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ZAZEN MEDITATION GUIDE - Chapter 20. Some Short Sutra and Zen Verses
Following are some short Buddhist Sutra and Zen Verses easy to read and memorize which are for reciting or chanting at Zen monasteries and centers around the world and in America.
I think, they can give beginners of zazen practice some help or hint in practicing. This does not mean you have to take them with you when you are sitting in zazen. One thing to remember is that all of these here (without footnotes, interpretations or explanations) are not for praying because originally they are not prayers. They are just like something that you read sometimes; it suddenly knocks at the "doorless door" in you to open your no-mind.
They are all the excerpts from Buddhist Sutras or books on Zen. The source will be informed at the end of each. If any one of them is without its translator's name, it means they are my own.
Four Universal or Bodhisattvic Vows
Beings in my own mind are numberless, I vow to save.
Blind passions in my own mind are endless, I vow to uproot.
Dharma-gates in my own nature are unmeasurable, I vow to penetrate.
Buddha-way in my own nature is supreme, I vow to attain. 1
The Heart Sutra (Maha Prajna Paramita Hrdaya Sutra)
The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara,
from the depth of perfect wisdom
clearly saw that all the five skandas are empty,
he overcomes all suffering and distress.
Form is no other than emptiness, emptiness no other than form.
Form is only emptiness, emptiness is only form.
Feeling, thought, mental formation, and consciousness,
are also like this.
All Dharmas are empty,
neither arise nor cease,
neither stained nor pure,
neither increase nor decrease.
So, in emptiness no form,
no feeling, thought, mental formation ,or consciousness;
no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, or mind;
no color, sound, smell, taste, touch, or object of perception;
no realm of sight to no realm of consciousness;
no ignorance and also no end of ignorance,
to no age and death and also no end of age and death;
no suffering, no root of suffering, no destroying of it, and no path;
no wisdom and also no attainment.
Because no attainment,
Bodhisattvas, grounded in perfect wisdom
then there is no hindrances for their minds;
Having no hindrances, there is no fear for them,
Far beyond perverted views, they realize perfect nirvana.
All Buddhas in the past, present and future
with perfect wisdom, attain full, right, and universal enlightenment.
Therefore, you know that
the perfect wisdom is the greatest dharani
the highest, unequal dharani, the destroyer of all suffering.
the truth beyond all doubt.
Then the dharani of Prajna paramita should be proclaimed:
Gate gate para gate bodhi svaha
Gate gate para gate bodhi svaha
Gate gate para gate bodhi svaha! 2
"Affirming Faith in Mind" (Hsin-hsin-ming, Ch., Shinjimei, Jap.) Verse
by the Third Zen Patriarch Seng-ts'an (Ch., Sosan, Jap.)
The Great Way is not difficult
for those who do not pick and choose.
When love and hate do not interfere
everything is clear as it is.
When a slight distinction is made,
then earth and heaven far apart.
If you would clearly to see the truth in front of you
just drop opinions of "pro" and "con".
When like and dislike come to play
that is nothing but the mind's disease.
And not seeing the deep Truth inside
it is in vain to ponder of purifying your mind.
The Great Way is perfect and like empty space,
none is lack and none is extra in there.
Because of grasping and releasing,
your seeing into the simple truth is prevented.
Do not cling to outside objects
Nor cling to emptiness inside.
Just let your mind be calm and clear itself,
then your perverted views by themselves will go.
When you attempt to stop your mind's movements
you will find more movements of it.
If you still keep your views of duality
you will never know of unity.
And not knowing the unity
you get lost in duality.
When you insist that things are real
you miss their true reality.
When you insist that things are unreal
you also miss their true reality.
The more you talk and think of this
the further you are from the truth.
When useless thoughts and words are cut off,
there will be nowhere you cannot go through.
When you are at the root itself,
you'll know the meaning of all things.
If you run after appearances
you miss the primal source.
At the moment of awakening
Both emptiness and form are left behind.
All changes inside and outside of you
seem real because of your false views.
You do not need to search for truth,
just let your all perverted views go.
Do not abide in views of duality
and do not search at all for it.
If there is a trace of "right" or "wrong"
the True-mind is immediately lost.
Duality comes from One-mind,
But do not cling to the One.
When this One-mind gives no arising
then nothing in the world goes against.
And when nothing goes astray,
then no obstructions will arise in mind
When thoughts and the objects no longer exist
the known will fall away with the knower.
For the known exists because of the knower,
and the knower exists because of the known.
When you realize this is merely of interdependent origination,
then both at the source are just Emptiness.
In Emptiness these are not two,
in each are contained all different forms.
When coarse and fine are seen no more
how can there be taking sides?
The Great Way is limitless,
Without ease, without hard.
But those who hold to narrow views
are in doubt and worry,
That's why they're still behind in the back.
If you are clinging to anything
you surely will fall into wrong path.
Just let go of clinging mind
then all things will fall in their right places.
In essence nothing goes or stays.
When you see into the true nature of things,
your steps are with the Great Way,
thus you are taking a walk without any disturbs.
If you live in bondage to your thoughts,
you will be confused and unclear.
It is no good to live in bondage to thoughts,
what use are judgements of good and bad for?
If you want to walk the Way of Oneness,
Do not reject the objects of the six sense spheres.
When you do not reject those kinds of objects,
You are back with true enlightenment.
The wise will do nothing for anything,
but the fools put themselves in bondage.
By nature things are not different,
but the foolish cling to this and that.
To seek Mind with discursive thoughts
is certainly a grave mistake.
From deluded mind come rest and unrest,
but mind awakened goes beyond good and bad.
From delusion come all of sided-views
These dreams are nothing but the flowers of air,
why work so hard to seize them for what?
Both gain and loss, right and wrong,
Once and for all just let them go without hesitancy.
If your eyes are no longer in sleep,
All dreams will vanish away themselves.
If your mind does not discriminates,
All things will be as it is, as One.
Such-ness in essence is mysterious,
without any entanglements in it.
When all things are seen with non-discrimination mind
then you are back to your self-nature.
The non-discriminative mind goes beyond
All reasons and comparisons.
When stop movement, there is no movement to stop,
when movement stops, there is no stop of movement.
When both of them can't be established
how could the oneness can be?
In the ultimate truth,
is there any rule or standard can be used?
When your equal mind accords to the Way,
all ego-centered strivings cease.
doubts and confusions disappear;
and your faith accords to Truth.
There is nothing that leaves no races to you
and nothing that is able to recall.
All is self-revealing, empty and clear.
without any exerting effort of mind.
This state of truth is the state of no thoughts
and no feeling can be available in here.
In the world of Such-ness,
There is neither self nor other.
To enter the world of Such-ness,
Just affirm "not-two".
"Not-two" means all is the same,
Therefore, nothing is apart or outside of it.
The wise in ten directions
all enter to that source.
It's not short or long,
One instance is ten thousand years.
Not here, not there
It's right in front of your very eye.
The smallest equals to the large,
because their difference no longer makes any distinctions to you.
The largest equals the small,
there is no limitations to see .
That which is is not,
that which is not is.
If this is not clear to you,
Do not hesitate [to practice].
One is all and all is one…
If this is clear to you,
Do not worry that it won't be finished.
Faith and mind are "not two"
"Not two" is faith and mind.
It is beyond words and thoughts
There is no yesterday, no tomorrow, no today. 3
Harmony of Difference and Equality (Ts'an-tung-ch'i (Ch., Sandokai, Jap.) Verse
by Zen master Shi-t'ou Hsi-ch'ien, Ch.) (Sekito Kisen, Jap).
The mind of the great sage of India,
is secretly transmitted from west to east.
While human capacities of understanding are sharp or dull,
In the Way, there are no Ancestors of North or South.
The true source is bright and pure
The branching streams flow in the dark.
Clinging to things is delusion.
To recognize principle is not enlightenment.
The five sense gates and the five sense objects
Are interdependent and not interdependent,
Interdependent and bring involvement,
Yet each of them stays in its own position.
Form has various qualities and shapes
Sound is different from pleasure and suffering.
Superior and inferior words are not separated in the darkness,
Purity and impurity are apparent in the brightness.
The four elements return themselves to their nature,
Like a child gets back to his own mother.
Fire is hot and wind blows
Water wets and earth is solid.
For eyes there is colors and form, for ears: sound,
For nose: smell, for tongue: taste;
Everything is in its place,
And leaves come from the root.
Branches and trunk return to the source,
Superior and inferior have their own words.
In brightness there is darkness,
Dot not take darkness to see someone.
Brightness and darkness are relative,
And are like the former step and the latter one.
Each and everything has it own merit,
Words should be used in the right place.
Things are like the lids fit the boxes,
Principles are like two arrows meeting head-on.
Hearing the words, understand the meaning,
Do not set up standards of your own.
If you do not see the way right in front of you,
How could you know the path as you walk.
Awakening is not far or near,
When you are in delusion, mountains and rivers block.
O students of the mystery! Please be advised:
Do not pass your days and nights in vain. 4
Song of Zazen (Zazen Wasan, Jap.)
by Zen master Hakuin Ekaku
All beings by nature are Buddhas,
as ice by nature is water.
Apart from water there is no ice;
apart from beings, no Buddhas.
How sad that people ignore the near
and search for truth afar;
like someone in the midst of water
crying out in thirst;
like a child of wealthy home
wandering among the poor.
Lost on a dark path of ignorance,
we wander through the Six Worlds;
from dark path to dark path-
when shall we be freed from birth and death?
Oh! The zazen of the Mahayana!
To this the highest praise!
Devotion, repentance, training,
The many paramitas-
all have their source in zazen.
Those who try zazen even once
wipe away beginningless crimes.
Where are all the dark paths then?
The Pure Land itself is near.
Those who hear this truth even once
and listen with a grateful heart,
treasuring it, revering it,
gain blessing without end.
Much more those who turn about
and bear witness to self- nature,
self-nature that is no-nature,
go far beyond mere doctrine.
Here effect and cause are the same;
The Way is neither two nor three.
with form that is no-form,
going and coming, we are never astray;
with thought that is no-thought,
even singing and dancing are the voice of the Law.
How boundless and free is the sky of Samadhi!
How bright the full moon of wisdom!
Truly, is anything missing now?
Nirvana is right here, before ours eyes;
this very place is the Lotus Land;
this very body, the Buddha. 5
1 from "The Platform Sutra of Hui-neng", translated from Chinese
by Zen master Dogen Kigen
When all dharmas are the Buddha-dharma, then there is delusion and realization, there is practice, there is life and there is death, there are buddhas and there are ordinary beings. When the myriad dharmas are each not of the self, there is no delusion and no realization, no buddhas and no ordinary beings, no life and no death.
The Buddha's truth is originally transcendent over abundance and scarcity, and so there is life and death, there is delusion and realization there are beings and buddhas. And though it is like this, it is only that flowers, while loved, fall; and weeds while hated, flourish.
Driving ourselves to practice and experience the myriad dharmas is delusion. When the myriad dharmas actively practice and experience ourselves, that is the state of realization.
Those who greatly realize delusions are buddhas Those who are greatly deluded about the realization are ordinary beings. There are people who further attain realization on the basis of realization. There are people who increase their delusion in the midst of delusion.
When buddhas are really buddhas they do not need to recognize themselves as buddhas. Nevertheless, they are the buddhas in the state of experience, and they go on experiencing the state of buddha.
When we use the whole body-and-mind to look at forms, and when we use the whole body-and-mind to listen to sounds, even though we are sensing them directly, it is not like a mirror's reflection of an image, and like the water and the moon. While we are experiencing one side, we are blind to the other side.
To learn the Buddha's truth is to learn ourselves. To learn ourselves is to forget ourselves. To forget ourselves is to be experienced by the myriad dharmas. To be experienced by myriad dharmas is to let our body-and-mind, and the body-and-mind of the external world, fall away.
There is a state in which traces of realization are forgotten; and it manifests the traces of forgotten realization for a long, long time.
When people first seek the Dharma, we are far removed from the borders of the Dharma. [But] as soon as the Dharma is authentically transmitted to us, we are human beings in [our] original element.
When a man is sailing along in a boat and he moves his eyes to the shore, he misapprehend that the shore is moving. If he keeps his eyes fixed on the boat, he knows that the boat which is moving forward.
Similarly, when we try to understand the myriad dharmas on the basis of confused assumptions about body and mind, we misapprehend that our own mind or our own essence may be permanent. If we become familiar with action and come back to this concrete place, the truth is evident that the myriad dharmas are not self.
Firewood becomes ashes; it can never go back to firewood. Nevertheless, we should not take the view that ash is its future and firewood is its past. Remember, firewood abides in the place of firewood in the Dharma. It has a past and it has a future.
Although it has a past and a future, the past and the future are cut off. Ash exists in the place of ash in the Dharma. It has a past and it has a future. The firewood, after becoming ash, does not again become firewood.
Similarly, human beings, after death, do not live again. At the same time, it is an established custom in the Buddha-dharma not to say that life turns into death. This is why we speak of no appearance. And it the Buddha's preaching established in [the turning of] the Dharma wheel that death does not turn into life. This is why we speak of no disappearance.
Life is an instantaneous situation, and death is also an instantaneous situation. It is the same, for example, with winter and spring. We do not think that winter becomes spring, and we do not say that spring becomes summer.
A person getting realization is like the moon being reflected in water: the moon does not get wet, and the water is not broken. Though the light [of the moon] is wide and great, it is reflected in a foot or an inch of water. The whole moon and the whole sky are reflected in a dewdrop on a blade of grass and are reflected in a single drop of water.
Realization does not break the individual, just as the moon does not pierce the water. The individual does not hinder the state of realization, just as a dewdrop does not hinder the sky and moon. The depth [of realization] may be as the concrete height [of the moon]. The longness and shortness of its moment should be investigated in large [bodies of ] water and small [bodies of ] water. And observed in the width and the narrowness of the sky and the moon.
When the Dharma has not yet satisfied the body-and-mind we feel already replete with Dharma. When the Dharma fills the body-and-mind we feel one side to be lacking. For example, sailing out beyond the mountains and into the ocean, when looking around in four directions, [the ocean] only appears to be round; it does not appear to have any other form at all.
Nevertheless, this great ocean is not round, and it is not square. Other qualities of the ocean are inexhaustibly many: [to fishes] it is like a palace and [to gods] it is like a string of pearls. But as far as our eyes can see; it just seems to be round.
As it is for [the ocean], so it is for myriad dharmas. In dust and out of the frame, [the myriad dharmas] encompass numerous situations, but we see and understand only as far as our eyes of learning in practice are able to reach.
If we wish to hear how the myriad dharmas naturally are, we should remember that besides their appearance of squareness or roundness, the qualities of the ocean and qualities of the mountains are numerous and endless; and that there are worlds in the four directions. Not only the periphery is like this: remember, the immediate present, and a single drop [of water] are also like this.
When fish move through water, however they move, there is no end to the water. When the birds fly through the sky, however they fly, there is no end to the sky. At the same time, fish and birds have never, since antiquity, left the water or the sky.
Simply, when activity is great, usage is great, and when necessity is small, usage is small. Acting in this state, none fail to realize its limitations at every moment, and none fail to somersault freely at every place; but if a bird leaves the sky it will die at once, and if a fish leaves the water it will die at once.
So we can understand the water is life and can understand that sky is life. Birds are life, and fish are life. It may be that life is birds and that life is fish. And beyond this, there may be still further progress. This existence of [their] practice-and-experience, and the existence of their lifetime and their life, are like this. This being so, a bird or a fish that aimed to move through the water or the sky [only] after getting to the bottom of water or utterly penetrating the sky, could never find its way or find its place in the water or in the sky.
When we find this place, this action inevitably realized as the Universe [itself]. This way and this place are neither great nor small; they are neither subjective nor objective; neither have they existed since the past nor do they appear in the present; so they are present like this.
When a human being is practicing and experiencing the Buddha's truth in this state, to get one dharma is to penetrate one dharma, and to meet one act is to perform one act. In this state the place exists and the way is mastered, and therefore the area to be known is not conspicuous.
The reason it so, is that this knowing and the perfect realization of the Buddha-Dharma appear together. Do not assume that what is attained will inevitably become self-conscious and be recognized by the intellect. The experience of the ultimate state is realized at once. At the same time, its mysterious existence is not necessarily a manifest realization. Realization is the state of ambiguity itself.
Zen master Hotetsu of Mayoku-zan mountain is using a fan; A monk comes by and asks, "The nature of air is to be ever-present, and there is no place that air cannot reach. Why then does the Master use a fan?"
The Master says, "You have only understood that the nature of air is to be ever-present, but you do not yet know the truth that there is no place air cannot reach."
The monk says, "What is the truth of there being no place air cannot reach?"
At this the Master just carries on using the fan. The monk does prostrations.
The real experience of the Buddha-Dharma, the vigorous road of the authentic transmission, is like this. Someone who says that because [the air] is ever-present we need to use a fan, or that even when we do not use [a fan] we can still feel the air, does not know ever-presence, and does not know the nature of the air. Because the nature of air is to be ever-present, the behavior of Buddhists has made the Earth manifest itself as gold and has ripened the Long River into curds and whey. 6
2 translated from Chinese
3 translated from Chinese
4 translated from Chinese
5 from "Taking the Path of Zen" by Robert Aitken, 1982
6 from "Shobogenzo" of Dogen, translated by Gudo Nishijima & Chodo Cross, 1994
End of ZAZEN MEDITATION GUIDE - Chapter 20. Some Short Sutra and Zen Verses
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