Tag Archives: Zen

End of year gratitude

 

Dear friends,

Here, at the end of the year, we would like to offer our thanks to our readers, listeners, and viewers. There are three things for which we would like to thank you.

Thanks to your efforts, we have reached our goal in raising funds for the matching grant from The Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism. Over the next year-plus, we will be working to implement a system to make video offerings available to you. Some of these will be freely available, and others will be provided on a subscription basis, so that we may begin to build a self-sustaining structure. Thank you for your support in raising these funds.

The second thing for which we would like to offer our thanks is for your participation on our websites, and for reading our publications. We have almost 500 people who have subscribed to posts directly from the Dogen Institute website, and we now have over 3,000 Facebook followers. Many of you have also read books by Okumura Roshi and our other authors, which have been produced with the support of our Dogen Institute volunteers. We trust that this indicates that many people are enjoying Okumura Roshi’s writings about Buddhism, about Zen, and about Dogen Zenji.

The third thing is that we thank you for your practice. Our hope that the things you read, hear, and see on our websites are supportive of your practice, in whatever form that may take.

Bowing,
David S. Thompson
Director, Dogen Institute
Sanshin Zen Community

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Copyright 2019 Sanshin Zen Community

Moon, Echizen

Copyright©2019 Misaki C. Kido

 

Dōgen’s Chinese Poem (24)

「八月十五夜」 (八月十五夜)

Fifteenth Night of the Eighth Month

Echizen moon over Echizen mountains, how bright!
In the whole cloudless sky its spreading radiance is clear.
Traces are ended of recognizing reflections but missing the real.
Late at night, the higher it gets, the brighter.[1]

越山越月復何明   (越山の越月復た何ぞ明かなる)
一霽溌天光潔晴 (一霽天に溌いで光潔として晴る)
認影迷頭蹤跡斷 (影を認めて頭と迷う蹤跡斷えたり)
轉高轉照二三更 (轉た高く轉た照らす二三更)

This is verse 24 in Kuchugen and verse 80 of volume 10 of Eihei Koroku (Dōgen’s Extensive Record). There are slight differences in line two of Manzan’s version:

一亘青天皎潔晴 (一亘の青天皎潔として晴る)
In the entire blue sky, [its light] shines clearly.

 

Echizen moon over Echizen mountains, how bright!
In the whole cloudless sky its spreading radiance is clear.

As I wrote in my comments on Kuchugen verse 19, Dōgen Zenji uses his love of the moon as a motif in that poem to express his insight of the Dharma. This is another example of his poems composed on the night of harvest moon. The next six poems (25-30) in Kuchugen are all about the moon.

Etsu (also read as Koshi, 越) refers to the large part of northern Japan facing the Sea of Japan. There are three divisions: Echizen (越前, front Etsu) presently Fukui Prefecture; Ecchu (越中, middle Etsu) presently Toyama Prefecture; and Echigo (越後, back Etsu) presently Niigata Prefecture. Dōgen’s temple Eiheiji is located in Echizen. In this poem, “Echizen moon over Echizen mountains” (越山越月) means the mountains and the moon Dōgen Zenji sees at Eiheiji in Echizen. Dōgen describes the beautiful full moon above the mountains that illuminate the entire sky and earth. Before electric light was invented, in the night, even if someone had a candle or an oil lamp, it was dark. The light of the full moon was overwhelmingly bright in the night. When I lived in the woods in western Massachusetts, since I had grown up in the suburbs of the big city of Osaka, Japan, I was surprised how bright the full moon’s light was, especially in the winter when the ground was covered with snow. In the remote mountains in Echizen, for Dōgen and his sangha at Eiheiji in 13th century, the harvest moon in August must have had great power. It is perfectly clear without clouds. Dōgen and his monks have a special gathering to view the moon and compose poems about the moon.

In his teisho on this poem, Kodo Sawaki Roshi said this poem is not simply a description of the beauty of the full moon. According to him, in this poem, etsu has a double meaning. The surface meaning is, as I said above, the proper name Echizen, but the literal meaning of this kanji (越) is “to go beyond,” “to surpass,” or “to transcend.” Sawaki Roshi said this is about the scenery of zazen. When we read Dōgen’s poems about the moon, we need to remember what he wrote in Shobogenzo Tsuki (Moon).[2]  He quotes Panshan Baoji’s saying and comments that the myriad phenomenal things and moonlight completely interpenetrate each other. Each one of us is a part of myriad phenomenal things. Therefore, we cannot be the subject that sees the moon and the moon is not object that is seen by us. The complete scenery is the moon, the myriad phenomenal things and us at the same time. This is what phrases such as “transcending mountain” and “transcending moon” and also “transcending self” refer to – within zazen of dropping off body and mind, the whole cloudless sky.

Traces are ended of recognizing reflections but missing the real.
Late at night, the higher it gets, the brighter.

“Recognizing reflections but missing the real (認影迷頭)” comes from the story of Yajnadatta, which appears in the Surangama Sutra:

The Buddha said to Puruna, “…Have you not heard about Yajnadatta, the man from Sravasti who saw a face with perfectly clear features in the mirror one morning and became enraptured with it? Then he became upset because he supposed he had lost his own face. It struck him that he must have turned into a headless ghost. For no good reason he ran madly out of his house. What do you think? What caused this man to run madly about for no good reason?”

Puruna replied, “He was clearly insane. That and nothing else was the cause.”[3]

Yajnadatta saw the reflection of his face in a mirror and he loved it, but he found that it was the only a reflection, not the real thing. Since he could not see his own true face, he thought he had lost it and became mad and ran around the city to find his own face. We are often like Yajnadatta; we wander around trying to seek ourselves outside.

Because Dōgen Zenji expresses elsewhere that he does not appreciate the Surangama Sutra, we need to be careful how he uses expressions from it. But here I think he expresses the same thing as he writes in Eihei Koroku Vol. 9:

A person in the mountains should love the mountains.
With going and coming, the mountains are his body.
The mountains are the body, but the body is not the self
So where can one find any senses or their objects?[4]

Within the entire world in which all things are illuminated by the moonlight, the moonlight and all things are seamless. We are part of seamless reality, there is no separation between the self (subject; sense organs) and the objects (the moon, the mountains, and even ourselves).

Therefore, “traces are ended of recognizing reflections but missing the real.” In our zazen such a thing as this “missing the real” is not possible. Instead, it is as if the moon rises higher and higher and the world becomes more and more clear and bright.

— • —

[1] (Dōgen’s Extensive Record 10-80, p.632) © 2010 Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, Dōgen’s Extensive Record. Reprinted by arrangement with Wisdom Publications, Inc., www.wisdompubs.org.

[2] See Okumura Roshi’s comments on Kuchugen verse 19.

[3] Translation by Buddhist Text Translation Society: The Surangama Sutra: with Excerpts from the Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua (Buddhist Text Translation Society. 2009) p.159.

[4] Translation by Taigen Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, Dōgen’s Extensive Record: A translation of the Eihei Koroku (Wisdom Publications,2004), p.552.

— • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi.

— • —

For further study:

> More of Dōgen Zenji’s Chinese Poems


Copyright 2019 Sanshin Zen Community

Bring video to Dōgen Institute with a matching grant

 

Dear Dōgen Institute readers and listeners,

We have exciting news to share in our fundraiser this fall! The Dōgen Institute has received a matching grant from The Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism to help enter the world of online video. Our ongoing mission is to provide opportunities for all who are interested in the study of Dōgen Zenji and his teachings. Now, we are receiving significant help towards that mission, and need your support to receive this gift.

Please donate to our effort

Please donate to our effort

As you may know from the Dogen Institute website, we currently offer publications and audio primarily by Shohaku Okumura Roshi about Dogen Zenji, Buddhism, and Zen in general. Okumura Roshi has spent a lifetime practicing and studying Dogen’s teachings, and shares what he has learned through books, articles, posts on our website, audio albums, and soon, with your help, on video.

 

Video distribution presents certain challenges, which we have been able to identify and propose as a project. We plan to provide videos of Okumura Roshi’s lectures, and other dharma events. We believe the enhancement of video technology may help people to understand and relate to the important, but complex and subtle teachings which Okumura Roshi so carefully explains.

We need your help!

We are very pleased and grateful that The Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism has endorsed this project, and is willing to help make it a reality. We need to raise $3,250 or more in order to receive matching funds. Without your help, we won’t receive this grant.

Our vision is to bring these videos to light, and to make them available for people to subscribe to online. As in all our offerings, we hope to have some available free, and others available via paid subscription to help sustain our efforts. We’re excited to contemplate this model, and have further steps in mind if our initial efforts go well. But we can’t do anything without you! Please use the button above on this page to donate specifically to this effort.

Help us, and please contribute today.

With gratitude,

David S. Thompson
Director, Dōgen Institute

If you wish to make a recurring donation, please visit our Donations page, and use the PayPal button there, which will provide you that option.

If you wish to make a donation by mail, please make your check payable to “Sanshin Zen Community,” enter “DI video” in the memo field, and send your check to the following mailing address:

Sanshin Zen Community
Box 1577
Bloomington, IN
USA 47402

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Copyright 2019 Sanshin Zen Community

Painting a scroll

National Palace Museum [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Dōgen’s Chinese Poem (23)

「六月半示衆」 (六月半衆に示す)

Presented to the Assembly in the Middle [Full Moon Day] of the Sixth Month

Pull yourself by your own nose.
Summer practice period is for painting a scroll.
From now on, only thirty days remain.
Directly make diligent effort to save your head from fire.[1]

自家鼻孔自家牽 (自家の鼻孔自家牽く)
一軸画図九夏天、 (一軸の画を図く九夏の天、)
今後僅残三十日、 (今より後僅かに残る三十日、)
直須精進救頭燃。  (直に須く精進して頭燃を救うべし。)

 

This is verse 23 in Kuchugen and verse 79 of volume 10 of Eihei Koroku (Dōgen’s Extensive Record). There is a slight difference in line 2 of Manzan’s version:

一片工夫九夏天(一片の工夫 九夏の天)
The ninety-day summer practice period is one piece of effort.

 

Pull yourself by your own nose.
Summer practice period is for painting a scroll.

“Summer practice period” (Skt. varsa, varsika) is a Buddhist tradition dating from Shakyamuni Buddha’s time. The Sanskrit word varsa means “rain.” In India, during the three-month rainy season, Shakyamuni Buddha prohibited monks’ travel in order to prevent the killing of insects and worms while walking on muddy roads. The monks stayed together in one place to focus on studying dharma and practice. Monks were allowed to make a simple hermitage in which to stay during the period. Later, Buddhist monasteries were established as places to stay during the three-month practice period. The rest of the year, the Buddha and the monks were travelling. The practice period is called ge-ango (夏安居, summer peaceful abiding) in Japanese.

This tradition has been continued at Chinese and Japanese Zen monasteries even today. Usually the summer practice period began on the 15th day (the full moon day) of the 4th lunar month and completed on the 15th day of the 7th month. A monk’s dharma age was counted based on how many times the monk had completed the practice period. Those who had attended the practice period more than five times were called acarya (阿闍梨, ajari), and those who had more than ten times were called upadhyaya (和尚, osho) and were able to be a teacher.

Dōgen Zenji put emphasis on the significance of the summer practice period. He wrote Shobogenzo Ango (Peaceful Abiding) in which he describes the formal ceremonies for the beginning and the end of the practice period.

Since the time of the King of the Empty Eon there has been no practice higher than this practice. Buddha ancestors have valued it exclusively, and it is the only thing that has remained free of the confusion caused by demons and deluded people outside the way. In India, China, and Japan all descendants of buddha ancestors have participated in the practice period, but deluded people outside the way have never engaged in it. Because it is the original heart of the single great matter of buddha ancestors, this teaching of practice period is the content of what is expounded from the morning of the Buddha’s attaining the way until the evening of pari-nirvana. There are Five Schools of home leavers in India, but they equally maintain a ninety-day summer practice period and without fail practice it and realize the way; and in China none of the monks in the Nine Schools have ever ignored the summer practice period. Those who have never participated in the summer practice period in their lifetimes cannot be called buddha disciples or monks. Practice period is not only a causal factor; it is itself practice-realization, it is itself the fruit of practice.[2]

The expression “pull yourself by your own nose” comes from the way ancient farmers tamed an ox by making a hole in the ox’s nostril and putting a ring through it. Then when the farmer took the ox to where they had to work, he pulled a rope tied to the ring. Here Dōgen is saying that monks who participate in the practice period should be self-motivated to actively practice together with others. They should not be like an ox who is pulled by others and practice only because they are forced to do so.

“Painting a scroll (一軸画図)“ is a difficult expression to understand. Possibly this expression has something to do with what Dōgen wrote in Shobogeno Zazenshin (Acupuncture Needle of Zazen). In this fascicle, Dōgen introduced the story of Nanyue (Nangaku)’s polishing a tile. In the story, Nanyue visited his disciple Mazu (Baso) who was always sitting.

Once Nanyue visited Mazu and asked, “Great worthy, what do you aim at (図, zu) in practicing zazen?”
Baso said, “I am aiming at becoming Buddha (図作佛).”

In his comments on this story, Dōgen interprets “aiming at (図)” as “painting” or “illustrating.” He says,

We should know, Mazu is saying that zazen is, without fail, aiming at becoming-buddha. Zazen is always the aiming of becoming-buddha (作佛の図).

Dōgen interprets this Chinese character 図 as “painting.” He also says:

Do not become stuck in loving a carved dragon, we should go forward and love the real dragon. We should study that both the carved dragon and the real dragon have the power of forming clouds and rain. Neither value the remote nor disparage what is remote. Be accustomed and intimate with the remote. Neither disparage what is close nor value the close. Be accustomed and intimate with the close. Do not take the eyes lightly nor attach too much weight to the eyes. Do not put too much weight to the ear nor take the ears too lightly. Make both the ears and eyes sharp and clear.

In this poem Dōgen says that our nothing special, day-to-day practice according to Buddha’s teaching during the practice period is painting buddha, the same as our zazen. Even though our practice is not mature enough, much less perfect, still as he says in Shobogenzo Ango:

Therefore, to see a practice period is to see buddha; to realize a practice period is to realize buddha; to practice a practice period is to practice buddha; to hear a practice period is to hear buddha; and to study a practice period is to study buddha.[3]

From now on, only thirty days remain.
Directly make diligent effort to save your head from fire.

This poem was composed on the fifteenth day of the sixth month, that is, around the middle to the end of July in the solar calendar. It is the hottest and most humid time of the year in Japan. Probably Dōgen sees that his monks are tired both mentally and physically. He wants to encourage them to practice diligently for another thirty days. “To save your head from fire (救頭燃)” is an analogy used in some sutras. When we have a fire on our head, we immediately and wholeheartedly rush to extinguish it to save our head from burning, without thinking. Dōgen Zenji uses this expression in Gakudo-yojinshu, Shobogenzo Zazengi, and a few other fascicles. In the same way, Dōgen encourages his monks to practice wholeheartedly during the final thirty days of the practice period.

— • —

[1] (Dōgen’s Extensive Record 10-79, p.631) © 2010 Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, Dōgen’s Extensive Record. Reprinted by arrangement with Wisdom Publications, Inc., www.wisdompubs.org.

[2] Treasury of the True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dōgen’s Shobo Genzo (Edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi, Shambhala) p.739-740

[3] Treasury of the True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dōgen’s Shobo Genzo (Edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi, Shambhala) p.741

— • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi.

— • —

For further study:

> More of Dōgen Zenji’s Chinese Poems


Copyright 2019 Sanshin Zen Community

Awakening the insects

“Ladybird Hotel”by Smudge 9000 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Dōgen’s Chinese Poem (22)

因在相州鎌倉聞驚蟄作 (因みに相州鎌倉にあって驚蟄を聞いて作る)

Composed Once While Staying at Kamakura in Sagami Province in the Time of Hearing Exciting Insects

For half a year I’ve eaten rice in a white-robed person’s house.[1]
On an old tree, plums blossom amid snow and frost.
Exciting insects, a thunderbolt crashes and roars.
Spring colors of the emperor’s country, red peach blossoms.[2]

半年喫飯白衣舎  (半年飯を喫す白衣の舎、)
老樹梅花霜雪中  (老樹の梅花霜雪の中、)
驚蟄一雷轟霹靂  (驚蟄の一雷霹靂轟く、)
帝郷春色桃花紅  (帝郷の春色桃花紅なり。)

This is verse 22 in Kuchugen and verse 77 of volume 10 of Eihei Koroku (Dōgen’s Extensive Record). There are slight differences in lines 3 and 4 in Manzan’s version:

驚蟄一轟霹靂 (驚蟄一霹靂と轟く)
Exciting insects, one sound crashes and roars.
帝郷春色桃紅 (帝郷の春色小桃紅なり)
Spring colors of the emperor’s country, small peach blossoms are red.

 

For half a year I’ve eaten rice in a white-robed person’s house.
On an old tree, plums blossom amid snow and frost.

According to his biography Kenzeiki, Dōgen Zenji spent about half a year in a lay person’s house from the 8th month of 1247 to the 3rd month of 1248. Although Kenzeiki says he was invited by Hojo Tokiyori, the regent of the Kamakura Shogunate government, today many scholars think he was invited by his patron, Hatano Yoshishige and stayed at his house. In the collection of Dōgen’s Waka poems, there is a waka on “the separate transmission outside the teachings” which Dōgen composed for Tokiyori or his wife.

荒磯の                   Araiso no
浪もえよせぬ        nami mo e yosenu
高岩に                 takaiwa ni
かきもつくべき  kaki mo tsuku beki
法ならばこそ        nori naraba koso

Precisely because the Dharma
can be inscribed
only at the top of tall rocks
even waves cannot reach
along the rugged shore

After returning to Eiheiji in the third month of 1248, Dōgen gave a Dharma Hall Discourse to his assembly:

Dharma Hall Discourse on the Fourteenth Day of the Third Month of the Second Year of Hoji [1248]

On the third day of the eighth month of last year, this mountain monk departed from this mountain and went to the Kamakura District of Sagami Prefecture to expound the Dharma for patrons and lay students. On this month of this year, just last night, I came home to this temple, and this morning I have ascended this seat. Some people may have some questions about this affair. After traversing many mountains and rivers, I did expound the Dharma for the sake of lay students, which may sound like I value worldly people and take lightly monks. Moreover, some may ask whether I presented some Dharma that I never before expounded, and that they have not heard. However, there was no Dharma at all that I have never previously expounded, or that you have not heard. I merely explained to them that people who practice virtue improve; that those who produce unwholesomeness degenerate; that they should practice the cause and experience the results; and should throw away the tile and only take up the jewel. Because of these, this single matter is what this old Eihei has been able to clarify, express, trust, and practice. Does the great assembly want to understand this truth?

After a pause, Dōgen said: I cannot stand that my tongue has no means to express the cause and the result. How many mistakes I have made in my effort to cultivate the way. Today how pitiful it is that I have become a water buffalo. This is the phrase for expounding Dharma. How shall I utter a phrase for returning home to the mountains?

This mountain monk has been gone for more than half a year.
I was like a solitary wheel placed in vast space.
Today, I have returned to the mountains, and the clouds are feeling joyful.
My great love for the mountains has magnified since before.[3]

It seems that Dōgen’s stay in Kamakura was not so comfortable. The second line of this Chinese poem, “On an old tree, plums blossom amid snow and frost,” is difficult for me to understand. Kamakura has a temperate climate. I checked the climate of present-day Kamakura– in the beginning of March, the lowest temperature is 8.5 ℃ (about 40 ℉). Even during the coldest time of the year in Kamakura, in February, it is above 0℃ (32 ℉). It might have been that it was colder in the 13th century, or that during the year Dōgen stayed, there was unusually cold weather. Still it is difficult for me to imagine that Dōgen saw plum blossoms blooming in the frost and snow in Kamakura on 5th day of the second month (the beginning of March in solar calendar). It seems more suitable as the scenery of early March at Eiheiji in Fukui. “Plum blossoms in the snow” is taken from a poem by his teacher Rujing, and is often used positively in Dōgen’s poems as an image of the Buddha’s awakening. However, here it seems Dōgen means to refer to the dharma flower or to Dōgen himself, in difficult conditions.

Exciting insects, a thunderbolt crashes and roars.
Spring colors of the emperor’s country, red peach blossoms.

“Exciting (the) insects” is a translation of keichitsu (驚蟄 or 啓蟄). This is the 3rd of the 24 solar terms (節氣) in traditional East Asian calendars, roughly the first two weeks during the second lunar month, that is, around March 5th to 20th in the solar calendar. The word keichitsu means the awakening of hibernating insects. 驚 is “to startle” and 蟄  means “hibernating insects.” In China it is traditionally said that during keichitsu, thunderstorms will wake up the hibernating insects, which implies that the weather is getting warmer. It seems that “Spring colors of the emperor’s country, red peach blossoms” is more suitable as the scenery of Kamakura around the time of keichitsu.

This poem is composed following a poem of Dōgen’s teacher Tiantong Rujing (Tendo Nyojo), which appears in the recorded sayings of Rujing. Dōgen quotes Rujing’s poem in Shobogenzo Kajo (Day-to-day activity). Rujing spent half a year at Ruiyan Temple (Zuiganji), but by the emperor’s invitation, he had to move to Jingci Temple (Jojiji) in the emperor’s capital. He offered this poem on the occasion of leaving the mountain temple:

半年喫飯坐鞔峰、
For half a year, I’ve eaten rice and sat on Banpo peak.
鎖斷煙雲千萬重、
This sitting cuts through thousands of layers of misty clouds.
忽地一聲轟霹靂、
Suddenly, a thunderclap resounds.
帝郷春色杏華紅。
In the capital, the color of spring must be the crimson of apricot-blossoms.

This poem by Rujing makes complete sense. Rujing was the abbot for half a year at Ruiyan Temple on the mountain named Banpo peak. The mountain was covered in misty clouds and he sat zazen at a place in a deep mountain landscape separated from the mundane world. But he received the emperor’s invitation to become the abbot at Jingci Temple in the emperor’s capital, where it was much warmer. He could not decline the invitation from the emperor, just as when insects hear the sound of thunderclap on the day of keichitsu, they must awaken from hibernation.

However, in the case of Dōgen’s poem, there is no such surprising change for him on that day. In Kenzeiki, it says that Dōgen was invited by the regent Hojo Tokiyori to become the abbot of Kenchoji, which the regent was going to establish in Kamakura, but Dōgen declined and went back to Eiheiji.

— • —

[1] According to a tradition going back to India and China, white robes are the garb of Buddhist laypeople.

[2] (Dōgen’s Extensive Record 10-77, p.630) © 2010 Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, Dōgen’s Extensive Record. Reprinted by arrangement with Wisdom Publications, Inc., www.wisdompubs.org.

[3] Dōgen’s Extensive Record, p.246.

— • —

Translation and commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi.

— • —

For further study:

> More of Dōgen Zenji’s Chinese Poems


Copyright 2019 Sanshin Zen Community

New article by Okumura Roshi in September 2019 Dharma Eye

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Okumura Roshi is a regular contributor to Dharma Eye, the journal of the Soto Zen Buddhism International Center, providing translation of and commentary on fascicles of Dogen Zenji’s Shobogenzo. Numerous articles are available free online. For a full listing, and the latest article on Ikka Myoju: One Bright Jewel, please see our DI page dedicated to these articles.

— • —


Copyright 2018 Sanshin Zen Community

Aspirations on a winter night

Copyright©2019 Misaki C. Kido

Dōgen’s Chinese Poem (21)

冬夜諸兄弟言志、師見和之 (冬夜に諸兄弟志を言う、師見て之れに和せらる)

Seeing the Brother Monks Speaking of Their Aspirations on the Winter [Solstice] Night, the Teacher Dōgen Joined In

Over more than twenty-one hundred years,
In India and China so much has passed, yet Dharma remains.
Although the robe transmitted by buddha ancestors is all pervading,
I sympathize with clouds and water monks in bitter cold wintry night.[1]

二千一百有余歳、 (二千一百有余歳、)
竺漢幾経法尚残、 (竺漢幾か経て法尚お残る、)
仏祖伝衣縦徧界、 (仏祖の伝衣縦い徧界なりとも、)
可憐冬夜水雲寒。 (憐れむべし冬夜水雲の寒きを。)

 

This is verse 21 in Kuchugen and verse 76 of volume 10 of Eihei Koroku (Dōgen’s Extensive Record). There is no difference in this poem between the Monkaku version and the Manzan version.

Seeing the Brother Monks Speaking of Their Aspirations on the Winter [Solstice] Night, the Teacher Dōgen Joined In

Dōgen Zenji gave a formal discourse in the Dharma Hall on the morning of winter solstice each year. Five of them are recorded in Eihei Koroku. During the night, it seems that his assembly of monks have some kind of gathering and speak of their aspirations. Until the winter solstice, yin () energy is getting stronger, the day is getting shorter, and the night is getting longer. On the winter solstice day yin energy is strongest; however, from that day on it is also the time yang() energy gradually restores its strength. This is a good occasion for refreshing one’s mind. What these monks are doing might be similar to making a new year’s resolution. Dōgen is listening to the monks’ aspirations and presents this poem.

In the Winter Solstice Dharma Hall Discourse for 1245 at Daibutsuji (later renamed Eiheiji), Dōgen said:

For a luminous jewel without flaw, if polished its glow increases. Today’s first [arising of] yang [and the daylight’s increase] is an auspicious occasion; a noble person reaches maturity. Although this is an auspicious occasion for lay people, it is truly a delight and support for buddha ancestors. Yesterday, the short length [of day] departed, yin reached its fullness, and the sound of cold wind ceased. This morning the growing length [of day] arrived, and yang arises with a boisterous clamor. Now patch-robed monks feel happy and sustained, the buddha ancestors dance with joy.[2]

Dōgen says, “Although this is an auspicious occasion for lay people,” because the winter solstice cerebration is not originally a Buddhist annual event but is taken from the Chinese secular custom.

Over more than twenty-one hundred years,
In India and China so much has passed, yet Dharma remains.

According to Jingde Chuandeng lu (景徳伝灯録 Keitoku Dento-roku), Shakyamuni was born during the reign of King Zhao of the Zhou dynasty, on the eighth day of 4th month in the twenty-sixth year of his reign. That is 1029 BCE. The Buddha died in the 53rd year of the reign of King Mu, on the fifteenth day of the second month. That is 949 BCE. Dōgen calculates the number of years after the Buddha’s death based on this record. In Shobogenzo Bussho (Buddha Nature) he wrote:

Commitment to its study has continued for two thousand one hundred and ninety years (until now, the second year of Ninji (1241), a direct, undeviating lineal descent of exactly fifty generations (until my late master, priest Tien-t’ung Ju-ching).[3]

I am not sure why Chinese people determined the Buddha’s birth and death dates in that way. Even today, Buddhist scholars have various opinions about the birth and death dates of the Buddha. According to Theravada tradition, Shakyamuni Buddha was born in 624 and died 544 BCE. Some Japanese scholars think he was born 463 and died 383 BCE.

In any event, Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings have been transmitted and spread all over Asian countries. According to Zen tradition, the Dharma had been transmitted through fifty generations of ancestors in India and China until Dōgen transmitted it to Japan. Dōgen founded Koshoji monastery in 1233 and practiced there for ten years before moving to Echizen in 1243 to establish Eiheiji. Dōgen taught and practiced there with (most likely) a relatively small number of assembly monks.

Although the robe transmitted by buddha ancestors is all pervading,
I sympathize with clouds and water monks in bitter cold wintry night.

In Shobogenzo Den-e (Transmission of the Robe), Dōgen writes:

In which tradition, like our authentic transmission, have both the robe and the Dharma of Shakyamuni Buddha been authentically transmitted? These exist only in the Buddha Way. When we encounter this robe and the Dharma, who can be lax in venerating them and making offerings to them? Even if, on each day, we have to discard our bodily lives as innumerable as the sand of the Ganges river, we have to make offerings to them. We have to take a vow to meet [the robe and the Dharma] and respectfully receive it lifetime after lifetime, world after world. Even though we were born beyond mountains and oceans more than one hundred thousand miles away from the land where the Buddha was born, and though we are foolish and uncivilized, if we hear the true Dharma, receive and maintain a kasyaya even for one single day and night, and study even one phrase or one verse [of the Dharma], we have the good fortune of making and offering not only to one or two buddhas but also to countless hundreds, thousands, billions of buddhas. Even if this is done by our self, we have to venerate, love, and value our deeds. We should thoroughly express our gratitude for the great kindness of the ancestral masters who have transmitted the Dharma.

Dōgen is happy that he has some monks who study the Dharma and practice wearing the kasyaya he transmitted from China. Even though his temple is small, he says the merit is pervading the entire dharma world. However, he is also sorry and feels pity for those monks who practice in such a cold climate.

At Sanshinji, our zendo has an air conditioner. I can sit wearing a summer kimono, koromo, and okesa (kashaya) all year around. Still, sometimes we complain if it too cold or too hot in the zendo. I feel I need to practice repentance. Dōgen Zenji said his era was uncivilized, but people in a very civilized country like the USA are not necessarily better Buddhist practitioners. Dōgen Zenji said in Shobogenzo Zazengi (Standard of Zazen), “It is essential that it [the zendo] is warm in the winter and cool in the summer.” Possibly he would agree with having an air conditioner for the zendo. But I am not sure.

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[1] (Dōgen’s Extensive Record 10-76, p.630) © 2010 Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, Dōgen’s Extensive Record. Reprinted by arrangement with Wisdom Publications, Inc., www.wisdompubs.org.

[2] Dōgen’s Extensive Record, Jodo 135, p.163 -164.

[3] The Heart of Dōgen’s Shobogenzo (translated by Norman Waddel and Masao Abe, SUNY, 2002) p.60.

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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


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