The Meaning of Namu Dai Bosa

Soen Nakagawa Roshi

The Meaning Of Namu Dai Bosa
from a public meeting at New York Zendo Shobo-Ji,
March 28, 1974

There are many kinds of sutras, but all of them are condensed into this Namu Dai Bosa. And this is condensed into Mu; and this into just Zazen. Not only the many sutras are condensed into Namu Dai Bosa- also the many shastras. Everything is condensed into this Namu Dai Bosa. Not only the four-dimension world in which we human beings live- but also the five, six and endless dimension worlds are all condensed into this Namu Dai Bosa. This Untouchable, Unthinkable universal world is each one of us; not only each one of us, but each one of our cells. Do you know how many cells there are in your body? Someone? How many? I have never counted them myself, but a scholar has said there are seventeen billion cells in the human body. And, of course, in addition to these cells there are the electrons and other smaller elements- small, small, endlessly small... Each such thing- no matter how small -is a sentient being. This is the meaning of Dai. As a character, Dai is usually considered the opposite of smallness. But since the true meaning of Dai is absolute, in even the smallest thing there is this Dai. Bosa you know, it means "enlightened one." Each of your cells is an enlightened one. Believe this! You are all such wonderful persons. This is Buddha. No need to say "Buddha." This is true- a true fact. This is not Zen; not Buddhism; not religious talk. It is just a plain fact. Right here, now- this is Namu Dai Bosa. There is no need to think about endless dimension universal worlds. Just Namu Dai Bosa. Just Mu. Just breathing. Just counting. Nothing else. Just... !

Some of you think Zen is very difficult, very painful. But you think you should overcome this difficulty in order to get so-called "enlightenment." Now of course Zen is difficult; but it is also too easy. It is neither difficult nor easy.... There are many trees in New York City. To grow in New York is very difficult; but, also, very easy. Too easy is also difficult. Some of you think Zazen is difficult. It is. But on the other hand, it is very easy. The practice of Zazen and chanting Namu Dai Bosa is most easy. When you chant Namu Dai Bosa, you at once become a Bodhisattva! Please stand up [to someone in the audience]. When I take your precious watch, I immediately become a thief; and if I were to kill you, I would at once become a murderer. All right? So when I chant Namu Dai Bosa, I at once become a Bodhisattva. It is too easy. Not difficult, not easy....
At the beginning of my talk I want to say that I am very glad to meet with you all. My mind is filled with gratitude. There is nothing like this Zen meeting in Japan. Before the doors opened this evening, I could see so many friends waiting in line to come in. One cannot find this sort of thing in China or Japan any more. And of course I am not just speaking about the size of the gathering, but the atmosphere of this Dharma meeting.
Zen started in India and then came to China and to Korea and to Japan. And now it has come over here to America. But since nowadays all is one world, there is no need to say "Japan," "America," "China" or "India." 
Today is March 28. A year ago, on this very day, Yasutani Roshi passed away. His teacher was Harada Roshi. Once Harada Roshi was speaking before a gathering like this one, with old and young people alike; and in the audience there was a very young girl, who had come there with her father and mother. Harada Roshi took a piece of chalk and drew a circle on the blackboard and said: "All is one." At that moment the little girl was so-called "enlightened"! I tell this story to show that there can be too much emphasis on kensho experience or enlightenment in this sense. We should not cling too much to the idea of kensho. It is not right to feel that if we have not had a kensho experience, we are not enlightened. Everyone- from the beginning -is an enlightened one!
We also think too much about the "easy" and the "difficult." From various directions you all came here to this Zendo tonight. On the way, did you think to yourself, while walking, "Oh, this is difficult!" or "Oh, this is easy!" You should all meditate about this matter of the difficult and the easy- and then forget about it! 
So: Namu Dai Bosa. Namu Dai Bosa. Namu Dai Bosa. When you chant this, you can feel its wonderful life. As you know, in the Catskill Mountains, International Dai Bosatsu Zendo is now being born. But this International Dai Bosatsu Zendo is not only a building or monastery in the Catskill Mountains. It is this entire world! International Dai Bosatsu Zendo is not only that building being built in the Catskills. From the very beginning, this world itself is International Dai Bosatsu Zendo. Each of us- myself included -must realize and actualize this. We all forget this- I too am very forgetful at times of this fact.

On the street recently I saw advertisements for what must be some Broadway show called Find Your Way Home. Many, many posters. Finding your way home; returning to your own home. This is expressed also in one of the haiku poems I will recite at the Dai Bosatsu Evening on April 3 at Japan House. In English it reads:

Kuni guni no Snow of all countries
Yuki tokete Namu  Melting into
Dai Bosa. Namu Dai Bosa.

Today I visited a friend of mine- a Zen man -in the United Nations. He has the highest post in the Japanese diplomatic service. But no need for comparison: Each person is the highest, just as he is. Anyway, this man has a very difficult problem right now, the oil crisis. A very subtle political problem. So when I was with him, I chanted this Namu Dai Bosa, and recited this Namu Dai Bosa haiku.
In this world we must make comparisons, but at the same time we should be aware that no comparisons can really be made. Here is an elephant- very big. And here is a flea- very small. The flea has no reason to bother the elephant. And the elephant has no need to be boastful about the fact that he is an elephant. The flea is a flea. The elephant is an elephant.

Forty years ago, I was living on Dai Bosatsu Mountain in Japan. At that time I was dreaming of building a monastery on that mountain. But that sacred mountain in Japan became a leisure mountain. A resort mountain. Many people started coming there from Tokyo and elsewhere for their vacations, and so it was no longer a good spot for a monastery. But now, forty years later, Dai Bosatsu Mountain in Japan has reappeared in the Catskill Mountains of America.

So wonderful, this Endless Dimension Universal World! So wonderful. Even one leaf, one flower- nothing but this Endless Dimension Universal Being. [He recites:]

Dai Bosatsu Mind pervades the whole universe
Revealing right here now;
With this meeting
Let us realize
Endless Dimension Universal Life.
Past, present, future,
All Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, all Patriarchs Dai Osho.
Let True Dharma continue,
International Dai Bosatsu Zendo become complete!

With this mind, whether you are eating or drinking- or standing or sitting -all right! With this realization, let us march on bravely. This is Namu Dai Bosa.... Someone once asked Zen master Baso, "What is Zen?" Baso answered: "When you can drink all the water in all the oceans in the world in one gulp, then I will tell you what Zen is." All right? When you are able to swallow, not only this world, this three-dimension world, but this Endless Dimension Universal World....

Namu Dai Bosa
Namu Dai Bosa
Namu Dai Bosa
Namu Dai Bosa
Namu Dai Bosa
Namu Dai Bosa
Namu Dai Bosa