Tag Archives: manas

False and true, good and bad

  

Photo copyright©David S. Thompson

Dogen’s Chinese Poem (10)

「雪」

Snow

In our lifetime, false and true, good and bad are confused.
While playing with the moon, scorning winds, and listening to birds,
For many years I merely saw that mountains had snow.
This winter, suddenly I realize that snow completes mountains.[1]

生涯虚実是非乱 (生涯虚実是非乱りがわし、)
弄月嘲風聴鳥間 (月を弄び風を嘲り鳥を聴く間、)
多歳徒看山有雪 (多歳徒らに看る山に雪ありと、)
今冬忽覚雪成山 (今冬忽ちに覚る雪山を成すを。)

This is verse 10 in Kuchugen and verse 90 of volume 10 of Eihei Koroku (Dogen’s Extensive Record). It is the first of four poems about “snow” in Kuchugen. In Manzan’s version of this poem, there is one small difference in the first line:

生涯事事是非乱
In our life time, regarding each and every affair, good and bad are confused.

And the second line is quite different:
對物失眞虚實
Facing things, we [sometimes] lose true [principle] between false and genuine.

In our lifetime, false and true, good and bad are confused.

In Yogacara teachings, all of the experiences we had in the past have been stored as seeds in the 8th and deepest layer of our consciousness, called alaya. Alaya means storehouse; this is translated into English as storehouse consciousness. The 7th layer is called manas, which means discrimination, and sometimes is translated into English as ego consciousness. The 7th consciousness grasps the stored seeds in the 8th consciousness as “I.” This influences the first six layers of consciousness; the first five are consciousness caused by the mutual encountering of the five sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body) and their objects (color, sound, smell, taste, and touch), and the 6th layer is the ordinary thinking mind. This is an explanation of how each of us, with our karmic consciousness, sees things in different ways, thinks differently, and makes different evaluations or judgements about things.

For example, in Shobogenzo Genjokoan, and also Shobogenzo Sansuikyo (Mountains and Waters Sutra), Dogen mentions that four different kinds of beings see the same water in different ways. Heavenly beings see water as jewels, human beings see water as water, fish see water as a palace, and hungry ghosts see water as raging flames or as pus and blood.

Even among people living in the same human realm, the same thing can be seen in very different ways, depending upon the person’s karmic conditions. When we are burning with thirst, water can be more valuable than any material treasure. In the East Asian countries where rice is grown as the main grain, having enough water in the summer is the most important element to get a good harvest. In ancient times, when the rice fields dried up during a long drought, farmers had to fight with others to get more water to their own fields. But when we have more than enough water, such as during a rainy season or when we are hit by a typhoon accompanied by heavy rain, or when we are struck by a tsunami after big earthquakes, we feel water is like a demon. About such happenings in nature, most people in the human realm share quite the same feelings.

However, in the case of subtler and more complicated situations, like incidents between people, each person sees things from their individual point of view, evaluates them differently, and even makes various stories, like people in Kurosawa’s movie, Rashomon. In this movie, a samurai was killed in the forest by a bandit. But the bandit, the samurai, and his wife tell very different stories about what happened. Not only those three people – even the woodcutter who finds the dead samurai and reports it to the police makes up his own story. In their made-up stories, each one of them is the hero or heroine. They make up their stories in such a way that they can be considered good or honorable people. According to the Yogacara teaching, that is the function of the seventh, the ego consciousness. This is how we see things in self-centered ways. Among people and even within ourselves, what is false or true, right or wrong is not always obvious. Still, we tend to consider the way we see things as absolutely right and others’ views as always wrong or distorted. It seems this kind of thing is happening many places in the world every day.

Religions used to be powerful systems that made their believers blindly believe in things according to their doctrines and judge other people as wrong or evil. However, it seems the same kinds of things are happening in the world of politics today. I think it is dangerous. People don’t trust others, don’t listen to other people who have different opinions, and simply call their voices fake.

While playing with the moon, scorning winds, and listening to birds,

We see the moon with different feelings depending upon the seasons and the situations in our lives. When we see the beautiful harvest moon and the clouds blown by the wind hide it, we want to scorn the wind. Listening to birds singing is the same; sometimes we feel cheered up, and sometimes we become saddened by them.

This is how our minds change depending upon the objects and the situation. We also see  external objects differently depending upon our psychological condition. Internal conditions and external views are working together. Our minds go up and down depending upon the stories we are making. When we study Buddhism, we may come to think that the views we have on each occasion change depending upon our karmic consciousness and the situation.

For many years I merely saw that mountains had snow.
This winter, suddenly I realize that snow completes mountains.

Thinking in the way I have just described above, we understand that external things and our psychological conditions are ever-changing, delusive, and impermanent. They are always floating and changing and therefore we cannot rely on them. The sceneries of the mountains – flowers in the spring, green leaves in the summer, tinged leaves in the autumn, and desolate bare trees covered by white snow – are the same as our delusive feelings influenced by the change of the situation. To be free from such impermanent and unreliable conditions, we might think we should see the mountain itself, before or beyond such transitory phenomenal conditions. We may pursue awakening to the reality beyond external impermanent things and beyond temporal mental conditions.

However, in this poem, Dogen says that he realized that there is no such substantial mountain which does not change in the process of the turning of the seasons. Rather the different sceneries of each season – flowers in the spring, the song of cuckoo in the summer, the shining moon in the autumn, and the snowy mountain in the winter – are themselves the true reality of mountains. And our mental conditions caused by these changes are the true reality of our lives at the moment, if we are not deceived and pulled by them. This is the meaning of Dogen’s waka poem entitled the Original Face:[2]

春は花    夏ほととぎす  秋は月   冬雪きえで  すずしかりけり
Haru wa hana / natsu hototogisu / aki wa tsuki / fuyu yuki kiede / suzushi kari keri

Spring, flowers
Summer, cuckoos
Autumn, the moon
Winter, snow does not melt
all seasons pure and upright

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[1] Dogen’s Extensive Record 10-90, p.635. © 2010 Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, Dōgen’s Extensive Record. Reprinted by arrangement with Wisdom Publications, Inc., http://www.wisdompubs.org.
[2] See more about the poem Original Face here.

— • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi.


Copyright 2018 Sanshin Zen Community

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