The Poem, Reading the Record of Eihei Dogen by Ryokan (1758-1831)


On a somber spring evening around midnight,
Rain mixed with snow sprinkled on the bamboos in the garden.
I wanted to ease my loneliness but it was quite impossible.
My hand reached behind me for the Record of Eihei Dogen.
Beneath the open window at my desk,
I offered incense, lit a lamp, and quietly read.
Body and mind dropping away is simply the upright truth.
In one thousand postures, ten thousand appearances, a dragon toys with the jewel.
His understanding beyond conditioned patterns cleans up the current corruptions;
The ancient great master’s style reflects the image of India.

I remember the old days when I lived in Entsu Monastery
And my late teacher lectured on the True Dharma Eye.
At that time there was an occasion to turn myself around,
So I requested permission to read it, and studied it intimately.
I keenly felt that until then I had depended merely on my own ability.
After that I left my teacher and wandered all over.
Between Dogen and myself what relationship is there?
Everywhere I went I devotedly practiced the true dharma eye.
Arriving at the depths and arriving at the vehicle—how many times?
Inside this teaching, other’s never any shortcoming.
Thus I thoroughly studied the master of all things.

Now when I take the Record of Eihei Dogen and examine it,
The tone does not harmonize well with usual beliefs.
Nobody has asked whether it is a jewel or a pebble.
For five hundred years it’s been covered with dust
just because no one has had an eye for recognizing dharma.
For whom was all his eloquence expounded?
Longing for ancient times and grieving for the present, my heart is exhausted.

One evening sitting by the lamp my tears wouldn’t stop,
and soaked into the records of the ancient Buddha Eihei.
In the morning the old man next door came to my thatched hut.
He asked me why the book was damp.
I wanted to speak but didn’t as I was deeply embarrassed;
My mind deeply distressed, it was impossible to give an explanation.
I dropped my head for a while, then found some words.
“Last nights’ rain leaked in and drenched my bookcase.”

Translated by Daniel Leighton and Kazuaki Tanahashi
Copied from Moon in a Dewdrop, edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi

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