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Glossar (Englisch)

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Verses for Face Washing (Senmen no ge 洗面偈)

(when picking up tooth stick)

Upon grasping the tooth stick,
I pray that all living beings
may attain the true dharma in their minds,
and naturally be pure and clean.
shujū yōji 手執楊枝
to gan shujō 當願衆生
shin toku sho bo 心得正法
jinen sho jo 自然清淨

(when using tooth stick)

Upon chewing the tooth stick at daybreak,
I pray that all living beings
may be able to restrain their teeth
and bite off all mental afflictions.
shin shaku yōji 晨嚼楊枝
to gan shujō 當願衆生
toku cho bukuge 得調伏牙
zeisho bon-no 噬諸煩惱

(when rinsing mouth)

Upon rinsing out the mouth and teeth,
I pray that all living beings
may approach the pure dharma gate
and finally attain liberation.
so so kushi  澡漱口齒
to gan shujō 當願衆生
ko jo ho mon 向淨法門
kugyō gedatsu 究竟解脱

(when washing face)

Upon washing the face with water,
I pray that all living beings
may gain the pure dharma gate
and forever be without defilement.
isui sen men 以水洗面
to gan shujō 當願衆生
toku jo ho mon 得淨法門
yo muku zen 永無垢染

The "tooth stick" (yōji 楊枝) mentioned here is literally a "willow" ( 楊) "branch" (ji 枝), as prescribed in the Indian Vinaya. Chewing it may have shredded it to make it an effective tool for cleaning the teeth, and some modern scholars have suggested that it had medicinal properties similar to fluoride that could help prevent tooth decay. Buddhist monks in medieval China were aware that the branch of a certain tree was used in India and called it "willow," but they did not know what kind of tree it was (if indeed it even grew in China) and, at least by the Song dynasty (when Dōgen visited China), had given up on using any kind of tooth sticks. Instead, they used medicinal tooth powder (shiyaku 齒藥), rubbed on the teeth and gums by hand and rinsed out with water. Even so, they chanted the preceding verses that speak of chewing a tooth stick. Zen monks today use Western style toothbrushes and toothpaste, and still chant "tooth stick."