Maka Hannya Haramita Shingyo
This sutra is recited every morning after zazen. The sutra is about the relationship between zazen and daily life. The title reads: “The essence of the Sutra of Great Wisdom that makes it possible to transcend all boundaries.”
Kan ji zai bo za tsu
Gyo jin han ya ha ra mi ta
Ji sho ken go on kai ku
Do i sai ku
Yaku sha ri shi
Shiki fu i ku
Ku fu i shiki
Shiki soku ze ku
Ku soku ze shiki
Ju so gyo shiki
Yaku bu nyo ze
Sha ri shi
Ze sho ho ku so
Fu sho fu metsu
Fu ku fu jo
Fu zo fu gen
Ze ko ku chu
Mu shiki mu ju so gyo shiki
Mu gen ni bi ze shin i
Mu shiki sho ko mi soku ho
Mu gen kai nai shi mu i shiki kai
Mu mu myo yaku mu mu myo jin
Nai shi mu ro shi yaku mu ro shi jin
Mu ku shu metsu do mu chi yaku mu toku i
Mu sho toku ko bo dai sa ta e
Han ya ha ra mi ta ko
Shin mu ke ge mu ke ge ko
Mu u ku fu on ri i sai ten do mu so ku gyo ne
Han san ze sho butso e
Han ya ha ra mi ta ko
Toku a noku ta ra san myaku san bo dai
Ko chi han ya ha ra mi ta
Ze dai jin shu ze dai myo shu
Ze mu jo shu ze mu to do shu
No jo i sai ku shin jitsu fu ko
Ko setsu han ya ha ra mi ta shu
Soku setsu shu watsu
Gya tei gya tei
Ha ra gya tei
Hara so gya tei
Bo ji so wa ka
By Zen master Dogen in 1233.
In this text, Dogen unfolds the great mysteries of humanity and human consciousness. All questions about the human spirit are present in the Genjo Koan.
As all things are buddha-dharma, there is delusion and realization, practice, birth and death, and there are buddhas and sentient beings. As the myriad things are without an abiding self, there is no delusion, no realization, no buddha, no sentient being, no birth and death.
The buddha way is, basically, leaping clear of the many and the one; thus there are birth and death, delusion and realization, sentient beings and buddhas. Yet, in attachment blossoms fall, and in aversion weeds spread. To carry yourself forward and experience myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth and experience themselves is awakening. Those who have great realization of delusion are buddhas; those who are greatly deluded about realization are sentient beings.
Further, there are those who continue realizing beyond realization, who are in delusion throughout delusion. When buddhas are truly buddhas they do not necessarily notice that they are buddhas. However, they are actualized buddhas, who go on actualizing buddhas. When you see forms or hear sounds fully engaging body-and-mind, you grasp things directly. Unlike things and their reflections in the mirror, and unlike the moon and its reflection in the water, when one side is illuminated the other side is dark.
To study the buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly. When you first seek dharma, you imagine you are far away from its environs. But dharma is already correctly transmitted; you are immediately your original self. When you ride in a boat and watch the shore, you might assume that the shore is moving. But when you keep your eyes closely on the boat, you can see that the boat moves. Similarly, if you examine myriad things with a confused body and mind you might suppose that your mind and nature are permanent. When you practice intimately and return to where you are, it will be clear that nothing at all has unchanging self.
Firewood becomes ash, and it does not become firewood again. Yet, do not suppose that the ash is future and the firewood past. You should understand that firewood abides in the phenomenal expression of firewood which fully includes past and future, and is independent of past and future. Ash abides in the phenomenal expression of ash which fully includes future and past. Just as firewood does not become firewood again after it is ash, you do not return 25 to birth after death. This being so, it is an established way in buddha-dharma to deny that birth turns into death.
Accordingly, birth is understood as no-birth. It is an unshakable teaching in Buddha’s discourse that death does not turn into birth. Accordingly, death is understood as no-death. Birth is an expression complete this moment. Death is an expression complete this moment. They are like winter and spring. You do not call winter the beginning of spring, nor summer the end of spring. Enlightenment is like the moon reflected in the water. The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken. Although its light is wide and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide. The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in dewdrops on the grass, or even in one drop of water.
Enlightenment does not divide you, just as the moon does not break the water. You cannot hinder enlightenment, just as a drop of water does not hinder the moon in the sky. The depth of the drop is the height of the moon. Each reflection, however long or short its duration, manifests the vastness of the dewdrop, and realizes the limitlessness of the moonlight in the sky. When dharma does not fill your whole body and mind, you think it is already sufficient. When dharma fills your body and mind, you understand that something is missing. For example, when you sail out in a boat to the midst of ·an ocean where no land is in sight, and view the four directions, the ocean looks circular, and does not look any other way. But the ocean is neither round nor square; its features are infinite in variety. It is like a palace. It is like a jewel. It only looks circular as far as you can see at that time. All things are like this.
Though there are many features in the dusty world and the world beyond conditions, you see and understand only what your eye of practice can reach. In order to learn the nature of the myriad things, you must know that although they may look round or square, the other features of oceans and mountains are infinite in variety; whole worlds are there. It is so not only around you, but also directly beneath your feet, or in a drop of water.
A fish swims in the ocean, and no matter how far it swims there is no end to the water. A bird flies in the sky, and no matter how far it flies, there is no end to the air. However, the fish and the bird have never left their elements. When their activity is large their field is large. When their need is small their field is small. Thus, each of them totally covers its full range, and each of them totally experiences its· realm. If the bird leaves the air it will die at once. If the fish leaves the water it will die at once. Know that water is life and air is life. The bird is life and the fish is life. Life must be the bird and life must be the fish. It is possible to illustrate this with more analogies.
26 Practice, enlightenment, and people are like this. Now if a bird or a fish tries to reach the end of its element before moving in it, this bird or this fish will not find its way or its place. When you find your place where you are, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point. When you find your way at this moment, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point; for the place, the way, is neither large nor small, neither yours nor others’.
The place, the way, has not carried over from the past, and it is not merely arising now. Accordingly, in the practice-enlightenment of the buddha way, meeting one thing is mastering it; doing one practice is practicing completely. Here is the place; here the way unfolds. The boundary of realization is not distinct, for the realization comes forth simultaneously with the mastery of buddhadharma. Do not suppose that what you realize becomes your knowledge and is grasped by your consciousness. Although actualized immediately, the inconceivable may not be distinctly apparent. Its appearance is beyond your knowledge.
Zen master Baoche of Mount Mayu was fanning himself. A monk approached and said, “Master, the nature of wind is permanent and there is no place it does not reach. Why, then do you fan yourself?” “Although you understand that the nature of wind is permanent;” Baoche replied, “you do not understand the meaning of its reaching everywhere.” “What is the meaning of its reaching everywhere?” asked the monk again. The master just kept fanning himself. The monk bowed deeply. The actualization of the buddha-dharma, the vital path of its correct transmission, is like this.
If you say that you do not need to fan yourself because the nature of wind is permanent and you can have wind without fanning, you will understand neither permanence nor the nature of wind. The nature of wind is permanent; because of that, the wind of the Buddha’s house brings forth the gold of the earth and makes fragrant the cream of the long river.
Universal guidelines for the practice of zazen by master Dogen, 1227
This text Dogen wrote when he came back from China and Japan and began to teach Zen.
Recommending Zazen to All People
Translated by Ed Brown & Kazuaki Tanahashi
in Kazuaki Tanahashi, edit., Moon in a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dogen,
(N.Y.: North Point Press; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1985), pp. 29-30.
The essential way flows everywhere; how could it require practise or enlightenment? The essential teaching is fully available; how could effort be necessary? Furthermore, the entire mirror is free of dust; why take steps to polish it? Nothing is separate from this very place; why journey away?
And yet, if you miss the mark even by a strand of hair, you are as far apart from it as heaven from earth. If the slightest discrimination occurs, you will be lost in confusion. You may be proud of your understanding and have abundant realization, or you may have acquired outstanding wisdom and attained the way by clarifying the mind. However, even with high aspirations, if you wander about and get an initial glimpse of understanding, you may still lack the vital path that allows you to leap free of the body.
Observe the example of Shakyamuni Buddha at the Jeta Grove, who practised upright sitting for six years even though he was gifted with intrinsic wisdom. Still celebrated is the Master Bodhidharma of Shaolin Temple, who sat facing the wall for nine years, although he had already received the mind seal. Ancient sages were like this; who nowadays does not need to practise as they did?
Stop searching for phrases and chasing after words. Take the backward step and turn the light inward. Your body-mind of itself will drop away and your original face will appear. If you want to attain just this, immediately practise just this.
For zazen a quiet room is appropriate. Drink and eat in moderation. Let go of all involvement and let myriad things rest. Do not think good or bad. Do not judge right or wrong. Stop conscious endeavour and analytic introspection. Do not try to become a buddha. How could being a buddha be limited to sitting or not sitting?
In an appropriate place for sitting, set out a thick mat and put a round cushion on top of it. Sit either in the full- or half-lotus posture. For the full-lotus posture, first place the right foot on the left thigh, then the left foot on the right thigh. For the half-lotus posture, place the left foot on the right thigh. Loosen the robes and belts and arrange them in an orderly way. Then place the right hand palm up on the left foot, and the left hand on the right hand, with the ends of the thumbs lightly touching each other.
Sit straight up without leaning to the right or left and without bending forward or backward. The ears should be in line with the shoulders and the nose in line with the navel. Rest the tongue against the roof of the mouth, with lips and teeth closed. Keep the eyes open and breathe gently through the nose.
Having adjusted your body in this manner, take a breath and exhale fully, then sway your body to left and right. Now sit steadfastly and think not thinking. How do you think not thinking? Beyond thinking. This is the essential art of zazen.
The zazen I speak of is not learning meditation. It is simply the dharma gate of enjoyment and ease. It is the practise-realization of complete enlightenment. Realize the fundamental point free from the binding of nets and baskets. Once you experience it, you are like a dragon swimming in the water or a tiger reposing in the mountains. Know that the true dharma emerges of itself, clearing away hindrances and distractions.
When you stand up from sitting, move your body slowly and rise calmly, without haste. We understand from the past that going beyond the ordinary and sacred, where sitting and standing are effortless and boundless, depends solely on the power of zazen.
Furthermore, to bring forth the fundamental turning point by raising a finger, a pole, a needle, or a mallet, or to precipitate realization with a whisk, a fist, a stick, or a shout cannot be understood by discriminatory thinking. How can it be understood by the use of supernatural powers? Zazen is an awesome presence beyond form and description. How is it not the path prior to conception?
Thus do not be concerned with who is wise and who is foolish. Do not discriminate the sharp from the dull. To practise wholeheartedly is the true endeavour of the way. Practise-realization is not defiled, not special. It is a matter for every day.
Now in this human world and in other realms, in India and China, buddha ancestors invariably have maintained the buddha seal and upheld the teaching of zazen practise immersed in steadfastness. Although circumstances may vary in a thousand ways, just practise zazen, giving yourself fully to the realization of the way. Why give up the sitting platform of your own house and wander uselessly in the dust of a remote land? Once a wrong step is taken, you depart from the way.
Having received a human life, do not waste the passing moments,. Already upholding the buddha way, why indulge in the sparks from a flint? After all, form is like a dewdrop on the grass, life is like a flash of lightning – transient and illusory, gone in a moment.
Honoured practitioners of the way, do not grope for the elephant or doubt the true dragon. Endeavour on the immediate and straightforward way. Revere the mind that goes beyond study with effortless effort and surpasses all doing. Experience the enlightenment of the buddhas and correctly inherit the samadhi of the ancestors. Practise thusness continuously, and you will be thus. The treasury will open of itself for you to use as you wish.