かげもうつさじ kage mo utsusaji
かも川に kamogawa ni
みやこにいづる miyako ni izuru
水とおもへば mizu to omoeba
I won’t stop by
at [the bank] of Kamo river,
so that my appearance is not reflected on it
because I think
the water will flow into the capital.
I have been translating Dogen Zenji’s waka based on the text Dogen Zenji Wakashu (A Collection of Dogen Zenji’s Waka) included in Volume 17 of Dogen Zenji Zenshu (The Complete works of Dogen Zenji), Shunjusha, Tokyo, 2010). There are fifty-three waka poems in the main part of the text that were taken from Kenzeiki, a biography of Dogen Zenji written by Kenzei. Kenzei (1415 – 1474) was the fourteenth abbot of Eiheiji. Among these poems, two composed close to his death are in the main text of Dogen’s biography and other fifty-one waka are placed after the biography as an appendix. According to the postscript of the waka collection, these poems were collected and copied by the monk Kishun, the eighth abbot of Hokyoji, and presented to Kenzei’s master Kenko, the thirteenth abbot of Eiheiji, in 1420. When Kenko asked Kenzei to write Dogen Zenji’s biography, probably he instructed Kenzei to include Dogen’s waka.
In the Dogen Zenji Zenshu, another thirteen waka are included as addendum. These thirteen waka were added by later people who made their own versions of the collection of Dogen’s waka in the Tokugawa period (1603-1868). Even Kenzeiki was written about two hundred years after Dogen’s death. We cannot find any information about Dogen’s waka earlier than the Kenzeiki except that Keizan quoted one waka in his Dharma Words. Modern scholars question whether these waka were truly composed by Dogen himself. For example, Yoko Funazu, a scholar of Japanese literature, wrote, “There are no waka at all that we can prove were truly composed by Dogen himself.” (1) However, there is also no information available from which we can decide that these waka were truly not written by Dogen. I have been translating and making comments on these waka attributed to Dogen assuming they were indeed Dogen’s work. Should evidence be discovered indicating that any one of these waka are not Dogen’s, I don’t mind taking them out of the collection. Since I am not a scholar, I cannot decide which are truly Dogen’s and which are not, but it is also true that sometimes it's difficult for me to understand why Dogen wrote a particular poem. This waka is one of them.
This waka is the first of the thirteen additional waka in the Shunjusha text. It's one of the two waka added in the Ryugenji version of the collection of Dogen’s waka. I don’t know who made the collection and from where this waka was taken.
In this waka, Dogen says that he does not want to even reflect his face in the river water because it will go into, or it came from, the capital city, Kyoto. Bunji Takahashi, a scholar of Japanese literature who made the rendering to modern Japanese in the Shunjusha text, interprets “miyako ni izuru” as “came out of the capital.” (2) In this case, Takahashi thought this poem was written while Dogen was living at Koshoji in Fukakusa, which is south of Kyoto. However, I don’t think that is the case. If this waka was written by Dogen, I suppose that Dogen composed this poem shortly after his ordination when he was thirteen years old while he was living on Mt. Hiei. The mountain is located in northeast of Kyoto. If my guess is correct, this should be translated as “will flow into the capital.” The Kamo River flows from the northwest of Kyoto, merges with Takano River coming from northeast, and flows near the foot of Mt. Hiei, at the location of Shimogamo Shrine in the city of Kyoto. Then it goes to the south through the city of Kyoto and eventually merges with the Katsura River and Uji River and finally becomes Yodo River that flows to Osaka Bay. If Dogen lived in north of the city like Mt. Hiei, the water would go into the capital and if he lived at Koshoji in Fukakusa, the water would come out of the capital.
I don’t think that while living at Koshoji in Fukakusa Dogen had such a negative feeling about the city of Kyoto that he did not want even reflect his face on the water of Kamo River because it was defiled by the people in the capital. In Volume 8 of Eiheikoroku, there is a section in which Dogen wrote:
“However, I do not yearn for mountains and forests, and do not depart from the neighborhoods of people. Lotus flowers blossom within the red furnace; above the blue sky there is a white elm…… Don’t you see that the morning marketplace and battlefield are the original place of awakening for complete penetration of freedom? Why aren’t taverns and houses of prostitution the classrooms of naturally real tathagatas? This is exactly the significance of the ancient wise one [Sakyamuni] departing from Bodhgaya, and previous worthies traveling to Chang’an.” (3)
I think this is what Dogen thought when he established his first monastery, Koshoji, in the southern suburbs of Kyoto. He did not have such a negative feeling about the capital and the people who lived there. Rather, he wanted to practice right there with people who lived in samsara. Probably he had some hope that if he offered genuine Dharma and its practice to the people in Kyoto, he would be accepted and supported. Unfortunately, later he was disillusioned and had to move to Echizen.
If this poem was really written by Dogen, probably he expressed his determination to renounce his aristocratic family and the mundane world and devote himself to studying and practicing Buddha Dharma as a young monk on Mt. Hiei. From my experience, I understand Dogen might have such a rather childish but extremely pure resolution right after he left home. I don’t believe Dogen continued to have such a discriminating and negative feeling against people who lived in Kyoto after he came back from China and was trying to transmit the Dharma to Japan.
1. Sanshodoei no meisho, seiritsu, seikaku (Yoko Funazu, Dogen Shiso taikei vol. 6, Dohosha Shuppan, Kyoto, 1995), p.279
2. Volume 17 of Dogen Zenji Zenshu, Shunjusha, 2010), p.52
3. Dogen’s Extensive Record (Wisdom Publications), p. 498