Four Love Poems from One Hundred Poems of the Dharma Gate by Jakuzen
Four Love Poems from One Hundred Poems of the Dharma Gate by Jakuzen
Patrick Donnelly 0 1
0 Part of the Classical Literature and Philology Commons, Comparative Literature Commons, European Languages and Societies Commons, French and Francophone Language and Literature Commons, German Language and Literature Commons, International and Area Studies Commons, Japanese Studies Commons, Linguistics Commons, Modern Languages Commons, Modern Literature Commons, Near Eastern Languages and Societies Commons , Poetry Commons, and the Reading and Language Commons
1 Smith College
Follow this and additional works at: http://scholarworks.wmich.edu/transference
Stephen D. Miller and Patrick Donnelly
Four Love Poems from One Hundred
Poems of the Dharma Gate
Hearing the Name, longing to be reborn
Jakuzen Hōmon hyakushu 65
when my dear lord may I come
where rumor says you are?
the pines of Iki—
though it’s you
who exhausts your heart with waiting
THESE WORDS SIGNIFY that the power of Amida’s will is such that anyone
who hears the Name and longs to be reborn arrives in that land almost
before realizing it, and achieves unshakeable faith.
How impatiently Amida
must wait, sleeves of salvation moist, restless with longing! Anyone who
understands Narihira’s poem “I should never have left home” must vow to
return there in haste. Because I’ve heard that Ikinomatsu is a long sea-road to
the west, may I liken it to that land?
Never slept Jakuzen 68
inside this dream
grieving my bewildered heart—
how many nights
how many dawns
our eyes went without meeting
THE BODHISATTVAS WHO COULD SEE the white whorl of light
emanating from between the Buddha’s eyebrows didn’t have hearts indifferent to
seeking the Buddha-path, and this scripture says that they never slept.
for one on the path of love, lost in fleeting dreams, the fact that sleepless
nights pile up is really of no benefit.
Jakuzen Thoughts of enlightenment alone, no other thoughts 69
where shall I rest my heart?
adrift on waves of thoughts—
then sunk, wondering—
is there something?
is there nothing?
THE DAI SPEAKS OF A PERSON practicing śamatha-vipasyana meditation,
considering only the true nature of the phenomenal world, and not mixing
in thoughts about other things. Doesn’t meditating upon “am I or am I not?”
still the mind in the truth of the middle way?
Heart of longing, revering the Buddha path Jakuzen 70
from which I’ve been parted
come, appear even in dreams —
HE WHO DIED LONG AGO, becoming “original dew,” when I think of our
unendurable parting—the leaves of his words lodged in my heart, causing
me to drop dew again and again upon my sleeves—doesn’t the clear form of
this friend arise before me, in actual truth, when I’m unable to sleep?
rises before me all the more whenever I think about when Shakyamuni was
alive, a time when no one ever had enough of gazing on his form with its
thirty-two aspects, nor ever tired of hearing directly the Law of unimpeded
wisdom and the eight virtuous sounds.
But with the cremation wood exhausted, karmic opportunity faded up and away like smoke from the śala trees, where is the person who wouldn’t have plunged into thoughts of longing and reverence?
Having now entered into the latter days of the Law, for us to be sprinkled with blessing on this wondrous path is far beyond our reach, even if we hang our hearts on this figure of compassion, even if we’re unable to sleep for grieving.
In this dream of life and death, why can’t we see the face of the full moon?
Therefore it is written, “With single-hearted longing to see the Buddha,/they give their lives./Then with the companions of truth/I appear on Vulture Peak”—a saying not pertaining only to some heaven beyond the clouds.
If ever a time comes that the Buddha responds to the
appeal of sentient beings, he will appear in our hearts on the mountain of the
Jakuzen was a 12th century priest of the Buddhist Tendai sect,
living in Ōhara outside the capital of Kyoto. He left behind
three manuscripts of waka poetry; that forty-seven of his
poems were published in several imperial poetry anthologies of
the late 12th century and later is a mark of how highly they were
regarded. One of Jakuzen’s most famous collections is the
Hōmon hyakushu (One Hundred Poems of the Dharma Gate).
As the first one-hundred-poem private anthology of
shakkyō-ka (Buddhist-themed poems), the Hōmon hyakushu
sits at the juncture between the Japanese court’s ongoing
literary and religious projects, exemplifying the late-Heian (794
–1185) formula kadō soku butsudō: “the way of poetry is none
other than the Buddha-way.”
Each of the hundred parts of Jakuzen’s sequence is
comprised of a dai (poem topic, in this case a short quote from
Buddhist scripture in Chinese), a waka (31-syllable poem
in Japanese) and a lyric prose afterword in Japanese on the
same topic. The hundred sections of the Hōmon hyakushu are
grouped into ten “books” of ten poems each (modeled on the
imperial poetry anthologies), and the four selections here are
from book seven, the Love poems (koi no uta).
Jakuzen’s original text is in classical Japanese (and Chinese,
in the case of the dai). What makes lexical research for this
translation project—translating all one hundred sections and
related honka (poems that Jakuzen alludes to in his own poems
and prose)—interesting and sometimes challenging is that the
themes of Jakuzen’s poems are inherently Buddhist, and often
contain terms that can only be found in Buddhist dictionaries.
The project of a shakkyō-ka in general is to inflect
familiar poetic tropes—about the four seasons, congratulations,
separation, love, complaint, etc.—toward reflecting on the
teachings of Buddhism. It is especially interesting to observe
how Jakuzen adapted the “library” of references and vocabulary
associated with poems of erotic and romantic love (a topic
Buddhism might be thought to deprecate, because of its potential
for dangerous, deluding passions and attachments) to depict a
Buddhist practitioner’s longing for enlightenment, or for union
with Amida Buddha in the Pure Land.
Thus in the Love section we find familiar references to
waiting all night for the lover’s arrival (often in vain), to rituals
of betrothal, to the tortures of inconstancy, to painful separation
from the beloved, to “sleeves wet with tears”—but all
metamorphosed into the fervent spiritual relationship the practitioner
forms, or neglects to form, with the Buddha and the teachings.
Translating these poems has required familiarity with both the
original secular tropes and models, then working to express
how Jakuzen adapted these to a Buddhist worldview, in such a
way that the original models can still be felt.
It is a poetic truism that great love songs can be redirected
toward longing for the divine, and conversely great hymns can
repurposed to praise a human beloved. In the case of Jakuzen’s
recycling of the love poem project in the context of an overall
Buddhist poetry project, his deployment of erotic tropes is
simultaneously ironic and sincere. He knows that inflecting erotic longing
toward religious feeling creates a grinding of rhetorical gears, in a
witty (if not comic) way. But the adaptation is also sincere in that
Jakuzen enacts an emotional relationship with ultimate spiritual
reality, rather than a mental, theoretical, or legalistic
relationship. It’s the Song of Songs, rather than Leviticus.
Any translator attempting to render a classical Japanese
poem into English must first face a very fundamental difference
between the two languages, which has exerted a strong influence
on the poetics of each. In Japanese every syllable receives the
same amount of stress, but English is characterized by the
alternation of strong and weak stresses. It was natural—inevitable—
therefore that syllable-counting became a primary characteristic
of Japanese poetry. By contrast, English poetics developed a
conscious attention to the arrangement of strong and weak stresses.
Because syllable-counting represents a minor cul-de-sac of
English poetics, rather than the main road—and because we wanted
our translations to work well as English poems—we chose not to
imitate the 31-syllable form of the original poems.
The translator must address a second fundamental
difference between poetry in Japanese and English: Japanese
poetry may be written in vertical or horizontal columns,
as English poetry is invariably written in horizontal lines. The
syllables in waka are understood to be broken into groups of 5
7 - 5 - 7 - 7, and these groupings are sometimes rendered as five
lines in English translations. But we chose to let the syntax in
English take precedence over the original arrangement,
drawing on a variety of line and stanza management strategies from
English poetry, while still trying to achieve a small footprint for
We did wish to reflect in English some of the constraints
that the waka form imposed on Japanese writers. For instance,
we avoided capitalization except in the case of proper names,
and limited punctuation to question marks, long dashes
(mdashes) and a few commas, quotation marks, colons,
parentheses, exclamation points and italicized passages for syntactical
clarity or emphasis. We broke these self-imposed constraints in
a few instances, but only for good cause. Above all, we wished to
honor the poems’ breathtaking brevity and compression, which
successfully hints at far more than is said outright.
When these poems were written, they were not antique;
we strove not to make them sound so in our translations. It was
our limited goal—difficult enough—to convey the emotional and
spiritual arguments of these poems in idiomatic, musical,
contemporary English, in versions that are also accurate enough to
satisfy the scholar.
A few notes about the individual poems:
In the afterword to poem 65, Jakuzen quotes a poem by
Ariwara no Narihira from the Kokinshū (KKS 969), part of which
reads sato oba karezu, “I should never have left home.” In the
Hōmon hyakushu, Jakuzen constantly alludes to other, older
poetry; in this case he uses Narihira’s poem to invoke the trope
of a woman waiting in vain for her lover to appear. Narihira’s
poem is in the voice of a man who expresses regret for leaving
his beloved waiting in that way; in Jakuzen’s poem, the beloved
who waits is Amida, the Buddha of the Western Paradise. In the
poem, we translated Ikinomatsu, a place name, as “the pines of
Iki,” to give a sense of how in Japanese the word matsu means
both “pine (tree)” and “to wait (with longing),” a pun that works
in both Japanese and English.
The afterword of poem 68 refers to “white whorl of light
emanating from between the Buddha’s eyebrows” (Sanskrit,
ūrṇā; Japanese, byakugō), which was one of 32 marks of an
enlightened being, often described as a curl of hair that emits
The afterword of poem 69 refers to śamatha-vipasyana
(“calming-insight”) meditation (Japanese, shikan). According
to Yamamoto Akihiro’s A Complete Annotation of the Hōmon
hyakushu by Jakuzen (Jakuzen Hōmon hyakushu Zenshaku,
Kazama Shobō, 2010), Jakuzen recorded—in another of his
poetry collections, Yuishimbōshū—that he studied this form of
meditation at Raigō-in temple in Ōhara, under the instruction
of Ennin Shōnin. Thus Raigō-in is one of the few places where
we can definitively place Jakuzen during his lifetime.
In poem 70, as in many Buddhist poems, the moon
symbolizes the Buddha himself, as well as his teachings; therefore
the hidden moon is a metaphor for times of trial for the
Buddhist practitioner. In the afterword, Jakuzen repurposes the
love-poem trope of “sleeves wet with tears” (in this case, wet
with dew, a metaphor for tears) to depict the grief of the
practitioner after the Buddha’s physical form was hidden from view.
The afterword also refers to the “latter days of the Law”
(Japanese, mappō), a period of time prophesied in Buddhist
scriptures, which was thought by many Asian cultures to have begun
in 1052. According to this prophesy, during this age accessing
and acting upon the teachings would become an extremely
arduous task. The passage Jakuzen quotes near the end of the
afterword is taken from the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra,
“Life Span of the Thus Come One.”
Source text: Jakuzen Hōmon hyakushu zenshaku, Yamamoto Akihiro. Kasama Shobō, 2010, pp. 124–25, 129–30, 130–32, 132–34.