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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)


Pradhanashura broke the gravest precepts;
But he went on to realize the unborn.
The Buddhahood he attained in that moment
Lives with us now in our time.

The incomparable lion roar of the doctrine!
How sad that people are stubbornly ignorant;
Just knowing that crime blocks enlightenment,
Not seeing the secret of the Tathagata teaching.

Two monks were guilty of murder and carnality.
Their leader, Upali, had the light of a glow-worm;
He just added to their guilt.
Vimalakirti cleared their doubts at once
As sunshine melts the frost and snow.

A Zen student must pass through the world of desires. In India a story is told of a lotus flower that bloomed in the midst of fire. Like the lotus or like the phoenix, a Zen student will rise from the ashes of his worldly desires and vain regrets, never turning from his course toward enlightenment. He will pay his karmic debts without question. The frost of his doubt is melted by the warm sunshine of realization that illumines all beings.

The remarkable power of emancipation
Works wonders innumerable as the sands of the Ganges.
To this we offer clothing, food, bedding, medicine.
Ten thousand pieces of gold are not sufficient;
Though you break your body
And your bones become powder,
This is not enough for repayment.
One vivid word surpasses millions of years of practice.

Buddhism takes away unnecessary burdens and gives you nothing in return. If you think you have attained anything in this Zendo, drop it at the gate and go home with empty hands. There you will find yourself in an atmosphere of peace. . . this is your power of emancipationt.

The King of the Dharma deserves our highest respect.
Tathagatas, innumerable as sands of the Ganges,
All prove this fact by their attainment.
Now I know what the Mani-jewel is:
Those who believe this will gain it accordingly.

Although there is nothing to be termed great or small in Prajna, all people cherish comparative thoughts until they are enlightened; therefore, Yokadaishi says that the innumerable Tathagatas prove that Zen provides the most direct route to wisdom for those who are strong enough to undertake this path. Even though most people will avoid this steep, rocky course, those who follow it make the choice themselves . . . they are not chosen by a god, they are not accidentally a member of a favored race, nation, or creed. Such superficialities have nothing to do with Zen. Each one of you may become a Bodhisattva.

When we see truly, there is nothing at all.
There is no person; there is no Buddha.
Innumerable things of the universe
Are just bubbles on the sea.
Wise sages are all like flashes of lightning.

Jews and Christians find it difficult to erase the idea of a god separate from man; although Buddhists know that Gautama Buddha was once a person like themselves, most of them cherish the idea of becoming a Buddha only in some future life. All are caught in the web of dualism, wisdom and ignorance. Whatever you see, hear, smell, taste, or think, are the phenomena of your subjectivity and objectivity. No matter how subtle or refined these phenomena may be, Zen insists that you cannot attain enlightenment as long as you are the slave of your dualistic attachment.

However the burning iron ring revolves around my head,
With bright completeness of dhyana and prajna I never lose my equanimity.
If the sun becomes cold, and the moon hot,
Evil cannot shatter the truth.

The carriage of the elephant moves like a mountain,
How can the mantis block the road?.

A tyrannical king of China once killed a Buddhist monk who refused to marry the royal princess. At the last moment the monk said: "These groups of four elements have not belonged to me from the beginning. The five skandhas deceived you, giving you the illusion of a body. Your sword may as well cut off my head as this spring breeze blows the blossoms from the tree."

Zen offers no miracle to save your life at the last moment, but it can give you equanimity at all times. Just train yourselves in meditation to shut off both your subjectivity and your objectivity. Then you can shut off your subjectivity and melt into your objectivity, or shut off your objectivity and live in your subjectivity. When you can open both your subjectivity and your objectivity; carrying your day's work smoothly and happily, you will be living in Zen. The teaching of Buddha is too simple, so people hesitate to practice it.

The "great-wheels" are Buddha-Dhamma, and the elephant is enlightenment. In China, the mantis has always symbolized a person who overestimates his power. Like a teacher who juggles the ancient names derived from religion and philosophy, seeking to block the road to independent thought, the mantis stretches his legs, but the elephant-drawn carriage rolls on.

The great elephant does not loiter on the rabbit's path.
Great enlightenment is not concerned with details.
Don't belittle the sky by looking through a pipe.
If you still don't understand, I will settle it for you.


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