The calligraphy at Komyo-in Temple
Komyo-in Temple, a sub-temple of Tofukuji Temple in Kyoto, is part of the Alternative Fushimi Inari Walking Tour. Here are some of the calligraphic scrolls hanging in the rooms there.
“On the mountaintops where the clouds do not live is the moon and the wave of your heart”
The clouds in this 1000-year-old poem refer to the illusions of the mind.
These words were first written at least 955 years ago by a Reverend Suigan Kashin. Very little is known about his life. The words cannot be transliterated directly into modern Japanese, hence the long and clunky rephrase. It’s easily read in modern Mandarin Chinese though: wú yún shēng lǐng shàng yǒu yuè luò bō xīn.
The last two characters in this poem, 波心 Hasshin, are what the garden outside are named after. It’s therefore the Garden of the Wave of the Heart, Hasshin-no-niwa.
Korekounichi (also pronounced Korekoujitsu)
"It's a good day"
Unmon Bunen, or Yunmen Wenyan, a Zen master who lived over 1,100 years ago in Tang Dynasty China, came up with Korekounichi. It means “Everyday is a good day, as long as you think it is”.
Kei Un Kou
Traditionally translated as “The Celebratory Clouds Arise”, Kei Un Kou is usually interpreted as a celebratory phrase to welcome the joys of a new year. However, given that the clouds in the main scroll of the temple refer to the illusions of the mind, Kei Un Kou here probably refers to the happiness one experiences when ones realizes that what has been going on in one’s head were but mere illusions.
These are read left to right.
Left: 諸悪莫作 Shoakumakusa (in Pali: Sabba pāpassa akaranam)
Right: 衆善奉行 Shuzenbugyou (Pali: kusalassa upasampadā)
These are the first two verses of four in Dhammapada verse 183. Loosely translated, it is an exhortation to not to anything bad (Shoakumakusa), and to do everything that is kind (Shuzenbugyou). The Pali translates to “Discard all that is immoral, what should not be done. Take in what is moral by sorting out what does not lead to nirvana”.
In Japanese Zui Setsu refers to a good amount of snow that precedes a bountiful harvest ahead when the snow melts at the end of winter, because the original phrase in Chinese was 瑞雪兆豊年, or “A Bountiful Year After Peak Snow”. Again these two words might have a different meaning because they are here in a zen temple. Perhaps the snow (representing hardship and perseverance) is supposed to precede realization (the harvest)?
This piece appeared on 4 October 2019 for just a day when an acquaintance of the calligrapher visited the temple. “Totsu 咄” means to exclaim or to expel the breath, and “Houge 放下” to put down or let go. The last character, “jyaku 著” is to mark an order or emphasise the words before it, so it simply puts further stress on “houge 放下”. Simply put, it means “Speak. Let go.”
This is a teaching from Zhaozhou Congshen, a Chinese zen monk who lived between 778-897 (that’s 118 years old!). He had been approached by a practitioner named Yan Yang, who said “I have been practicing a long training, and I have abandoned all my delusions. What should I do?”. Zhaozhou Congshen’s reply was “Hougejyaku 放下著”. Yan Yang realised at that point that he had not yet fully let go, and at that moment gained enlightenment.
Shinnyo means Tathātā, “the truth of things”. From the Wikipedia entry on Tathata:
“In Chan stories, tathātā is often best revealed in the seemingly mundane or meaningless, such as noticing the way the wind blows through a field of grass, or watching someone's face light up as they smile. According to Chan hagiography, Gautama Buddha transmitted the awareness of tathātā directly to Mahākāśyapa in what has come to be rendered in English as the Flower Sermon. In another story, the Buddha asked his disciples, "How long is a human life?" As none of them could offer the correct answer he told them "Life is but a breath". Here we can see the Buddha expressing the impermanent nature of the world, where each individual moment is different from the last.”
Shitsukan (nishite) Chami Sugashi
“The taste of tea is born of the quietness of a tearoom”
Or… “Clear perception arises from the quietness of a tearoom”