Religious poems by a myokonin

Below are four brief poems by Asahari Saichi (1850-1932). Saichi belongs to the myokonin, ‘persons of humble origin but with a penetrating insight’, in a definition of Shin author Taitetsu Unno.

These four are a selection from the 146 printed in chapter 10, ‘From Saichi’s journals’,of D.T. Suzuki’s book Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist (2002). More poems by Saichi are to be found throughout chapters 7 to 9. Please click here to download Suzuki’s book (pdf – 0.6 MB).

1. I exchange work with Amida

I exchange work with Amida:
I worship him who in turn deigns to worship me –
This is the way I exchange work with him.

2. O Saichi, who is Nyorai-san?

‘O Saichi, who is Nyorai-san?’*
‘He is no other than myself .’
‘Who is the founder [of the Shin teaching]?’
‘He is no other than myself.’
‘What is the canonical text?’
‘It is no other than myself.’
The ordinary man’s heart has no fixed root.
Yet this rootless one takes delight in the Hō [i.e. Dharma];
This is because he is given Oya’s heart** –
The heart of ‘Namu-amida-butsu’.

* Nyorai is the Japanese reading for Chinese ju-lai, which is the translation of the Sanskrit tathāgata. It means ‘one who thus comes (or goes)’.
** To Saichi ‘Oya-sama’ or ‘Oya’ not only means Amida himself but frequently personifies the ‘Namu-amida-butsu’. To him, sometimes, these three are the same thing: Amida as Oya-sama, the Myōgō (‘Namu-amida-butsu’), and Saichi.

3. I am lying,

I am lying,
Amida deigns to worship Saichi,
I too in turn worship Amida –
‘Namu-amida-butsu!’

4. The adorable form of Nyorai

The adorable form of Nyorai
Is indeed this wretched self’s form –
‘Namu-amida-butsu, Namu-amida-butsu!’

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