Comments on the Heart Sutra

 


 

The Heart Sutra

MAHA PRAJNA PARAMITA HEART SUTRA

("Great Wisdom Beyond Wisdom Heart Sutra")

Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, when practicing deeply the Prajna Paramita, then, at that time, perceived the emptiness of the five skandhas and was saved from all suffering.

O Shariputra, form does not differ from emptiness; emptiness does not differ from form. That which is form is emptiness; that which is emptiness is form. The same is true of feelings, perceptions, formations, consciousness.

O Shariputra, all things are empty appearances.  They are unborn and undying, not stained or pure, do not increase or decrease.  Therefore in emptiness, there are no forms, no feelings, no perceptions, no conceptions and no consciousness;  no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no color, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no object of mind; no realm of sight....until we come to no realm of mind-consciousness; no ignorance and also no extinction of it...until we come to no old-age and death and no extinction of old age and death;  no suffering, no karma, no ceasing, no way, no wisdom, no attaining, as nothing is attained.

A bodhisattva depends on Prajna Paramita and his mind is unhindered; as it is unhindered, it knows no fear; he is far removed from all delusion, and has reached final nirvana.  The Buddhas of the past, present and future depend on Prajna Paramita and thus attain the highest enlightenment.    Therefore, know that Prajna Paramita is the great transcendent mantra, the great and glorious mantra,  the highest mantra, the incomparable mantra, which is able to relieve all suffering, and is true, not false.   Therefore, I will preach the Prajna
Paramita mantra, the mantra that says:

Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha!


 


 

Dokugo Shingyo

Acid Comments on the Heart Sutra

by

 Hakuin
 

Capping Words and Verses*

A blind old geezer in a dark cave thick with a maze of vines and creepers. Stark naked, he returns and sits in the weeds. Poor Master Fu, it's a pity he's going to lose all his lovely mansions!   And don't say these words are cold and indifferent, that they have no taste. One bellyful eliminates hunger for all time.

Casting a forest of thorns over the entire universe,
He wraps in its tangles every monk on earth;
I pray you will recognize the Way to Deliverance,
And enjoy yourselves hawking inside a lotus thread.

* These first capping words refer to the structure of the following commentary on the Heart Sutra by Hakuin.


MAHA*

The Chinese translation for this is "great". But what is it! There's nothing in all the universe you can compare it to.   Almost everyone thinks it means "wide and vast" -- they're wrong!   Even a Superior Man has a love of wealth, but he knows the proper way to get it.    Bring me a small prajna!

Ten million Mount Sumerus in a dewdrop on a hair-tip;
The billions of space-time worlds in a fleck of foam on the sea;
A pair of young lads in the eyes of a midge
Romp all over India, vying without a break.

* In this section, and the four sections that follow, Hakuin comments on the words which make up the title of the sutra. 


PRAJNA

The Chinese translation for this is "wisdom".  All, without exception, have it to perfection. Will there ever be an end to this fellow's playing with mud pies? You'll never see it until your fingers let go from the edge of the cliff. Why? Don't trim your nails by lamplight.  You might get an inchworm to measure lengths, but don't ask a snail to plow a rocky field.

Ears like the dumb, eyes like the blind.
In the empty sky in the dead of night, the whole body is lost.
Even Shariputra* can't get a close look. 
The clubfooted Persian** has crossed at another ford.

* The wisest of the Buddha's disciples.

** A possible reference to Bodhidharma and the "transmission outide the scriptures".

 

-PARAMITA

The Chinese translation for this is "reach the other shore". But where is that! He's digging himself into a hole to get at the blue sky. Shrimps wriggle and jump, but they don't escape the dipper.   The place where the Treasure is lies near at hand -- take one more step!   Gensha is in his boat, the water dripping from his line. Even the clearest-eyed monk is secretly troubled.

Is there a soul on earth who's a man of "this shore"?
How sad to mistakenly stand on a wave-lashed quay!
Practice pursued with the roots to life still uncut
Is a senseless struggle, however long it lasts. 

 

HEART

For untold ages this didn't have a name. Then they blundered and gave it one. A speck of gold in the eye shadows vision; robes and beads are just another blemish on the Dharma. What is THIS!  Most people only think they have the real thing, like the fellow who confused a saddle-remnant for his father's jawbone. Those who study the Way are unaware of its reality -- simply because from the outset they have accepted all their discriminations as being true.   Those have been the very source of birth-and-death since the beginning of time, yet the fools take them to be the fundamental, essential Self.

It's clearly ungettable within the Three Worlds*—
An empty sky swept clean away. Not a particle left.
On the zazen seat, in the dead of night, cold as steel;
Moonlight through a window, bright with shadows of plum!

* The worlds of the past, present and future.

 

SUTRA

"Thus have I heard.  The Buddha was once..…" Faugh! *  Who wants to roll that open! So many people rummage through piles of paper trash looking for their "red and yellow scripture- scrolls". It's just another clove plucked off the lily bulb.

This is one sutra they didn't compile
Inside their cave at Pippali.
Kumarajiva had no words to translate it;
Ananda himself couldn't get wind of it.
At the north window, icy drafts whistle through the cracks,
At the south pond, wild geese sport in snowy reeds.
Above, the mountain seems pinched thin with cold;
Freezing clouds threaten to break up.
Buddhas could descend upon this world in their thousands,
But they wouldn't add or subtract a thing.

* A reference to the traditional opening of a Buddhist sutra.


Avalokiteshvara  (KANZEON)  *

Why, it's the Bodhisattva of Potala Cliff! He's the Great Fellow supplied one to each of us. Nowhere on earth can you find a single unfree man! Coughing, spitting, moving your arms—you don't need others to help you. Who's clapped chains on you? Who's holding you back?  If you stretch your left hand up, you can scratch a Buddha's head.  If you bend down your right hand, you can feel a dog's head; on what day will you be able to escape this?

Fingers clasp and feet walk on without the help of others,
While thoughts and emotions pile up great stocks of Wrong;
But cast out all pros and cons, and all likes and dislikes,
And I'll call you Kanzeon in the flesh!

* The sutra proper begins here with the description of Avalokiteshvara's entrance into samadhi prior to teaching.  Kanzeon is a Japanese name for him.

 
Bodhisattva,

To show his difference from the Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas, and to set him apart from full-fledged Buddhas as well, he is given the provisional name of Bodhisattva.  He's on the road, but he hasn't budged from home; he's away from home constantly, but he's not on the road.    I'll snatch from you the practice of the Four Universal Vows -- that's the very thing that will make you Superior Men, able in both directions.

Flying the formless nest of the self that's Empty,
Adrift, sinking in karmic seas, in the great life-and-death Ocean—
Hail, Great Compassionate One, Emancipator from Suffering,
In hundreds of millions of bodies, through boundless space and time!


when practicing deeply

What's he saying?!  He's just making waves.  Stirring up trouble.   Nights sleeping, days on the move. Pissing and taking shits.  Clouds moving and water flowing.  Leaves falling and flowers scattering.   But hesitate or stop to think, and Hell rears up in all its hellish forms.  

Yes, practice is like that all right, but unless you penetrate by the sweat of your own brow and see it for yourself, there is trouble in store for you and plenty of it!

What of the movements of your hands and feet?
What of eating when hungry and drinking when thirsty?
If any of these betrays even the slightest characteristics,
You're killing Chaos by boring holes to make eyes.*

* An illusion to Chuang Tzu's allegory of Konton (Chaos).   When the gods decided to give Chaos all the senses that they themselves possessed, as a reward for his silent help in creating a new world, he died. 

 

the Prajna Paramita,

Bah! Gouging out flesh and making wounds. How strange, this "prajna" of his!   Just what is it like?  Deep?   Shallow?  Like river water?  Can you tell me, what kind of prajna has deeps and shallows?  I'm afraid it's a case of mistaken identity, confusing the pheasant with the phoenix.  

Annihilating Form in the quest for Emptiness—this is called shallow;
Seeing Emptiness in the fullness of Form—this is called deep.
If you talk of prajna holding fast to Form and Emptiness,
You're like a lame tortoise in a glass jug chasing a flying bird.


then, at that time,

He's done it again! Scraping out another piece of perfectly good flesh. Before all the infinite
kalpas in the past, and beyond all those to come, the Feather-edged Blade gleams coldly in its scabbard-case with a wonderful vibrant radiance. A luminous gem brought forth on its setting in the black of night.

Yesterday morning I swept out the soot of the old year;
Tonight I pound rice for the New Year goodies;
There's a pine tree with roots, and oranges with green leaves—
I put on a fresh new robe to await the coming guests.


perceived

The invincible Diamond Eye is free of even the finest dusts. But don't go blinking it open over a bed of flying lime-dust! Where does this "perceiving" take place? The entire earth is the eyeball of a Buddhist monk. It's just as Gensha said.

A midge works a mill in the eye of a mite;
A germ spins a web inside a nit's ear;
Tushita heaven, the world of man, the floors of hell,
Stark clear as a mango on the palm of the hand.


the emptiness of the five skandhas*

The sacred turtle's tail sweeps away all his tracks. But how can the tail help leaving tracks of its own?   Forms are like the Iron Surrounding Mountains, reception and perception like the Diamond Sword, conception and consciousness like the Gem that fulfils the heart's desires.  But you must realize how far there is to go.   Before you know it, darkness can overtake you once again.

You see another's Five and you think that's you,
Then you cling to them, with personal pride or shame,
It's like a bubble that forms on the surface of waves,
Or like the lightning that flashes across the sky.

* The five skandhas are the five constituent parts which are said to comprise a conscious individual - form , reception, perception, conception and consciousness.

 

and was saved from all suffering.

That shadow in the guest's cup was never a snake.*  How clear, in a dream, the Three Worlds are.  When you wake, all is empty, all the myriad worlds are Mu.

The ogre outside shoves at the door, the ogre inside holds it fast;
Poring sweat from head to foot, battling for their very lives,
Fighting on all through the night, until the dawn appears,
And laughter fills the early light.  They were friends from the start!  

* In reference to a Chinese story in which a guest at a provincial governer's house imagines that he sees a snake on the surface of his wine.   In deference to his host, he gulps down his wine nonetheless and then excuses himself, rushes home and becomes ill - not realizing that he had been fooled by an illusion.  The "snake" he saw was, in fact, a shadow cast by a bow hanging on the wall.     The story is meant to illustrate that man's suffering is caused by his delusions.


O Shariputra,*

Phuh!   What could that puny-fruited Arhat possible have to offer!  Around here, even Buddhas and Patriarchs have to beg their lives.   Where is he going to hide, with his "Hinayana face and Mahayana heart"? **  At Vimalakirti's place, he could not even get his manhood back.  Surely, he hasn't forgotten the way he sweated and squirmed? ***   

In the Deer Park his wisdom surpassed all the rest.
He startled Uncle Long Nails while still in the womb.
He went himself to the Great One, leaving us this text.
He was Rahula's religious teacher, the Mynah Woman's son.

* The teaching has now begun and is directed to Shariputra.

** A saying from the Lotus Sutra, referring to a person who gives the outward appearance of a Hinayanist, while possessing the seeds of Mahayana inside him.

*** In reference to a Buddhist story in which a woman upstages Shariputra in a debate about wisdom. 


form does not differ from emptiness; emptiness does not differ from form.

A nice kettle of stew, and he plops a couple of rat's turds in and ruins it.   It's no good pushing delicacies at a man with a full belly.  Striking aside waves to look for water when the waves are water!

Form doesn't mask emptiness, emptiness is the essence of form;
Emptiness doesn't break up form, form embodies emptiness.
Form and emptiness are non-dual within the gates of Dharma,
Where a lame turtle brushing his eyebrows stands in the evening breeze.


That which is form is emptiness; that which is emptiness is form.

Rubbish!  What a useless collection of junk!   There's no teaching apes how to climb trees. These are goods that have been gathering dust on the shelves for two thousand years.  Gensha sits in his boat, water dripping from his line.

A warbler pipes intermittently in the spring breeze;
By the peach trees a thin mist hovers in the warm sun.
A group of young girls, "cicada heads and moth-eyebrows," *
Carry blossom-sprays, one over each brocade shoulder. 

 * Describes the hairdos and (moth-feeler) eyebrows of beautiful women. 


The same is true of feelings, perceptions, conceptions, and consciousness.

Just look at him now wallowing lying in the sow-grass!  When you encounter strange phantoms without alarm. they self-destruct.    Snow Buddhas are terrible eyesores when the sun comes out.  You certainly won't see strange things like these around my place. 

Earth, wind, fire, and water are the tracks left when a bird takes flight;
Forms, reception, perception, and conception are sparks in a man's eye.
A stone woman works a shuttle, skinny elbows flying. 
A mud ox barrels through the surf, baring her teeth.  


O Shariputra, all things are empty appearances.

Like rubbing your eyes to make yourself see flowers in the air.    If all things don't exist to begin with, then what do we want with "empty appearances"?   He is defecating and spraying pee all over a clean yard.

The earth, its rivers and hills, are castles in the air,
Heavens and hells, a bogey bazaar atop the ocean waves;
The Pure Land and this impure world are brushes of turtles hair,
Samsara and Nirvana are hare-horn riding whips

 


They are unborn and undying, not stained or pure, do not increase or decrease.

Real front-page stuff!  But is that really the way it is?   How did you hit upon the part about everything being "unborn and undying"?   You'd better not swindle us!   An elbow doesn't bend outwards.

The little chap in your eyes are awaiting their guests;
The Valley Spirit* never dies; she's expecting your call.
No one gets dirty living in the world of men;
There's not a clean face in all the Buddha's pure lands.
With 84,000 Dharma-gates as your lot in life, isn't that enough?
Billions of Buddha-lands are contained in next to nothing.
It is just like the pillow-prince of Handan,
Or the tax-collector of Nanke, raking in the levy.**

* The Valley Spirit is the mountain spirit Echo (cf. Tao Te Ching), who has no self but always responds when someone calls out.

** A young scholar leaves home to take the literary examinations at the capital and stops for lunch at a place called Handan. While waiting for the millet to be boiled for his meal, he takes a nap.  He dreams that he has passed the exmaination with flying colours, and that, advancing through an illustrious career spanning fifty years, he finally attains the post of prime minister.  When he awakes to find the millet is still on the fire, he realizes that  life is an empty dream and returns home. 

Ch'un-yu falls asleep under a locust tree.  He dreams that he goes to a fabulous country where he is met by an imperial envoy in a fine carriage who takes him to the palace of the king.  The king tells him of Nanke, a difficult-to-govern district  in his realm and asks him to assume its administration. He receives a beautiful imperial princess as a bride, has many fine children, and under his rule the people become wealthy enough to pay him taxes and make him a rich man.   Then one day a messenger arrives from the king to tell him the kingdom is in danger and the capital has to be moved.   He is asked to return to his original home until he is needed.   A carriage comes for him, and as he is driven away, he wakes up.  That evening, there is a great storm.  An anthill in a hole in the trunk of the locust tree is found destroyed by the rain and deserted.,  The ants had all left before the storm. 

 

Therefore, in emptiness,

A regular jackal's den.  A cave of shadowy ghosts.  How many pilgrims have fallen in here!  A deep black pit.  The unutterable darkness of the grave.  What a terrifying place!

Over a hundred cold, hungry monks, a Phoenix brotherhood,
Spread their winter fans and offer New Year's greetings;
On the wall hangs a blue-eyed old man with a purple beard;*
In a jar are fragrant flowers of the chaste plum;
Cold to muffle even the warbler's bright clear cries,
Warmth rising to the Zen seats from red-hot coals;
There are presents of wild yams, in plaits of straw,
And for old men, sugared sweets, laid in their wrappers.

* Bodhidharma


there are no forms, no feelings, no perceptions, no conceptions and no consciousness;

"Dreams, delusions, flowers in the air -- why take the trouble to grasp them?  Profit and loss and right and wrong must all be chucked out."  This scrupulousness of his only stirs up trouble.   What's the good of making everything an empty void?

A boundless, unencumbered place, perfect, open, still;
Earth and hills and rivers are but names, nothing more.
The Mind may be quartered, and Forms lumped into one,
But they're both still just echoes in empty ravines.


no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no colour, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no object of mind; no realm of sight....until we come to no realm of mind-consciousness;

Well, I have eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind!   And forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touch and thoughts do exist!   Beneath an empty autumn sky stretch endless wastes where no man goes.  Do you know the horseman riding from the west? 

When the Six Senses slightly stir, Six Fields appear;
When the Mind-Root rests, the Six Dusts rest as well.
The Roots, the Fields and Senses, all Eighteen Realms --
Just a bubble of foam on a great shoreless sea.


no ignorance and also no extinction of it ....until we come to no old-age and death and no extinction of old age and death;

Pearls scattered inside purple curtains. Pearls packed inside filthy beggar-bags; it takes a wise man to know that those are jewels.   The water that a cow drinks turns to cream; the water that a snake drinks turns to poison.  The twelve-storied mansions where sages dwell are wrapped in perpetual five-coloured clouds far beyond man's reach. 

Twelve causes are produced and twelve are destroyed, *
The producers are called common men and destroyers called sages;
Such is the world the Solitary Buddha sees,
The dust in his eyes spinning about in Emptiness.
Who can really see the dust floating in his eyes?
O cherished Dharma Wheel, great, perfect, round, sudden!
Make your way into its light, confirm the dusts yourselves,
Break free of those leprous fox-carcass shells!

* This refers to the 12-linked chain of causation as described in Buddhism: ignorance, disposition, consciousness, name and form, the sense organs, touch, feeling, desire, clinging, becoming, birth, old age and death. 

 

no suffering, no karma, no ceasing, no way,*  

Shining gems in the dawn light beyond the bamboo light.   The fool meets them with sword raised.   The salt in the seawater, the size in the paint.  Egrets settling in a field, a thousand flakes of snow.  A warbler alighting on a bough, a tree branch all in flower.   

Four burning bullets, red to the core, put on
Straw sandals at midnight and rise beyond the clouds;
The Four Truths (pain, karma, extinction, Way)
Neither end nor are born, are neither perfect nor sudden.
Kaundinya, Bhadrika, Kulika and the others,**
Got their Face-Gates burnt off before they even knew it.
Don't think the Golden Sage was netting shrimps in Deer Park;
He was secretly anticipating the Mahayana roots.***

* The Heart Sutra is now negating the Four Noble Truths preached by Buddha. 

** These men were among the first to receive the Buddha's teaching of the Four Noble Truths in the Deer Park, and, according to legend,  the first to attain enlightenment.

*** According to Hakuin, the Buddha's teaching wasn't really directed towards the small-fry Arhats like Kaundinya and the others in the Deer Park.  His true objective was the planting of Mahayana seeds, leading to the eventual arisal of Bodhisattvas.   


no wisdom, no attaining,

Setting up house in the grave again!   So many misunderstand these words!  A dead man peeping bug-eyed from a coffin.   You can shout yourself hoarse at Prince Chang painted there on the paper, you'll not get a peep out of him!  

A black fire burning with a dark, gem-like brilliance, 
Draining heaven and earth of their yellows and blacks;
Mountains and rivers are not seen in the mirror of Mind,
A hundred million worlds agonize, all for nothing.

 

as nothing is attained. 

Get him out of here!  A thief pleading innocence with the stolen goods in his hands.   Acting by circumstances, in response to sentient beings wherever he may be, but still never leaving the Bodhisattva Seat.   Unless you're clear about three and eight and nine, you'll have a lot to think about as you confront the world. 

Bodhisattva, Great Being!
In Chinese, "Sentient Hero with Great Heart."
He enters the Three Ways, taking men's suffering upon himself.
Unbidden, he proceeds joyfully through every realm;
He vows never to accept the meager fruist of partial truth;
While pursuing higher enlightenment himself, he works to save others.
The vast void of boundless space could cease to be, still he'd
Eternally urge on the wheel of his vow for the benefit of us all.


A bodhisattva depends on Prajna Paramita,

What a choke-pear!  He's gagging on it!  If you catch sight of anything at all to depend on, spit it out at once!  I'm able to endure the northern wastes of Yuchou, but the mildness of Chiangnan is sheer agony. *

Tell us you've discovered greed and anger in Saints if you like,
But don't give us that about Bodhisattvas depending on wisdom.
If you see a single thing around to depend on,
That's not "unhindered" -- you're tied in chains! 

Bodhisattva and Prajna are essentially the same,
Like pearls rolling on a tray, light, random, uninhibited.
He's neither worldly nor saintly, stupid nor wise --
What a shame, when you draw a snake, to add a leg.

* Yuchou is in the far north - cold, barren and inhospitable.  Apparently, Chiangnan is wonderfully mild.


and his mind is unhindered; as it is unhindered, it knows no fear; he is far removed from all delusion,

That's nothing special. Supernatural powers and marvellous activity are just drawing water and carrying firewood. Raising my head, I see the sun setting over my old home in the west. 

Not Mind nor Buddha-nature nor Nirvana,
Neither Buddha, Patriarch, nor Wisdom;
Ten Worlds* of ungraspable red-hot holeless hammer
Shattering empty space into immense and lasting serenity.

Just parting his lips, he utters mighty lion roars,
Scaring the life out of foxes, rabbits and badgers.
Wizard-like, assuming the form of whatever is before him,
Changing freely according to situations at hand.

When he hears of  Mother Li's ailing left shoulder,
He cauterizes Granny Chang's right leg.
Delusive thoughts, fears, sorrows and all the rest
Are just a drop of water cast into a bottomless gorge.

When Ch'ih was dispatched to Ch'i, he wore fine light furs;
When Li passed away, his coffin was plain, with no outer casing.
They wake the priest from his midday nap in the hermitage to tell him
Village boys have broken the hedge and are stealing bamboo shoots.

* Ten Worlds: the Six Realms of Illusion (Hell, Hungry Ghosts, Animals, Fighting Demons, Devas, Humans)  and the Four Realms of Enlightenment (Shravaka, Solitary Buddha, Bodhisattva, Buddha).   Hence, all the realms of ignorance and enlightenment.


and has reached final nirvana.

This is the hole pilgrims all walk into; they fill it up year after year.    He's gone off again to flit with the ghosts.  It's worse than stinking socks!   The uprightmen of our tribe are not like this. With us, the father conceals for the sake of the son, the son for the sake of the father.*

The mentality of Birth-and-Death of all beings
Is directly connected to the Buddha's Great Nirvana.
A wooden hen sits upon a coffin brooding on an egg;
An earthen mare follows the wind back home to the barn.

* Hakuin believes that the Heart Sutra is being too indiscreet.    He considered it harmful to talk about concepts such as "Final Nirvana" to his students.  


The Buddhas of past, present, and future depend upon Prajna Paramita, 

By holding a good man down he cheapens him.  The body is good enough without painting it with rouge; it has its own natural elegance and grace.  There's no cold water in a boiling cauldren.

Wisdom brings forth all Buddhas of the past, present and future,
All Buddhas enact this wisdom.
Acting as master and attendant inexhaustibly ... OMCSULU!*
Cranes screech in an old nest lashed by the wind. 

* OMSCULU is supposedly a magic charm or spell invoked in "esoteric Buddhism" to bring about a desired result.  Hakuin is using it in a humorous manner, magically conjuring up all the Buddhas of the past, present and future by his own wisdom.


and thus attain the highest enlightenment.

Don't go hammering spikes into empty space!   Even though calves develop the ability to give birth to offspring, no Buddha ever became enlightened by relying on prajna.   And why? Because prajna and enlightenment are essentially not two.   And besides, if he has anything at all to attain, he is no Tathagata.  It's just like a blazing fire -- if  Buddhas and Patriarchs come too close, they get burned to death like everyone else.

An otter will be catching fish in treetops far sooner
Than a Buddha is enlightened by relying on anything.
And declaring a Tahtagata has something to attain
Is like asking an arhat about his wife.*

* Naturally, arhats are celibate.
 

Therefore, know that Prajna Paramita is the great transcendent mantra,

Carrying water to sell by the river.  Don't drag that old chipped lacquer-ware out here!  Transcribe a word three times, and a crow becomes a how and then ends up a horse.*    He is trying to palm off shoddy goods again, like some little shopkeeper.   When walking at night, don't tread on anything white -- if it's not water, it's usually a stone. **

Cherish the Great Charm of your own nature,
That turns a hot iron ball into finest sweetest manna;.
Heaven, Hell, and the Floating World of Men --
A snowflake falling on a red-hot stove.

* The three Japanese characters for "crow", "how", and "horse" have ideographic elements closely in common, and when texts were copied and recopied by hand, scribes sometimes confused them, often changing the original meaning of the text completely.

** Don't rely on anything that appears to you; it is part of the world of illusion.

 
the great and glorious mantra,

Don't say "great and glorious mantra"!  Break apart the unhewn staff you found in the mountains for support.   The great earth's darkness stretches out on every side.  Heaven and earth lose their shapes and colours.  The sun and moon swallow their light.  Black ink pouring into a black-lacquer tub.

Great and glorious Mantra, already perfect in every man,
Casts a calm illumination over all the mountains and rivers in the world.
The vast, barrier-like ocean of our age-long sins vanishes,
Like foam bubbles atop waves, like sparks with the eyes.
  


the highest mantra,

And what about down around your toes?   Bring me the lowest mantra!  One feels tender affinity for the autumn leaves falling amidst pattering drops of rain.  Yet how can that compare to the intimate richness of sunset clouds glowing over bearded fields of grain?

The Finest, the Noblest, the First,
Enthralling even Sakya and Maitreya,
This is what everyone is equipped with from the beginning,
But we each have to die, and then be reborn. 


the incomparable mantra,

Talk!  He talks and two stakes appear.  What ever happened to that single Stake?  Where is it now?  Who said, "there is no equal anywhere, above, below, or in the four quarters?"  He has broken it up into little bits, there are pieces strewn all over.   That idle old gimlet Teyun*, how many times is he going to come down from the summit of Wonder Peak? He hires a foolish old saint to help him fill up a well with snow.

Last winter the plum was bitter cold;
A dash of rain, a burst of bloom!
Its shadow is cast by the moon's pale light,
Its secret fragrance carried on the spring breeze.
Yesterday, you were only a snow-covered tree,
Today, your boughs are starred with blossom!
What cold and suffering have you weathered,
Venerable queen of the flower rain!

* From a poem.   Teyun is a man of deep attainment, a Bodhisttva, who, although he looks old and idle, descends to the world and benefits others with his foolish Zennish acts. 


which is capable of removing all suffering, 

Picking a lily bulb apart to find the centre. Whittling a square bamboo staff perfectly round.  Ripping the threads from a Persian carpet. Nine times nine is, now and always, eighty-one. Nineteen and twenty-nine meet, but neither offers its hand.

When you pass the test of Mind and Emptiness
Your parts are instant ash;
Heavens and Hells are old broken-down furniture,
Buddha-worlds and Demon-worlds smashed into oblivion.
A yellow bird chortles ecstatic strains of "White Snow,"
A black turtle clambers up a lighthouse, sword in belt;
And anyone who wishes to enter their samadhi,
Must once pour down rivers of white-beaded sweat.


and is true, not false. 

Liar!  He's lying in his teeth right there! We rub elbows with him all day long -- How do we resemble him?

Mr An of Ch'i bumped off three gentlemen.
Scechwan Yi destroyed two generals.
Imitated a rooster crowing to give tigers the slip.
Selling dog meat, hung out a sheep's head.
Presented a deer to see who'd yield.
Wore a bee to cut off a father's hopes.
T'ao Chu led the Lady of Yueh to her death.
Chi-hsin surrendered to the King of Chu.
Swallowed down charcoal and lay in ambush under a bridge.
Threw a hairpin in and wept beside the well.
Carried the king's corpse with a load of smelly bream.
He broke his father's teeth; bite his ear.
In broad daylight, it would have been repairing, replacing;
In secret, it was crossing at Ch'en-Ts'ang.
If this is intimately seen and penetrated,
Then in the casket is a yard of glittering steel.


Therefore, I will preach the Prajna Paramita mantra,

Well, what have you been doing up till now? It's like a man who hates drunks forcing wine down your throat.  The wine being strong, it's good not to have many cups. For ten years, I haven't had to return; I forget the Way I came.

He preached it once, now he trots it out again!
Piling heaps of snow on top of heaps of snow.
There isn't any place for you to hide or escape it,
So who's the wine for?  We're all drunk to the gills!


the mantra that says:

He's at it again!  Over and over!  What about woodcutters' songs and fishermen's chanteys?  Where do they come in?  And what about warbling thrushes and twittering swallows?  Don't enter the waves and pick bubbles from the surf!

These weed-choked fields with their seven-word furrows
And the castles of verbiage in lines of five
Weren't meant for the eyes of flinty old priests, I wrote only
To help you brothers, cold and hungry in your huts;
For unless you find the Way, and transform your self,
You stay trapped and entangled down a bottomless pit.

And don't try to tell me my poems are too hard -
Face it, the problem is your own Eyeless state.
When you come to a word you don't understand, quick
Bite it at once! Chew it right to the pith!
Once you're soaked to the bone with death's cold sweat,
All the koan Zen has are yanked up, root and stem.

With toil and trouble, I too once glimpsed the Edge -
Smashed the Scale that works with a blind arm;
When that Tool of Unknowing is shattered for good,
You fill with the fierceness and courage of lions.
Zen is blessed with the power to bring this about,
Why not use it to bore through to Perfect Integrity?
People these days turn away as if it were dirt,
Who is there to carry on the life-thread of Wisdom?

Don't think I'm an old man who just likes to make poems,
My motive is one: to rouse men of talent wherever they are.
The superior will know at a glance where the arrow flies.
The mediocre will just prattle about the rhythm and rhyme.

Ssu-ma of the Sung was a true prince among men,
What a shame that eyes of such worth remained unopened!
Whenever he read difficult "hard-to-pass" koan,
He said they were riddles made to vex young monks;
For the gravest crimes man is sure to feel repentance -
Slander of the Dharma is no minor offence!
Crowds of these miscreants are at large in the world,
The Zen landscape is barren beyond belief.
If you have grasped the Mind of the Buddha-patriarchs
How could you possibly be blind to their words?


Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi, Svaha! 

The superior person is easy to serve, yet hard to please.  A falling shred of mist flies together with a lone white gull; the autumn waters are a single colour with the far autumn sky. A rain squall sweeps the sky from the hamlet in the south to the hamlet in the north. A new wife carries boxes of lunch to her mother-in-law in the fields; grandchild is fed with morsels from grandfather's mouth.

Now, in mid-winter, the first year of Enkyo,
Students of mine got together and had these words
Carved on wood; each character cost them ten cents,
And there are over two thousand in all! They wanted
To preserve these dream-babblings of mine;
For them I've added this last verse,
A tribute of thanks for their kindness.

The verses finished, I clasp my hands in prayer:
Though empty space should cease, my vow will never end. 
Any merit this praising of wisdom may bring me, I transfer
To others, to turn them to the realm of Suchness;
Trusting my life to all Buddhas, past, present and future
And to the Patriarch and Sages in all directions,
To every Deva, Naga, and Demon guarding the Law,
And every god of this Land of the Rising Sun.
I pray all the brethren living with me here,
Their Way-minds steadfast and diamond-hard,
Will move beyond the profound barrier, passing through,
And with the Gem of the Precepts ever perfect and clear
Sweep all vexing delusive demons clean out of existence,
And without rest benefit the vast suffering multitudes.

 

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