp the moon;
Poling the boat that stores the moon.
Suddenly the moon falls, in the quiet night.
How laughable; the barbarian monk with front teeth broken.”[2]

雲散秋空。即心見月。 (雲、秋空に散じて、即心月を見る。)
擧拂子云。「看」。 (拂子を擧して云く、「看よ」。)
家家門前照明月。 (家家門前に明月照らし、)
處處行人共明月。 (處處の行人明月を共にす。)
騎鯨捉月。 (鯨に騎って月を捉え。)
撐船載月。 (船を撐して月を載す。)
忽然月落夜沈沈。 (忽然として月落ちて夜沈沈たり。)
笑殺胡僧齒門缺。 (笑殺す胡僧の齒門の缺けたることを。)[3]

Dōgen divided this discourse into nine parts and composed six verses, on the first six parts. Dōgen’s verses on the final three parts are not included in Eihei Koroku.

(1) Clouds disperse in the autumn sky: Verse 25
(2) This very mind watches the moon: Verse 26
(3) He raised his whisk and said, “Look!”: Verse 27
(4) Before the gates of each house, the moon shines bright: Verse 28
(5) Practitioners in each place share the bright moon: Verse 29
(6) Riding on a whale, they grasp the moon: Verse 30
(7) Poling the boat that stores the moon.
(8) Suddenly the moon falls, in the quiet night.
(9) How laughable; the barbarian monk with front teeth broken.”

Tiantong Rujing (1163-1227) became a Buddhist monk when he was young and studied Buddhist teachings. When 19 years old, he began to practice Zen. He first practiced with some Linji (Rinzai) Zen masters and finally met the Caodong (Soto) Zen Master Xuedou Zhijian (Seccho Chikan, 雪竇智鑑, 1105–1192). Rujing became his dharma heir when he was about 30 years old. He continued to practice at various Zen monasteries. In 1210, when he was 48 years old, he was appointed as the abbot of Qingliang Temple (Seiryoji, 清涼寺). After that, he served as the abbot of several prestigious monasteries. In 1224, he was appointed as the abbot of Tiantong monastery, where Dōgen met him. Dōgen practiced with Rujing for two years and became his dharma heir before returning to Japan in 1227.

This particular Dharma hall discourse on the occasion of the mid-autumn day was given at the first monastery at which he taught, as the abbot from 1210 to 1215. Rujing was between 48 and 53 years old.[4]

“Clouds disperse in the autumn sky. This very mind watches the moon.” Probably it was cloudy in the daytime, but by the evening, the clouds had disappeared. “This very mind” is a translation of sokushin (即心) in the expression sokushin-zebutsu (即心是仏), the mind is itself buddha. We need to understand that this “mind” is neither ordinary thinking mind,  the subject that sees the moon as object, nor is it “mind-nature,” a hidden permanent substance stored inside of us, but rather it is the mind that is together with all dharmas. The mind is swallowed by the moon and also the mind swallows the moon. The mind and the moon are not in the common relation as subject and object. The moonlight is the light of the myriad dharmas in which the self is included. Only moonlight is there; there is no self (mind). From another side, there is no moonlight beside the self (mind). As Dōgen wrote in Genjokoan, when a bird is flying, the entire sky is flying; when a little fish is swimming, the entire ocean is swimming.

“He raised his whisk and said, “Look!”” Rujing held up his whisk and asked the assembly of monks to “Look!” Rujing’s whisk is the very mind (self as one of the myriad dharmas). The whisk swallows the moonlight and also vomits it. The moonlight swallows the whisk and also vomits it. Neither one nor two. They are one and the same, at the same time different. This is how each one of us is existing in the network of interdependent origination.

“Before the gates of each house, the moon shines bright.” Each and every being within the network of interdependent origination is illuminated by the bright moonlight. There is no shadow.

“Practitioners in each place share the bright moon.” Wherever we go, the moonlight moves with us. Although all people are going different directions according to their causes and conditions, the moonlight moves with them.

“Riding on a whale, they grasp the moon.” This expression was used by an author praising the great Tang dynasty poet Li Bai (Ri Haku, 李白, 701-762). According to a legend, when he was riding on a boat in Yangtze River, being drunk, Li Bai tried to catch the moon reflected on the water and died by drowning. Later a poet expressed Li Bai’s death by writing that Li Bai rode a whale, flew up to the sky, and caught the moon.

When Rujing used this expression in his dharma discourse, his audience might have had two images of the moon— one is the moon reflected on the water which Li Bai tried to catch, another is the moon in the sky which Li Bai caught riding the whale. The image of these two moons has an association with a saying from Suvarnaprabhasottama Sutra (Sutra of Supreme Golden Light, 金光明最勝王経 Konkōmyō saishōō kyō), quoted in Shobogenzo Tsuki (Moon):

The true Dharma-body of the Buddha
is like empty space.
Responding to various things, it appears taking on forms
like the moon in water.[5]

“Poling the boat that stores the moon.” This phrase refers to a verse made by Zen Master Chuanzi Dechang (Sensu Tokujo, 船子徳誠、?-?). In the comment on case 92 of Shoyoroku (Book of Serenity), we find: “The night quiet, the water cold, the fish are not nibbling; the moon on the golden ripples fills the boat with light.”[6] In the winter night, a fisherman tried to fish, but because of the cold weather, all the fish were deep in the water and did not eat the bait. The fisherman returned with an empty boat without any catch, but the boat is filled with the moonlight. His fishing is gaining-less but because of that he was returning home carrying the moonlight.

“Suddenly the moon falls, in the quiet night.” When the moon goes down below the horizon, darkness and silence pervade the entire world. Rujing mentions the changes of the day. In the daytime, there are clouds of discriminative thinking. In the evening, the clouds disappear and the full moon shines and illuminates everything with the serene light of wisdom. Then after the moon sets, there is only complete darkness without any thinking— referring to complete silence and beyond discriminating thinking.

“How laughable; the barbarian monk with front teeth broken.” It is said that Bodhidharma’s front teeth were broken by his opponents, so that he could not say anything. But Rujing says that his opponents’ attacking Bodhidharma to keep him silent is laughable, because even if Bodhidharma had teeth, he could not say any words to perfectly express the beauty of the nature illuminated by the moon, and the complete darkness that is beyond any words and concepts.

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[1] Okumura’s unpublished translation.
[2] Translation by Taigen Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, Dōgen’s Extensive Record: A translation of the Eihei Koroku (Wisdom Publications,2004), p. 632-733.
[3] 「如浄禅師語録」(「天童如浄禅師の研究」鏡島元隆、173頁)
[4] According to Shuken Ito, this dharma discourse was given on the 15th day of 8th month in 1212. (Dōgen Zenji Kenkyu, Daizo Shuppan, Tokyo, 1998) p.85.
[5] Okumura’s unpublished translation.
[6] Translation by Thomas Cleary (Book of Serenity, Shambala, 1988) p.396.

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Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi.

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For further study:

> More of Dōgen Zenji’s Chinese Poems

Copyright 2020 Sanshin Zen Community

Conference – Coastal Zen: “Zen and Place”


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Please note: RSVP requested if you intend to attend the Saturday and Sunday events.

Coastal Zen: “Zen and Place”
Friday February 7, 2020 – Sunday February 9, 2020

In a time of technological distractions, mass tourism, and globalization our place seems to be everywhere, yet without ever truly being in place. During this three-day conference, a variety of speakers will explore the topic of place from a Zen Buddhist perspective. Speakers will explore topics around place, mostly inspired by Zen Master Dōgen and within the setting of our place, San Francisco and the Coastal mountain range.

All events take place in the Maraschi Room, Fromm Hall at the University of San Francisco.
Fromm Hall is across from the Saint Ignatius Church along Parker Ave (campus map).

Keynote Address:
Friday February 7, 4.45-6 pm
Okumura Shōhaku (Sanshin Zen Community)
“A Person in the Mountains”
Saturday February 8 and Sunday February 9
(Please RSVP by emailing Professor Gerard Kuperus,
8.30 am – 9.15 Paper 1:
Kanpū Bret Davis (Loyola University Maryland)
“Zen on Human Being’s Place(s) in Nature”

9.15 – 10 am Paper 2:
Mark Gonnerman (Foothill College)
“Zen and the Place of Silence”

10.15 – 10.45 am

10.45 am – 12.15 pm Opening text Seminar 1
Shinshu Roberts (Ocean Gate Zen Center)
“Being as Place in Dōgen’s Understanding of Dharma Position”


1.30 – 3 pm Workshop:
Myōen Elizabeth Sikes (New School for Psychoanalysis)
“Zen and Place Nature Therapy”

3.15 – 4 pm paper 3
Josh Hayes (Alvernia University)
“Cultivating Emptiness: Dōgen and Chinul on Buddha-Mind”

4.15 – 4.45 pm

5.15 – 6 pm Paper 4
Joko Patricia Huntington (Arizona State University)
“Zen and the No(n)-Place of Psychic Borderlands”


Sunday Morning

8.30 – 9.15 am Paper 6
Shūdō Schroeder (Rochester Institute for Technology)

9.30 – 10 am

10.15 am – 11.45 pm Closing Text Seminar
Tetsuzen Jason Wirth (Seattle University)
“Central Coast Zen and the Poetic Word: Jeffers and Whalen”

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> Other Events

Copyright 2020 Sanshin Zen Community

Das Bodhisattva – Herz

Extrahiert aus Grenzenlose Gelübde, Endlose Praxis

English version of this post


Ich bin fest davon überzeugt, dass das Herz der Welt ein Bodhisattva-Herz ist. Ich bin überzeugt, dass wir sowohl in den drei Zeiten und in den zehntausend Richtungen als auch in jeder spirituellen und religiösen Tradition Bodhisattvas finden. Ich bin überzeugt, dass Bodhisattvas still und freudig gelassen und vielleicht zu anderen Zeiten auch etwas lauter, alle gemäß ihrer Lebensumstände, ihrer Kultur, Zeit und gemäß der Ursachen und Bedingungen zum Wohle aller Existenzen jenseits von Raum und Zeit gewirkt haben, gerade wirken und wirken werden, bis in die Unendlichkeit. Ich bin überzeugt, dass das gesamte Universum, das unendlich kleine genauso wie das makroskopisch bislang noch nicht erforschte große, mit dem Herz aller Bodhisattvas schlägt. Das drückt aus wie stark und grenzenlos dieses Vertrauen in meinem Körper/Geist unerschütterlich verwurzelt ist, eins mit den fünf Skandhas, die mich in die Lage versetzen, zu fühlen, zu denken und diesen wundervollen Weg, der mir durch wundersames Karma gegeben wurde, zu teilen.

Die Wahrheit ist, dass all dieses Vertrauen und tiefsitzende Gefühl jenseits von Worten ist, aber auch Worte sind kostbare Instrumente. Sie sind nützlich, weil sie es uns erlauben, in unserem Leben in der Gemeinschaft eine gemeinsame Basis zu finden und miteinander zu teilen. Wie hätten wir ohne Worte durch die Lehren und Beispiele von Şākyamuni Buddha, Dōgen-Zenji und all den Vorfahren, die das Licht des Dharmas durch Worte und Schrift übermittelt haben, erreicht und berührt werden können?

Ich denke und fühle, dass, wenn wir uns auf diesen Weg begeben – und ich bin mir nicht sicher, ob wir wirklich wissen, wann er für jeden von uns beginnt (Kein-Anfang und Kein-Ende) –, die Praxis und das Hören der Lehren Schwierigkeiten bereiten können und wir verstehen sie vielleicht auf eine naive Art und Weise. Auch das Herz braucht Schulung. Ein Bodhisattva zu sein bedeutet nicht nur Gutes tun zu wollen und anderen Priorität einzuräumen, es erfordert genauso, in kleinen Schritten zu lernen, Erfahrung für Erfahrung, Lehrer für Lehrer, wie, wo und wann Gutes zu tun ist – oder einfach gesagt, wie und wann zum Wohle anderer, als unserer Hauptmotivation, angemessen gehandelt wird. Da Avalokiteśhvara eine Hand für jeden und jedwede Lebensumstände hat, muss der Bodhisattva mit seinem ganzen Herzen und Körper erfahren und erlernen, wann zu sprechen, zu handeln oder ruhig zu bleiben und nichts zu tun ist, wenn es zum Wohle aller Wesen geschehen soll. Als Bodhisattvas beschreiten wir diesen Weg und erwachen auf diesem Weg. Einen Schritt nach dem anderen bewegen wir uns in kinhin in einem endlosen Kreis, endlose Kalpas den Schritten Buddhas und der Vorfahren folgend.

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Aus Kapitel 10 Das Bodhisattva – Herz von Kaikyō Roby

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The Bodhisattva Heart

Extract from Boundless Vows, Endless Practice
German version of this post


I firmly believe that the heart of the world is a bodhisattva heart. I believe that we find bodhisattvas in the three times and in the ten thousand directions as well as in every spiritual and religious tradition. I believe that bodhisattvas quietly and serenely, and maybe some other times more noisily, all according to their lives, culture, time, and causes and conditions, have worked, are working and will continue to work for the sake of all existences beyond space and time into infinity. I believe that the whole universe, the infinitesimal one as well as the macrocosmic one not yet discovered, pulsates with the heart of all bodhisattvas. That is how strong and boundless this faith is ingrained in my body/mind, one with the five skandhas allowing me to feel, think, and share this wonderful path in this life given by wondrous

The truth is that this faith and profound feeling are beyond words, but words are as well precious instruments, useful because they allow us to share and find common ground in our life in community. Without words, how could we have been reached and touched by the teachings and examples of Shakyamuni Buddha, Dōgen Zenji and all the ancestors who have transmitted the light of dharma through words and writings?

I think and feel that when we enter this path-and I am not sure if we really know when it starts for each one of us (no-beginning and no-end)-the practice and listening to the teachings can present difficulties, and maybe we have a naive way of comprehending them. The heart too needs to be trained. Being a bodhisattva is not only wanting to do good and putting others first; it requires as well learning little by little, experience after experience, teacher after teacher, how to, where to, and when to do good-or, simply put, how and when to act appropriately for the benefit of others as our main motivation. As Avalokitesvara has a hand for everyone and for every circumstance, the bodhisattva with all his heart and body needs to experience and learn when to talk, act or remain quiet and do nothing, if this is for the benefit of all beings. As bodhisattvas, we walk and awake in this path. One step at a time, we move in kinhin in an infinite circle, following the steps of Buddha and ancestors for kalpas without end.

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From Chapter 10 The Bodhisattva Heart by Kaikyo Roby

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The pure water of faith

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If people genuinely practice with right faith, they all attain the Way equally. – Dōgen[1]

Could you talk a little bit about the phrase “right faith?”

Okumura Roshi:
“Right faith” is a translation of shōshin (正信); shō is “true” or “right” and shin is “faith” or “belief.” This Chinese character basically means “trust.” One part of the character for shin means “people” and the other part means “words,” so to believe means to believe people’s words – when someone is saying something, to accept it and trust that this person’s sayings are truth. As a Buddhist term, it’s said there are two kinds of shin or faith. One is called shinge, another is called gyoshin. Ge is understanding, so shinge is a combination of faith and understanding. Gyo means to respect, literally, to look up; so gyoshin is a combination of respect and trust.

Shinge, the first kind of faith, is explained using the example of someone who is digging a well. At the beginning, they can’t see the water, but as they keep digging, they start to see the soil getting wet. When they see that the soil is getting wet, even though they don’t have water yet, they have a belief that, “If we keep digging, then we will surely get water.” We don’t have the water yet, but we trust that if we keep this practice, we will get it. This is faith based on some understanding.

The second kind of faith comes out of our respect for the person who is speaking, such as a teacher; because of respect we trust the person, therefore, we trust his teaching, even though we don’t have any understanding. A typical example of this is faith in the pure land, as Shinran taught. Shinran said that he didn’t know whether chanting nembutsu is really a cause of being born in the pure land or not. He said that because he had nothing to do beside this practice, believing what his teacher Honen was teaching, and believing in the age of last dharma, self-power practice worked. Therefore, this practice of chanting nembutsu is the only possibility. So, even if he was deceived by his teacher and went to hell instead of the pure land, he said, that’s ok. He trusted his teacher’s teaching, because that’s the only hope he had. That kind of faith is called gyoshin— because of our trust in our teacher, we trust the teaching.

The title of Shinran’s major writing is Kyogyoshinsho; kyo is “teaching,” gyo is “practice,” shin is “faith,” and sho is “verification.” Those were all important elements for him, but in his case shin is really the basis of his teaching. In the case of Dōgen, gyo (practice) is the basis, but in this quotation he’s saying that shin is also important. Without shin or faith, we cannot keep this kind of nonsense practice, just to sit without expecting anything. This is a really difficult thing if we don’t have trust or belief or faith. Dōgen’s teaching is really difficult. As I often say, many of his teachings didn’t make sense to me at all. But somehow, I couldn’t stop, or I could continue (either expression is fine) because of my trust in my teacher’s way of life. It was not because of my understanding of Dōgen’s teaching, but because I wanted to live like my teacher, and follow my teacher’s practice based on zazen following Dōgen’s teaching. Whether I understand Dōgen or not is not so essential. But after I started to understand what he was saying, I was very happy, and my practice became more meaningful, and I had more gratitude for his teaching. I feel very fortunate; even though I didn’t understand his teaching I could continue to practice, and finally I started to understand.

So, in our practice also, I think faith is really important. Faith is the energy that allows us to continue with the many questions and doubts we have during the process of practicing for many years. Sometimes I had so many good reasons or excuses to stop, but somehow I couldn’t, because of my trust in my teacher’s way of life. My teacher and my teacher’s teacher had been practicing this zazen so many years, and they never stopped. Their life is already over. I can’t doubt their practice. They completely devoted their entire lives to this practice. So even though I didn’t understand the teaching or dharma taught by Dōgen, still I could continue. So, I think faith is really important.

One of the definitions of faith in Buddhism which appeared in the Abhidharmakośa is, in Chinese, shin chojo; cho and jo both mean to “be clear,” and shin is mind/heart. That means the mind/heart being pure or clear. According to that text, shin is like a jewel. It’s said that in India when monks travelled and had to drink water from rivers or ponds— I don’t know if this is true or not— there were certain jewels which when put in the muddy water, settled the mud down and then the surface of the water became pure. This mud is our doubt or delusions. If there is shin or faith, our delusions or our doubts go down and our life becomes clear and pure, and we can drink. Shin is not a belief in some kind of a system of belief or a doctrine we have to accept, like in many religions. Faith is something which makes our minds pure and clear.

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[1] From the answer to question 18 in Bendōwa. See Kōshō Uchiyama et al., The Wholehearted Way: A Translation of Eihei Dōgen’s Bendōwa with Commentary (Boston, Mass: Tuttle Publishing, 1997). page 40.

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Commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi

The Dōgen Institute offers an occasional series of questions from students with responses from Okumura Roshi  about practice and study. These questions and responses are from Okumura Roshi’s recorded lectures, and are lightly edited.

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