Sesshin Sutra Book
Translations/revisions by Robert Aitken Roshi
of the Diamond
Sangha Zen Buddhist Society,
Koko An, 2119 Kaloa Way, Honolulu, Hawaii,
Song on Realizing the
by Yung-chia Hsuan-ch'e (Yoka
abridged version of Nyogen Senzaki's commentary follows each stanza.
Observing the traditional style of explication, he has somethig to say
about every line, every half line, of every stanza.
His comments include
stories alluded to in the verse, explanation of terms and concepts, and at
times challenging the reader to come forth with his or her
It's clear that his
intent was to instruct and help his students understand and interpret this
poem. It's no wonder that Robert Aitken calls his old teacher "an American
translation of Shodoka is a "grandmotherly" rendition well worth
investigating. The leaner version given here is meant to facilitate group
recitation, as well as preserve the meaning of the original
translation and the full commentary refer to Buddhism
and Zen by Nyogen Senzaki and Ruth Strout McCandless.
shining from this perfect Mani-jewel
Have the form of no form at
Clarify the five eyes and develop the
This is not intellectual work,
-- just realize, just know.
It is not difficult to see images in a
But who can take hold of the moon in the water?
knows that the physical eye must have light in order to see, and that even
then sight is not to be relied upon implicitly.
science has developed the heavenly eye in the telescope and the
microscope. Bringing into the range of vision things that could not
otherwise be seen.
or wisdom eye views the world without desire and the person who possesses
it can avoid entangling, dualistic thoughts.
eye is the eye of higher wisdom in the world of discrimination. A Zen
student who has sound knowledge of modern science and philosophy; and is
well acquainted with other religions and the cultures of many lands so
that he may view the conditions of other beings with sympathy and
tolerance, is using the vision of Dharma.
eye is the perfect eye. When a student attains complete realization, he
sees the world in truth as it is in reality. This is the eye of perfect
compassion free of all defilement.
powers are self-evident. Faith allows one to stand firmly in truth; energy
is necessary: to continue the climb; memory increases and enriches
knowledge; meditation guards a person's calmness, which is the source of
the fifth power: Prajna, the wisdom of emancipation.
working alone, always walking alone,
The enlightened one walks the free
way of Nirvana
With melody that is old and clear in spirit
naturally elegant in style,
But with body that is tough and
Passing unnoticed in the world.
We know that
Shakya's sons and daughters
Are poor in body, but not in the Tao.
their poverty, they always wear ragged clothing,
But they have the
jewel of no price treasured within.
of no price can never be used up
Though they spend it freely to help
people they meet.
Dharmakaya, Sambogakaya, Nirmanakaya,
four kinds of wisdom
Are all contained
The eight kinds of emancipation and the six universal
Are all impressed on the ground of their mind.
hear the sound of one hand, you have mirror-intuition. When you can put
out a light one thousand miles away, you are practicing your intuition of
identity. When you can tell me whether the man you meet is your younger
brother or older brother, you have a clear perception of relations. When
you can show me how you enter an object, such as a stick of incense, and
pay homage to all the Buddhas, you are proving your knowledge of doing
work in Zen.
student goes directly to the ultimate,
The others are very learned but
their faith is uncertain.
Remove the dirty garments from your own
Why should you show off your outward striving?
slander, some may abuse;
They try to set fire to the heavens with a
And end by merely tiring themselves out.
I hear their scandal
as though it were ambrosial truth;
Immediately everything melts
I enter the place beyond thought and words.
many years ago a blind man, visiting a friend, was offered a lantern to
carry home with him.
"I do not
need a lantern," he said, "darkness and light are the same to
"I know you
do not need a lantern to find your way home," his friend replied, "but if
you do not take it, someone else may run into you. You must take
man took the lantern, but before he had gone very far, someone walked
straight into him.
you're going," the blind man exclaimed. "Can't you see this
has burned out," the stranger answered.
sure your candle is burning, both for your own safety and for the sake of
consider the virtue of abusive words,
I find the scandal-monger is my
If we do not become angry at gossip,
We have no need
for powerful endurance and compassion.
To be mature
in Zen is to be mature in expression,
And full-moon brilliance of
dhyana and prajna
Does not stagnate in emptiness.
Not only can I
take hold of complete enlightenment by myself,
But all Buddha-bodies,
like sands of the Ganges,
Can become awakened in exactly the some
incomparable lion-roar of doctrine
Shatters the brains
of the one hundred kinds of animals.
Even the king of elephants will
run away, forgetting his pride;
Only the heavenly dragon listens
calmly, with pure delight.
When a Zen
student comes for Sanzen, he strikes the bell
twice without the slightest fear. In that moment he transcends both birth
and death; he is beyond space and time. What he says now comes directly
from his own Buddha-nature and is called the "roar of the lion." This does
not mean that he shouts. He is not an empty radio turned on at full
student will bring a bag full of answers, trying one after another to fit
the question, but he is like a peddler in a vain attempt to please a
customer. Instead of reaching the palace of wisdom, he will return to his
old alley of blind faith with all the stray cats that symbolize
wandered over rivers and seas, crossing mountains and streams,
teachers, asking about the Way in personal interviews;
recognized the Sixth Founding Teacher at Ts'ao
I know what is beyond the relativity of birth and
many of the koans and Zen stories are woven around traveling or secluded
monks, nothing will be achieved by our clinging to and imitating these
outward circumstances. A Zen student is neither a misanthropist nor a
misogynist, so there is no need to shut himself up in some forest cabin or
to avoid the opposite sex. He just controls his own environment and
masters his situation wherever he stands.
In order to
know the author of this poem intimately, we must remember the last line of
the stanza, "Now I know my true being has nothing to do with birth and
death." This is your koan. How can you free yourself from birth and death?
What is your true being? No, no! Do not think about it! Just gaze at it
Sutra BookTable of Contents
Notes and comments
are lifted from the endnotes of the Empty Sky compilation of these Zen
Buddhist texts and The Syllabus section of Encouraging
Words - zen buddhist teachings for western students by Robert