The Song of Meditation

A COMMENTARY BY AMAKUKI SESSAN

ABBOT AMAKUKI delivered these lectures over the Kyoto Radio early in the 1930’s, and soon afterwards revised them for publication. There are certain peculiarities of style for which the reader should be prepared. To illustrate the Zen principle that sacred and everyday are not distinct, he sets the sonorous Chinese monosyllables of the sutras against light Japanese colloquialisms; compassion and irony, sublimity and familiarity, are deliberately juxtaposed.

He has a special technique of repetition of a key phrase in different contexts; this is a hint for working on the koan. Another well-known feature of Zen style is to punctuate a narrative with short comments, sometimes no more than ejaculations, to point the incidents of the story.

Readers will notice the fondness for a concrete illustration rather than a universal principle, and for action rather than abstraction; these are characteristic of Japanese Zen, particularly in its expression as poetry.

THE SONG OF MEDITATION

All beings are from the very beginning Buddhas.
It is like water and ice:
Apart from water, no ice,
Outside living beings, no Buddhas.
Not knowing it is near, they seek it afar. What a pity!
It is like one in the water who cries out for thirst;
– It is like the child of a rich house who has strayed away among the poor.
The cause of our circling through the six worlds Is that we are on the dark paths of ignorance.
Dark path upon dark path treading,
When shall we escape from birth-and-death?
The Zen meditation of the Mahayana Is beyond all our praise.
Giving and morality and the other perfections,
Taking of the Name, repentance, discipline,
And the many other right actions,
All come back to the practice of meditation.
By the merit of a single sitting He destroys innumerable accumulated sins.
How should there be wrong paths for him?
The Pure Land paradise is not far.
When in reverence this truth is heard even once,
He who praises it and gladly embraces it has merit without end.
How much more he who turns within And confirms directly his own nature,
That his own nature is no-nature
Such has transcended vain words.
The gate opens, and cause and effect are one;
Straight runs the way—not two, not three.
Taking as form the form of no-form,
Going or returning} he is ever at home.
Taking as thought the thought of no-thought,
Singing and dancing, all is the voice of truth.
Wide is the heaven of boundless Samadhi,
Radiant the full moon of the fourfold wisdom.
What remains to be sought? Nirvana is clear before him,
This very place the Lotus paradise, this very body the Buddha

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