Just As You Are

Hello,

There’s a famous Japanese poem that you will often see in Jodo Shinshu Buddhist literature usually translated as “Just Right” or “Just As You Are” or “Sono-mana”. Rev. Taitetsu Unno, who passed away a couple years ago, translated the poem in one of his books, and it has been popular since among English-speaking Shin Buddhists.

Recently, I remembered this poem, and tried to find the original in Japanese, and when I did, I realized that there were some problems with the English translation. Nothing serious, but worth sharing.

The actual name of the poem in Japanese is 仏様のことば(丁度よい)or hotoke-sama no kotoba (chōdo yoi), which means “The Buddha’s Words (Just Right)”. It was composed by one Maekawa Gorōmatsu at the age of 93.

Here is the original poem in Japanese (source here):

「仏様のことば(丁度よい)」
お前はお前で丁度よい
顔も体も名前も姓も
お前にそれは丁度よい
貧も富も親も子も
息子の嫁もその孫も
それはお前に丁度よい
幸も不幸もよろこびも
悲しみさえも丁度よい
歩いたお前の人生は
悪くもなければ良くもない
お前にとって丁度よい
地獄へ行こうと極楽へ行こうと
行ったところが丁度よい
うぬぼれる要もなく卑下する要もない
上もなければ下もない
死ぬ月日さえも丁度よい
仏様と二人連の人生
丁度よくないはずがない
丁度よいのだと聞こえた時
憶念の信が生まれます
南無阿弥陀仏

In English, the translation is usually this (source Spokane Buddhist Temple):

You, as you are, are just right.
Your face, your body, your name, your surname,
they are, for you, just right.
Whether poor or rich, your parents, your children,
your daughter-in-law, your grandchildren
they are, for you, just right.
Happiness, unhappiness, joy and even sorrow,
for you, they are just right.
The life that you have walked
is neither good nor bad.
For you, it is just right.

However, when you look at the Japanese, that’s only about two-thirds of the original poem. Here is a rough-translation of the rest:

うぬぼれる要もなく卑下する要もない
No need to take pride in anything, no need to be humble either.

上もなければ下もない
If there’s nothing above, there’s nothing below either.

死ぬ月日さえも丁度よい
Even the day and time of your death is just right, too.

仏様と二人連の人生
A life hand in hand with the Buddha

丁度よくないはずがない
Isn’t supposed to be wrong for you.

丁度よいのだと聞こえた時
Rather, when you hear that it is just right for you,

憶念の信が生まれます
Enduring faith [confidence in the Buddha] is born.

南無阿弥陀仏
Namu Amida Butsu
(Praise to the Buddha of Infinite Light)

Enjoy!

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Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

7 thoughts on “Just As You Are”

  1. Quick question/comment on one of the phrases:

    上もなければ下もない
    Nothing above, nothing below

    Not to be nitpicky, but…
    In English, the translated phrase kind of has a nuance of “no heaven, no hell”.
    In Japanese, I believe the nuance is “nothing superior, nothing inferior” possibly even “no more, no less”?
    What do you think?

    Like

  2. To be honest I cheated and asked my wife in the first place. :p But since she’s not easy to point to as a reference, I went ahead and looked around where I could.

    ALC didn’t have anything useful. I actually wonder if they’ve pretty much disabled their page to encourage people to migrate to the paid option.

    Found a modern site that translates “nothing more, nothing less” as “それ以上でもそれ以下でもないよ”. This is kind of close enough, if you make allowances for the poetic nature of the writing. (reference: http://allankenglish.blogspot.com/2012/01/no-1057-nothing-more-nothing-less.html )

    According to WWWJDIC:

    この上なく; この上もなく 【このうえなく(この上なく); このうえもなく(この上もなく)】 (exp) most of all; extremely

    Sample sentences off of WWWJDIC include:

    天気はこの上なくいい。
    The weather is as fine as can be.

    これはこの上なく重要な事柄である。
    This is a matter of the utmost importance.

    Sorry I wasn’t able to dig up more than that.

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    1. Hm, yeah, when i re-read that sentence in light of the previous one, I interpret it as “nothing above [to envy], nothing below [to disparage]”. Bear in mind this is a pretty amateur translation.

      I did have to go back and fix a number of things anyway though, since I sort of misinterpreted はずがない I think.

      Like

  3. I love this post, Doug. You have done us a service by translating the rest of the poem, for it really adds to the religious significance.

    Like

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