classical-japanese.net

  Dear friends,
did you ever wonder what those beautiful Japanese calligraphical hanging scrolls mean? - I was always believed there is great wisdom in those cryptic writings... the most concise poems ever written, some of them are just one kanji...

My first attempt to decrypt them was to ask friends and shop assistants, both in China and Japan. They did not have the slightest idea, not even in huge shops, loaded with hundreds of scrolls!

So I bought a book: Tokonoma no Zengo ( Zen words in the Tokonoma) by Kono Taitsu. It analyses one hundred calligraphy, most of which having a reference to Zen buddhism. Today I pick one of them.

ʩʩ
Roughly meaning: Sun-faced buddha, moon-faced buddha.

Seems easy, eh? Not so!

This is quoted from a great Zen classics: the Hekiganroku ( ˴Ͽ - Nephrite Rock writings ) from the 11th century. The whole text of the koan:

԰

¾
ºǡ
ձ
ʩʩ

Ma daishi fuan
inshu tou
oshou chikanichi
sonkou ikaga
daishi iu
Nichimenbutsu, gachimenbutsu
in English:

Master Ma [ his full name was Ma Tsu ] was sick.
The head monk came to visit him and asked:
How are you in these days, master?
The master replied:
Sun-faced buddha, moon-faced buddha.

In my view, the meaning of this koan is simple. Ma Tsu was seriously ill, and he expected his death. He did not want to be distracted by thoughts of his illness, therefore he rejected the polite inquiry, and turned his mind (and his visitors mind) to more important thougths.

Sick people tend to talk a lot about their problems, their treatment, their pains, etc. Ma Tsu was different. He returned the politeness of his visitors by sparing them from his complaints, and reminded them to a verse from an old sutra, listing 3000 names of buddhas of the past, the present and the future.

According to this sutra, the Sun-faced buddha will reign 1800 years, while the Moon-faced buddha reigns only 1 day and 1 night...

One last footnote... The title of this Chan classics: Nephrite Rock, comes from the calligraphy that was hung in the cell of the monk who compiled this book.




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