Home | 365 Days for Travelers

YOGACARA FLAMING MOUTH SUMMONING VERSE (EXCERPT)
by Su Shi (1036 - 1101, Song Dynasty)
English translation: William Chong

Beckoning the spirits of emperors, monarchs, and marquis from the past dynasties, those who have resided in nine-tiered palaces, and had over ten thousand miles of mountains and rivers to oneself.

The battle fleets that came from Western Jin had suddenly ended a millenium of reign. The imperial sedans that went towards the north had yet to cease the moans of grievances from the Five Kingdoms.

Alas! The cuckoo’s mournful calls have caused the descent of the springtime moon; the branch tips have been dyed with the blood of enduring hatred.

Beckoning the spirits of generals who have been decorated on ceremonial altars, dukes who have been appointed on the emperor’s engraved orders, whose strengths were capable of moving a golden tripod weighing thousands of pounds, and whose bodies made up the Great Wall.

They lived in tents painted with leopards in the bitter winter, and strove only to make wartime contributions; when the wind had extinguished the smoke of war, there was no longer hope of rising through the ranks.

Alas! Where are the generals and war horses now? There is only the ground sorrowfully covered with wild grass and flowers.

Beckoning the spirits of talents in the five imperial mausoleums, and the virtuous and capable in the hundred prefectures, those who had served in full integrity for three years as officials and repaid the kindness of the emperor with complete loyalty.

They have lived in the Southern provinces and the Northern counties, leaving behind their homelands for long; at the far reaches of the kingdom, they lost their lives on the fabled Penglai island of the immortals.

Alas! The bestowed titles have floated away like leaves on flowing water, and the distant departed souls have been separated by the Yang Gate of life and death.

Beckoning the spirits of the academically gifted and the humble students, the third-place wanderers amongst the literati; those who have taken the examinations and traveled through the examination grounds.

The fireflies’* light had been scattered; three years of effort have gone to waste. The steel inkstone had been worn out; there went ten years of diligent work.

Alas! Their names are written on the piece of seven-foot red silk that hangs before their coffins, and the soil atop their graves covers their writings.

Beckoning the spirits of traders who have resided in foreign lands everywhere, peddling goods to the North and South, who have traveled countless miles for profit, and have accumulated large stocks of goods to trade.

The unpredictable storms and blizzards had caused the bodies to end up in fishes’ stomach. The dangers on these travels were difficult to guard against, running the danger of being the goat’s fodder.

Alas! These immobile soul have followed the dark clouds to the North, migrant spirits have been evicted to the South with sorrowfilled water.

Beckoning the spirits of mothers who bore the burden of pregnancy for ten months, who sat on grass in observation for three days. Early in marriage, it was hoped that the couple may be harmonious; a further wish cherished to have a brown bear appear in the mother’s dreams**.

When the sounds of “servitude” and “respect” were about to be sung at the time of childbirth, safety and danger hung in the balance.

Before the child’s gender had even been determined, both mother and child had reached the ends of their lives.

Alas! The blooming flower has met the pouring rain; the bright moon has been covered by gloomy clouds.

Beckoning the spirits of soldiers in military uniform, those who were on the frontline, those who battled for honor in the shadow of the red army flag, and fought amongst the forest of sharp blades.

Between the time the drum for attacking and metal for retreating was struck, stomachs were ripped and guts were split. When victory or defeat was determined, the battleground had been covered with injured limbs and broken heads.

Alas! In the sandstorm rings the cries of ghosts; in the sea of white bones, few have been retrieved and buried.

── from Yuqie Jiyao Yankou Shishi Yi (Liturgy on the Collection of Key Points of the Yogacara Bestowal Food to Flaming Mouths)
* A metaphor for the scholars’ bags.

** It is said such a dream is a forecast of bearing a baby boy.