Sandokai: Merging Of Many Into Oneness
A Poem Written by Zen Master Sekito Kisen (700AD - 790AD).



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The Sandokai, is a poem written by Sekito Kisen Daiosho, a Zen Buddhist Priest who practiced and taught the True Body of Meditation in China during the first half of the Eight Century. I am indebted to Shunryu Suzuki Roshi and many others who have translated and commented on the original Sandokai. Their conscientious work provided the inspiration for my interpretation and clarification of Sekito Kisen's text. Although I have rewritten the Sandokai according to my own embodied meditation practice and experiential understanding as a teacher, this is not to say that Sekito Kisen was not clear in writing the original Sandokai. My intention in rewriting the Sandokai is to bring its wisdoming into our present day life while honoring and illuminating the precious root of true meditation that Sekito Kisen revealed for the benefit of future generations.


The Japanese word San in San-do-kai is translated as the number three. In Chinese cosmology, the one infinite Source became two (yin and yang) and these two became three. This three is a way of saying an infinite number of beings and things. This meaning of infinite number includes a sense that each being and thing has its own unique place and function in the Universe. The term Do in San-do-kai can be understood as sameness or equality of function. Thus, Sando means all relative beings and things are of equal value in their unique functioning. Another way to say this is that the place and function that each thing or being has in the Universe is exactly One great functioning of infinite or absolute value. The term Kai in San-do-kai can be understood as coming together, merging or harmony. Thus, the word Sandokai is translated as The Identity of Relative and Absolute or Merging of Many into One Great Functioning. In my teachings, I call this One great functioning Vast Wisdoming.

The Original Sandokai by Zen Master Sekito Kisen

The mind of the Great Sage of India (Shakyamuni Buddha) was intimately transmitted from west to east. Among human beings, there are the wise and the foolish; but in the Great Way, there is no northern or southern Patriarch.

The Subtle Source is clear and bright; the tributary Streams flow through the darkness. To be attached to things is illusion; to encounter the Absolute is not yet enlightenment.

Each and all of the subjective and objective sense spheres are related, and at the same time, independent; related, yet working differently, though each keeps its own place. Sights vary in quality and form; sounds differ as to pleasing or harsh.

The Dark makes all words One. The Brightness distinguishes good and bad phrases. The four elements return to their Nature like a child to its Mother. Fire is hot, wind moves, water Is wet, earth is hard.

Eyes see, ears hear, nose smells, tongue tastes the salt and the sour. Each is independent of the other. Cause and effect must return to the Great Reality. The words high and low are used relatively.

Within light there is darkness, but do not try to understand that darkness. Within darkness there is light, But do not look for that light. Light and darkness are a pair, like the foot before and the foot behind in walking.

Each thing has its own intrinsic value, and is related to everything else in function and position. Ordinary life fits the Absolute as a box and its lid. The Absolute works together with the Relative, like two arrows meeting In mid-air.

Reading these words you should grasp the Great Reality. Do not judge by any standards. If you do not see the Way, you do not see It even as you walk on It. Progress is not a matter of far or near, but if you are confused, mountains and rivers block your way.

I respectfully say to those who wish to be enlightened, do not waste your time by day or night.

An Interpretation and Clarification of the Sandokai by
Roshi Andrew Shugyo Daijo Bonnici, Ph.D.

The heartmind of the Great Sage of India (Shakyamuni Buddha) has been intimately transmitted through his compassionately seated body and precious stream of breath. Deeply listening with blood, bones and marrow to everywhere wisdoming, he aroused his only moment body of original faith and sat down completely on the firm ground of impermanence, no-self, and no-beliefs. Knowing this, trust that the path of universal Wisdoming and the authentic Buddha seal of original faith are exactly the sincere embodiment of Just This. Know that the bright vision of One World and One Humanity is Only This.

An infinite Source of Vast Wisdoming and Great Functioning shines beyond all human thoughts of clarity and dullness, enlightenment and ignorance, salvation and damnation, atheist and theist, believer and infidel. Even amidst this ageless truth, branching streams of world religions continue to stir the turbulent seas of species centricity, ethnic superiority, spiritual exclusiveness, righteous aggression and illusory historical dogmas.

Grasping and attaching to the exclusive nature of any religious symbol, scripture, word or dogma is surely delusion. Yet attaching to a perfect wisdom, supreme reason, transcendental being, sainthood, sageliness, or absolute Buddhahood is still mountains and rivers from the True Mark. Knowing this, arouse your courage to stand on no-ground, embody original Faith, and live the wisdoming of your only moment body that is before all scientific paradigms, religious beliefs and spiritual views.

When practicing the body of original Faith, know that your five sense gates receive the five sense objects in One Bright Mirror. Though each sense and stimulus has its own identity, all exist independency with one another. Though the infinite forms and beings vary in their nature and function, One equanimity, integrity, and creativity pervades them all. Though worldly sounds may differ as to pleasing or harsh, their essence is exactly infinite silence at their core.

The Precious Mystery does not discriminate superior from inferior, sentience from insentience, animate from inanimate, good from bad. Yet the Bright Reflection clarifies through the duality of shadow and light, sinner and saint, beauty and ugliness. Within the Precious Mystery, the pristine and undefiled essence of all human beings is akin to drifting clouds and flowing waters. Knowing this, one may end their days with confidence and ease, returning to the nature of Vast Wisdoming like an infant to its mother.

When flesh, blood, bones, and marrow completely entrust themselves to the seal of original Faith, sitting meditation is just like this---- As the fire of breath enlivens the spirit in the deep valley, a precious wind brings clarity to the mountain peak. As the solidity of the earth nurtures and sustains, the waters of life flow easily and nourish the root of heaven.

Eyes reflect color, shape and motion in a vast emptiness and stillness. Ears clarify and differentiate sounds in a womb of infinite silence. Nose discerns the meaning of smells through the essence of odorlessness. Tongue distinguishes five tastes against the mirror of blandness. Each sense and its knowing arises from One Source as the branches and leaves emerge from One Tree.

Breathing silence and embracing stillness, sit in the ancient refuge and witness the multitude of passing thoughts as they spontaneously arise beyond the thinker's control. Letting go of self-judgment, return endlessly to self-compassion and the wisdoming of each breath. Just like this, your original Faith Body will authenticate the treasure of One Vast Wisdoming before your thinking mind, written language, or spoken tongue.

Within the light, an utter darkness illuminates the endless mystery. Within the darkness, a bright light dims the Wonder and the Oneness. Thus, brightness and darkness reveal their dual and complementary natures. They are like the two feet walking, both expressing the dance of forward and behind.

Each sentient form is exactly a moment body that expresses Great Functioning as its interdependent and unique relationship to all existence. Such functioning reveals the virtue and meaning that all forms are being a True Time and a True Place. Understanding this, honor and cherish each being and thing as the Great Functioning of an infinite and interdependent Moment Body of Vast Wisdoming.

Know that the body of Vast Wisdoming is exactly the interdependency of all forms. Know that the mind of Vast Wisdoming is exactly One creative formlessness. Though form and formlessness are not two, they complete each other like a box and its lid. Though they are not One, they merge as this Only Moment like two arrow points meeting everywhere in mid air.

Reading or hearing these words, embody the Buddha seal of original Faith, become the wisdoming stream of seated breath, and endlessly clarify the Universal Way and the root of true human virtue.

Do not seek clear understanding or wisdom by just applying your thinking mind to these words, nor by unquestioningly accepting scientific theories, spiritual beliefs or religious standards.

If you do not practice seated meditation and investigate the stream of breath in this Only Moment Body, how will you ever know the True Path for yourself and experientially resolve the great matter of life and death? How will you ever see through the limited views of personality, history, religion and culture? How will you ever honestly find the Way if you do not listen deeply to the momentary heartbeat and impermanent nature of your living body?

Realizing and embodying the Goal is not a matter of far and near, leaving and arriving, practicing and attaining. However, if you separate the beginning from end, the path from the arrival, the journey from the destination, then turbulent rivers, great mountains and dense forests will hinder and obstruct your Way.

Do not keep putting this great matter off for the future! Distractions are endless. The final moment is unknown. Therefore, I encourage you to immediately arouse Original Faith and entrust yourself completely to the wisdoming body of seated breath. In this Way, you will authenticate your true nature, clarify and refresh your deep intimacy with life, and prepare for your complete entrustment and ease in death.

Above all, do not chase the horizon of an idealized being, spiritual powers, complete realization or absolute enlightenment. Just stop completely and be this Only Moment Body before your thinking mind. Thus, you will come to know the treasure of the true horizon and the complete attainment that has ever been beneath your feet.

International Copyright
All Rights Reserved
Andrew Shugyo Bonnici, Ph.D.
November 1, 2001

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