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The Sandokai – Sekito Kisen

The book Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness is a collection of lectures on the ancient Chinese poem the Sandoki – Sekito Kisen (Ch. Shitou Ziqian, 700-790). Each chapter focuses on one to several of the lines of the poem. Suzuki Roshi said that the poem is not meant to be analyzed in this manner since it is a [my words]concise and self-contained instruction manual including the basic Buddhist view of reality. Reading the book helped me get a feeling for each phrase in the book and now I can read it with perhaps some elementary idea of understanding. It is something I want to frame and hang on my wall or put up by the bathroom mirror. It reveals more and more mind each time I read it.

Suzuki Roshi was kind enough to translate the poem in a way that points more directly at the heart of the instruction for us Muricans I think. Below is the original translation by Suto-Shu Liturgy Conference, Green Gulch Farm 1997 with minor revisions. Following that is Suzuki’s much more readable compilation taken from the book, Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness

The Harmony of Difference and Equality

The mind of the great sage of India
is intimately transmitted from west to east.
While human faculties are sharp or dull,
the way has no Northern or Southern Ancestors.
The spiritual source shines clear in the light;
the branching streams flow on in the dark.
Grasping at things is surely delusion;
according with sameness is still not enlightenment.
All the objects of the senses
interact and yet do not.
Interacting brings involvement.
Otherwise, each keeps its place.
Sights vary in qualit y and form,
sounds differ as pleaseing or harsh.
Refined and common speech come toegether in the dark,
clear and murky prases are distinguised in the light.
The four elemtnes return to their natures
just as a child turns to its mother.
Fire heats, wind moves,
waater wets, earth is solid.
Eye and sight, ear and sound,
nose and smell, tongue and taste.
Thus for each and everything,
depending on these roots, the leaves spread forth.
Trun and branches share the essence;
revered and common, each has its speech.
In the light there is darkness,
In the dark there is light.
but don’t see it as light.
Light and dark oppose one another
like front and back foot in walking.
Each of the myriad things has its merit,
expresed according to function and place.
Phenomena exist, like box and lig joinin;
principle accords, like arrow points meeting.
Hearing the words understand teh meaning;
don’t set up standards of you own.
If you don’t understand the way right before you,
how will you know the path as you walk?
Practice is not a matter of far or near,
but if you are confused, mountains and rivers block
your way.
I respectuflly urge you who study the mystery,
don’t pass your days and nights in vain.

  1. MIke permalink

    I appreciate you posting Suzuki Roshi’s Translation. It is very difficult to find on the net.

  2. This blog site is pretty cool. How did you make it !

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