The foam that floats on stagnant pools,
now vanishing, now forming,
never stays the same for long.
So, too, it is with the people and dwellings of the world.
Yes, take it for all in all, this world is a hard place to live, and both we and our dwellings are fragile and impermanent, as these events [of disasters] reveal. And besides, there are the countless occasions when situation or circumstance cause us anguish. Imagine you are someone of no account, who lives next to a powerful man. There may be something that deeply delights you, but you cannot go ahead and express your joy. If something has brought you terrible grief, you cannot raise your voice and weep. You worry over your least action and tremble with every move you make, like a sparrow close to a falcon’s nest. Or take a poor man who lives next to a rich one. Ashamed at the sorry sight he makes, he is forever cringing obsequiously before his neighbour as he comes and goes. He must witness his wife and children and his servants filled with envy, and have to hear how the neighbour despises him, and each fresh thought will unsettle him so that he has not a moment’s tranquillity.
If you live in a cramped city area, you cannot escape disaster when a fire springs up nearby. If you live in some remote place, commuting to and fro is filled with problems, and you are in constant danger from thieves. A powerful man will be beset by cravings, one without family ties will be scorned. Wealth brings great anxiety, while with poverty come fierce resentments, others will snare you in the worldly attachments of affection. Follow the social rules, and they hem you in; fail to do so, and you are thought as good as crazy. Where can one be, what can one do, to find a little safe shelter in this world, and a little peace of mind? …
In the quiet dawn I [Chomei the monk] ponder this, and question my own heart: you fled the world to live among forest and mountain [in a small hut] in order to discipline the mind and practise the Buddhist Way. But though you have all the trappings of a holy man, your heart is corrupt… Have you after all let the poverty ordained by past sins [misgivings] distract you? Or have your delusions tipped you over into madness? When I confront my heart thus, it cannot reply. At most, this mortal tongue can only end in three faltering invocations of the holy, ‘unapproachable’ name of Amita (Amitabha Buddha: Amituofo). [Note: This might imply that the humble and repentant Chomei, despite knowing that Amituofo is his last resort, felt unworthy to seek liberation through birth in his Pure Land, though Amituofo will never let down anyone with the right Faith, Aspiration and Practice.]
Hojoki [方丈记: Record Of (My) Ten Foot Square (Hut)]
Kamo No Chomei
Translated By Meredith Mckinney