Tag Archives: Bodhi-mind

Bodhisattva Cricket Chirping


Naturalis [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Dogen’s Chinese Poem (9)

「同(山居)」

Mountain Dwelling (7)

Grasshopper thinking and insect chirping; how earnest.
Soft breeze and hazy moon are both calm.
Clouds envelop pines and cedars round the old hall by the pond.
By the mountain temple autumn raindrops fall on the empress tree.[1]

蛬思声何切切 (蛬の思い虫の声何ぞ切切たる、)
微風朧月両悠悠 (微風朧月両ら悠悠たり、)
雲封松柏池臺舊 (雲は松柏を封じて池臺舊りたり、)
雨滴梧桐山寺秋 (雨は梧桐に滴って山寺秋なり)

This is verse 9 in Kuchugen and verse 111 of volume 10 of Eihei Koroku (Dogen’s Extensive Record). This is one of the poems about mountain dwelling. In Manzan’s version, there is only one difference, in the first sentence:

蛬思聲何切切: Grasshopper thinking and cicada chirping; how earnest.

 

Grasshopper thinking and insect chirping; how earnest.

In modern Japanese, kyo or kirigirisu (蛬, gong in Chinese) is grasshopper. According to a dictionary however, in medieval Japan this word referred to any insect that chirps, particularly korogi (crickets). English Wikipedia says, “Grasshoppers are insects of the suborder Caelifera within the order Orthoptera, which includes crickets and their allies in the other suborder Ensifera.”

One of the differences between kirigirisu (grasshoppers) and korogi (crickets) is the time when they chirp. Kirigirisu are active in the daytime, korogi are nocturnal so they chirp in the night. In this poem, Dogen writes about an autumn evening, so I think cricket is more suitable than grasshopper. Crickets and other insects are incessantly chirping in the autumn evening. Dogen says their thoughts and voices are earnest and fervent— as if they know their life is short and impermanent. Human beings are the same. Dogen and his monks are practicing the Dharma wholeheartedly with ardent bodhi-mind because of their awakening to the impermanence of their lives.

Soft breeze and hazy moon are both calm.

In contrast, the cool, soft autumn breeze and the hazy moon in the rainy sky are calm and peaceful. In Japanese there is an expression, ugetsu (雨月), the moonlight on a rainy night. This expression is used particularly when it is raining on the full moon night of the eight month, the day of harvest moon; it is dark but the hazy moon is slightly visible. There is a well-known collection of supernatural stories written by Ueda Akinari (1734 – 1809) entitled Ugetsu Monogatari. The famous director, Mizoguchi Kenji (1898 – 1956) made a movie based on a few stories from this book. I don’t think Dogen intends to show us such mystery stories, but it is also true that this expression indicates the realm beyond the ordinary day-to-day lives where people are working hard and struggling for fame and profit.

Dogen describes the difference between living beings such as crickets, other insects, and humans who live in a limited time frame, and the things in nature such as wind, clouds, mountains, rivers, and the moon. Human beings particularly know the impermanence of their lives and yet they have desires, or wish to accomplish something within their life time, and so are always trying not to waste a single moment. This is the reason their thoughts and voices are so earnest. But these earnest activities are together with the soft breeze and hazy moon which is calm and peaceful. It seems to me that Dogen is describing the world of Bodhisattva practice in which practitioners work earnestly within peace and harmony.

Clouds envelop pines and cedars round the old hall by the pond.

By the pond, there is a tall temple building surrounded by trees such as pine and cedar. In the misty evening darkness, all these things are enveloped by the clouds and mist. In their practice, the differences of forms such as pines and cedars are concealed by the clouds and mist; they are in oneness. The old hall in which eternal Buddha is enshrined silently stands by the old pond. This is the scenery of the world of Bodhisattva vows.

By the mountain temple autumn raindrops fall on the empress tree.

Although we translated it as “the empress tree” in Dogen’s Extensive Record, according to dictionaries, this could be a mistake. The empress tree is paulownia; in Japanese, the paulownia tree is called kiri (桐). However, Dogen’s poem says aogiri (梧桐, wutong in Chinese). Kiri and aogiri are two different kinds of tree. Aogiri (Firmiana simplex) is called the Chinese parasol tree or phoenix tree in English. It is called phoenix tree because in ancient China, it was said that this is the only tree upon which a phoenix (鳳凰, fenghuang in Chinese, hoo in Japanese), the mythological king of birds, will rest. The phoenix (a bird) has been considered a symbol of union of yin and yang energy. The leaves on phoenix trees being tinged with yellow is used in Chinese poetry as the typical scenery of autumn.“Phoenix tree” is probably more suitable in this poem describing the scenery of a mountain temple in autumn. The raindrops are still falling on the leaves of the phoenix tree, making subtle sounds.

— • —

[1] (Dogen’s Extensive Record 10-111, p.641) © 2010 Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, Dōgen’s Extensive Record. Reprinted by arrangement with Wisdom Publications, Inc., http://www.wisdompubs.org.

— • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi.


Copyright 2018 Sanshin Zen Community

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Flowers for Buddhas

Offerings to Ornament the Sky

Flowers offered to the sky

© Can Stock Photo / sadakko

この心 Kono kokoro Together with this [bodhi]-mind,
天つ空にも amatsu sora ni mo [I] embellish the heavenly sky
花そなふ hana sonau with these flowers.
三世の仏に miyo no hotoke ni I respectfully offer them to all the buddhas
奉らなむ tatematsura namu in the three times.

“I embellish the heavenly sky with these flowers.” This sentence refers to a story of a bodhisattva in one of Shakyamuni Buddha’s past lives that appears in the Chinese Vinaya text.

When Dipamkara Buddha was in this world, there was a bodhisattva (the future Shakyamuni Buddha) who lived as a hermit. When he heard Dipamkara Buddha was coming, he wanted to offer flowers. He bought five stalks of lotus flower, spending all the money he had. When he threw the flowers to the Buddha as an offering, they stayed in the sky and were transformed into a flower canopy which covered the Buddha. The canopy continued to cover the Buddha wherever he went.

In Shobogenzo Hotsumujoshin (Arousing Unsurpassable Mind), Dogen refers to this offering of the five stalks of lotus flowers:

Taking it up in this way, we sit a buddha and we make a buddha; this is called arousing bodhi-mind. In general, as the causes and conditions of arousing bodhi-mind, we don’t take it up from somewhere else, rather we take up bodhi-mind itself to arouse this mind. Taking up bodhi-mind means that we hold a single stalk of grass and make it into a Buddha; we hold the rootless tree and making it into a sutra. We offer a handful of sand to a buddha and offer a bowl of drink to a buddha. We offer one ball of food to living beings and offer five stalks of [lotus] flowers to a tathagata.1

This mind (kokoro) refers to bodhi-mind. As bodhisattvas — people who have aroused bodhi-mind — we exchange all of our personal possessions for the lotus (dharma) flowers and throw them into the sky (emptiness) to offer them to the Buddha. Then our offerings stay in the sky as ornaments of the world of Buddha dharma. They don’t fall down to the earth, the ground of human desire.

Ryokan (1758 – 1831) was inspired by this waka of Dogen and composed his own:

鉢の子に Hachinoko ni In my begging bowl,
菫たむぽぽ sumire tampopo putting violets and dandelions
こき混ぜて kokimazete mixing together,
三世の仏に miyo no hotokeni Let’s respectfully offer them
奉りてな tatematsuri tena to all the buddhas in the three times.

While Ryokan was begging (takuhatsu) in a spring day, some children in the village wanted to play with him as usual. Ryokan started to pick violets and dandelions in the spring field with the children. He put the flowers in his begging bowl and told the children, “Let’s offer these pretty flowers to the buddhas.

Possibly on the same occasion, Ryokan composed another waka,

飯乞うと Ii kou to
わが来しかども waga koshi kadomo Although I came [to practice] begging for food,
春の野に haru no no ni I spent the whole day
すみれ摘みつつ sumire tsumitsutsu in a spring field,
時を経にけり toki o henikeri picking violets.

Even though they have no market value, violets and dandelions are pretty flowers in the field. Ryokan and the children picked them and put them in the begging bowl and made them offerings to the buddhas. The begging bowl is made receive offerings from people, but Ryokan used it to make offering to the buddhas. His practice of begging and playing with children were also his offering.

— • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi

1 Shōhaku Okumura’s unpublished translation.

> Other Waka by Dōgen


Copyright 2017 Sanshin Zen Community

The Dharma of Impermanence

Transience Can Spawn Bodhi-Mind

Impermanence

© Can Stock Photo / lilkar

心なき Kokoro naki Even insentient beings
草木も今日は kusaki mo kyo wa such as grasses and trees
しぼむなり shibomu nari wither today.
目に見たる人 meni mitaru hito Seeing them in front of their eyes,
愁へざらめや ure-e zarameya how can people be without grieving?

In his teisho on this waka, Kōdō Sawaki Roshi emphasized the quality of our eyes, whether they are open to see impermanence and whether we can feel grief about the plants’ and our own lives. He compared himself with Dōgen Zenji who deeply realized impermanence by experiencing his mother’s death when he was seven years old.

Seeing the incense smoke at his mother’s funeral, Dōgen aspired to become a Buddhist monk. Sawaki Roshi’s mother died when he was five years old and his father died when he was seven; he was adopted by his aunt, but soon her husband died from a stroke in front of Sawaki Roshi’s eyes in the same year. Then he was adopted by Bunkichi Sawaki.

Though he had such painful experiences, Sawaki Roshi said that he did not really see impermanence; rather, he only worried about who would feed and raise him.

His adopted father Bunkichi was a gambler living in a red-light district. When Sawaki Roshi was eight years old, a middle-aged man died of a stroke in a prostitute’s room nearby. Sawaki Roshi saw the dead man in bed with his wife beside him, crying, “Why did you die in a place like this, of all places?”

Sawaki Roshi was stunned by this miserable scene, and this time impermanence and the impossibility of keeping secrets were inscribed deep in his mind.1 After all, Sawaki Roshi said, “Dōgen Zenji was sharp witted so that he could deeply see impermanence and aroused bodhi-mind by simply seeing the smoke of incense, or withering trees and grasses, but a dull-witted person like me could not feel the same thing until I had much more intense experiences.”

Even though Sawaki Roshi said he was dull-witted compared with Dōgen Zenji, I think he was the only person who had the eyes to see the spiritual meaning of impermanence among the many people who witnessed what happened at the brothel.

All plants — either grasses or trees — know when they sprout, grow, bloom flowers, bear fruits, and wither. Each plant has its own time and season.

If we are mindful, we can see that all things in nature are expressing the Dharma of impermanence. Particularly when we see plants withering, we cannot help but see the transience of our own lives if our eyes are open. We all see that our lives are not at all different from the lives of plants.

Seeing impermanence and feeling grief is a good chance to arouse bodhi-mind. This way of seeing impermanence is essentially different from the common sense of the fragility of life expressed by many Japanese poets. Seeing impermanence and feeling grief is not necessarily negative in Buddhism, especially in Dōgen’s teachings.

Dōgen Zenji says in Shōbōgenzō Hotsu bodaishin (Arousing Bodhicitta):

In general, arousing [bodhi-]mind and attaining the Way both depend on the instantaneous arising and perishing [of all things]. … In this way, whether we wish in our minds or not, being pulled by our past karma, the transmigration within the cycle of life and death continues without stopping for a single ksana *. With the body-mind that is transmigrating in this manner through the cycle of life and death, we should without fail arouse the bodhi-mind of ferrying others before ourselves. Even if, on the way of arousing the bodhi-mind, we hold our body-mind dear, it is born, grows old, becomes sick, and dies; after all, it cannot be our own personal possession. … Our lives arise and perish within each ksana. Their swiftness is like this. Moment after moment, practitioners should not forget this principle. While being within this swiftness of arising and perishing of transmigration in each ksana, if we arouse one single thought of ferrying others before ourselves, the eternal longevity [of the Tathagata] immediately manifests itself.2

Seeing impermanence is not a negative thing in Buddhism even though we feel sad. It is a good chance to arouse bodhi-mind and aspire to practice what the Buddha taught. As Shakyamuni Buddha said in the Sutra on the Buddha’s Bequeathed Teaching, within the practice, the Buddha’s indestructible Dharma Body is actualized.

In the beginning of Shōbōgenzō Genjōkōan Dōgen said, “Therefore, flowers fall even though we love them; weeds grow even though we dislike them.” Then at the end of the same fascicle he wrote, “Since the wind’s nature is ever-present, the wind of the Buddha’s family enables us to realize the gold of the great earth and to transform the [water of] the long river into cream.”3

By seeing the reality beyond our self-centered desire or expectation, we see our lives are connected with all beings. This waka might have a connection with the case 27 of the Blue Cliff Record “Yunmen’s The Body Exposed, The Golden Wind”:

A monk asked Yunmen, “How is it when the tree withers and the leaves fall?”
Yunmen said, “Body exposed in the golden wind.”
. 4

— • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi

1 See The Zen Teaching of Homeless Kōdō (Kōshō Uchiyama, Wisdom Publicatins) p.235.
2 Okumura’s unpublished translation.
3 Okumura’s translation in Realizing Genjōkōan (Wisdom Publications, 2010), p.1, p.5
4 The Blue Cliff Record (Thomas Cleary, Shambhala, 1977) p.176.

* An instant; an infinitesimal unit of time.

> Other Waka by Dōgen


Copyright 2017 Sanshin Zen Community

The Tail of the Elephant

Dogen’s Waka 47

Tail of the elephant

(c) Can Stock Photo / frenta; (c) Can Stock Photo / MattiaATH

世の中は Yo no naka wa [People in] this world are like
まどより出づる Mado yori izuru the elephant going out the window.
きさの尾の Kisa no o no Only its tail remains
ひかぬにとまる Hikanu ni tomaru without being pulled [from inside].
さはり斗りぞ Sawari bakari zo [Such a tiny thing becomes] the obstacle
[to renouncing the mundane world].

“An elephant going out a window” is an unusual image.

Menzan changed kisa 象, elephant, to ushi 牛, water buffalo and added the title “A Water Buffalo Passes Through a Window” to this waka, as if Dogen Zenji wrote this poem as a comment on the 38th case of the Mumonkan (Gateless Barrier). The Mumonkan was compiled in 1228, the year before Dogen left China to return to Japan.

Shinchi Kakushin (1207 – 1298) is a Rinzai Zen master who received the Bodhisattva Precepts from Dogen and later went to China — received inka from Wumen Huikai (Mumon Ekai, 1183 – 1260), the compiler of the Mumonkan — and returned to Japan in 1254.

Dogen had passed away in the previous year and probably did not have a chance to read the Mumonkan. According to it, this koan was the saying of Song Dynasty Rinzai Zen master Wuzu Fayuan (Goso Hoen, ? – 1104), and therefore Dogen might have known it. And yet, Dogen never mentions it in his writings nor includes it in the collection of 300 koans in the Shinji Shobogenzo.

In most of the older versions of the collection of Dogen’s waka before Menzan, the animal mentioned in this waka is kisa (elephant) and not ushi (water buffalo). Menzan also changed sawari (obstacle) to kokoro (the mind).

I suppose that these changes were Menzan’s mistakes. The meaning of this poem as a whole became completely different from Dogen’s original.

The eminent modern Rinzai Zen Master Zenkei Shibayama Roshi said in his comments on the case, “This tail is nothing else than the formless form of Reality.”1 Shibayama Roshi also quotes this waka by Dogen Zenji. The translation of this waka in his teisho is as follows:

This world is but the tail of a buffalo passing through a window.
The tail is the mind,
Which knows neither passing nor not-passing.

The last line is Shibayama Roshi’s addition to make the meaning of ‘the mind’ clear. This translation is based on Menzan’s version. It seems to me that Menzan revised Dogen Zenji’s waka in the way that made it compatible with the interpretation of case 38 of the Mumonkan in Rinzai tradition. Traditional commentaries in the Soto Zen tradition have also been based on Menzan’s revised version of this waka. Until the second half of the 20th century, Dogen Zenji had been understood based on the interpretations by Tokugawa period Soto Zen masters.

The story of an elephant going out of a window appears in a sutra entitled The Story of Anathapindada’s Daughter Receiving Ordination (Taishō Tripiṭaka: T0130_.02.0845c09).

Anathapindada was a millionaire who donated the land of Jetavana Vihara to Shakyamuni. In the story, when Kasyapa Buddha, the sixth of the seven buddhas in the past, was alive, there was a king. The king had ten unusual dreams and asked Kasyapa Buddha what the dreams meant. In the king’s first dream, an elephant tried to get out of a room through a window; although rest of its body got out, only its tail remained without being pulled through. Kasyapa Buddha said that this dream was about a situation in the future after Shakyamuni Buddha had passed away. There will be some people, either men or women, who will have left home to become monks, but even though they have done this their minds will still be influenced by greedy attachments to fame and profit regarding mundane things and they will not be able to attain deliverance.

In this waka, Dogen wants to say that there are many people in his time who have left home to become Buddhist monks, but many of them still have some attachment to fame and profit and therefore they are not able to be released from the triple-world of samsara.

In Shobogenzo Keiseisanshoku (Sounds of Valley Streams and Colors of Mountains) Dogen says:

Moreover, we should not forget the aspiration we aroused when we first sought the Buddha Way. What I want to say is that when we first aroused bodhi-mind, we didn’t seek the Dharma for the sake of others and we abandoned fame and profit. Without seeking fame and profit, we simply aspired to attain the Way. We never expected to be venerated and receive offerings from the king and ministers. However, such causes and conditions for [the desire for fame and profit] are present now. [Fame and profit] are not what we expected originally or what we sought after. We did not expect [to be] involved in entanglements with human and heavenly affairs. And yet foolish people, even if they have aroused bodhi-mind, soon forget their original aspiration and mistakenly expect offerings from human and heavenly beings. And when they receive them, they are delighted, thinking that the virtue of the Buddha-dharma has been realized. When kings and ministers come frequently to take refuge, [such people] think this is the manifestation of their Way. This is one of the demons afflicting the practice of the Way. Even though we should not forget the compassionate mind [toward such people], we should not be delighted [when such people venerate us]. 1

In this waka, Dogen uses the story of the elephant’s tail from the Agama to criticize many of the Japanese Buddhist monks of his time. In Shobogenzo Zuimonki he said the same thing as in Keiseisanshoku, for example in section 6-21 of the Choenji version (5-20 of Menzan’s version):

Nowadays, some people seem to have renounced the world and left their families. Nevertheless, when examining their conduct, there are those who are not yet true home-leavers. As a home-leaver, first of all, we must depart from our [ego-centered] self as well as from [desire for] fame and profit. Unless we become free from these, even if we urgently practice the Way as if extinguishing a fire enveloping our head, or devote ourselves to diligent practice as hard as [people who] cut off their hands or legs, it will only be a meaningless trouble that has nothing to do with renunciation. 2

This is not a problem only about Indian monks after Shakyamuni’s death and Japanese monks at the time of Dogen. In the United States today, Buddhist institutes are not as large as in India or medieval Japan, so I don’t think people become Buddhists monks/priests for the sake of fame and profit. Still, we may make the same kind of mistakes on much smaller scale in our practice.

When we compete with other people and want to consider we are better than others, or we want other people to consider us as superior practitioners to them, or if we study Buddhist teachings to show others that we have better knowledge, our motivation is not genuine bodhi-mind. We are moved by our ego-centered desire to be winners in the competition. This is the way we ourselves create samsara within our own Buddhist practice. That is the tiny tail of the elephant that binds us to samsara.

— • —

1 This is Okumura’s unpublished translation. Another translation is in Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo, Book 1 (Gudo Nishijima & Chodo Cross) p.92
2 This is Okumura’s unpublished translation of the Choenji version. Another translation is in Shobogenzo-zuimonki: Sayings of Eihei Dogen Zenji recorded by Koun Ejo (Shohaku Okumura, Sotoshu Shumucho) p.191

> Other Waka by Dōgen


Copyright 2017 Sanshin Zen Community

Misspent Time

Poem on “Squandering Our One Life”

Bored man at desk

徒らに Itazura ni
過す月日は Sugosu tsukihi wa Though we dawdle away
多けれど Okeredo many of nights and days,
道をもとむる Michi wo motomuru the time we seek the way
時ぞすくなき Toki zo sukunaki is so rare.

In the waka posted Oct. 9, Roshi introduced the three aspects of arousing Bodhi-mind:
1. Wisdom: Seeing impermanence and not spending time wastefully.
2. Compassion: Helping all living beings to arouse bodhi-mind.
3. Maintaining the Tradition: Esteeming and protecting daily activities according to the buddha-ancestors’ great Way.

Even though we have aroused Bodhi-mind by witnessing the sickness, aging, or dying of our loved ones, or by our own experience of facing the reality of impermanence, we often lose sight of it and engage in so many miscellaneous things attractive to us. Although we understand that we have no time to waste, we often want to escape from facing impermanence and seek something that gives us temporary excitement and joy even though we know such things will not give us the stable foundation of our lives. Or, we find ourselves with so many responsibilities and obligations in our family lives, related to our work, and as members of the larger society. We forget the Way and make ourselves too busy, or conversely we become too lazy to do anything.

We need to think how we can keep the stable foundation of our lives. In Shobogenzo Zuimonki, 3-14, Dogen instructs:

“It goes without saying that you must consider the inevitability of death. This principle goes without saying. Even if we don’t consider this [right now], we should be resolved not to waste time and refrain from doing meaningless things. We should spend our time carrying out what is worth doing. Among the things we should do, what is the most important one? We should understand that all deeds other than what the buddhas and ancestors have done are useless.”

What Dogen talks about here is the third aspect of bodhi-mind. This is his admonition to the monks practicing at his monastery. Monastic practice is designed to maintain the traditional way of life. Some of these traditions originated from Indian Buddhist monastic practice, others are from the customs in Chinese or Japanese Zen monasteries. Zazen, doing various services or ceremonies, community work called samu to support the community life, studying Dharma teachings, etc. Dogen encourages monks to maintain these traditional practices without being pulled by personal desires or bonds with the mundane world.

Most of American Zen practitioners are not living in monasteries. We need to consider how can we spend our day-to-day lives without wasting time. Although “not wasting time” sounds like always working hard pursuing efficiency more and more like a workaholic, to be most intimate with the Way means to be mindful and peaceful, here and now, with what we are doing.

— • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi

> Other Waka by Dōgen


Copyright 2016 Sanshin Zen Community

In Praise of Bodhi-mind

Poem on “Mind of the Way”

bodhi-2016oct09-13167141

草庵に kusa no io ni In my grass-hut,
起きてもねても okite mo nete mo either standing or lying down,
申すこと mousu koto I constantly say:
我より先に ware yori saki ni I vow to ferry others
人を渡さん hito wo watasan before myself.

Mousu (申す)” is a humble expression of “to say” or “to speak.” Dogen is saying this to the Buddha, or the Three Treasures, as the expression of his vow. The first three lines of this waka is almost the same as the following waka:

In my grass-hut
While I sleep or awake
What I always recite is;
“I take refuge in Shakyamuni Buddha
Bestow your compassion!”

And the meaning of the last two lines is the same as this waka:

Even though, since I am dull-witted,
I will not become a buddha,
I wish being a monk
helping all living being
crossing over.

In Shobogenzo Hotsu-bodaishin (Arousing Bodhi-mind), Dogen Zenji quotes a verse from the Mahayana Parinirvana Sutra in which Kasyapa Bodhisattva praises Shakyamuni Buddha:

Arousing [bodhi-]mind and the [mind of] the ultimate stage are not different;
between these two [stages of] the mind, the former is more difficult [to arouse].
[It is the mind of] ferrying across others before oneself.
For this reason, I [respectfully] make prostrations to [those] who have first aroused [bodhi-]mind.
When they first arouse [bodhi-mind], they are already the teachers of human and heavenly beings.
They are superior to sravakas and pratyekabuddhas.
Arousing such [bodhi-]mind surpasses the triple world.
Therefore, it can be called the unsurpassable.

Arousing bodhi-mind (hotsu-bodaishin) is one of the key phrases in Dogen’s teaching. According to his writings, there are three aspects in the way bodhi-mind functions. It works as compassion, as he writes in this poem and in Shobogenzo Hotsu-bodaishin. It also works as wisdom to see impermanence. And, another way it works is as the mind of transmitting and maintaining the traditional way of practice.

In Gakudo-Yojinshu (Points to Watch in Practicing the Way), he writes about bodhi-mind as wisdom:

The Ancestral Master Nagarjuna said that the mind that solely sees the impermanence of this world of constant appearance and disappearance is called bodhi-mind …Truly, when you see impermanence, egocentric mind does not arise, neither does desire for fame and profit.

Dogen writes about the third aspect in Pure Standard for the Temple Administrators (Chiji Shingi):

What is called the mind of the Way is not to abandon or scatter about the great Way of the buddha ancestors, but deeply to protect and esteem their great Way. …After all, not to sell cheaply or debase the worth of the ordinary tea and rice of the buddha ancestors’ house is exactly the mind of the Way.

“Mind of the Way (do-shin, 道心)” is another translation of bodhi-mind.

— • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi

> Other Waka by Dōgen


Copyright 2016 Sanshin Zen Community

The Long and Short of It

Poem on “Shortening the Dark Night of Ignorance”

long-short-22375523-400x267

足びきの Ashibiki no
山鳥の尾の yamadori no o no After the long long night,
しだり尾の shidario no as long as
長長し夜も naga -naga shi yo mo the dragging tail of the copper pheasant,
明けてけるかな akete keru kana morning is finally dawning!

Ashibiki no” is a pillow word (decorative word used prefixally in classical Japanese literature) for yama (mountain). “Yamadori” literally means mountain birds, but in Japan, yamadori refers to the copper pheasant (Syrmaticus Soemmerringii) endemic to Japan that has a coppery chestnut plumage and a long tail. “Shidario” is the long, dragging tail of the bird. This modifies “naganagashi” which means very very long. “Ashibikino yamadori no o no shidario no” modifies “naga-nagashi.” And all of the words until here modified “yo,” night.

Until here, the meaning is, “the very long night like the dragging tail of the copper pheasant.” This part is an adaptation of an older famous waka poem from the Manyoshu, attributed to the famous poet Kakinomoto no Hitomaro (of the late 7th to the early 8th century) and included in Hyakunin-isshu (The Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets). This is a technique of waka called honkadori (adoption from the original waka). Dōgen took the first three lines of this waka from the famous waka, “Ashibiki no yamadori no o no shidario no naga-nagashi yo wo hitori ka mo nemu.” (Must I sleep alone through the long night as long as a tail of the copper pheasant?”) It is said that male and female copper pheasants sleep separately. This waka is about the loneliness of a couple, or family, living separately. Dōgen only changes “wo” to “mo,” that means “even”. Basically this waka is simply saying the long night is ending with the dawn.

In Buddhism, the long night refers to life-and-death transmigrating in the six realms of samsara. Living beings have been living for the long time in the darkness of ignorance. And, even this long night being pulled by ignorance begins to end with dawn, because of the study and practice of the Dharma, or faith in the Buddha’s compassion. This is a common understanding of the long and dark night in Buddhism. It seems this waka describes the surprise, exclamation, and joy of seeing the morning begin to dawn after the long dark night, in the brightness of the morning sun. This is the turning point of our lives from cause and result of the Second and the First Noble Truths to the Fourth and the Third Noble Truths.

In Eiheikoroku Volume 7, Dharma discourse 479, Dōgen quotes a saying by the Buddha:

“Life and death is long; life and death is short. If we rely on greed, anger, and foolishness, then [the cycle of suffering of] life and death is long. If we rely on precepts, samadhi, and wisdom, then this life and death is short.”

According to this saying, the dark night of ignorance is not necessarily long. When we change the foundation of our lives from the three poisonous minds (greed, anger/hatred, and ignorance) to the three basic studies (precepts, samadhi, and wisdom), then the transformation is actualized here and now.

In Shobogenzo Hotsubodaishin (Arousing Bodhi-mind), Dōgen writes:

“Arousing [bodhi-]mind is to arouse the mind of ferrying others before oneself for the first time . . . After having aroused this mind, we further meet with innumerable buddhas and make offerings to them, we see buddhas and hear dharmas, and further arouse bodhi-mind. It is like adding frost on the snow. … When we compare anuttara-samyak-sambodhi (supreme awakening) with first arousing bodhi-mind, they are like the kalpa-gni and the fire of a firefly. However, when we arouse the mind of ferrying across others before ourselves, these two are not at all different . . . This mind is neither one’s self nor others; it does not come [from somewhere else]. However, after having aroused this mind, when we touch the great earth, everything [on the earth] becomes gold, and when we stir the great ocean, [the water in the ocean] becomes sweet dew.”

Dōgen also writes,

“While being within this swiftness of arising and perishing of transmigration in each ksana, if we arouse one single thought of ferrying others before ourselves, the eternal longevity [of the Tathagata] immediately manifests itself.”

These sayings show both sides of Dōgen’s teaching: the long continuous practice, and the immediate transformation.

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Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi

> Other Waka by Dōgen


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