Kanji for Muryoko

'Infinite Light'

Journal of Shin Buddhism

Harold Stewart

Autumn Landscape Roll
A Divine Panorama

Personages Represented
Cantos 5 to 8
Cantos 9 to 12
Cantos 13 to 16
Cantos 17 to 20
Cantos 21 to 24
Cantos 25 to 28
Cantos 29 to 32

[ Synopsis and Introduction ]



Shan Tao, still rapt in contemplation, views
The coruscating trees,of seven jewels
That grow from Heaven's ground of lazurite
In rows along its seven avenues,
Where vermilion lacquered balustrades
With gilt bronze lotus-buds to knob their newels
Border this central court. Its terraced grades,
Diagonally paved with tiles invite
Lohans to stroll in converse, or to muse
At solitary leisure, as they choose,
Under this grove's illuminating trees,
Which intricately woven nets of gold
Threaded with sharply sparkling gems enfold.
As inspiration's otherworldly breeze
Stirs the elated leaves, it can dissolve
Their silence into faery euphonies;
And when like fiery wheels their flowers revolve,
Eighty four thousand flashes interlace
And turn to birds that wing away through space.

Insight discerns how from its golden root
One tree uplifts its silver trunk on high,
Until its crystal branches ramify
And, springing into twigs of coral, shoot
Emerald leaves and buds of rosy pearl,
Whose nacreous blossoms, after they unfurl,
Ripen clusters of red cornelian fruit.
These Seven Treasures in their turn permute
Through all the other trees, trimmed into tiers,
So that their nine concentric discs unite
Around the axial trunk, which still inheres
Amid their leafage as they scale its height.
So parasols of Buddhist royalty rise
Above a stupa's dome, to symbolize
These heavenly levels where the nine degrees
Of Consciousness ascend in ecstasies.

Vortical Time's contracting coils descend,
Hastening at an ever faster pace
Of decadence as its cycles near their end,
Till Change at last will be transfixed in Space.
But when that ultimate moment nullifies
Their dark deteriorating residues,
The bright perfected possibilities
At once spontaneously crystallize:
The enlightened psyche's seven qualities
Miraculously turn to jewel trees
In brilliant constellations, like a druse
Glittering with the six prismatic hues,
Which by interreflection reunite
Into the seventh, pure and pristine white.

Flanking the Honoured one amid his dais,
Two noble Bodhisattvas take their place
Enthroned on lotus blooms, at regal ease
Under five coloured clouds as canopies,
Each covered with a net of pearls that showers
A fringe of gilded tassels, bells, and flowers.

Tai Shih chih, on the Buddha's right hand side,
Exemplifies the Vow's redeeming powers;
Divine Compassion is personified
By Kuan Yin on his left, both aureoled
With solar darts and diademed in gold.
Like Amitabha they, too, face the East,
Viewing this world to welcome those released
From life, whom their iconic gestures bless
With votive gifts of faith and fearlessness.

The Buddha's Triad, whom his court attends.
Sits on the cloud railed decking that impends
Over the lotus lake,whence they survey
The host of leaves and flowers that stir and sway.
Balancing on the transient breeze, until
The dewdrops cloistered in their petals spill
Precious elixir. Though its past is rooted
In darker worlds of foul defiling mud,
Out of Samsara's depths each perfect bud,
Immaculately pure and unpolluted,
Aspires to seek the morning's light and air
And freely waft its perfume everywhere.

When pointed buds have smoothly risen through
The tranquil surface, which their colours strew,
Softly illumined by an inward glow
Of clear imperial yellow, powder blue,
Shell pink, or pearlier than moonlit snow.
Berylline waters mirror them below,
Where crane and egret, mandarin duck and drake,
With snowy goose and swan frequent the lake.
But those of doubtful faith on leaving earth
Are each enwombed within a folded flower,
And through twelve aeons must await the hour
When it will open up and give them birth.
On higher stems some pregnant buds have grown
Until their ivory petals tipped with rose,
Parting with faintly plosive sigh, disclose
The embryonic Buddha nature, deep
Amidst the opening Heart, though still asleep.
But when the highest blooms are fully blown,
As wide as chariot wheels, and there repose
Censing the air above the holy lake,
Seated inside,the newly born awake
In lotus posture on the emerald cone
Wherein their karma has embedded seeds
To raise the golden thoughts and words and deeds
Of Bodhisattvas, after they are sown.

A pair of monks wield poles on either boat,
Whose prow with rounded breast and slender throat
Of male or female phoenix, gold and red,
Curves to the royal crest upon its head,
As picking up the lotus born, they ply
About the azurite lagoon of sky.
The triple jewelled barges then return,
Trailing a wake of cirrus cloud astern,
To bring the freight of neophytes on board.
To havens in the West as faith's reward.
When on supernal piers they safely land,
The Buddha lays initiation's hand
On heads that bow in homage : everyone
Whom he adopts as spiritual son,
Innocent as a little naked boy,
Dances in gratitude and sings for joy.
Children of karmic virtue soon have grown
As tall as gods, with ever-youthful faces
And perfect figures, golden brown in tone;
Arrayed in silken sunshine through a haze,
Their lovely limbs reveal inherent graces
Of pose and motion that delight the gaze.
Nurtured by joy they never retrogress
Who reach this Land of Highest Happiness,
Where worship is not work but sacred play
And every day in Heaven a holy day.

Those blissful spirits who at last attain
Rebirth upon the first and highest plane,
Surround the Buddha's throne. Their choir rejoices
From soundless depths of reverence to raise
In unison their beatific voices
And chant the Pure Land Sutras in his praise.

Courtly musicians, seated in a row
To left and right upon the floating stage
Over the lotus pond that laps below,
Tuning their eastern instruments perform
Liturgic concerts that extol the Sage
And his attendant saints.
                                                The tenor shawm
Intones an eloquently poignant air,
As flute and flageolet, which run and trill
Descanting traceries with nimble skill,
Pursue the shrilling syrinx here and there.
But while with indrawn breath the shˆng is blown,
Its gourd, through organ-pipes like lifted wings,
Prolongs unearthly chords, their reedy tone
As rarified as though a phoenix sings.

When gifted fingers delicately brush
The horizontal cither till they flush
A flock of notes in evanescent flight;
Or sweep the harp,whose vibrant ripples seem
L1ke scintillations on a sunlit stream;
Or with a fluttering plectrum, ivory white,
Rapidly pluck a p'i p'a's silken strings;
All these orchestral tones and timbres meet
And intermingle, dissonantly sweet.

As jades in pentatonic scales that dangle
Within a frame, each hanging by its angle,
Emit, when struck, a melolithic chime,
Pellets on twirling cords in turn attack
The clatter drum's alternate front and back,
The grand bass tambour drums the numbered beat
That gongs of resonating bronze repeat.

On stage, the ritual dancers keep in time
With deft and elegantly stepping feet
And fluent hands that can converse in mime.
They wave their arms, their jewelled garlands flash,
Their anklet bells and jingling bangles clash,
Whenever the girls reverse their gauzy whirl,
As flaring skirts are furled and then unfurl.
They toss their long slim veils, tied at the wrist,
Swiftly aloft to loop and swirl and twist,
And so with loosely trailing streamers trace
Cursive calligraphy down vacant space,
Whose filmy strokes, like drifts of morning mist,
The following flourish will at once efface.

Shan Tao

"The lofty Vision sinks to earth again:
I journey westward on an arid plain,
Plodding through desolation day by day
To seek the priceless gem that I have lost.
One hundred thousand li now separate
Paradise from the desert yet uncrossed.
Climbing a rocky outcrop, I survey
Rivers of fire and water, which in spate
Have cut their channels straight across my way.
Flames from the south confront with hostile wrath
Waves of voracious craving from the north,
Each fathomlessly deep, although from side
To side at most a hundred paces wide.
But in between, I see a path of white.
Narrower than my open hand, divide
And kerb their turbulence to left and right.

Poisonous snakes, the unwary pilgrim's bane,
Scorpions and scolopendras that attack
With spiteful stings, infest this wild terrain,
Where I am hunted by a savage pack
Of beasts, their predatory jaws agape
With slavering hunger. How can I escape
Pursuers closing in from either hand?
And look: marauding robbers in a band,
Mounted and armed, who scour this barren land
For travellers, gallop up behind my back!
Dissembling friendliness, their chieftain shouts:
'We mean no harm to you. Dismiss your doubts
'Of our goodwill. But shun that dangerous track:
'It leads to certain death! Come back, come back!'.

Surely if I turn back, I shall be slain,
As surely be devoured, if I remain,
While on that perilous path of white ahead,
Which offers me the only way across,
I shall be drowned or burnt to death instead!
My will is weak and wavers, at a loss:
Where shall I flee, with neither chance nor choice?"

At once he hears the human Buddha's voice,
From somewhere in the air above, exhort:
'Do not despair or vacillate, dismayed,
'Run over quickly, brave and unafraid:
'Though strict, the Middle Way is safe and short!'

Down from the western sky the twenty five
Musical Bodhisattvas, who attend
This Buddhist Triad, rapidly arrive
Upon convolving clouds that trail behind,
So steeply is their urgent rush inclined
To reach Shan Tao, who desperately calls
The Name, the Name, for help before his end,
While lotus petals,round the pedestals
On which they dance or play an instrument
In concert with the hymns that they intone,
So prompt is their velocity, have been blown
Back in the riffling wind of their descent!

Kuan Yin precedes the rest approaching earth,
And leaning forward as she bends one knee,
Proffers on open palms the lotus seat
On which Shan Tao will waken in rebirth,
Ready to set it down before the feet
Of Amitabha's fervent devotee.
Tai Shih chih, who escorts her close behind,
Is bowing slightly with his palms combined,
Like an unopened lotus bud, in prayer,
So that immortal honeydew will pour
Into the Heart from bliss's vase before
His centrally aspiring fount of hair.

Amidst his entourage, the Buddha stands
His left arm lowered as he lifts his right
In gracious welcome, while he curves each hand's
Forefinger till its tip contacts the thumb
To beckon Shan Tao, bidding him to come
At once to those irenic coasts of Light:
'Follow the straight white path! Although so narrow,
'It leads to safety swifter than an arrow.
'Calling my Name with Faith, run, run to this
'The Western Paradise of Utmost Bliss!'
As Amitabha promised in his Vows,
The silver spiral hair between his brows
Will, like a frontal eye of moonstone, dart
One shaft of Faith to touch the mortal's heart
Who calls upon the Name's protective power,
Either recited many times an hour
Throughout his life, or when he faces death
Once only, even with his final breath!

So reencouraged, free of fear, Shan Tao
Starts out along the path to Ching-t'u's gate,
Raked by rapacious waves that alternate
With angrily aggressive claws of flame,
Though lust and hate cannot destroy him now
Because he is safeguarded by the Name.
He runs straight over with the single mind
Of Faith that never casts a look behind;
But when halfway across Samsara's strait,
He recollects his Bodhisattva's Vow,
Stops short and turns about, resolved once more
To hurry back to China's nearer shore
And show the way to others. But behold:
He finds the Order's habit that he wore
Is half of earthly colours, patched and old,
And half transmuted into cloth of gold!


Grand Master Chih-i, as the T'ien-t'ai sect's
True Founder, now invokes with solemn awe
Its Patron Bodhisattva, who protects
The Lotus Sutra's world enlightening Law,
And through such vivid words can visualise
P'u hsien's arrival from transcendent skies
That all those present in the temple share
His Vision, floating lightly down the air.


"We praise, 0 kindly Wu hsien, your descent
Into this shameless world. We have confessed
Defiling acts and passions that transgressed,
And pray that by your supernatural powers
You will prolong this fragile life of ours
To purify our hearts that now repent
And yearn for birth among the lotus flowers
Welcome, Samantabhadra, who attend
The Universal Buddha, here descend
From your Pure Land of Wonders in the East.
Adept in yogic method, teach and train
Your rapt disciples, so that we advance
Through meditative practice, till released
From worldly bondage. May we all attain,
As future Buddhas, stellar realms in Space,
Which we aspire to in ecstatic trance!

Embodying all the virtues, may your face
And figure win from sensual desire
The hearts of those whom beauty sets on fire,
And save them by your stratagems of grace,
Out of profound Compassion moved to make
Your Ten Great Vows, fulfilled for others' sake.

Your halo's spectral tints are like the rare
Circular rainbow, shimmering in mid air
Above deep chasms, sighted on a day
Of sunshowers from the cliffs of Mount Omei,
Though your fine nimbus never fades away.
From mists that thread its summit you receive
Your vestments, which their sunshot vapours weave.
To show your Mahasattva's rank you wear
A fretted gold tiara round your hair,
Like sombre conifers that have defied
Both crag and cleft to climb your mountainside.
Twin pools of polished onyx are your eyes,
Reflecting stars above the midnight sky's.
Your lips, half smiling, as magenta hued
As smooth magnolia buds that dawn has dewed,
Have opened while your eloquence extols
The One True Dharma, wonderful and wise,
Taught in the Triple Lotus Sutra's scrolls.
Hearing your voice, we devotees behold
Long bolts of crimson silk that have unrolled
Out of the heavens, delighting by surprise:
One hangs at every compass point of space,
Where we can read, embroidered down its face,
Your sutra, calligraphed in thread of gold.

Alight, P'u-hsien, serene and elegant,
Adorned with jewels worn by prince and priest,
And mounted on that docile mythic beast
Treasured by Buddhist kings, your Elephant
Of foaming cloud. His broad obedient back
Is saddled by a lotus, fully blown,
Amid whose petals you assume your throne.
His small sagacious eye is bright and black.
And in his trunk he holds a lotus bud
Plucked from this world's contaminating mud.
Three pairs of tusks upcurve to indicate
The six base senses we should sublimate
To serve Enlightenment, whose gem glows red
Within the lotus bloom that crowns his head.

As soon as you approach the immortal shore
Bounding the lake of paradise, once more
Your right hand wields the sceptre, carved from jade
Like clouds with scalloped contours overlaid
To replicate that fungus which bestows
Longevity with ageless youth on those
Who eat its flesh for metaphysic aid.
Waving your sceptre, spread its benisons
Over the water, like a flight of swans:
See how the lotus buds begin to climb
Upward from birth in worlds as black as slime,
Till they emerge and scatter Heaven's lake,
Like isles of cloud that in midsummer strew
The sky's lagoon of calm cerulean blue!
Summoned by ritual gestures, all awake
And seeking their centripetal Heart, unite
Countless corollas into one sublime
And snowy lotus flower of living Light,
Which slowly opens out in space and time,
While from each petal's rosy tinted lip
The Triple Jewels in a pendant drip.
So Shakyamuni seated on his throne,
The emerald pericarp's inverted cone
Studded with golden seeds, can thence survey
And counsel all who walk the Middle Way
Of Dharma, which transcends the two extremes
Of Void and Transience that only seems:
For every quality which they negate
Ultimate Suchness here and now redeems,
Affirming its unique and actual state.

Woven from Aether's luminescent space,
His cosmographic robe is everywhere
Patterned by Earth and Water, Fire and Air,
In six wide zones, a level for each race
That must endure its self-appointed span
As demon, ghoul, beast, titan, god, or man.
His figure, so diaphanously gowned.
Illustrates karmic justice by rebirth,
From paradisal scenes above the earth
Across his shoulders, draped with classic grace,
To purgatorial prisons underground
Along the hem that wraps his ankles round.
So Memory's timeless fabric holds in store
The total past, not only every trace
Of times that he and others lived before,
But seeds of future lives, in some far place
And epoch, when this world survives no more.

Amid the Buddha's gown,Sumeru soars,
As upright as his body's median line
When seated in triangular repose.
That central mountain is the rocky spine
Which dominates in front the robe's design,
Where Devas must defend the heavenly doors
Against Asuras, their beseiging foes.
A pair of dragons from resurgent seas
Have clambered up its rugged cliffs, embraced
By spirally constricting coils that squeeze
The middle till it has a hand drum's waist.
Four island continents on back and breast
And each flank lie to north, south, east, and west,
While Sun and Moon with vigilance patrol
The skies around its summit where they roll.
That never-moving axle pierces space
To rule the planets' ever circling race.
For there Samsara's rim lies all around
But nowhere can Nirvana's nave be found.

As all behold the Buddha's body grow
To cosmic stature, while his icon burns
From fiery red to molten gold, he turns
A blinding white, intenser than the glow
That sun reflects from newly fallen snow.
His pure primordial core of Consciousness,
By shining through that sheer translucent dress,
Appears as omniformal coloured Light,
Which at every wink of change disperses
Images, immaterial, numberless,
To fill the Void, with fleeting universes.
For in their starry whirlpool which at night
Wheels around Mount Sumeru, each event
Is merely one ephemeral form and name
In cyclic dances, never twice the same.
Real but illusory, they can all be reckoned,
In their three thousand modes, as immanent
During the conscious flash that lasts a second.
So from one lofty window in a room
A swarming galaxy of bright gold motes
Down a slanting shaft of sunshine floats
To penetrate the chamber's depth of gloom,
Where microcosmic stardust, briefly swirled
As it illumines space with world on world,
Scintillates for an instant in the light,
Then, sinking into darkness, fades, from sight."


The Indian adept, Vajrabodhi, named
Chin Kang-chih by the T'ang Chinese, was famed
In Tantric Buddhist annals as the Third
Master of Chên-yën. Through its secret rite
He would communicate the potent Word
Of Truth, which can awaken inward sight,
So monks whom he initiated could,
While in this body, rise to Buddhahood.

When in a dream this Patriarch beheld
Kuan Yin, whose presence kindled in his breast
Fearless Compassion, he had felt impelled
To bring to China at divine behest
The esoteric doctrines from the West.

Waving his incense burner while it smokes,
Out of its cloud of perfume he evokes
Mandalas, which are one and yet are two:
An opposite but complementary pair
Of cosmograms, suspending in mid air
Symmetric circles bordered by a square,
Which monks and laymen are amazed to view.

While he intones a longer mantric spell,
His right hand wields with adamantine might.
The diamond sceptre, whose five prongs repel
All darkness from the heart, and there ignite
The spark of Bodhi. Thence inherent fire,
Quickened by incantation, will aspire
To splendour that the sun cannot excel,
Until it floods both mandalas with Light.
His left, which rings the vajra handled bell,
With ritual's silver music can invite.
And welcome from aethereal realms of blue
Those Buddhas with assembling retinue
Of Bodhisattvas, sole awakened sages,
Arhats, and gods attended by their pages,
Descending through the hall's interior night.
When each among that bright celestial host
Is seated at his hierarchic post,
Due homage offers their supernal powers
Water, rice, incense powder, lights, and flowers.

Hung to the East, on Vajrabodhi's right,
The Matrix World appears to inward sight:
Suffused by pure Compassion's crimson tone,
The Heart's eight inmost petals there unfold,
Four at the compass points and four between,
Around the inverted cone with seeds of gold,
Supporting Vairocana's lotus-throne.
Emerging from his conscious Centre, eight
Buddhas and Bodhisattvas alternate,
And sitting on those petals where, half seen,
The three gold prongs of vajras intervene
To guard the Dharma, deeply meditate.

Now Vajrabodhi:clearly holds in mind
Those figures whom in turn he contemplates
In every detail, perfectly defined,
While he pronounces that syllabic seed
Which can evoke the power of each at need
With hierophantic hands he imitates
The manual seals which they have been assigned.
When image, word, and gesture correspond
In both, they form an esoteric bond
Whereby the Buddha's Triple Mysteries
Become embodied in his devotees.

His legs in lotus-posture interlock,
So that he sits as adamant as rock.
His right hand, open with an upturned palm,
Reposes on his left in pensive calm.
While he intones the holy "OM" its sound
Vibrates within the hearts of all around,
Who now behold amidst the Matrix Sphere
The Great Sun Buddha's fiery power appear!
His head is haloed by the solar Wheel
Of Dharma, with its eight auroral spokes
Piercing ignorant clouds that might conceal
His golden presence, whom their rays reveal
And whom his thaumaturgist thus invokes:


"Out of the ultimate Unknown, the Night
Of formless Voidthe Nought beyond the One,
Whose teeming Emptiness is so immense
It has no centre, no circumference,
Life of the Universe, divinely bright,
Burst forth in glory! 0 Supernal Sun,
Awaken blindness by spontaneous rays
Of Bodhi that surprise the mind with Light
Exploding from your Centre's molten blaze!
Yours is the Form-in-Emptiness that shapes
And colours mountain scenes and waterscapes,
Where your reflected Oneness can be seen
When mind and sky are equally serene.
Out of primordial Silence can be heard
Your Voice that calls from forest, brook, and bird.
You are that single Life which transmigrates
As countless lives through ever changing states,
Where your immortal Sun illuminates
Our karma, dark in deed, idea, and word.
So penetrating space's eight directions,
Implant with your enlivening golden darts
The seed of Buddha nature in our hearts,
For then, attracted by centripetal force,
Each can aspire to such sublime perfections,
Until he reaches your resplendent Source."

Celestial acolytes have set in place
Initiation vases, which are shaped
Like balusters, their shoulders ribbon draped,
One at each corner in the square of space
That frames the central Lotus. All contain
Five tinctures, perfumes, jewels, kinds of grain,
And in the water filling each uphold
A lotus bloom with vajra prongs of gold.

The exalted Bodhisattvas from the four
Diagonal directions reach the door
Into the Diamond World. With noble grace
In golden raiment, each assumes his place
Enthroned in turn upon a lotus flower
Petalled with snowflakes that the Devas shower,
A full moon-disc encircling both his head
And body, whence its radiance has spread.

Now, by rotating countersolarwise,
Each Bodhisattva, so beatified,
Becomes that Buddha on his right hand side,
Whose lotus petal he thus occupies.
Samantabhadra from the south east turns
To where his aeons long ascesis earns
The eastern throne, adopting as his due
The name of "Jewelled Pennant", turquoise blue
And brightly blazoned by the morning star
Which the Enlightened Buddha saw afar.

As Manjushri, the Dharma's Crown Prince, leaves
His south west petal, he at once achieves
The southern throne and takes the title "King
Of Opening Flowers", because in early spring
The Buddha, lying under twin shala trees,
Entered Parinirvana's perfect ease.

Avalokiteshvara, he who hears
The cries of sufferers in Samsara's strife,
Quitting the north west petal, now accedes
To Buddhahood by his compassionate deeds,
And mounts the western throne, where he appears
As Amitayus, Lord of Endless Life.

Maitreya in the north east has become
Enthroned as "Cloud Voiced Buddha" in the north,
Whence his divine pronouncements issue forth
As loud as thunder-rolls from Heaven's drum,
When bonds of mind and body are destroyed,
Dissolving in Nirvana's blissful Void.


Personages Represented
Cantos 5 to 8
Cantos 9 to 12
Cantos 13 to 16
Cantos 17 to 20
Cantos 21 to 24
Cantos 25 to 28
Cantos 29 to 32

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