The Skin Bag Song 皮包歌
Written by the Master for his two wives
Before the Empty Time, it had no form nor name.
Since the Buddha, “Awesome Sound”, it has been seen as hindrance.
Three hundred and sixty joints connecting it together,
Eighty-four thousand pores piercing the skin.
One of the triad of primal forces (heaven man earth)
A combination of four great elements
Upholding heaven and earth’s pillars,
A magnificent spirit.
Understanding cause and effect,
Discerning the times.
Thinking of past, aware of the present, we remain confused,
All because of attachment to this illusory form.
We tire out our parents;
Cling to our wives and children.
So our vain ignorance leaves a trail of karmic debts.
Song of the Skin Bag,
The skin bag lament.
Drinking wine and eating meat confound the mental nature.
Indulging in greed and desire for pleasure brings ruin in the end.
The higher the office, the greater the influence,
The greater the power to oppress;
Buying, selling and cheating people by means of craftiness.
Honour, wealth, pride, and excesses,
How long can they last?
When misfortune and poverty come, in an instant all is spent,
False discernment of self and others creating inequality.
By harming living things we treat them just like weeds.
Every day we scheme from ignorance, anger, and greed.
Sinking into these perversities, we are eliminated entirely.
Recklessly we kill, steal, lust, and lie.
Contemptuous of kin and friends, we’re ravaged by love and hate.
Scolding the wind, cursing the rain, deriding the spirits and gods,
Not understanding birth and death, we’re truly at a loss.
Born from a cow’s belly,
We then enter the womb of a mare.
As heads and faces change, who ends up praising and who mourning?
We create much evil,
But do not plant blessings.
How vainly we pass from birth and death, toiling all the time.
Thence, to the three evil paths,
We fall to the hells, suffering bitterly, like ghosts or animals.
The sages of old kept wagging their tongues.
Like morning chimes and evening drums, they tried to stir our heart strings.
Retributions for good and evil are sharp and clear as can be.
They awaken us so that we want to leave the five-fold turbidity.
Song of the Skin Bag,
The skin bag lament!
Although endowed with form, be not encumbered by it.
It’s an illusory substance, a mere false name – just a relative dharma.
Quickly turn your heart around and contemplate at ease.
Do not be greedy for fame.
Do not be greedy for profit.
Bid kin goodbye, cut ties of love, and leave the world behind.
Don’t cling to wife,
Don’t pine for children.
Enter the door of emptiness 3. Receive the Buddha’s precepts.
Seek a bright-eyed teacher & ask for instruction.
Investigate Dhyana. Meditate well. Transcend the Three Realms!
Withdraw your eyes and ears.
Then once and for all wave goodbye to the mundane red dust.
Subdue the six senses. Cut off thoughts.
With no perception of self or others, afflictions cease.
Be not like the worldly who sigh at the passing of mist and dew.
A robe to shield you,
Food to fill you …
That’s sufficient support for your body’s needs.
Renounce riches and jewels.
Look lightly on body and life.
Reject them as spit and phlegm, and do not hesitate!
Hold precepts purely,
Be blemish less!
In the four comportments be clear as ice and pure as jade.
When scolded, don’t be angry;
When beaten, do not hate.
Bear what is hard to bear. Forget about mockery. Overlook sarcasm.
Oblivious to winter and summer,
Be ceaselessly relentless.
From start to finish, hold Amitabha Buddha’s name in mind.
Do not lapse into torpor;
Refrain from getting scattered.
Be like the pine and the cypress, never withering, evergreen.
Doubt not the Buddha.
Doubt not the Dharma.
Inherent awareness lets us know clearly what we see and hear.
Bore through the paper,
Pierce the cowhide.
Make your mind perfectly bright and free from error.
Return to the origin;
Go back to the source and retrieve your inherent innocence.
Nothing is not no-thing;
Emptiness isn’t empty:
The divine potential’s revealed, its wonder hard to imagine.
When you arrive,
You have not toiled in vain.
The impacts of your causal ground are finished.
Now you are known
As a Great Hero,
All ten titles fitting perfectly. You are a teacher of many generations.
Ah! The same leaking shell can now manifest
As a complete body pervading ten directions!
With good and evil distinguished clearly, no more mistakes occur.
So why rely on the false alone and fail to practise the true?
The Tai Ji “absolute”
Divides into two modes. Yang & Yin
The spiritual and vivacious mind turns the qian and kun.
Being kings or prime ministers is determined
By practices done in the previous lives.
Wealth and honour or utter poverty are due to people’s past causes.
Once there is birth,
Death then will follow.
Everyone knows this. Why moan and gripe?
For wives and riches,
For heirs and fortune,
You ruin your own future, all due to anger and greed.
For what sort of fame,
For what kind of profit
Have I wasted nineteen springs?
A thousand matters are not as you wish them to be.
Embroiled in the world, you’re assailed by hardships constantly.
Once old, your eyes grow dim, your hair turns snowy white.
With no good deeds to your credit, you’ve wasted your whole life!
Days stretch to months,
Months reach to years.
In vain you lament the passage of time, rolling on and on like a wheel.
Who is immortal in this world?
Better return and bow to the One whose compassion is like a cloud. 9
Visit the sacred mountains
Or other sublime places.
Roam as you wish in comfort and ease.
Impermanence comes swiftly. But do you know? Are you aware?
Just how much idle, empty chatter do you want to hear?
End birth and death.
Keep yourself happy. How many can be like that?
Meditate. Investigate Dhyana.
Attain the intent of the Chan lineage.
Through such endeavours you will gain boundless vigour and energy.
Take plain tea and vegetarian food. Do not let your mind be greedy.
Throughout the day and night rejoice. Be happy in the Dharma.
Get rid of the perception of self and others.
Do away with this and that.
See that foe and friend are equal; forget about slander and praise.
Gone are impediments,
There’s no shame or insult.
Let your mind be as the Buddha’s and Patriarchs’. What are you waiting for?
The Bhagavan cut the strings of love and climbed the snowy mountains.
Guan Yin bade farewell to kin and became the Buddha’s disciple.
At the time of Emperors Yao and Shun
Hermits Chao and Xu passed their days.
When Chao heard Yao offer him the empire
He washed his ears in the stream.
Chang Zu Fang
And Liu Cheng Yi
Also gave up officialdom to roam the rivers and mountains.
How, in the Dharma’s demise,
Fraught with anguish and difficulties,
Could we, who fail to awaken, compare ourselves to the sages of old?
Creating ten evils,
We exhaust our energy by scheming and reap the world’s scorn.
Weapons, armies, plagues, droughts – much misery to be borne!
Famines and wars more and more frequent at every turn,
The daily news is fearful, full of strange forebodings.
In the midst of earthquakes, tidal waves and devastating landslides,
What can we do while caught in this age and time?
This surely is the result of evil done in former lives!
Faced with such adversity, we can fall into worse confusion.
But even when poor and unfortunate, we can start having good thoughts.
Initiating goods thoughts,
We can enter a monastery and bow to the Dharma King.
Repent and reform our offences. Then our blessings can grow.
Bow to a bright-eyed teacher.
End birth and death. See the mind. Understand the nature.
Smashing through impermanence is what we mean by permanence.
The path within the path is found through strong cultivation.
The sages and worthies bequeathed wise sayings and lucid exhortations.
Uphold the Tripitaka teachings with reverence.
Open your heart.
Be truthful to all.
Encourage people to guard what is proper.
Don’t think my words are idle. Don’t fail to pay attention.
Great cultivators will surely see their own natures.
Be heroically vigorous.
Plant the proper causes of Bodhi.
Aim to be born in the nine lotus grades and be certified by the Buddhas.
Let Amitabha Buddha take you to the Western Paradise.
Put down the skin bag; ascend the utmost vehicle.
The Song of the Skin Bag is sung.
I urge you all to listen!
My reworking Pu Cheng