Updated: May 16, 2021
I was drawn today to use waka poetry in my Reiki meditation practice. The practice is called Joshin Ho or “Mind Purification Method”. It is a technique taught by the International House of Reiki that can be combined with Hatsurei Ho.
According to the International House of Reiki, Mikao Usui included 125 waka poetry in the system of Reiki as an aid to contemplation. His recommendation was that all students recite waka poetry as a form of self-development and to enhance one’s own energy. Meditations on the Meiji Emperor’s waka poetry were considered at that time to also help generate a greater amount of energy.
This is a waka poem I like. It is from Dogen Zenji a Japanese Buddhist priest, writer, poet, philosopher, and founder of the Soto school of Zen in Japan in the 13th century.
True person manifest throughout the ten quarters of the world
The true person is Not anyone in particular; But, like the deep blue color Of the limitless sky, It is everyone, everywhere in the world.
I understand the “ten quarters of the world” as being the whole universe, not only in a literal worldly sense but also in a spiritual one. I also understand the true person as being the one who has realized his/her true nature as being one with the whole. From that perspective, it then becomes clear that the universe lies in our body and our body lies in the universe, or in other words, that our body and the universe are one. Thus, this poem seems to refer to the interconnectedness of everything within the universe, wholeness. And of course, I am sure there are many more layers to it that my mind does not perceive. This is just a beginning, and I also like to approach it simply as what it simply is.
I sat down, breathed, and relaxed. I then brought my hands in gassho. After a while, I consciously recited the poem a few times until I could feel it infusing my whole being. Then I stopped and stayed there in silence for some time. I was not quite sure what to expect but my experience was through sound and feeling. As soon as I stopped, I could feel the vibrations of the words resonating through my body. I became aware of feelings of earth and heaven, space and air, stillness and movement, feelings of the vastness of the universe, of life and of our own existence, of interconnectedness, feelings, of being human, of humility and reverence for the whole and of gratitude for being part of it. I stayed there for a while grateful for the experience.
Later that day, I decided to research a little further about waka poetry in the context of Buddhism. I found this wonderful podcast online called “Dogens Waka Poems”. The recording helped me understand how waka follows the Dharma through the paradoxes of life. This is the link Dogens Waka Podcast
Waka poetry is not about the expression of the external world of relative forms. It is not an expression of flowery words that we can often find in poetry which tend to create an emotional attachment to form (and words). Waka poetry rather expresses the truth of Buddhist Dharma, the truth of the way things are. Waka poetry aims at cultivating detachment from reality and form beyond the paradoxes of life, life, and death, permanence and impermanence, humanity and the universe, objective and subjective, personal and impersonal, speech and silence, love and hate, etc.
I guess waka poetry could also be considered as a “Do” the same way as other arts are such as Calligraphy, Aikido or Flower Arrangement through which the words have the potential to show the way to one’s own self-realization. This is shown in this poem with the themes of relative and absolute, objective and subjective, attachment and realization. When we realize that we and the universe are one, we also realize that we already are the Great Bright Light.