Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Murmured ConversationsA Treatise on Poetry and Buddhism by the Poet-Monk Shinkei$

Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780804748636

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804748636.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM STANFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.stanford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Stanford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in SSO for personal use (for details see www.stanford.universitypressscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy). Subscriber: null; date: 16 January 2019



(p.204) Sixty-Two Epilogue
Murmured Conversations
Stanford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

The true Way of Poetry is similar to the Great Void, lacking in nothing and no way superfluous. Every individual finds his own way to attain perfection and is capable of experiencing enlightenment without depending on others. Abandoning the Great Way results in benevolence and righteousness, but the appearance of knowledge only gives rise to great lies. All the categories, distinctions, and admonitions expounded inSasamegoto are rejected here from the perspective of an achieved state of wisdom or enlightenment where they no longer apply. In other words, the distinctions between right and wrong, of is and is not, are crucial tools for teaching and conversion, but useless outside of the pedagogical context that necessitates them. According to the Makashikan, the buddhas and bodhisattvas practice two things, namely, preaching and silence.

Keywords:   Way of Poetry, Sasamegoto, enlightenment, wisdom, Makashikan, buddhas, bodhisattvas, preaching, silence

The rough generalities contained in these two volumes are truly of no consequence. The true Way of Poetry is wholly akin to the Great Void; it lacks in nothing and is in nothing superfluous.1 Each and every human being finds his own way to perfection; ultimately, enlightenment does not depend on others.2 When the Great Way is abandoned, there is benevolence and righteousness; when great knowledge appears, there are only great lies.3

In the state of delusion, both right and wrong are wrong;

Before the great awakening, both what-is and what-is-not are not.4

Outside the truth that all the various phenomena [in their Suchness] are the Real [shohō jissō], there is only delusion.5

The causes of a multitude of suffering are rooted in insatiable desire; in a word, destroy the roots.6

Jūjūshin'in Shinkei


How are we to characterize the bearing of this epilogue? Clearly, all the distinctions, categories, and admonitions expounded in the body of the treatise are here rejected from the perspective of an achieved state of enlightenment or wisdom where they do not apply anymore. In other words, such distinctions of right and wrong, of is and is not, are crucial as instruments (hōben) of teaching and conversion, but invalid outside of the pedagogical context that necessitates them. Generated by the mind, by language, and by circumstance, they are at base empty. The buddhas and bodhisattvas (p.205) practice two things, according to the Makashikan: preaching and silence. The prose of logos is for teaching, and so is the figuration of poetry. The archives and precepts of the Great Way (Taoist or Buddhist) exist because the Great Way does not. The great knowledge systems are constructions, useful for those who can read, but instruments of deception for the ignorant who cannot discriminate. Everything can either be a path to wisdom or a means of self-aggrandizement. Knowledge is self-perpetuating, and so is desire; at some point, one has to step out of language and begin the path of self-transcendence by the uprooting of desire. Outside of language that is dedicated to wisdom, there is only the silence of understanding, and of the suchness of all the dharmas. In this way, the Epilogue is a summary of the essential principles of the treatise, and simultaneously a pointed admonition to begin the existential journey that is the Way. (p.206)


(1.) Perhaps inspired by this line from the Shinjinmei (Ch. Xinxin ming, Inscription on Conviction in the Mind): “[The Great Way is] perfect like the Great Emptiness; it lacks in nothing and is in nothing superfluous” (T. 48.376b). The Shinjinmei is a 584—character poem attributed to the third Zen patriarch Seng Can (J. Sōsan, d. 606); it is a paean to the Great Way, an ultimate state of mind liberated from all partiality and dualistic thinking, and abiding in the realm of suchness. Strongly marked by native Taoist thought, the work wielded a great influence on the formation of early Zen Buddhism in China and has since been a popular text for recitation also in Japan. This passage resonates with the verse from the Dainichi-kyō cited in Chapter 43; see also n. 12 there.

(2.) Suzuki (“Mikkan,” II, p. 37)MakashikanKegonkyōdoes not depend on others for enlightenmentMakashikanjūjō kampō

(p.334) SELF-ENLIGHTENMENT WITHOUT A TEACHER. BY MIND TRANSMIT THE MIND. Suzuki also cites Shasekishū X.1 (X.B.2 in the NKBT ed.), “The Man Who Understood the Essential Message of Buddhist Teaching”:

In Zen priest Yixing's [683–727] Commentary on the Dainichi-kyō, which records the oral transmission from Subhakarasimha [637–735; J. Zenmui Sanzō], it says: “Passing on the wisdom of enlightenment [bodai] to someone is not a matter of giving him the nuts in one's hand. To receive it, he must necessarily have the wisdom of self-enlightenment without a teacher [mushi jigo no chie]. The miracle of attaining to the mind is not something that can be handed down.” Among the sayings of the Great Teacher of Kōya [Kūkai, 774–835] is this: “The true purpose of esoteric teaching is to transmit the mind by means of the mind [kokoro o motte kokoro o tsutau]. Words [monji] are but rubble; words are only the dregs.” Such may be read in the Shōryōshū [Kūkai's Literary Anthology]. As the Tendai Great Teacher Chisha [Zhiyi] said when he transmitted the three kinds of meditation [shikan] from Nangaku [Ch. Nanyue], “As for words, one may transmit them, but enlightenment does not depend on others [shō wa hoka ni yorazu].” Thus the truly autonomous enlightenment is attained by oneself alone. In Yixing's Commentary, as well, it says, “When a person sustains an injury, that he is in pain is unquestionable. But to actually know that pain, one would have to suffer the injury oneself.” The founding teacher said, “This mind may be said to be like drinking water and finding out oneself the cold or the heat of it. You may learn from others that water is cold or warm, but how can you know it without actually drinking it yourself? Access to the meaning of true reality is precisely like this.” (ed. Tsukudo, 2:147–48; the NKBT ed., p. 442, does not include the rest of this passage after the first citation from Yixing)

(3.) Daode jingTao Te Ching, trans. Stephen Addiss and Stanley Lombardo [Indianapolis: Hackett, 1993], p. 18Daichi idete daigi nomi narichie idete daigi ari

Continuing from the Shasekishū X.1 passage translated in n. 2 above, we find the passage from Daode jing interpreted by Mujū thus:

Again, Laozi says, “When the Great Way is abandoned, there is benevolence and righteousness; when knowledge and intelligence appear, there are great lies.” In the age of the Great Way, everyone observes the way of filial piety, so behavior is spontaneously filial in action and intention. For this reason, no one teaches it, there are no words for it. Just as there is no medicine where there is no illness, so there are no words called benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and conviction. It is when there are unfilial children and erring men in the world that the teaching of benevolence and righteousness appears. Heshang'gong [a Taoist and important commentator on Laozi in the reign of Han Emperor Wen] says: “‘When the Great Way is abandoned, benevolence and righteousness appear’ means that in the age of the Great Way, with filial children in every family and loyal retainers in every house, benevolence and righteousness do not appear. But when the Great Way is abandoned and in disuse, evil and errancy arise; in a word, there is the necessity for a way to transmit benevolence and righteousness. ‘When knowledge and intelligence appear, there are great lies’ means that because learned and intelligent men put down virtue and elevate words, put down the substance and elevate the language [bun, here, rhetoric], people are led to study the language and so engage in falsehoods. And so the Five Emperors dispensed laws, and Cangxie invented writing, which is not like the Three Emperors' tying knots on rope or cutting notches on wood.” When people's hearts were simple and pure, the marks they cut on wood or tied with rope were not wayward. But in the age of columns of written signs, the marks became lies. In the same way, were it not for the presence of worldly delusion, Buddhist teaching would not arise; everything would be wholly still, tranquil, and pure; there would be no traces of profane or holy. Because the wayward beings generate all kinds of deluded views, giving rise to various fixations, unavoidably, writing (p.335) appeared and verbal explanations arose in order to guide them. Therefore the Lotus says: “Only in order to draw and guide the beings does he [the Buddha] resort to provisional names and words.” (ed. Tsukudo, 2: 148)

(4.) MAKE OF YOUR MIND A MIRROR: THE NONDUALITY OF SUBJECT AND OBJECT. Perhaps influenced by the following passage from Shasekishū III.2, “About Sincere Words Evoking a Response.” It is preceded by a brief anecdote about the stewards of two households, both famous but equally ugly, so that people nicknamed them “the monkey stewards” of Yoshimizu and Mimuro. One day, the Mimuro steward was sent on an errand to Yoshimizu. There, some naughty people decided the two should meet each other and waited around to see their reaction. Then the Yoshimizu steward appeared, and seeing his counterpart, stepped forward and smiled. “Well, what do you think,” the people asked. “Why, it's just like seeing myself in a mirror!” he replied. At this, everyone laughed in high spirits and thought of him with affectionate regard. Under the circumstances, his words sounded quite splendid.

Seventeen-Article ConstitutionIn the state of dreaming, what is and is-not are both not. In the throes of delusion, right and wrong are both similarly wrongNKBT ed. suppl.§ 21.2, p. 474

(5.) SHOHŌ JISSŌ: ALL THE VARIOUS PHENOMENA ARE THE REAL. Ijichi cites Chidoron V: “Outside [the truth that] all the various phenomena are the Real [shohō jissō], all that remains is wholly, in a word, delusion” (SSG rev. ed., p. 159, n. 15). Suzuki in “Mikkan,” II, p. 37, refers to another passage in Daichidoron, but it does not seem to me as relevant in this context. He also cites two passages from the Nehangyō, XV.20.2 and XXIV.22.6, both of which admonish the listeners that they will be followers of Mara, that is, deluded and not the Buddha's disciples, if they conceive of ultimate reality as something that can actually be grasped by the mind.

The foundational Mahayana concept of shohō jissō refers to the “suchness” [nyoze] of all phenomena, their essential being or true reality, not as described, conceptualized, or theorized by reason and language, but what they are “just as they are.” It is, of course, an axiom of Mahayana teaching that how things are “as such” cannot be pinned down by language, not because there is something mysterious about them, but more because of the limitations of language—for instance, its built-in, constructed syntax, which preconditions our understanding of nonlinguistic phenomena. It is important to point out, however, that while orthodox Mahayana teaching recognizes that words cannot master or capture this suchness, they can nevertheless point to it by means of parables, analogies, and logical analysis. This is the reason for the centrality of means or skillful devices (hōben; Skt. upaya) in the teaching. (p.336) As for shohō jissō, the following passage from the Lotus Sutra, chap. 2, “Expedient Devices,” is commonly cited as the locus classicus of the term:

Sariputra, the Thus Come One's knowledge and insight are broad and great, profound and recondite, without measure and without obstruction. His might, his fearlessness, his dhyana-concentration, his release-samadhi have deeply penetrated the limitless. He has perfected all the dharmas that have never been before. Sariputra, by making a variety of distinctions, the Thus Come One can skillfully preach the dharmas. His words are gentle, gladdening many hearts. Sariputra, to speak of the essential: as for the immeasurable, unlimited dharmas that have never been before, the Buddha has perfected them all. Cease, Sariputra, we need speak no more. Why is this? Concerning the prime, rare, hard-to-understand dharmas, which the Buddha has perfected, only a Buddha and a Buddha can exhaust their reality, namely, the suchness of the dharmas [shohō jissō], the suchness of their marks, the suchness of their nature, the suchness of their substance, the suchness of their powers, the suchness of their functions, the suchness of their causes, the suchness of their conditions, the suchness of their effects, the suchness of their retributions, and the absolute identity of their beginning and end. (Scripture of the Lotus Blossom, trans. Hurvitz, pp. 22–23; emphasis added)

jūnyozeshohō jissōa variety of distinctionsthe absolute identity of their beginning and endhonmatsu kukyōtōNitta Masaaki, Tendai jissōron no kenkyū [Heirakuji Shoten, 1981], pp. 488–89

(6.) A reference to one of the verse passages in the Lotus Sutra III, “Parable”:

“If there are beings/who know not the root of suffering / and are deeply bound to the causes of suffering / unable to cast them off even for a while, / for their sakes /I devise the means to preach the Way. / The causes of a multitude of sufferings / are rooted in insatiable desire [shoku no yoru tokoro wa / tonyoku o moto to nasu]; if insatiable desire is extinguished, / they would have no place to anchor.” (Hokkekyō 1: 204, my translation; see also Scripture of the Lotus Blossom, trans. Hurvitz, p. 75)