Dogen Sangha Blog


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Sunday, December 3, 2006

Go Kan no Ge, or the Poem of the Five Reflections

In Buddhist societies, we have five kinds of reflections at the beginning of meals, and in the Buddhist temple we have the habit to recite them loadly at the beginning of meals. Recently those habits have been abbreviated many times, but I think that such a Buddhist habit is very important. Because Buddhism is philosophy which revere acts in our daily life so much, and so
it is very important for us to recite the fundamental viewpoints at the beginning of acts.
Therefore I would like to establish the fundamental principle to recite Go Kan no Ge, or the Poem of the Five Reflections, at the beginning of meals even in family lives, or single lives. Even though it is necessary for us to recite it in Japanese so far, but there is possibility that we can recite it in the translated form into a native language of each country in future.

Go Kan no Ge, or the Poem of Five Reflections

No. 1.


hitotsu ni wa, koo no tashoo o hakari, ka no raisho o hakaru


First, cosidering what I have done, I suppose the so enormous efforts of others, who have made their efforts for producing the stoff of meals and cooking.

No. 2.


futatsu ni wa, onore ga tokugyo no zenketsu o hakatte ku ni ozu


Second, thinking the perfctly lacking my moral behavior, I accept the meals with many thanks.

No. 3.


mitsu ni ha, shin o fusegi toga o hanaruru koto wa, ton to o shuu to su


Third, our efforts to prevent abstract considerations and leave from mistakes are mainly related with our efforts of regulating our desire, anger, and stupidities.

No. 4.


yotsu ni wa masani ryooyoku o koto to suru wa, gyooko o ryoo ze n ga tame nari


Fourth, the reason, why I receive meals as good medicine, is just to cure and prevent the withering and weakening.

No. 5.


itsutsu ni wa, joodoo no tame no yue ni, ima kono jiki o uku.


Fifth, I receive those meals just for accomplishment of getting the Truth.


 • aa suggests a long sound of a. 

 • ii suggests a long sound of i.

 • uu suggests a long sound of u.

 • oo suggests a long sound of o.



Blogger element said...

Master Nishijima,

In the Temple I stay right now, we recite this poem/sutra before every meal. I find that very important.

Though this is my first day of the Rohatsu Sesshin, and we are forbidden to speak, there came a question to me during Kinhin, so I stealed me on the Computer to ask you this question.

At the temple I stay they instruct for Kinhin to go a step further at the beginning of breathing out.

Yet you said that concentrating on the breath during Zazen is like a consideration, and I also think so, what do you think about Kinhin?

Do you orientate your steps on the breath or do you go further automatically/intuitive?

9:35 PM, December 03, 2006  
Blogger Brad Warner said...

Element's question brings up a matter I wanted to ask you. At many Zen retreats, participants are forbidden to speak. But at the retreats you used to lead, we were always allowed to talk. After I began leading these retreats, some members asked that we "observe noble silence," meaning members would be forbidden to talk. Since you didn't establish this rule, I did not require it. But I did ask members to talk as little as possible. This had a very good effect. So I began to think about requiring silence at the retreats. Maybe just for the first day.

I wondered about your opinion on this matter.

6:21 AM, December 07, 2006  
Blogger SlowZen said...

Master Nishijima,
I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya.


7:16 AM, December 07, 2006  
Blogger Anatman said...

I really appreciate this Poem of the Five Reflections, and will try it before meals. It is similar to the Christian blessing, or "saying grace" before meals, which I always felt was a good ritual that helped settle the mind and focus on the significance of eating.

Here is my interpretation of your translation... Please let me know your thoughts as to its accuracy:

1. From our own experience, we recognize the great efforts of those that have produced this food and cooked this meal.

2. Recognizing our own moral imperfection, we humbly accept this meal with gratitude and thanks.

3. We discipline our minds and learn from our mistakes, as we work on regulating desire, anger, and stupidity.

4. We take this meal as nourishment, to improve our health, and prevent weakening.

5. We take this meal as nourishment, so that we may realize the Truth.

7:37 AM, December 07, 2006  
Blogger jundo cohen said...

Dear Nishijima Roshi,

Brad's question leads me to ask about other traditional practices that I follow in retreats I lead, such as bowing, chanting the Fukanzazengi, and giving talks.

As to bowing, I think it good that we bow to each other and bow to Reality. I encourage student to "sanpai" (a prostration on the floor) because I find that such an expression of gratitude and humility in the face of Reality is a healthy thing, medicine for the ego. Of course, I often remove the old wooden Buddha statue on the altar with something/anything else ... an old pair of shoes, a flower, a garbage can, a picture of Osama Bin Laden ... to remind students to accept all Reality, including the so-called "ugly" parts.

We chant the Fukanzazengi in traditional Soto style. However, it is important to also study it and practice it, not just chant it.

I give talks, sometimes after Zazen (as you always did) sometimes during Zazen (you recently told someone that you do not approve of Kusen ... which I understand to be a kind of talk during Zazen). However, I have found it good to sometimes speak a Teisho during the Zazen, allowing the words to flow over them during Zazen.

During retreats, our practice is Zazen. I find all these practices ... like chanting before meals ... in harmony with that. Am I mistaken?

Gassho, Jundo

1:46 AM, December 08, 2006  
Blogger oxeye said...

jundo's question left me wondering.. is an insincere prostration on the floor better than a short heartfelt bow? i think it is about heart and not so much about form. sometimes i forget to bow before zazen but always mean to and want to. i hope that is what is important.

2:46 PM, December 08, 2006  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For Element San

In the case of Kinhin I do not worry about breathing at all. I breath my breathing as I like.

I practice Kinhin automatically and intuitively.

For administrators San

Thank you very much for your efforts.

For Brad San

My method of organizing Sesshin follows Master Kodo Sawaki's method almost completely as far as possible. Therefore I permit all members to have their talks during the time of taking a rest. Our Zazen do not like to get the so-called enlightenment other than Zazen itself, and so it is useless for us to stop talking during the time of taking a rest. Those talkings have very value to get the Buddhist philosophy.

For Jordan San

As you know, in the age of Mahayana Buddhism, so many miscellaneous Buddhist precepts synthesized into 16 precepts, that is, the three devotions, the three synthesized pure precepts, and the ten especially heavy forbidding precepts, and so I revere those Mahayana Buddhist precepts so much following Master Dogen, and so not have so much interest in miscellaneous Hinayana Buddhist precepts.

For Anatman San

Reading your translation of the five reflections, I feel my interpretations as follows.

1. The meaning of "From our own experience" is a little different from the
odiginal meaning. And the original meaning suggests that "Comparing with what I have done."

3. The meaning of the reflection is "Avoiding our mental consideration for guarding us from our mistakes in behavier, the most important point is for us to guard ourselves from greed, and so forth (which mean greed, anger, and stupidity).

For JundoCohen San

I think that it is very rude manner to remove the old wooden Buddha statue and put there an old pair of shoes, garbage can, a picture of Osama Bin Laden. We should never do them.

I think that the Practice of Zazen should be separated from lectures perfectly.

I think that we should follow Master Kodo Sawaki's meathod exactly.

For oxeye San

I think that such an idea might be intellectual consideration, but Buddhism is never consideration or sensitive reflection. Buddhist philosophy is just the philosophy of act, and so those kinds of rude behavior can never be permissible in Buddhism.

6:00 PM, December 08, 2006  
Blogger jundo cohen said...

Thank you, Roshi for your comment. May I ask another question? You wrote:

I think that it is very rude manner to remove the old wooden Buddha statue and put there an old pair of shoes, garbage can, a picture of Osama Bin Laden. We should never do them.

But, how are those things not Buddha, not Reality? And, if you say that the old wooden statue is better than those things, then isn't that a rather idealistic view of old Buddha and of wooden Buddha statues?

My point in doing so is simply that Reality is just Reality, is both flowers and weeds.

As well, how can you "remove" the Buddha from anywhere, or "put" something to take its place?

Anyway, I look forward to your answer.

Gassho, Jundo

PS - I always give a little special bow to the little wooden Buddha statue as I take him off his seat.

11:06 PM, December 08, 2006  
Blogger oxeye said...

Master Nishijima,

Thinking over your reply, it might be that some of my ideas about ritual in general keep me from understanding buddhist ritual properly. No rudeness was intended.

I see that if we repeat some things again and again and keep our minds focused on the moment and the action, then every time we perform an act it will become new no matter how often we do it. That is good practice for the body/mind.

thank you.

1:30 AM, December 09, 2006  
Blogger element said...

Master Nishijima,
Thank you for answering.

Today the Master at the temple I stay said that at the Temple Master Dogen was practicing by Master Nyojo, they practiced a schedule like the Rohatsu Sesshin all year long. Also when I read Zuimonki or Shobogenzo, it seems to me that Dogen praised a hard practice (much Zazen/sitting all day). Also his temple Eiheiji is known for their hard practice.

You said That it is more important to practice Zazen every day, than to attend a Sesshin.

I also thought that Master Kodo Sawaki sat very much. The Sesshins at his(?) temple Antaiji are also very hard. Is this because of his follower Master Uchiyama, or is this because it is a Monastery?

Did Kodo Sawaki teach a modern version of Dogen`s Zen?

Do you teach the same as Kodo Sawaki, or what are the differences between you and him?

Why do you think it is not neccesary to practice as hard as at Dogen's lifetime?

My opinion of the Rohatsu Sesshin I sat is that maybe I learned more about the posture. I had hard pain in the lower back, thats because I sat with to much effort in the back muscels, after 3 days it was impossible to sit like that anymore. I concentrated to keep my spine vertically without much effort in the muscles, so I could sit the rest of the Sesshin.

3:42 AM, December 09, 2006  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For Cohen San

In the western civilization, it is very common to identify Materialism and Realism. Because in the western thoughts they usually do not recognize the existence of the middle according to the logic of Aristotle, but in Buddhism we recognize the difference between Materialism and Realism so clearly. And I think that the distinction between Materialism and Realism is very important, when we think about Buddhist philosophy.

For oxeye San

At every moment any kind of rudeness can never be permitted in Buddhism.

Yes, it is true. We are always acting just at the present moment.

For Element San

I have attended so many times Master Kodo Sawaki's sesshin at Daichu-ji in Tochigi Prefecture before the World War 2. At that time we woke up at 3 o'clock in the morning, but we went to bed at 9 o'clock at night, and so it was not so difficult to continue the Sesshin actually.

In the case of Master Tendo Nyojo, he woke up earlier than 3 o'clock in the morning, but at that time oil for making the room blighter was not so cheap, and so I think that they also went to bed as early as possible thinking about the cost of oil.

I think that a habit to yearn the severe condition of Sesshin might be a kind of romantic dream, but real Buddhist practice is not so dreamy, but much more realistic. I think that such a romantic dream comes from yearning for the so-called enlightenment, and so such a tendency might be popular in the sect, which is eager to get the so-called enlightenment, but in Master Dogen's lineage, we are mucn more realistic.

I think that in Buddhist practice it is much more important to practice Zazen everyday, because if we stop practicing Zazn for a while, our conditions are always suffered from confusion, and so our irregular practice usually disturb us so much.

It is true that Master Kodo Sawaki practiced Zazen so much.

When I had a Sesshin in Antai-ji in Kyoto under Master Kodo Sawaki, I felt that his method had become a little softer than before.

My organization called Dogen Sangha are following the same method as Master Kodo Sawaki as far as possible.

Master Kodo Sawaki never taught us a kind of modern practice, but he wanted to maintain the old traditional method as far as possible.

I am following almost the same method of Master Kodo Sawki's style.

It is very important point to keep the spine vertically whether it belongs to the beginning or the end.

8:17 PM, December 09, 2006  
Blogger element said...

Master Nishijima,
Thank you!

Do you have any Students from germany, who teach and practice Buddhism there according to your teaching?

What do you think about the existence/function of the Soto-shu organisation, Soto lineage in the World today?

Do you see yourself as an "outsider" of this organisation?

11:00 PM, December 09, 2006  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

For Element San

My German students, who have received my Dharma, are as follows.

Dagmar Waskoenig Doko

Gabriele Linnebach

Juergen Seggelke

Wolfram Gerhard

(If you hope to get their e-mail addresses,
please contact to me or the technical admin of this blog: )

The main jobs of the Soto-shu organisation is to preside funeral ceremonies, and to bring up future Masters of Soto-shu temples.

Soto lineage is working abroad now, but it seems still to be suffering from linguistic barriers.

I am a Dharma Heir of Master Rempo Niwa, the former Abbot of Eiheiji temple, and now I am the Master of Soju-ji temple, which belong to Soto-shu.

10:01 AM, December 11, 2006  

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