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Diamond Sangha
Sesshin Sutra Book

December 1991 version
Translations/revisions by Robert Aitken Roshi
of the Diamond Sangha Zen Buddhist Society,
Koko An, 2119 Kaloa Way, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA 96822


Song on Realizing the Tao

by Yung-chia Hsuan-ch'e (Yoka Genkaku)


Walking is Zen, sitting is Zen;
Speaking or silent, active or quiet, the essence is at peace.
Even facing the sword of death, our mind is unmoved;
Even drinking poison, our mind is quiet.

Meditation is practiced in four ways. First, your mind and body are still. This is the source of all of your Zen actions. Second, your body is still but your mind moves, as in reading or listening to a lecture. Third, your mind is still but your body moves, as in walking. Fourth, your mind and body move as you do your work in daily life. Thus, at each moment a good Zen student experiences the Mind-Essence at ease.

Our teacher, Shakyamuni, met Dipankara Buddha
And for many eons he trained as Kshanti, the ascetic.
Many births, many deaths;
I am serene in this cycle,--there is no end to it.

Some people may be interested in past lives, but Zen students see life as an eternal presence. Stories of "incarnation" insinuate the idea of individual personality distorting the vision of truth seekers. When you extend time and narrow space, you will see Buddha Sakyamuni receiving Dhamma from Dipankara Buddha many millions of years ago, but when you extend space and limit time, you will see Ksanti, or perseverance, mastering human affairs. It is the actual business of the present moment. Until students of occultism understand this and come to their senses, spiritual gold-diggers will strike it rich here and abroad.

Since I abruptly realized the unborn,
I have had no reason for joy or sorrow
At any honor or disgrace.

I have entered the deep mountains to silence and beauty;
In a profound valley beneath high cliffs,
I sit under the old pine trees.
Zazen in my rustic cottage
Is peaceful, lonely, and truly comfortable.

When you truly awaken,
You have no formal merit.
In the multiplicity of the relative world,
You cannot find such freedom.
Self-centered merit brings the joy of heaven itself,
But it is like shooting an arrow at the sky;
When the force is exhausted, it falls to the earth,
And then everything goes wrong.
Why should this be better
Than the true way of the absolute,
Directly penetrating the ground of Tathagata?

Just take hold of the source
And never mind the branches.
It is like a treasure-moon
Enclosed in a beautiful emerald.
Now I understand this Mani-jewel
And my gain is the gain of everyone endlessly.

The moon shines on the river,
The wind blows through the pines,--
Whose providence is this long beautiful evening?
The Buddha-nature jewel of morality
Is impressed on the ground of my mind,
And my robe is the dew, the fog, the cloud, and the mist.

The preceding stanza is a koan. You must work hard to catch a glimpse of it. If you think that I am hiding something from you, you are the guilty one. I am concealing nothing from you.

A bowl once calmed dragons
And a staff separated fighting tigers;
The rings on this staff jingle musically.
The form of these expressions is not to be taken lightly;
The treasure-staff of the Tathagata
Has left traces for us to follow.

Legend says that Buddha Sakyamuni conquered dragons making them so small that they stayed in his begging bowl. With his staff, a Zen master once stopped the fighting of two tigers and so saved them from killing each other. These stories are neither symbols nor miracles. When you attain the mani-gem, you too can perform the same deeds.

The awakened one does not seek truth--
Does not cut off delusion.
Truth and delusion are both vacant and without form,
But this no-form is neither empty nor not empty;
It is the truly real form of the Tathagata.

To assist you in the interpretation of the stanza above, I shall paraphrase a portion of Shin-jin-mei, a poem written by the Third Patriarch in China.

Truth is like vast space without entrance or exit. There is nothing more nor nothing less. Foolish people limit themselves covering their eyes but truth is never hidden. Some attend lectures trying to grasp truth in the words of others. Some accumulate books and try to dig truth from them. They are all wrong. A few of the wiser ones may learn meditation in their effort to reach an inner void. They choose the void rather than outer entanglements, but it is still the same old dualistic trick. Just think non-thinking if you are a true Zen student. There you do not know anything, but you are with everything. There is no choice nor preference, and dualism will vanish by itself. But if you stop moving and hold quietness, that quietness is ever in motion. If children make a noise, you will scold them loudly so that the situation is worse than before. Just forget and ignore the noise, and you will attain peace of mind. When you forget your liking and disliking, you will get a glimpse of oneness. The serenity of this middle way is quite different from the inner void.

The mind-mirror is clear, so there are no obstacles.
Its brilliance illuminates the universe
To the depths and in every grain of sand.
Multitudinous things of the cosmos
Are all reflected in the mind,
And this full clarity is beyond inner and outer.

Here is another portion of Shin-jin-mei to interpret the preceding stanza:

Zen transcends time and space. Ten thousand years are nothing but a thought after all. What you have seen is what you had in the whole world. If your thought transcends time and space, you will know that the smallest thing is large and the largest thing is small, that being is non-being and non-being is being. Without such experience you will hesitate to do anything. If you can realize that one is many, and many are one, your Zen will be completed.

Faith and Mind-Essence are not separate from each other. You will see only the 'not two.' The 'not two' is the faith. The 'not two is the Mind-Essence. There is no other way but silence to express it properly. This silence is not the past. This silence is not the present. This silence is not the future.

To live in nothingness is to ignore cause and effect;
This chaos leads only to disaster.
The one who clings to vacancy, rejecting the world of things,
Escapes from drowning but leaps into fire.

When Buddhism denies the existence of everything, this of course includes the existence of emptiness. There is order, and there is the law of causation. The use of the word "emptiness" implies that which cannot be spoken.

Stanzas 31- 40

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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 Aitken Roshi

Yung-chia Hsuan-ch'e (Yoka Genkaku Daishi 665-713) was student of Hui-neng, the Sixth Patriarch of China.

Buddhism & Zen

Dharma Heroes

Nyogen Senzaki

Shodoka is memorized in its entirely by students in China, Korea and Japan, and they are often inspired during its recitation.
- from Buddhism and Zen

(ch. Hsin Hsin Ming), usually rendered Verses on the Faith Mind, is unpacked by Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi to mean "the verbal expression of the fact that the very nature of existence and of all the phenomenal world are no other than the faithmind."

Maezumi Roshi praises Dennis Merzel's commentaries on the Hsin Hsin Ming, The Eye Never Sleeps, calling it "open and free, not restricted or conditioned by his predecessors' interpretations" and a "vibrant expression."

For about The Eye Never Sleeps read the review.


The ascii version of these texts can be acquired from the Electronic Buddhist Archives section of the Coombspapers Social Sciences Research Data Bank