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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)


If someone asks, what is your sect
And how do you understand it?

I reply, the power of tremendous prajna.
People say it is positive;
People say it is negative;
But they do not know.
A smooth road, a rough road
Even heaven cannot imagine.

I have continued my zazen for many eons;
I do not say this to confuse you.
I raise the Dharma-banner and set forth our teaching;
It is the clear doctrine of the Buddha
Which I found with my teacher, Hui Neng,

Mahakashyapa became the Buddha-successor,
Received the lamp and passed it on.
Twenty-eight generations of teachers in India,
Then over seas and rivers to our land
Bodhi Dharma came as our own first founder,
And his robe, as we all know, passed through six teachers here,
And how many generations to come may gain the path,
No one knows.

When Yoka speaks of having studied for many, many lives, he is not referring to innumerable incarnations. When he attained his Zen, he lost his delusions to become one with the vast ocean of wisdom whose waves of Buddhas and patriarchs were also his. The brilliancy of Mahaprajna illumines all beings; Buddhas and patriarchs reflect this brilliance one to the other.

The truth is not set forth;
The false is basically vacant.
Put both existence and non-existence aside,
Then even non-vacancy is vacant,
The twenty kinds of vacancy have no basis,
And the oneness of the Tathagata-being
Is naturally sameness.

Mind is the base, phenomena are dust;
Yet both are like a flaw in the mirror.
When the flaw is brushed aside,
The light begins to shine.
When both mind and phenomena are forgotten,
Then we become naturally genuine.

The names of emptiness are like a list of drugs. If you are well and strong, you are not interested in them. Many teachers seek to bold or to mystify a student by using the various designations of good or evil built up through the ages. If you wish to make a business of teaching, then memorize the names, but if you want emancipation for yourself and others, give up the drug business and practice Zen meditation.

Ah, the degenerate materialistic world!
People are unhappy; they find self-control difficult.
In the centuries since Shakyamuni, false views are deep,
Demons are strong, the Dharma is weak, disturbances are many.

People hear the Buddha's doctrine of immediacy,
And if they accept it, the demons will be crushed
As easily as a roofing tile.
But they cannot accept, what a pity!

A person chooses his own era. . . accuracy, imitation, or degeneration. He may study for years only to accumulate knowledge (his age of degeneration), but if he is brave and sincere enough to concentrate his study of meditation, next week may be his era of imitation or accuracy.

Your mind is the source of action;
Your body is the agent of calamity;
No pity nor blame to anyone else.
If you don't seek an invitation to hell,
Never slander the Tathagata's true teaching.

It is a self-evident fact that each person, irrespective of attainment, is subject to the law of causation. If he would terminate his own suffering and help others as well, then let him work in accord with the law of the universe rather than strive to evade it.

In the sandalwood forest, there is no other tree.
Only the lion lives in such deep luxuriant woods,
Wandering freely in a state of peace.
Other animals and birds stay far away.

Just baby lions follow the parent,
And three-year-olds already roar loudly.
How can the jackal pursue the king of the Dharma
Even with a hundred-thousand demonic arts?

It is said in India that no inferior trees grow near a forest of Chandana [sandalwood], so Buddhists use the name as a symbol of ultimate wisdom. In this stanza, birds and beasts represent fame and glory. Monks are indifferent to these in any form in any age. Only the lion cubs can follow the older lions, and even they have learned to roar while still young. A yelping fox may fool some with his imitations, as a false teacher will use the words and rituals of true teachings, but when he meets a real lion he will be helpless.

Stanzas 52- 60

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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