The flower hall on Buddha’s birthday – Koan 41

No. 41. The flower hall on Buddha’s birthday

The nun Mydan of Tokeiji practised Zen in interviews with Tanei, the 74th teacher at Enkakuji, who set her as koans the poems composed by Yodo (5th abbess of Tokeiji and a former princess) and her attendants. These poems were on the theme of gathering and arranging the flowers on the birthday of the Buddha. The poem of Yodo is:

Decorate the heart of the beholder,

For the Buddha of the flower hall Is nowhere else.

TESTS

  1. By what do you recognize the heart of the beholder?

  2. Say how you would decorate the flower hall.

  3. If it is to worship a Buddha who is nowhere else than in the heart, then what do you want with a flower hall? Say!

The poem of Ika, a former court lady is:

Throw away into the street the years of the past. What is born instead, on the flower dais,

Let it raise its new-born cry.

No. 14 Princess Yodo, fifth abbess of Tokeiji

(International Society for Educational Information, Tokyo)


TESTS

  1. When the years have been thrown away, what is it that is born in their place?

  2. Let this teacher here and now listen to the new-born cry.

  3. Where is the flower dais?

The poem of the nun Myoko is:

Born, and forgetting the parents who bore it – The parents who are Shaka and Amida.

TESTS

  1. What does the poem mean?

  2. Where is the birth?

  3. Where are Shaka and Amida?

  4. Speak a word of when parents and child come face to face.

The poem of the nun Atoku, another of the attendants, is:

Coming out from the Buddha-womb To become myself,

Now let it ring out – the Dharma’s new-born cry! TESTS

  1. What is it like in the Buddha-womb?

  2. Let the Dharma’s new-born cry ring out.

(Imai’s note: Master Tanei used these poems ofYodo and her attendants, sung by them on the birthday festival of the Buddha on April 8, as koans for the nuns of Tokeiji. And in the Kamakura temples generally, these and other koans on everyday things were given first to novices and nuns who had scanty literary attainments, before any classical Chinese koan.)

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