Dogen Sangha Blog


Japanese / German

Monday, December 11, 2006

Chodai Kesa no Ge, or the Poem of praising Kashaya putting on the Head

I think that not only monks, but all human beings should wear Kashaya, when they practice Zazen. The reason, why I recommend to do so to my students, comes from that I actually experience that when I put on Kashaya on my body, I experience very sober and sincere consciousness without fail actually. Therefore in Shobogenzo, the 93th Chapter Doshin, Master Dogen insists that we should wear Kashaya, when we practice Zazen.
When we wear Kashaya, we usually sit on the floor streaching the waist, and putting the folded Kashaya on the head, with joining hands, and recite the Chodai Kesa no Ge, or the Poem of praising Kashaya three times. Then standing up, and we wear it.

Chodai Kesa no Ge


"Chodai" means to put on something on the head. "Kesa" means Kashaya. "no" means of. "Ge" means a poem. So "Chodai Kesa no Ge" means the Poem of praising Kashaya putting on the head.

(The Poem)

Daisai Gedaffuku Muso Fukuden-e Hibu Nyoraikyoo Koodo Shoshujoo


"Daisai" means it is so great. "Gedatsu" means to become free. "Fuku" means clothes. "Hibu" means to wear reverently. Nyoraikyoo means Gautama Buddha's teachings. Koodo means to save widely. Shoshujoo means miscellaneous living beings. Therefore the total meaning is:

How great is the clothing of liberation,
Formless, field of happiness, robe!
Devoutly wearing the Tathaagata's teaching,
Widely I will save living beings. (translated by Gudo Wafu & Chodo Cross)


At the end of the Chapter (12) Kesa-kudoku in Shobogenzo, we can find the following descripton.

During my stay in Sung China, when I was making efforts on the long platform, I saw that my neighbor at the end of every sitting would lift up his kashaaya and place it on his head; then holding the hands together in veneration, he would quietly recite a verse. The verse was:

Daisai-gedatsu-fuku How great is the clothing of liberation
Muso-fukuden-e Formless, field of happiness, robe!
Hibu-nyorai-kyo Devoutly wearing the Tathaagata's teaching.
KooDo-shoshujoo Widely I will save living beings.

At that time, there arose in me a feeling I have never before experienced. [My] body was overwhelmed with joy. The tears of gratitude secretly fell and soaked my lapels. The reason was that when I had read the Aagama sutra previously, I had noticed sentences about humbly receiving the kashaaya on the head, but I had not clarified the standards for his behavior. Seeing it done now, before my very eyes, I was overjoyed. I thought to myself, "It is a pity that when I was in my homeland there was no master to teach this, and no good friend to recommend it. How could I not regret, how could I not deplore, passing so much time in vain?
Now that I am seeing and hearing it, I can rejoice in past good conduct. If I had vainly stayed in my home country, how could I have sat next to this treasure of a monk, who has received the transmission of, and who wears, the Buddha's robe itself?" The sadness-and-joy was not one-sided. A thousand myriad tears of gratitude ran down. (translated by Gudo Wafu & Chodo Cross)


Blogger jundo cohen said...

Hello Roshi,

May I ask a question about Kashaya (Kesa)? Several of of your students (including me) are trying to have a more Western, less formal and traditional feeling in the Zendo. So, many of us who have Zen groups usually only sit Zazen in jeans pants, t-shirt and Rakusu (the short form of Kesa worn around the neck).

I sometimes sit in robes of Soto priest (like in my photograph, above), and sometimes in short pants and t-shirt with Rakusu. Is one way better than the other?

By the way (another question), most Zen groups do not encourage short pants and socks during Zazen (but only long pants and bare feet) for lay practitioners. What do you think about short pants and socks during Zazen?

Gassho, Jundo

10:57 PM, December 12, 2006  
Blogger element said...

Master Nishijima,

In former times monks travelled around to learn the Dharma. Do you think it is helpful/necessary today, to leave home and travel through the world?

Or do you think that via the Internet it is possible to learn the theorie of a far away Master, altough Master Dogen insisted on a face to face relationship?

6:09 AM, December 14, 2006  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For JundoCohen San

My opinion of clothes during Zazen is as follows.

1. It is not necessary to worry about using short pants, jeans pants, t-shirt, and so forth, because ther are many countries, which are so hot, or so cold.

2. But it is an international tendency for Buddhists to use Kashaya when we practice Zazen. Because we can find common habits among Thera-vaada Buddhism, Tibetan Buddism, Chinese Buddhism, Korean Buddhism, Japanese Buddhism, and so forth, and so I think that it is adequate for us to revere such a kind of international tndency.

3. In the case of Rakusu (the very abreviated form of Kashaya) it does not have international popularity similar to Kashaya, and so I am afraid that Kashaya would be replaced by Rakusu easily.

4. I do not worry about short pants are used during Zazen, but it is a traditional rule for us to take off socks during Zazen.

For Element San

I think that it is not always necessary for us to leave home and travel through the world for studying Buddhism, because fortunately in 21st century we can use the international information technology for having mutual relations so much.

But at the same time there is necessity for us to have a contact between personalities in Buddhism, and so in that case it is necessary for us to meet together.

3:17 PM, December 15, 2006  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For zushi San

The poem, which you asked me the meaning is called "Ten Patsu no Ge, or the poem of opening Patra." "Ten" means to open, and the original pronunciation of "Patsu" is Hatsu, which means Patra, or the bowls for Buddhist monks. And "Ge" means a poem, and so "Ten Patsu no Ge" means the poem for opening the monk's bowls.

Ten Patsu no Ge

busshoo kapira joodoo makada

seppoo harana nyuumetsu kuchira

nyorai ooryooki gakon toku futen

gan gu itsusaishu too sanrin kuunyaku


"bussho kapira" means Gautama Buddha was born in Kapilavastu.

"joodoo makada" means he got the Truth at Magadha.

"seppoo harana" means he had the first lecture at Vaaraanasi.

"nyuumetsu kuchira" means he died at Kushinagara.

"nyorai ooryooki" means Gautama Buddha's Patra.

"ga kon toku futen" means now I can open it.

"gan gu itsusaishu" means hopefully all members,

"too sanrin kuunyakuu" means the three kinds of factors, that is, the monks to serve, the monks to be served, and the food to be served, should be balanced and serene.

10:46 PM, December 18, 2006  

Post a Comment

<< Home