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MANUAL OF ZEN BUDDHISM
DAISETZ TEITARO SUZUKI, D.LITT.
I. GATHAS AND PRAYERS
GATHAS AND PRAYERS
Gatha is a Sanskrit term meaning "verse" or "hymn". In Buddhist literature it is used to designate the versified portion of the sutras. Chinese scholars have adopted this word for their Versified compositions, which are known as chieh, an abbreviation of chieh-t'o, or as chieh-sang, which is the combination of the Sanskrit and the Chinese. The gathas collected here are not exclusively those of the Zen sect; some belong to general Buddhism.
ON OPENING THE SUTRA
The Dharma incomparably profound and exquisite
All the evil karma ever committed by me since of old,
THE THREEFOLD REFUGE
I take refuge in the Buddha;
THE FOUR GREAT VOWS
However innumerable beings are, I vow to save them;
[1. These vows are recited after every service.]
THE WORSHIPPING OF THE SARIRA
We prostrate ourselves in all humbleness before the holy Sarira representing the body of Sakyamuni, the Tathagata, who is perfectly endowed with all the virtues, who has the Dharmakaya as the ground of his being, and Dharmadhatu as the stupa dedicated to him. To him we pay our respect with due deference. Manifesting himself in a bodily form for our sakes, the Buddha enters into us and makes us enter into him. His power being added to us, we attain Enlightenment; and [again] dependent on the Buddha's miraculous power, all beings are benefited, become desirous for Enlightenment, discipline themselves in the life of the Bodhisattva, and equally enter into perfect quietude where prevails infinite wisdom of absolute identity. We now prostrate ourselves before him.
THE TEACHING OF THE SEVEN BUDDHAS
Not to commit evils,
THE GATHA OF IMPERMANENCE
All composite things are impermanent,
[1. For the sake of the second half of this gatha the Buddha is said to have been willing to sacrifice his own life. For this reason this is also known as the "gatha of sacrifice".]
THE YEMMEI KWANNON TEN-CLAUSE SUTRA
[Adoration to] Kwanzeon!
[1. Yemmei means "Prolonging life"; when one daily recites this short document in ten clauses relating to Kwannon, one's health is assured for doing good not only for oneself but for the whole world.]
PRAYER ON THE OCCASION OF FEEDING THE HUNGRY GHOSTS
If one wishes to know all the Buddhas of the past, present, and future, one should contemplate the nature of this Dharmadhatu essentially as the creation of Absolute Mind.
[1. It is difficult to tell how this dharani came to be inserted here. As most dharanis are, it is devoid of sense from the human point of view; but it may not be necessarily so to the hungry ghosts, for whom the prayer is offered.
Can this be restored to the original Sanskrit as follows?
Namah sarva-tathagatavalokite! Om!
"Be adored! O all the Tathagatas who are regarded [as our protectors]; Om! Provision, provision! Hum! Adored be the Tathagata Beautifully Formed! Namely: Om! To the Beautifully-formed One! To the Beautifully formed One! To the Beautifully-formed One! Hail! Adored be all the Buddhas! Vam!"
2. "Jewel-excelled" (ratnaketu).
3. "Abundant-in-jewel" (prabhutaratna).
4. "Fine-form-body" (surupakaya).
5. "Broad-wide-body" (vipulakaya).
6. "Freed-from-fear" (abhayankara).
7. "Nectar-king" (amritaraja).
8. "Amida" (amitabha).]
By the supernatural power of this Dharani the food and drink is purified, and this we offer to the spiritual beings as numerous as the sands of the Ganga. We pray that they shall all be fully satisfied and abandon their greed; that they shall all leave their abodes of darkness and be born in the blissful paths of existence; and further that taking refuge in the Triple Treasure they shall awaken the desire for supreme enlightenment and finally come to the realization of it. The merit they thus attain is inexhaustible and will continue on to the end of time, making all beings equally share in this Dharma-food.
O you hosts of spiritual beings, we make this offering of food to you all, which we pray will fill the ten quarters and that all beings of your kind will partake of it.
By the practice of this meritorious deed we pray that we repay what we owe to our parents, who have done all they could for our sakes. May those who are still alive continue to enjoy their happy and prosperous lives for ever, while those who are no more with us be released from suffering and born in the land of bliss.
We pray that all sentient beings in the triple world who are recipients of the fourfold benefaction, together with those beings suffering in the three evil paths of existence and tormented with the eight kinds of calamities, may repent of all their sins and be cleansed of all their sores, so that they may all be released from the cycle of transmigration and be born in the land of purity.
We pray to all the Buddhas, all the Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas in the ten quarters, of the past, present, and future, and to Mahaprajna-paramita, that by virtue of this merit universally prevailing, not only we but all beings shall equally attain Buddhahood.
[1. Namo 'mitabhaya tathagataya! Tadyatha, amritodbhave, amritasiddhe, (?)-bhave, amritavikrante, amrita-vikranta-gamine, gaganakirtikare! Svaha!
"Adored be the Tathagata of Infinite Light! Namely: O Nectar-raising one! O Nectar-perfecting one! [O Nectar-] producing one! O One who makes nectar pervade! O One who makes nectar universally pervade! O One who makes nectar known as widely as space! Hail!"]
By the Bhikshus all present here
[1. This is read, as can be inferred from the text, after the recitation of the Surangama dharani.]
PRAYER OF THE BELL
Would that the sound of the bell might go beyond our earth,
[1. It is customary in the Zen monastery to recite the Kwannongo while striking the big bell, which is done three times a day. The present gatha is recited when the striking is finished. As will be seen below, from Kwannon issues a sound which is heard by those who sincerely believe in his power of releasing them from every form of disaster. Each sound emitted by the bell is the voice of Kwannon calling on us to purify our sense of hearing, whereby a spiritual experience called "interfusion" will finally take place in us. See under the Ryogonkyo and the Kwannongyo below.]