Tag Archives: Keizan Jokin

Neither Naughty nor Nice by Nature

Poem on “Malleable Mind”

© Can Stock Photo / vencavolrab

© Can Stock Photo / vencavolrab

心とて Kokoro tote There is no form
人に見すべき Hito ni misubeki to show people
色ぞなき Iro zo naki as my mind.
只露霜の Tada tsuyushimo no Only dew-frost
結ぶのみにて Musubu nomi nite is being formed.

Kokoro ( 心 )” is mind. “Iro ( 色 )” is color but the same kanji can mean form (siki in shiki soku ze ku; 色即是空, form is emptiness). It is possible to translate this as “there is no color to show people as my mind”. “Tsuyu” is dew and “shimo” is frost. Usually these are interpreted as two different things. Dew is a water droplet on a leaf, or is formed when the temperature is lower than the dew-point during the late summer to autumn, and frost is frozen water when the temperature is under the freezing point during the late autumn to winter.

However, Keizan Jokin (fourth generation ancestor of Dōgen  and  founder of Sojiji monastery) thought, in this case, tsuyushimo (or tsuyujimo) is one word (dew-frost). He quoted this waka by Dōgen in his Dharma Words (Hogo) to his patron, whose Dharma name was Myojo, who donated the land for establishing Yokoji monastery. About “tsuyushimo,”Keizan said, “In the end of the autumn or the beginning of the winter, we see tsuyushimo, that is neither dew nor frost.”

Dōgen Zenji encourages his students to be a friend of good people and listen to their words and do good things with them. Then our minds are influenced by them and become good.
—Shōhaku Okumura Roshi

Depending upon the subtle difference of temperature in the transition from autumn to winter, water on a leaf becomes dew, frost, or frozen dew (white dew). If the temperature goes down to freezing point after dewdrops are formed, they become frozen dew, that is different from frost. Frozen dew is not crystallized like frost. Here are three different phenomena but they are all similar; autumn/winter, dew/frost and half way between them. The reality at the moment is neither autumn nor winter, and we see something neither exactly dew nor frost. With which name should we call this moment and this phenomenon?

Dōgen Zenji said in Shobogenzo Zuimonki:

“Originally human mind is neither good nor evil. Good and evil arise depending upon the situation. For example, when a person arouses bodhi-mind and enter a mountain or forest, the person thinks a dwelling in the woods is good and in the human world is bad. And when the person’s mind has regressed and leave the mountain or a forest, the person think mountain is bad. This is because human mind has no fixed characteristics; it changes in this way or that way being influenced by the circumstances. Therefore, if we encounter good circumstances, our mind becomes good; if we are familiar with bad circumstances, our mind becomes bad. Do not think that our mind is by nature evil. We should simply follow good circumstances.”

Dōgen Zenji encourages his students to be a friend of good people and listen to their words and do good things with them. Then our minds are influenced by them and become good. It is like when we walk in the mist, our clothing will be wet little by little without knowing. Sawaki Roshi said that we have both buddha-nature and thief-nature. When we are beginners as bodhisattvas, even though we have aroused Bodhi-mind, take the bodhisattva vows and precepts, our mind is not yet stable. Depending upon the situation, our mind becomes frozen and we may take actions expressing our thief-nature. However when the situation changes a little bit, our mind is defrosted, flexible, open, and warm. It is important to be in a good circumstance and with good people.

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Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi

> Other Waka by Dōgen


Copyright 2016 Sanshin Zen Community

May We Together . . .

Poem on “Practicing With All Living Beings”

いただきに Itadaki ni
鵲巣をや Kasasagi su wo ya On his head,
つくるらん Tsukuru ran a magpie might make its nest,
眉にかかれり Mayu ni kakareri a spider’s web is
蜘蛛のいと Sasagani no ito hanging from his eyebrows.

Itadaki” means “crown of head” or “summit of mountain.” Here it refers to the crown of the head of a person who is sitting in zazen. “Kasasagi” is a black bird similar to a crow. Its English name is magpie.

In Europe, a magpie generally has a negative association, and has been demonized in some countries. However, in China and Korea, magpies are considered a bird of good fortune. In Japan, it is said that magpies were imported from Korea in the 16th century. Since then magpies live in various places in western parts of Japan.

Probably Dogen did not have a chance to see this bird with his own eyes except while he stayed in China, but he used the name of this bird which appears in Buddhist texts.

Ran” is an auxiliary verb to show conjecture. Also, in this waka Dogen actually did not see the bird making a nest. “Sasagani” literally means a little crab, but here it refers to a spider. A spider is called a little crab, probably because it has many legs and walks like a crab. “Ito” is a thread or web. “Kakareri” is a statement, not conjecture. Dogen actually sees the spider’s web hanging from the eyebrow of the person sitting.

In the Denkoroku (the Record of Transmitting the Light), Keizan Jokin wrote about Shakyamuni Buddha’s practice after he left his father’s palace as follows:

“Shakyamuni Buddha was of the Sun Race in India. At the age of nineteen he leaped over the palace walls in the dead of night, and at Mount Dantaloka, he cut off his hair. Subsequently, he practiced austerities for six years. Later, he sat on the Adamantine Seat, where spiders spun webs in his eyebrows and magpies built a nest on top of his head. Reeds grew up between his legs as he sat tranquilly and erect without movement for six years. At the age of thirty, on the eighth day of the twelfth month, as the morning star appeared, he was suddenly enlightened.”

In the Hokyoki, Dogen recorded his master Rujing’s saying about zazen and dropping off body and mind:

“The zazen of arhats and pratyekabuddhas is free of attachment yet it lacks great compassion. Their zazen is therefore different from the zazen of the buddhas and ancestors; the zazen of buddhas and ancestors places primary importance on great compassion and the vow to save all living beings. … In buddhas’ and ancestors’ zazen, they wish to gather all Buddha Dharma from the time they first arouse bodhi-mind. Buddhas and ancestors do not forget or abandon living beings in their zazen; they offer a heart of compassion even to an insect. Buddhas and ancestors vow to save all living beings and dedicate all the merit of their practice to all living beings.”

The source of both Keizan’s description of Shakyamuni’s practice at Mount Dantaloka and Rujing’s statement about compassion in buddhas’ and ancestors’ zazen seems to be Nagarjuna’s Daichidoron, his commentary on the MahaPrajna Paramita Sutra. In this text, right after Rujing says that buddhas and ancestors do not forget compassion toward all living beings including insects, Nagarjuna refers to a story about a mountain sage who was Shakyamuni in one of his past lives. Shakyamuni was then called Rakei Sennin, the mountain sage whose hair looked like a conch-shell. While he was sitting immovably in upright posture like a tree, a magpie made a nest on his head and laid eggs. The sage thought that if he stopped sitting and moved, the mother bird would be frightened and not return, then the baby birds would die. Therefore he continued to sit without moving until the mother and the baby birds flew away. I cannot find any source about the spider’s web in the older texts.

This story tells that the bodhisattva practiced with all living beings including birds and insects and tried not to frighten or harm them. Even while he was sitting, he considered living beings as part of his life.

A modern commentator, Rev. Nanboku Oba, in his commentary on this waka, suggested that Dogen wrote this waka when he saw an old Buddha statue in an old shrine hall, probably by the roadside. Since the shrine was not cleaned for a long time, the statue was covered with dust and Dogen found a spider’s web on its face. Then he remembered the story of Rakei Sennin and imagined a magpie making a nest on the crown of the Buddha’s head.

Since a waka is a short poem, it is not possible to describe the situation in detail within the poem. Readers need to or can use their imagination to interpret a waka poem like this.

— • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi

> Other Waka by Dōgen


Copyright 2016 Sanshin Zen Community