Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Realizational Poetics of Mujū Dōkyō

When we consider waka as a means to religious realization, we see that it has the virtue of serenity and peace, of putting a stop to the distractions and undisciplined movements of the mind. With a few words, it encompasses its sentiment. This is the very nature of mystic verses, or dharani.

The gods of Japan are Manifest Traces, the unexcelled Transformation Bodis of buddhas and bodhisattvas. The god Susa-no-o initiated composition in thirty-one syllables with the "many-layered fence at Izumo." Japanese poems do not differ from the words of the Buddha. The dharani of India are simply the words used by the people of that country which the Buddha took and interpreted as mystic formula.


Now we refer to the poetry of "wild words and specious phrases" as "defiled poetry," because it lures us to attachment, imbues us with vain sensuality, and decks us out with empty words. But poetry may express the principles of the Holy Teaching, accompany a sense of impermanence, weaken our worldly ties and profane thoughts, and cause us to forget fame and profit. If, on seeing the leaves scattered by the wind, we come to know the vanity of the world; and if, on composing a verse on the moon hidden in the clouds, we become aware of the unsullied Principle within our hearts, then poetry mediates our entry upon the path of Buddha and becomes a reliable tool for understanding the Law. Accordingly, men of old practiced the Law of Buddha without rejecting the Way of Poetry. . . . Although anything can be a cause for religious awakening, waka is ideal.

~ Mujū Dōkyō (tr. Robert Morrell)

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