Saichi's Journals



The cobbler Saichi was a Pure Land myokonin (saint), and the Japanese scholar and "zen man" D T Suzuki has made known, via his own translations, many of Saichi's utterances, scribblings and cries, as gathered in his Journals. The best collection of them can be found as the final section of the little book "Mysticism Christian and Buddhist", where Suzuki compares the thoughts of the Christian mystic Meister Eckhart with general Mahayana Buddhism.

Here are a few of Saichi's entries for anyone interested:-

How fine! The whole world and vastness of space is Buddha! And I am in it - "Namu-amida-butsu!"

My heart and Oya-Sama - We have just one heart of "Namu-amida-butsu."


Myself and Amida, oya and child. They quarrel: myself on one side and Amida on the other side. Repentance and joyfulness - how intimate!

I'm fortunate indeed! Not dead I go, just as I live, I go to the Pure Land! "Namu-amida-butsu."

How grateful I am! I live without knowing anything - Is this living in a natural Pure Land?

The love that inspired Oya-sama to go through all the sufferings and all the hardships - I thought I was simply to listen to the story, but that was a grievous mistake, I find.

If there were no wretchedness, my life would be wickedness itself; how fortunate I am that I was given wretchedness. "Namu-amida-butsu, Namu-amida-butsu!"

There is no bottom to Saichi's wickedness; there is no bottom to Saichi's goodness: how happy I am with the favour! "Namu-amida-butsu!"

O Saichi, what is your pleasure? My pleasure is this world of delusion, because it turns into the seed of delight in the Dharma. "Namu-amida-butsu, Namu-amida-butsu!"

My heart and thy heart - the oneness of hearts - "Namu-amida-butsu!"


Not knowing why, not knowing why - this is my support: not knowing why - this is the "Namu-amida-butsu"



From Suzuki's astute observations:-

Zen and Shin superficially differ: one is known as the jiriki, the self power school, while the other is Tariki, the other power school. But there is something common to both.


The shin pattern of expression is subjective and personal in contrast to the Zen way which is objective and impersonal, showing that Shin is more concerned with the karuna (compassion) aspect of Reality while Zen tends to emphasise the prajna (wisdom/insight) aspect.


O Saichi! Will you tell us of Other Power?
Yes, but there is neither self-power nor Other Power.
What is, is the Graceful Acceptance only.


An attraction for me as far as Pure Land Buddhism is concerned is that it is obviously mythical. I find I can put my feet anywhere without treading upon actual toes. I will waffle on, seeking greater clarity of mind.


Namu-amida-butsu. The Nembutsu. The heart of Shin (Pure Land) Buddhism.

Loosely (very loosely) translated:- "My foolish self is grasped, never to be abandoned". It is the unity of self and Amida, without either being negated or "absorbed."

The zen perspective is that Reality, or emptiness, includes both unity and difference. We are both universal and individual, and this universality and individuality are not two separate aspects of our being; each is absolute.

As explained by another:- In this way the whole universe is just one thing, as five fingers are just one hand. Yet eyes are eyes, a nose is a nose, a tongue is a tongue, and we are our own selves. I am not you and you are not me. When I eat food your stomach is not filled, and so on. In Zen these two realities are called sabetsu (distinction, inequality) and byodo (equality)


Maybe I will bring in Meister Eckhart, which suggests "comparative religion", but I have a degree of trust/faith (like Coomaraswamy who said this) that there is a fundamental coherence in the metaphysical traditions throughout the world, at all times.

"God sheds his light upon all creatures, and anything he sheds his beams upon absorbs them, yet he loses nothing of his brightness" (Eckhart)

Dogen created a metaphor to express the reality of individuality and universality. He said that individuality can be expressed as a drop of water and universality or equality as moonlight. He said that this universal moonlight is reflected in even the smallest drop of water. This is the reality of our life; we are individual and yet universal. The vast, boundless moonlight is reflected in our lives, and through our practice we can keep awakening to the reality of both individuality and universality.

Eckhart again:- "Blessed, blessed be God that he does work in the soul and that he loves his work! That work is love and love is God. God loves himself and his own nature......and in the love he has for himself he loves all his creatures, not as creatures but as God."

Dogen:- "The Dharma wheel turns from the beginning. There is neither surplus nor lack. The whole universe is moistened with nectar, and the truth is ready to harvest. The harvesting of truth, the practice of forgetting the self, the practice of realising forms and sounds intimately, the practice of polishing our mind of compassion - this is our joyous task"

I would just say that the time is now. Many find, for many reasons, that today is not opportune.
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The heart of this thread is the relationship between the self and Reality-as-is (AKA God)

In "The Light of Asia" Sir Edwin Arnold has the dewdrop slipping into the shinning sea, but I am more and more convinced that the shinning sea slips into the dewdrop. This involves all popular notions of pantheism, which Buddhism is not. Nor is non-duality that "all is one" but that "all" is not two. Some seem to insist that there are two and never the twain shall meet. But all is in relationship and this implies something other than a "wholly Other", incomprehensible, who "needs nothing from us and need not do anything", all in that Theistic language that I personally find confusing and ultimately meaningless. In the end the Dharma is the Middle Way, not a fixed position between two points, but a no-position that transcends all positions (as Merton wrote while on his Asian pilgrimage)

The Nembutsu sorts it out, at least for me. The self is grasped, "never to be abandoned", as we all are.

Back in my fundamentalist days there was a guy who in a way was a cliche of the ex-drunk saved by the Lord. But he was no cliche. The signs of his struggle were etched on his face. He had been an alcoholic and had tried to take his own life, being saved only by a chance visit by his son. Some might question the whole thing, yet would the enigmatic quips of a zen master have "saved" him, rather than "the Lord"? There is ALWAYS there, then. Time/space history.

Another guy, the "patriarch" of the brethren! He would often speak at our gatherings and quite frankly his image of God was pure idolatry! He once spoke of being in heaven, and spoke of being "ushered into the presence of God" and he advised us all "not to have a smile on our face" because it would be a "solemn moment". I can smile now, but he had to go into hospital for a major operation and many spoke of how his face radiated joy during his convalescence. It reminds me of the Pure Land, where some see Amida as "him up there" and the Pure Land as "out to the West" where we are taken at death. Others see Amida as a personification of Reality-as-is and the Pure Land is here, now. Do we really need different colour sashes for different levels of "attainment"? Grace is a miracle that has its own "levels".

(Written as I had a Costa coffee, "extra hot" to make it last, being a miser at heart)
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Eckharts German sermon 22 has long been known to me. It concerns "True Poverty" and Eckhart bases it upon the Beatitude "Blessed are the poor in spirit." Eckhart asserts that true poverty is to " desire nothing", "know nothing" and to "possess nothing". Pretty radical? As he asks, who can be as poor as this?

Eckhart then says that just so long as God finds in us a place where He can act, we have not attained the "ultimate poverty". He goes on......

For God does not intend there be a place in someone where he can act, but if there is to be true poverty of spirit, someone must be so free of God and all his works that if God wishes to act in the soul he must himself be the place in which he can act, and this he is certainly willing to be. For if God finds us this poor, then God performs his own active work and we passively receive God in ourselves and God becomes the place of his work in us since God works within himself. In this poverty, we attain again the eternal being which we once enjoyed, which is ours now and shall be for ever.

Shinran, speaking of the Vow (simply put, Grace) does use the word "passive" as regards our receiving of its benefits. But so "passive" as Eckhart here asserts with regard to our "acting"? D T Suzuki speaks of us becoming, after enlightenment, once again the Tom, Dicks or Harrys we have always been.

And here is Dogen, speaking of the Mahayana teaching that "Emptiness is form, and form is emptiness". Dogen says that such an assertion remains dualistic, that we should say - and can only say - "Form is form, and emptiness is emptiness".

This is so because when we say 'form' emptiness is already there, and when we say 'emptiness' form is already there.

Dogen says that we must needs express these two sides in one action.

As I understand it, therefore, we remain, not as "empty" or as "passive" as Eckhart seems to say.

But as I seek to say, I seek clarity of mind. If anyone else has an opinion (apart from "just give it up Cobblers"!) please feel free.....


Another aspect, related, is the relationship of myth with what is called "time/space" history. In my own life, I prefer what is obviously myth.

But sometimes, with certain theologians (Christian) this is seen as diminishing Pure Land, obviously in contrast to their own "savior" who appeared in Time/Space history, thus authenticating their beliefs, a peg to hang them on (if I might be so secular in expression!)

But though "authenticating" certain beliefs (i.e. because originating in history) I note that almost inevitably the benefit (?) of this is undermined by the type of discussion/dispute now manifesting in other sections on this Forum.

A paradox:- as I have implied above, it seems that there are ways that the myths of Pure Land can lead back to and indeed support our lives now as concrete time/space individuals. While often, I observe, that in other religions, this world - the only one we have ever known - is in fact betrayed for some imagined "other", that as far as I can see, is no more than myth!

Obviously, this can all be purely my own leanings and interpretations.


One enigmatic phrase of the "zens" is that Buddhism teaches nothing. That being so, given that the monk Bodhidharma was a kind of missionary who travelled to China, they also ask the question:- "Why did Bodhidharma come from the west?"

In China the emperor Wu met him and asked him what merit he (Wu) had gained from his good deeds.

"None at all" said Bodhidharma.

"Then what is the essence of Buddhism?" ( I suppose thinking why waste time if there is no reward) Wu then asked.

"Vast emptiness and no essence at all!" replied Bodhidharma.

Another question of Emperor Wu in some accounts of the meeting has him asking Bodhidharma:- "Who is this who stands before me?"

"A bag of bones with nothing holy in it" replied the enigmatic monk.

Significantly, for those who consider Buddhism nihilistic and negative towards our human uniqueness and individuality, D T Susuki's own master remarked:- "When we truly understand Bodhidharma we, for the first time, find ourselves at home sitting quietly by the fireside."

Edit:- another answer to the last question, according to some accounts, was:- "I do not know"
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Another aspect, related, is the relationship of myth with what is called "time/space" history. In my own life, I prefer what is obviously myth.

Each to his own :D

A paradox:- as I have implied above, it seems that there are ways that the myths of Pure Land can lead back to and indeed support our lives now as concrete time/space individuals.
I think the days of religions that don't do that are limited. They hold a certain naive and romantic appeal (speaking from experience) which really doesn't stand up to 'the cold light of day'.

While often, I observe, that in other religions, this world - the only one we have ever known - is in fact betrayed for some imagined "other", that as far as I can see, is no more than myth!
Well the nature of the eschaton, mythical or otherwise, is a matter for debate around the fire, at night, under the sky, kinda thing ...

A primary element of a Christian metaphysic (if there can be such a thing — perhaps its a more obscure theology) is that it resolves the inherent dualism that dogs all western thinking, in the Greek philosophical tradition, in Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, et al.

For me, the resolution of the One and the Many, and the necessity for the many, or multiplicity, to exist, in principle and a priori in the One, before manifesting as the phenomenal world, lies in the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity.

Running on from that, it is a response to the perhaps insufficiency of the Plotinian "flight of the alone to the Alone" in the soul's pursuit; I say perhaps insufficiency because W. T Stace in Time and Eternity says:
Thus when Plotinus speaks of "the flight of the alone to the Alone," and the positivist or the empiricist asserts that these words are meaningless, he is right. Yet this does not import that the words are nonsense locutions ... The explanation is that the words evoke in us a measure of the same experience which the author of them had. Our experience may be but a dim reflection of what was in him bright and clear. Our spirits vibrate faintly in unison with the soul of the great mystic, as a tuning fork vibrates faintly in response to the sound of the clear bell. But it is our own spontaneous experience which is evoked; it is not his experience which is communicated to us. His words are as grappling irons let down into the depths of our subconsciousness, which draw our own inner experiences nearer to the conscious threshold. But they are not, for most of us, drawn above the threshold. They remain below the surface faintly visible. Therefore they appear at the upper levels of our consciousness as faint hints, glimpses, and sometimes as mere vague feelings."

For me, the paradox of Christianity, that there is a very time-and-space narrative in which the principle player happens to say and do things which suggest Divinity (as opposed to sacra doctrina that are, by comparison, not set in any necessary spatio-temporal circumstance), which transcend the nature of space and time, and yet which unify the two; the Incarnation stands at the very heart of the east-west axis that reaches from past to future, and the north-south axis that reaches from the absolute unfathomable depths of nothingness to union with the Absolute ('salvation' or 'deliverance' in whatever context one cares to treat it)...

In short, the Gospel narrative is a symbol played out in the real world in real time and, like a symbol (a mark or token of two things put together, a material metaphor), the two worlds are united and unified ... thus the old adage that the miracles of Christ's ministry are 'merely' analogies, that, for example, the restoring of the sight of the man born blind is an analogy to do with spiritual awakening, as is the resurrection of Lazarus ... whereas I would declare that it is one and both, it is an analogy os spiritual enlightenment, and it is nevertheless the restoring of the physical sight of a man who was physically blind from birth ... the two become one.

It always seemed to me that if there is such a thing as Divine Union, then the principle had to exist before I did, and the manner of union had to be realised, had to be actualised, to make it possible. This is what the Incarnation does, it is the realised Principle of the thing making it possible for every consequent (before or after the event in time) realisation to occur.

In that sense then, orthodox Christianity, and I will defend every religion's claim to make this point, is a religion of the 'right here, right now' in which the infinite transcendent is present, realised, embodied ... to paraphrase the Fathers, the Sublime became mundane that the mundane might come to the sublime ...


Each to his own :D

Obviously (I hope!) I was speaking of the basis for considering/seeking understanding/truth, not the end result!

Regarding Christianity, I just had to get away. The authority figures and the endless hermeneutical disputes, combined with the oft met assertion that "you are not arguing with ME, you are arguing with God." There is, or seems, just something there that encourages a literalism and fundamentalism that is horrible to see and meet. And I met it!

(Not claiming it is unique to Christianity)


Regarding "glimpses", long ago there was a TV show called "Amos and Andy". One episode, the nutty pair found themselves on a film set without knowing it. They approached a row of houses which in fact were just "fronts". Andy goes up to the door, pushes it open, and finds himself immediately out the other side. Bemused, he returns to the front of the door, closes it, then tries again. With, obviously, the same result. "Doggone it, missed it again!" he cries.

What made me think of this was reading on about the meeting of Bodhidharma with Emperor Wu. Well after the meeting, realising he had "missed his chance", the Emperor cries out:- "Alas! I saw him, I met him, I interviewed him, and failed to recognise him. How sad! It is all past now. Alas, history is irrevocable!"

However, another guy, Seccho, commentated:- "O Brethren, is not our Patriarch to be discovered among us at this very moment? Yes, yes, he is here! Let him come up and wash the feet for me!"

So many intimations of Jesus/Christ and his words and sayings here. But this thread is of Saichi and his Journals.

O Saichi! What is your delight?
This world of delusion is my delight!
It provides the seeds of relishing the Dharma.
Namu-amida-butsu is blooming everywhere!


Continuing with Saichi and his journal scribblings, a few more things for anyone interested. For me the Pure Land way offers the encouragement to be totally honest with oneself and ones feelings and fears, such is one's trust in Amida's (Reality-as-is) Compassion and Infinite Light. For me, Amida is another name for the nameless, that can take whatever name, the will that works tirelessly throughout Reality - or, as reality - for the ultimate enlightenment of all. All experience has the potential to bring enlightenment; even the moments of apparent failure, of deep existential anxiety, can be transformed by pure acceptance, the embrace of Infinite Compassion. And my own experience is that this can be so virtually in spite of our own "beliefs" and "strategies" rather than because of them. There is a technical term in the Pure Land teachings that means "to become so of itself, not by calculation" and for me this means that it is not my own "understanding" or grasp of truth that brings genuine trust/faith, but Other Power.

This is expressed by some words of another Pure Land devotee (not Saichi)......

In the timeless process of birth-and-death,

for the first time I was made to realize

the Other Power of Amida Buddha.

My understanding resulted from listening,

but listening is nothing but a little scratch on a precious gem.

I trusted my understanding instead of trusting Amida.

Until now I was satisfied with my understanding.

But, my understanding does not save me;

It is Amida who saves me.

For me, all the theologies of the world are "little scratches on a precious gem." They have their uses yet ultimately faith is more a letting go (of "self" and its strategies) than a clinging to them, or in Christian apophatic (negative) terms, more a "darkness" than a light.

Anyway, just to finish, another "ode" from the pen of the Pure Land "saint" Saichi.........

Nothing is left to Saichi,

Except a joyful heart nothing is left to him.

Neither good nor bad has he, all is taken away from him;

Nothing is left to him!

To have nothing - how completely satisfying!

Everything has been carried away by the 'Namu-amida-butsu'.

He is thoroughly at home with himself:

This is indeed the 'Namu-amida-butsu'.
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