Compassion on the Edge

Compassion on the Edge June 8, 2018
No Land Not Manifest
– from The Sound of One Hand: Paintings and Calligraphy of Zen Master Hakuin
























Hakuin Ekaku Zenji (白隠 慧鶴, January 19, 1686 – January 18, 1768), the last national teacher of Japan, and a primary instigator of modern kōan introspection was also a phenomenal artist (see sidebar).  Subjects for his work were extraordinarily wide-ranging, from the sublime to the ridiculous, as he depicted the whole rolling ball of buddhanature in the belly of his time and place.

In this image, the bodhisattva of compassion, Kannon sits on a rock ledge, regarding the cries of the world. She sits serene and open-hearted on the edge with just lotus flowers blooming in her immediate field of vision.

The calligraphy on the top of the image says, “No Realm Not Manifest,” a reference to a the Lotus Sutra passage, “The Verse of the Universal Gateway” (Fumonbon ge), that is an essential part of Hakuin’s Rinzai Zen and it is still recited daily in most Sōtō training centers in Japan. The full stanza goes like this:

“Fully endowed with miraculous powers,
Widely practicing wisdom and skillful means,
In every land in all directions,
In no realm does Avalokiteshvara not appear.”

The “miraculous powers” here refers to simply regarding the cries of the world. Sitting on the edge. Neither retreating nor advancing.

Reminds me of student who is diligently working with the mu kōan. He recently said, “I feel like I’m sitting on a branch, wanting to fly.”


Widely practice nondual wisdom and skillful means, help open the eyes of the world, the whole world, with no one left out. Kannon is fully manifest in every realm, no part left out, but how to make that palpable for living beings, swirling in the sewer of partiality?

What can we do but do it?

“The Verse of the Universal Gateway” concludes with this:

“The precepts of compassion roar like thunder,
The kind heart is wondrous as great clouds,
Pouring dharma rain of sweet dew,
Quenching all flames of troubling passion.”

May we all make it so.

Dōshō Port began practicing Zen in 1977 and now co-teaches at the Nebraska Zen Center with his wife, Tetsugan Zummach Osho. Dōshō also teaches with the Vine of Obstacles: Online Support for Zen Training, an internet-based Zen community. Dōshō received dharma transmission from Dainin Katagiri Rōshi and inka shōmei from James Myōun Ford Rōshi in the Harada-Yasutani lineage. He is the author of Keep Me In Your Heart a While: The Haunting Zen of Dainin Katagiri.

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