Cicadas Also Hear the Dharma  

                 Koju Fujieda

                        Ryokeiji Temple

       “One gong goes the temple bell,

             then arises a chorus

          of the cicadas’ chirping shower.”       Guseki

      Towards the end of a hot summer day, as I go up the bell tower, the cicadas
in the trees around are chirping as if to sing the song of their short life each. I say
the nembutsu with pressing my palms together, and then pull back and let the bell
striker go.  The moment the first sound goes, there arises a big chorus of those
cicadas all around the tower like a shower of   their chirps.

     The Great Sutra goes, “The great sound of the Buddha’s enlightenment 
spreads and resounds in the ten quarters.” So those cicadas must be hearing that
great sound; hence another haiku:

         Responding to the evening bell,

              all those cicadas are

           saying the nembutsu in chorus.

     Yes, those cicadas must be saying the nembutsu in praise of the splendid merits
of the Buddha, with the chorus as its peak. So those people who hear the temple bell,
please say the nembutsu even once. Wishing so, I

strike the last (eleventh) gong, wondering how tomorrow will be. Believe it or not,
the same cicadas’ nembutsu does go on every day and I feel the happiness of living
in the mountain temple.

     Master T’an-luan remarks, “Cicadas do not know spring or autumn; so

they don’t know it is summer now.” They live on the earth only in summer and that
for a week or so. They just live in the present season not knowing it

is summer as they can’t compare it with spring or autumn. Similarly, we ordinary
human beings living in the realm of delusion don’t know we are in such a plight, much
less aware of the realm of enlightenment. That’s why we have no other means to be
saved out of it but the nembutsu. We should realize ourselves in delusion, and the
nembutsu is rightly the light to break that darkness and even enfold and assimilate it.

   Thanks to the cicada’s nembutsu, I am pleased to be reminded of Master T’an-luan’s
teaching.