Academic journal article Japanese Journal of Religious Studies

Myoe's Nehan Koshiki: An Annotated Translation

Academic journal article Japanese Journal of Religious Studies

Myoe's Nehan Koshiki: An Annotated Translation

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-US-ASCII text omitted.)

Translator's Note

The Nehan koshiki (Koshiki on the Buddha's passing) is part of the Shiza koshiki (Koshiki in four sessions), which consists of Nehan koshiki, Juroku rakan koshiki ?????? (Koshiki on the Sixteen Arhats), Yuiseki koshiki ???? (Koshiki on the remaining traces), and Shari koshiki ???? (Koshiki on relics). The Kegon-Shingon monk Myoe ?? (1173-1232) composed the Shiza koshiki in Kenbo 3 (1215) to be performed in a series during the memorial service of the Buddha (Nehan'e ???). The Shiza koshiki became one of the most often performed works in the genre and is still performed today in Shingon temples. Depending on the time and place, clerics have performed the whole work or only one of the four koshiki, mostly the Nehan koshiki, as Myoe himself did in his final years.

My translation of the Nehan koshiki is based on the version included in the Taisho shinshu daizo kyo (t 84, no. 2731), which is the most easily accessible source of the Shiza koshiki. I additionally consulted the kundoku and annotation provided by Arai Kojun, which is based on an edition of the Shiza koshiki printed in Jokyo 3 (1686) (Arai 2008). Steven Nelson kindly shared his unpublished translation of the koshiki's first section with me. His translation served as a helpful reference point as I prepared my own rendition.

Because my article in this special issue focuses on the musical performance of the Shiza koshiki, this translation also indicates the kyokusetsu ... (melodic formulas) in order to give the reader an idea of the musical framework of the koshiki. The kyokusetsu are indicated according to the Jokyo edition (1686).1


First, the communal obeisance:

[In] Kusinagara [at the river] Ajitavati2

Under the twin trees of the Sala Grove,

[His] head to the north, facing to the west, [Sakyamuni] lay down on his right side.

In the middle of the night on the fifteenth day of the second month, [he] entered nirvana.3

We take refuge in Sakyamuni Tathagata, the great compassionate teacher; may we meet him lifetime after lifetime.4

Next, the officiant takes his seat.

Next, the Four Shomyo Melodies.5

Next, the pronouncement of intention:6

[First pitch level (shoju7 ...)] Humbly I address the great compassionate teacher Sakyamuni Tathagata, the 80,0008 sacred teachings that Sakyamuni left behind, the fifty-two kinds of beings [who were present] in the Sala Grove, and the realms of the three treasures that are as small as single particles of dust or the tip of a hair and so wide as the ocean, so inexpressible; and say:

The dharma nature is beyond movement and stillness. From movement and stillness, things arise. The Tathagata has neither birth nor death. [His] birth and death follow the condition of the mind [of the practitioner]. If we become like the layman Ves?hila,9 who saw the Buddha body that eternally abides in the sandalwood stupa, or the monk Sagaramegha,10 who heard the scriptures of the Buddha's sermons on the compassionate eyes of Kannon (fugen kaikyo ????) from above the vast ocean, then each [of us] will hold a smile of delight about the [Buddha's] birth in the Lumbini garden and weep tears of deep sorrow about the [Buddha's] death in the Sala Grove.

You should know this: the teaching method of the eight phases11 of [Sakyamuni's] lifetime is a bright flame that awakens all kinds of beings who have slept for a long time; the 350 guidances (shodo ??) [of the Buddha] are a flying ladder12 that saves all children who are submerged in sa?sara. His radiance reaches far into the latter age.13 His guidance does not abandon the icchantika.14 Ah! How promising! How wonderful! If we have the virtue of believing in the teachings that we listened to, then we will awaken from the long night [of ignorance]. If we have the wholesome roots of karmic bonds (kechien ??), then we will surely cross the ocean of suffering. …

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