Akegarasu: Buddhist poet

His life could come from today’s headlines—controversial, charismatic and polarizing, with a life filled with tabloid worthy scandals. Rev. Haya Akegarasu (1877-1954) became a renowned Buddhist whose teachings were strongly influenced by Manshi Kiyozawa, whose own experiential approach modernized Jodo Shinshu. Akegarasu eventually held the top administrative post in the Higashi Honganji denomination.

For 12 years, Akegarasu served from age 24 as de facto editor of Seishinkai magazine, which published many of Kiyozawa’s essays. He became one of the leaders of a Buddhist reform movement and helped start a Dobokai campaign to invigorate followers to strengthen their conviction. Akegarasu’s wife, Fusako Yamada, was a poet and sister of Gesshō Sasaki, a leading Higashi Honganji Buddhist scholar and later third president of Higashi’s Ōtani University. When Fusako fell ill with tuberculosis, Akegarasu had an illicit affair with her nurse. After his wife died and the affair became public, Akegarasu’s world fell into disarray, his reputation in tatters.

Akegarasu eventually pieced together his life, establishing a publishing company called Kōsō-sha, hiring as editors Shūichi Maida and Towa Nomoto. Maida, who also came from Ishikawa prefecture, studied philosophy under Nishida Kitarō at Kyoto University and later became a respected Buddhist teacher in his own right. Nomoto studied poetry under famous poet Kyoshi Takahama. She helped organized women poetry groups in local farming communities and authored a biography of Akegarasu, called Akegarasu Haya den.

Akegarasu eventually married another woman and also met a poet named Toyoko, who became his mistress. The trio lived openly and traveled together. He published many of Toyoko’s poems in his literary magazine Kōsō.

Nomoto and Maida edited a stream of Akegarasu’s writings, which later were compiled into a 28-volume set of collected works. The untitled poem below is my English translation from his book, From Within the Awesome Array of the World of Flowers (Japanese: Kegon zanmai no naka yori), published by Kōsō-sha in 1922.

—Wayne S. Yokoyama

 

Oh, how awesome—world of flowers!

Oh, how splendid—phenomenal spectacle of flowers!

Where everything is alive and

the land is flooded with light …

*

Where there’s no barrier

between man and things,

where there’s no distinction

between the living and nonliving,

where everything is alive,

where all things are dancing,

where the grass and trees speak,

where land itself sings,

where tile shards whisper,

where dust heaps scream and shout …

*

It’s said Man is born from earth,

yet entire worlds appear

from the pores of a man,

gods appear from all things

in myriad forms sparkling with light …

From a single pore

appears a trichiliocosm, three thousand worlds,

in a single moment’s thought

innumerable asaṃkhya buddhas are born,

each buddha in a separate world,

each with a trichiliocosm,

from each world a great trichiliocosm,

again appears another great trichiliocosm …

*

Each world is a flower,

Gods are flowers,

The Enlightened One is a flower,

all phenomena are flowers—

red ones,

white ones,

yellow ones,

purple ones,

blue ones,

black ones—

flowers of different kinds,

each shining with the light of love of a different kind,

one soul embracing another soul,

one soul entering another soul.

Oh, how great the universe!

Oh, how many souls within it!

Flowers of joy,

flowers of sorrow,

flowers of suffering

flowers of pleasure,

flowers of laughter,

flowers of Ultimate Bliss,

flowers of rage and resentment,

flowers of Hell—

each flower linked to others,

each flower helping others grow.

We become flowers,

our world becomes a flower,

our mind becomes a flower,

our body becomes a flower,

there is nothing that doesn’t,

not even the tiniest speck of dust

all through which love runs …

*

When the mind’s eye awakens to the world of flowers

all phenomena sparkle with light,

all mountains and oceans fill with music,

our individual world becomes one

that now accommodates a world full of people,

an individual becomes an entire tribe,

and all society becomes an individual,

like Indra’s net, where all things are mutually reflected.

Where there is death, there is life,

without life, there is no death.

Where there is permanence, there is change,

where there is Nirvana, there is impermanence,

as clouds change into various shapes and forms,

as water freely changes shape as needed,

as flowers change hue from moment to moment.

Ahh, what richness we live in!

Ahh, what an honor to live!

Flowers sparkling with love,

Flowers sparkling with life of all phenomena—

We’re born from flowers,

we give birth to flowers.

With no beginning or end,

with no boundary or bottom,

even the tiniest speck of dust is us,

mighty chiliocosm is us.

Lofty and great are we,

far in distance we go,

we embrace to bosom all things,

we are embraced to bosom by all things.

In the bosom of love,

on the dais of [lotus] flowers

do we sit.

Riding clouds,

astride waves

we dance with love,

our flowers sparkling.

The whole plant world sings,

layers of minerals dancing,

gods communing with men,

birds and beasts meeting with Buddha.

To become men is to embrace all women,

To become women is to embrace all men,

we are love,

we are flowers.

All beings everywhere shining uniqueness,

all things everywhere melting into a color of oneness.

We are one,

we are many.

We only have this moment in time,

we only have this place in space,

we only have this body here,

nothing outside ourselves,

making our appearance on a stage of all things,

there we dance.

*

As we sit in silence,

as we dance gleefully,

as we dance like surging billows,

as we dance like white clouds,

we see ourselves,

we see the me who sees ourselves,

how happy we are to see the me,

how happy we are our me is seen.

The world as me, the me as me,

me as actor, me as audience

the me that freely exists,

the me that does not freely exist,

the me that does not “not freely exist.”

There is nowhere our me came from,

there is nowhere our me goes,

there is nowhere our me dwells,

there is nowhere our me does not dwell.

This me of mine belongs to everything.

This me of mine belongs to nothing.

This me of mine experienced an inexplicable change.

This me of mine is love.

This me of mine is the flower.

Oh, white lotus!

Oh, red red rose!

Oh, peony!

Oh, hardy begonia!

Oh, plum!

Oh, cherry!

Oh, violet!

Oh, orchid!—

love of man,

love of woman,

love of youth,

love of maiden,

single flowered,

double flowered,

many flowered,

simple love,

complex love—

we blossom to a variety of flowers,

we burn with all kinds of love,

we shine with glory of love of every kind.

We are stone,

we are pine,

we are canary,

we are sea-slug,

we are lion,

we are amoeba,

we are all,

we are we,

we are flowers.

we are the awesome world of flowers,

we are lovely, graceful flowers,

where all creation shines,

where all phenomena sings.

*

Close your eyes and look quietly,

cover your ears and listen quietly,

to the fragrance of flowers,

to the sound of flowers weeping,

to cheeks of flowers,

to foreheads of flowers—

to ever-changing faces of flowers,

to voices of flowers—

Oh, what great flowers are we!

What glorious flowers!

And oh, what a glorious world of flowers!

Flowers we are!

Flowers [we are]!

Flowers!

(The original Japanese language poem follows below.)

Rev. Yokoyama is a translator of Buddhist works living in Kyoto, Japan, and former editor of Higashi Honganji’s The Eastern Buddhist academic journal. The translations in this article are entirely his own.

序歌

厳肅なる華の世界よ。

豊満なる華の萬象よ。

萬物すべて生き

光曜天地にみちてをる。

人と物とのへだゝりなく

生物ご無生物のけちめもない。

すべてが生きてをる

一切が踊ってをる。

草木が語り

国土がうたふ、

瓦礫がさゝやき

塵芥が叫ぶ。

大地から人が生れ

人の毛孔から国土が現はる

神々は萬物より化現して

不可思議光がかがやく。

一毛孔の中より三千大千世界が現はれ

一念の端的に阿僧祗の佛が生るる、

一佛に一世界あり又三千大千世界がある。

三千大千世界のその一つ一つに三千大千世界が現はれる。

世界は華である

神々は華である。

自覺者は華である

萬象は華である。

赤い華、

白い華、

黄な華、

紫の華、

青い華、

黒い華

くさぐさの色の華、

くさぐさの愛の光り、

魂は魂をいだす、

魂は魂に入る、

大なる宇宙よ、

多なる魂よ。

喜びの華、

悲みの華、

苦みの華、

樂みの華、

笑ひの華、

極樂の華、

憤怒の華、

地獄の華、

華は華につながり、

華は華をはぐくんでをる。

われも華なり、

世界も華なり、

心も華なり、

身も華なり、

華ならぬ一物もなく、

愛の通はぬ微塵もない。

心眼この華の世界に開くる時、

萬象光り、

山海に音樂ひびき

一人の世界は萬人の世界となり、

個が種族となり、社會が個人なって。

因陀羅綱の互に影するやうである。

死あり、生あり、

生なく、死なく、

常住あり、變化あり、

涅槃あり、無常あり、

雲は別々に姿をかへ、

水は思々に形を改め、

華は刹那に色を新らしくする。

あゝさかんなる世界よ。

あゝ榮光ある吾よ。

愛のかがやく華、

萬象の生るゝ華、

われはこの華より生れたり、

われはこの華をうみたり、

われは始なく又終なく、

われに邊なく又底なし。

一徴塵のわれ、

大千世界のわれ、

偉大なるわれ、

深遠なるわれ、

われ一切を胸にいだき、

われ一切の胸にいだかる。

愛のふところに、

華の臺に、

われはすはってをる。

雲に乗り、

波にまたがり、

わが愛は踊り、

わが華はかがやく。

植物うたひ、

礦物躍り、

神々は人々ご交り、

禽厭は佛陀と會ふ、

男となりて一切の女をいだき、

女となりて一 切の男をいだく。

われは愛である、

われは華である。

萬象ことごとくその個性一光り、

一切こごとごく一如の色にとける。

われは一である、

われは多である。

たった一 つの時間

たった一 つの空間

たった一 つのわれ

われの外に萬象なく、

われは萬象に現はれて踊る。

黙然としてすはり、

嬉々ごして踊り行く、

怒濤のやうに踊ひ、

白雲のやうに舞ふ。

われはわれを見る、われはわれを見るわれをみる。

見てよろこび、見られてよろこぶ。

萬象のわれ、われのわれ、

俳優のわれ、観客のわれ、

主觀のわれ、客観のわれ。

われは自在なり、

われは不自在、

われは不不自在なり。

われの来りし所なく

われのゆく所なし、

われの住む所なく、

われの住まはる所なし。

われは一切を所有して、

われは一切を所有せず。

われは不可設轉の轉である。

われは愛である。

われは華である。

白蓮よ、

紅薔薇よ、

牡丹よ、

秋海棠よ

梅よ、

櫻よ、

菫よ、

蘭よ、

男の愛、

女の愛、

青年の戀、

處女の戀、

一重の華、

八重の華、

千重の華、

簡單な愛、

複雑な愛。

われは一切の華に華さき、

われは一切の曖に燃にたち、

われはもろもろの戀に榮ゆる。

われは石なり、

われは松なり、

われはカナリヤなり、

われは海鼠なり、

われは獅子なり、

われはアミイバなり、

われは一切なり、

われはわれなり、

われは華なり。

われは厳肅なる華なり、

艷麗なる華なり。

森羅かがやき、

萬象うたう。

眼を閉ぢて静にみよ。

耳をとぢて靜にきけよ、

華の薫り、

華のすすりなき、

華の頬、

華の額、

轉じてやまざる華の顔、華の聲、

偉華なるわれよ、

光輝ある華よ、

華の世界よ。

華のわれよ。

ああ華よ。

華よ。

華よ。

 

 

 

 

 

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