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San Jose 10/31/2010


Poem in Praise of the Sangha



Poem in Praise of the Sangha

Qing Dynasty Emperor Shunzhi


天下叢林飯似山 鉢盂到處任君餐

黃金白玉非為貴 惟有袈裟披肩難

朕為大地山河主 憂國憂民事轉煩



The offerings made to the monasteries everywhere pile up as high as a mountain,

So monks with almsbowls can receive food as they please;

Gold and jade in fact are not the most precious of items,

The kasaya (monk’s precept robe) alone is the rarest garment one can wear.

I, the Emperor, am Lord of China, with its mountains and rivers,

I worry over the nation, I‘m concerned for the people, I‘m always distressed.  


百年三萬六千日 不及僧家半日閒

來時糊塗去時迷 空在人間走這回

未曾生我誰是我 生我之時我是誰

長大成人方是我 合眼朦朧又是誰



One hundred years contain more than 36,000 days;

Passing them as Emperor can‘t compare with the comfort and ease of

Half a day spent living as a Sanghan.

We come to this life confused, we leave it deluded,

Between birth and death, I‘ve come to this world as a human in vain.

Before I was born, who was I? At the time of my birth, who was I then?

If after growing to adulthood, my identity was finally set,

Then when I shut both eyes at death, who have I become?  


不如不來又不去 來時歡喜去時悲

悲歡離合多勞慮 何日清閒誰得知

若能了達僧家事 從此回頭不算遲



Coming to life cannot compare to “no further coming or going,” (Nirvana)

Because regardless of who we are, we are happy at birth and sad at death;

Happiness and sadness, meeting and departing, cause such trouble and grief.

Who knows which day will we attain true purity?

Yet if I could understand the important matter of birth and death,

and even today ‘turn my head around,’ it would not be too late.  


世間難比出家人 無憂無慮得安宜

口中吃得清和味 身上常穿百衲衣

五湖四海為上客 皆因夙世種菩提

個個都是真羅漢 披搭如來三等衣


It‘s hard to compare anything in the world to the ‘left-home’ life,

With its care-free, worry-free, peace of mind.

Your mouth savors the pure flavor of serenity,

Your body is forever robed in the ‘hundred-patches cloak.’

You are received as a honored guest everywhere you wander

Within the Five Lakes and the Four Oceans ;

All because in past lives you made the Bodhi Resolve.

True Arhats always wear the Tathagata’s three robes on their bodies.  


金烏玉兔東復西 為人切莫用心機

百年世事三更夢 萬理乾坤一局棋

禹開九州湯放桀 秦吞六國漢登基

古來多少英雄漢 南北山頭臥土泥


While the Golden Crow and the Jade Moon run from East to West,

We must refrain from exercising our cleverness;

Worldly affairs done over a century last no longer than a fleeting dream at dawn.

The war over territory turns the earth into a game of chess.

Yu the Great set up the Nine States ; but his descendant King Jye was expelled by King Tang;

Qin Shr Huang swallowed the Six Nations but soon the Han overthrew him;

From ages past all the great heros who have taken the world‘s center stage,

All now lie in the wilderness, beneath the dust and mud.  


黃袍換得紫袈裟 只為當年一念差

我本西方一衲子 為何生在帝王家

十八年來不自由 南征北討幾時休

我今撒手西方去 不管千秋與萬秋



Can I exchange this yellow robe for a purple precept sash?

I got the robe because I had one confused thought in the past;

I used to be a monk who sought rebirth in the Western Pure Land :

How did I wind up born into a royal clan?

For eighteen years as ruler I have not known a day of freedom:

Brigands in the South, rebels in the North, with no end in sight.

I‘m now putting down everything and heading for the Western Pure Land .

I don‘t care who succeeds me as Emperor:

Let the future glory of the country take care of itself.


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Emperor Shunzhi