Thursday, December 2, 2010

Shobogenzo: Ch 12 (II) - Kesa-kudoku (Merits of the Kasaya)

(This is a longer post... You don't have to read the haiku if you don't have time.)

Five fundamental merits and ten excellent merits of the kesa are cited in Kesa-kudoku. Of the ten excellent merits Dogen says:

These ten excellent merits broadly include all the merits of the Buddha’s truth. We should explicitly learn in practice the merits present in [these] long lines and [short] verses of praise, not just glancing over them and quickly putting them aside, but studying them phrase by phrase over a long period. These excellent merits are just the merits of the kaṣāya itself: they are not the effect of a practitioner’s fierce [pursuit of] merit through perpetual training.

In Chapter 13 (Den-e), which seems to be a first draft of Kesa-kudoku, Dogen includes some justification for these merits (which admittedly seem pretty extraordinary) but then drops them out (or off) of his final draft. Although it's speculation on my part, I don't think he does this because we should take these claims on faith or for-granted, but rather, because we should continue to question them, study them, and keep them close to heart — every day.

Even not having taken vows yet, this practice has already caused me to experience a feeling akin to 'rebirth', and this is something very different than blind faith. To me, the kesa represents a promise we make to ourselves and renew daily. Otherwise why would Dogen have cried when witnessing the kesa ritual upon his arrival in China? It's through honoring and revering the kesa we are likely to realize its gifts — whether we actually need to do so or not. Moreover, recognizing that these are merits of the kesa, and not our own merits, reminds to be humble and grounded in our practice.

As an initial effort to study these merits phrase by phrase I've gone ahead and written haiku for each of them... (Quoted passages are italicized.)

Five Fundamental Merits:
(A vow made by the bodhisattva mahasattva Great Compassion to the Buddha Jewel Treasury):

A single moment
Honoring the Buddha robe
Grants affirmation.

‘World-honored One! If, after I became a buddha, there were living beings who had entered my Dharma and left home and who wore the kasaya—even if they were bhiksus, bhiksunis, upasakas, and upasikas who had accumulated heavy sins by violating the grave prohibitions, by enacting false views, or by contemptuously disbelieving the Three Treasures—and in a single moment of consciousness the reverence arose in their mind to honor the samghati robe and the reverence arose in their mind to honor the World-honored One (the Buddha) or the Dharma and the Sangha but, World-honored One, even one among those living beings could not, in [one of] the three vehicles, receive affirmation, and as a result regressed or went astray, it would mean that I had deceived the buddhas who are present now in the worlds of the ten directions and in countless, infinite asamkheya kalpas, and I surely should not realize anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.

One look at the cloth
Prevents regression of one
Within the yanas.

‘World-honored One! After I have become a buddha, if gods, dragons, and demons, and human and nonhuman beings are able to wear this kasaya, to venerate, to serve offerings to, to honor, and to praise it, as long as those people are able to see a small part of this kasaya, they will be able not to regress while within the three vehicles.

Fragment of the cloth –
Freedom from all affliction
To those who claim it.

‘When living beings are afflicted by hunger or thirst—whether they are wretched demons, miserable people, or living beings in the state of hungry ghosts—if they are able to obtain a piece of the kasaya even as small as four inches, they will at once be able to eat and drink their fill and to accomplish quickly whatever they wish.

Virtue of the robe –
Soft flexible mind for those
Remembering it.

‘When living beings offend each other, causing ill will to arise and a fight to develop—or when gods, dragons, demons, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kimnaras, mahoragas, kumbhandas, pisacas, and human and nonhuman beings are fighting each other—if they remember this kasaya, in due course, by virtue of the power of the kasaya, they will beget the mind of compassion, soft and flexible mind, mind free of enmity, serene mind, the regulated mind of virtue, and they will get back the state of purity.

Survive all conflict –
Retain and honor the robe
Emerge the victor.

‘When people are in an armed conflict, a civil lawsuit, or a criminal action, if they retain a small piece of this kasaya as they go among these combatants, and if in order to protect themselves they serve offerings to, venerate, and honor it, these [other] people will be unable to injure, to disturb, or to make fools of them; they will always be able to beat their opponents and to come through all such difficulties.

The Ten Excellent Merits:
(from Vol. 5 of Daijōhonshōshinchikankyō)

The World-honored One says to the bhikṣu Wisdom-Brightness:
“The Dharma robe has ten excellent merits:

1) It is able to cover the body, to keep away shame, to fill us with humility and to [make us] practice good ways.

Robe of the Dharma —
Abundant happiness blooms
From humility.

2) It keeps away cold and heat, as well as mosquitoes, harmful creatures, and poisonous insects, [so that we can] practice the truth in tranquility.

The robe guards against
Distracting bugs and weather
To move us towards truth.

3) It manifests the form of a śramaṇa who has left family life, giving delight to those who behold it and keeping away wrong states of mind.

Showing all respect,
Renouncing secular ways,
Staying untainted.

4) The kaṣāya is just the manifestation to human beings and gods of a precious flag; those who honor and venerate it are able to be born in a Brahmā heaven.

To honor the robe
And all it represents brings
Highest happiness.

5) When we wear the kaṣāya, we feel that it is a precious flag; it is able to extinguish sins and to produce all kinds of happiness and virtue.

When wearing the robe,
The Buddha's light shines brightly —
Shines like a tower.

6) A fundamental rule in making the kaṣāya is to dye it a secondary color, so that it keeps us free from thoughts of the five desires, and does not give rise to lust.

Yield of real practice —
Freedom from afflicting thoughts,
Sincere in our hearts.

7) The kaṣāya is the pure robe of the Buddha; for it eradicates afflictions forever and makes them into a fertile field.

The robe seeds bodhi —
Wearing it, our deeds are hands
Doing Buddha work.

8) When the kaṣāya covers the body, it extinguishes the karma of sins and promotes at every moment the practice of the ten kinds of good.

The robe takes the shape —
Naturally manifesting
A monk's right practice.

9) The kaṣāya is like a fertile field; for it is well able to nurture the bodhisattva way.

The robe seeds bodhi —
Our selves the field yielding up
Joy to all beings.

10) The kaṣāya is also like a suit of armor; for it makes the poisoned arrows of affliction unable to do harm.

Armor of the truth —
The arrows of affliction
Pass through without harm.

Wisdom-Brightness! Remember, through these causes, when the buddhas of the three times, and pratyekabuddhas and śrāvakas, and pure monks and nuns, cover the body in the kaṣāya, [these] three groups of sacred beings sit as one on the precious platform of liberation, take up the sword of wisdom to destroy the demons of affliction, and enter together into the many spheres of nirvana which have one taste.”

Joining together —
Our selves growing rich in truth's
Abundant harvest.

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