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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)


The Buddha's doctrine of directness
Is not a matter for human emotion.
If you doubt this or feel uncertain,
Then you must discuss it with me.
This is not the free rein of a mountain monk's ego.
I fear your training may lead to wrong views
Of permanent soul or complete extinction.

Zen allows no student to waste his time even for a second. If you have a koan, work on it; if you have no koan, just count your breath. Do not acknowledge doubt. Just keep on meditating. This is the only means of learning to walk the Middle Way.

Being is not being; non-being is not non-being;
Miss this rule by a hair,
And you are off by a thousand miles.
Understanding it, the dragon-child abruptly attains Buddhahood;
Misunderstanding it, the greatest scholar falls into hell.

The Saddharma-pundanka-sutra mentions an infant female dragon that attained realization, and in the Mahaparinirvana-sutra is found the story of Zensho, the learned disciple, who suffered the tortures of hell. But why search the scriptures when we witness such examples every day of our lives? Sex, age, and intellectuality have nothing to do with enlightenment.

From my youth I piled studies upon studies,
In sutras and sastras I searched and researched,
Classifying terms and forms, oblivious to fatigue.
I entered the sea to count the sands in vain

And then the Tathagata scolded me kindly
As I read "What profit in counting your neighbor's treasure?"
My work had been scattered and entirely useless,
For years I was dust blown by the wind.

A Zen student must spend more time in meditation than he does in reading. . . even Zen books. Without your own experience you will be a stranger to Zen and a philosophical tramp. Find your own treasure.

If the seed-nature is wrong, misunderstandings arise,
And the Buddha's doctrine of immediacy cannot be attained.
Shravaka and Pratyeka students may study earnestly
But they lack aspiration.
Others may be very clever,
But they lack prajna.

Confucius said, "By nature men are almost alike; by practice they are far apart." Those who love all sentient beings will meditate to save them, thereby developing their own character in Zen. The mind of Cravaka is ready to listen to an enlightened man, but only to eliminate its own suffering. Some study Zen to overcome weaknesses such as temper, cowardliness, and excitability. These are selfish students. The mind of Pratyeka-Buddha is also alert for study, but its motive is not altruistic. Non-Buddhistic scholars have dualistic knowledge, which makes them intellectual, but they lack Prajna and realize that their efforts will not bring mankind true happiness.

Stupid ones, childish ones,
They suppose there is something in an empty fist.
They mistake the pointing finger for the moon.
They are idle dreamers lost in form and sensation.

When Zen opens its closed fist to show that there is nothing within, spiritual customers are lost. These people enjoy the intoxication of illusion, and knowing nothing, they recite the scriptures and attend the services with enthusiasm. They are idle dreamers, easily deluded, and their wrongly developed characters find the abrupt system of emancipation difficult to understand.

Not supposing something is the Tathagata.
This is truly called Kwan-Yin, the Bodhisattva who sees freely.
When awakened we find karmic hindrances fundamentally empty.
But when not awakened, we must repay all our debts.

Once you realize that nothing exists, everything being the manifestation of Mind-Essence, which is also free of being and non-being, you are Tathagata, the Enlightened One. The Enlightened One has to pay his karmic debts just as anyone else does, but he does not worry about them nor does he contract new debts.

The hungry are served a king's repast,
And they cannot eat.
The sick meet the king of doctors;
Why don't they recover?
The practice of Zen in this greedy world
This is the power of wise vision.
The lotus lives in the midst of the fire;
It is never destroyed.

Is your hunger satisfied when another eats? Is your thirst quenched when another drinks? Are you rested when another sleeps? By whose efforts will you be enlightened?

Stanzas 61- 70

Sutra BookTable of Contents Back to Cntents

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