皆偽りの mina itsuwari no
つくもがみ tsukumo gami
思ひ乱るる omoi midaruru
夢をこそ説け yume wo koso toke
From the beginning to the end
Everything is unreal
As white tangled hair shows.
Even though being confused by conflicting emotions,
We should expound this as a dream.
Moto sue means beginning and end. Mina means all or everything. Itsuwari means "false", "untrue", or "fictitious"; I translate this word as "unreal". This means that everything is without any fixed self-nature, and therefore everything is changing all the time.
Tsukumo gami is old people's white, tangled hair: this is a symbol of impermanence and being without substance; it points to emptiness. This word is written in Kanji as 九十九髪. It is a play on words:髪 (kami→gami)is hair, and 九十九 means ninety-nine, which refers to very old people. In Kanji, one-hundred is 百, and ninety-nine is one-hundred minus one. And when we take one (一)out from 百, it becomes 白, that means white. So, this word refers to the white and tangled hair of very old people.
When these people were young, their hair was black and pretty. Our life changes in the same way the color of our hair changes; we cannot see our black hair again and we cannot become young again. Our lives seem unreal like a dream when we look back on ourselves in our youth. Within dream-like lives, we have been always confused by conflicting emotions, various thoughts coming and going, and we worry about so many things as if they are real things. Particularly in our old age, what we did when we were young seems like a dream and often we feel sad; we might even think we are no good anymore.
When we are within a dream, we believe what we see and think is real. However, when we awaken to the reality of impermanence, and no fixed self-nature (or emptiness), we can clearly see everything is like a dream. In the end of the Diamond Sutra, there is a verse saying:
"All conditioned things are
like a dream, a phantom, a bubble, a shadow,
like a dewdrop,
and also like a flash of lightning.
We should see them thus."
In Sanshodoei, a collection of Dogen Zenji's waka compiled and edited by Menzan Zuiho, the title of this waka is Muchu-setsumu (Expounding Dream within Dream). In the Shobogenzo Muchu-setsumu, Dogen writes:
"This place of expounding a dream within the dream is the homeland of buddhas and ancestors and the assemblies of buddhas and ancestors."
When we see a dream as a dream, we are not deceived and confused by the things happening in the dream. This dream-like life in which everything looks unreal is the only real life we can live.