At the Nachi Kan'non Hall

by Muso Soseki

English version by W. S. Merwin
Original Language Japanese

The Milky Way
     pours waterfalls
          over this human world
the cold
     rushing tumbling sounds
          echo through the blue sky
Veneration
     to the Great Compassionate
          Avilokiteshvara
How lucky I am
     to have no trouble
          hearing

-- from Sun at Midnight: Muso Soseki - Poems and Sermons, Translated by W. S. Merwin / Translated by Soiku Shigematsu

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/ Image by Dirk Dallas /


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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

I love that opening phase--

The Milky Way
     pours waterfalls
          over this human world


I imagine stepping outside after a long day, standing beneath the night sky, and letting the waters of the universe wash over me. It's a cleansing image, purifying, healing to the wearied spirit.

the cold
     rushing tumbling sounds
          echo through the blue sky


Soseki emphasizes sound, the waterfall-like sound of the night. Try it sometime to remind yourself. Late at night, step outside, or just open the window and lean your head out. Close your eyes. Listen. Do you hear it? In the absence of all other noise, with no movement around and with thoughts at rest... a soft sound is heard. At first it might be like the quiet chirping of crickets in the night, the hum of beesong, or the flowing of gentle stream. It is heard as a random, soothing "white noise" that seems to emanate from the base of the skull.

As we quiet more, the sound grows into a rushing sound, like a waterfall. Sometimes this sound resolves into a clear pitch that can resemble the pure note of a flute or the ringing of a bell.

First it is heard and, finally, felt throughout the body.

This sound is Krishna's flute calling his devotees to him. It is the ringing of the bells of paradise. It is Soseki's heavenly waterfall.

This sound signals the beginning of deep meditation. The more we sit with this sound, the more the awareness expands and the heart naturally opens with inherent compassion, as the universal waters pour over us, refreshing us, revitalizing, awakening.

How lucky I am
     to have no trouble
          hearing



Recommended Books: Muso Soseki

Sun at Midnight: Muso Soseki - Poems and Sermons East Window: Poems from Asia Roaring Stream: A New Zen Reader



At the Nachi