Publishing the Sutras
(The Third Edition)
Tetsugen, a devotee of Zen in Japan, decided to publish the sutras; which at that time were available only in Chinese. Only a few Japanese then could read Chinese characters. Therefore Tetsugen wanted them to be in Japanese
In those days books were printed with wooden blocks; each block a single Japanese character carved by hand.
The printing was to be an edition of seven thousand copies; a tremendous undertaking and very epensive.
Tetsugen began by traveling and collecting donations for this purpose. A few sympathizers would give him pieces of gold, but most of the time he received only small coins. He thanked each donor with equal gratitude. After ten years Tetsugen had enough money to begin his task.
It happened that at that time the Uji River overflowed, and crops were destroyed. Famine soon followed. Tetsugen took the funds he had collected for the books and spent them to save others from starvation. Then he began again his work of collecting.
Several years afterwards an epidemic spread over the country. Tetsugen again gave away what he had collected, to help his people.
For a third time he started his work, and after twenty years his wish was fulfilled. The printing blocks which produced the first edition of sutras can be seen today in the Obaku monastery in Kyoto.
The Japanese tell their children that Tetsugen made three magnificent sets of sutras; but that the first two invisible sets far surpass the last edition.
Shame on you Shakyamuni for setting the precedent of leaving home.
Did you think it was not there--
in your wife's lovely face
in your baby's laughter?
Did you think you had to go elsewhere (simply) to find it?
from - Judyth Collin
The Layman's Lament
From What Book, 1998, p. 52
Edited by Gary Gach