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Rainhill Kase Ha Shotokan Karate Academy

Zen Poetry


These are a few of my favourite poems by some of Japans greatest Zen monk-poets.


First days of spring - blue sky, bright sun.
Everything is gradually becoming fresh and green.
Carrying my bowl, I walk slowly to the village.
The children, surprised to see me,
Joyfully crowd about, bringing
My begging trip to an end at the temple gate.
I place my bowl on top of a white rock and
Hang my sack from the branch of a tree.
Here we play with the wild grasses and throw a ball.
For a time, I play catch while the children sing;
Then it is my turn.
Playing like this, here and there, I have forgotten the time.
Passers-by point and laugh at me, asking,
"What is the reason for such foolishness?"
No answer I give, only a deep bow;
Even if I replied, they would not understand.
Look around! There is nothing but this.

(Ryokan)

 

First winter rain
The monkey also seems to wish for
A straw raincoat.

(Basho)

 

Following the example of the ancient priest
who is said to have travelled thousands of miles
caring naught for his provisions
and attaining the state of sheer ecstasy
under the pure beams of the moon,
I left my house on the River Sumida
in the August of the first year of Jyokyo
among the wails of the Autumn wind.

(Basho)

 

Fresh morning snow in front of the shrine,
The trees! Are they white with peach blossoms
Or white with snow?
The children and I joyfully throw snowballs.

(Ryokan)

 

Go to the pine if you want to learn about the pine,
or to the bamboo if you want to learn about the bamboo.
And in doing so, you must leave your subjective preoccupation with yourself.
Otherwise you impose yourself on the object and do not learn.
Your poetry issues of its own accord when you and the object have become one
when you have plunged deep enough into the object to see something like a hidden glimmering there.
However well-phrased your poetry may be,
if your feeling is not natural
if the object and yourself are separate
then your poetry is not true poetry
but merely your subjective counterfeit.
Submerge yourself into the object until its intrinsic nature becomes apparent,
stimulating poetic impulse.

(Basho)

 

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I Hate Incense
A master's handiwork cannot be measured
But still priests wag their tongues explaining the "Way" and babbling about "Zen."
This old monk has never cared for false piety
And my nose wrinkles at the dark smell of incense before the Buddha.

(Ikkyu)

 

If you speak delusions, everything becomes a delusion;
If you speak the truth, everything becomes the truth.
Outside the truth there is no delusion,
But outside delusion there is no special truth.
Followers of Buddha's Way!
Why do you so earnestly seek the truth in distant places ?
Look for delusion and truth in the bottom of your own hearts.

(Ryokan)

 

In the scenery of spring,
nothing is better,
nothing worse;
The flowering branches are;
some long, some short.

(Eicho)

 

In this world of dreams,
dozing off still more;
and again speaking
and dreaming of dreams.
Just let it be.

(Ryokan)

 

Invaluable is the Soto Way
Why be discipline's slave?
Snapping the golden chain.
Step boldly toward the sunset!

(Gasan)

 

Long ago, I often drank saki at this house;
now only the earth
Covered with plum blossoms.

(Ryokan)

 

Make the universe your companion,
always bearing in mind the true nature of all creation
mountains and rivers, trees and grasses, and humanity
and enjoy the falling blossoms and scattering leaves.

(Basho)

 

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My hut lies in the middle of a dense forest;
Every year the green ivy grows longer.
No news of the affairs of men,
Only the occasional song of a woodcutter.
The sun shines and I mend my robe;
When the moon comes out I read Buddhist poems.
I have nothing to report, my friends.
If you want to find the meaning, stop chasing after so many things.

(Ryokan)

 

One moon shows in every pool,
in every pool the one moon.

 

Past, present, future: unattainable,
Yet clear as the moteless sky.
Late at night the stool's cold as iron,
But the moonlit window smells of plum.

(Hakuin)

 

Returning home after a day of begging;
Sage has covered my door.
Now a bunch of green leaves burns together with the firewood.
Silently I read the poems of Hanshan,
Accompanied by the autumn wind blowing a light rain that rustles through the reeds.
I stretch out both feet and lie down.
What is there to think about ? What is there to doubt?

(Ryokan)

 

Sitting quietly
doing nothing,
spring comes,
grass grows of itself.

(Eicho)

 

Spring morning on the lake:
The wind merges with the rain,
Worldly matters are like flowers
That fall only to bloom again.
I retire to contemplate behind closed doors,
A place of true joy,
While the floating clouds come and go
The whole day long.

(Zhengue)

 

That man's life is but a dream
is what we now come to know.
It's house abandoned,
the garden has become home to butterflies.

(Sogi)

 

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The autumn full moon
All night long
I walked around the lake.

 

The entire day I searched for spring,
But spring I could not find,
In my straw sandals I tramped among the
Mountain peak clouds.
Home again, smiling, I finger a sprig of
Fragrant plum blossom;
Spring was right here on these branches
In all of its glory!

(Wang Wei)

 

The moon's the same old moon,
The flowers exactly as they were,
Yet I've become the thingness
Of all the things I see!

(Bunan)

 

The whole moon
and the entire sky
are reflected
in one dewdrop on the grass.

(Dogen)

 

Though thin and weak,
the chrysanthemum
Inevitably will bud.

(Basho)

 

Through night after night
The moon is star-reflected,
Try to find where it has touched,
Point even to the shadow.

(Takuan)

 

Today I say before the cliffs
Sat until the mist blew off
A rambling clear stream shore
A towering green ridge crest
Cloud’s dawn shadows still
Moon’s night light adrift
Body free of dust
Mind without a care.

 

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To have nothing in mind is noble.
To have no skill and no knowledge is supreme.

(Basho)

 

What silence!
The voice of the cicada
Penetrates the rocks.

(Basho)

 

What will remain as my legacy?
Flowers in the spring,
The hototogisu in summer,
And the crimson leaves of autumn.

(Ryokan)

 

Where is it, the Monastery of Gathered Fragrance?
Mile after mile I climb the cloudy peaks;
Here are old trees, a path that no man treads
And deep in the hills the sound of a temple bell;
A fountain chokes on jagged rocks,
Among these dark green pines the sun seems chill;
I come at twilight to a deep pool
Can the monk at his devotions curb the evil dragon?

(Wang Wei)

 

Who says my poems are poems?
My poems are not poems.
After you know my poems are not poems,
Then we can begin to discuss poetry!

(Ryokan)

 

With no-mind, blossoms invite the butterfly;
With no-mind, the butterfly visits the blossoms.
When the flower blooms, the butterfly comes;
When the butterfly comes, the flower blooms.
I do not "know" others,
Others do not "know" me.
Not-knowing each other we naturally follow the Way.

(Ryokan)

 

Yield to the willow
All the loathing, all the desire
Of your heart.

 

My daily activities are not unusual,
I'm just naturally in harmony with them.
Grasping nothing, discarding nothing...
Supernatural power and marvellous activity -
Drawing water and carrying firewood.

(Layman Pang-yun)

 

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The wind has settled, the blossoms have fallen;
Birds sing, the mountains grow dark --
This is the wondrous power of Buddhism.

(Ryokan)

 

The mind of the past is ungraspable;
the mind of the future is ungraspable;
the mind of the present is ungraspable.

(Diamond Sutra)

 

Nothing in the cry
of cicadas suggests they
are about to die

(Basho)

 

Unfettered at last, a travelling monk,
I pass the old Zen barrier.
Mine is a traceless stream-and-cloud life,
Of these mountains, which shall be my home?

(Manan)

 

My legacy -
What will it be?
Flowers in spring,
The cuckoo in summer,
And the crimson maples
Of autumn ...

(Ryokan)

 

Finally out of reach -
No bondage, no dependency.
How calm the ocean,
Towering the void.

(Tessho's death poem)

 

It is too clear and so it is hard to see.
A dunce once searched for a fire with a
lighted lantern.
Had he known what fire was,
He could have cooked his rice much sooner.

 

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Opening bell
echoes from the canyon walls --
raindrops on the river.

The sounds of rocks bouncing off rocks;
the shadows of trees traced on trees.

I sit, still.
The canyon river chants,
moving mountains.

The sermon spun on the still point:
dropping off eternity, picking up time;
letting go of self, awakened to Mind.

 

To what shall I compare this life of ours?
Even before I can say
it is like a lightning flash or a dewdrop
it is no more.

(Sengai)

 

A haiku is not a poem, it is not literature; it is a hand becoming,
a door half-opened, a mirror wiped clean. It is a way of returning
to nature, to our moon nature, our cherry blossom nature, our
falling leaf nature, in short, to our Buddha nature. It is a way in
which the cold winter rain, the swallows of evening, even the very
day in its hotness, and the length of the night, become truly
alive, share in our humanity, speak their own silent
and expressive language.

(Haiku)

 

Loving old priceless things,
I've scorned those seeking
Truth outside themselves:
Here, on the tip of the nose.

(Makusho)

 

Reciting a small portion of the scriptures,
But putting it diligently into practice;
Letting go of passion, aggression, and confusion:
Revering the truth with a clear mind;
And not clinging to anything, here or hereafter;
Brings the harvest of the holy life.

(Dhammapada)

 

In this way and that I have tried to save
the old pail
Since the bamboo strip was weakening and
about to break
Until at last the bottom fell out.
No more water in the pail!
No more moon in the water!

(Chiyono)

 

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This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech.
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied.
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm, and wise and skilful,
Not proud and demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.

(The Buddha's Words on Kindness (Metta Sutta))

 

Before I had studied Zen for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains,
and waters as waters.
When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point
where I saw that mountains are not mountains,
and waters are not waters.
But now that I have got its very substance I am at rest.
For it's just that I see mountains once again as mountains,
and waters once again as waters.

(Ching-yuan)

 

Well versed in the Buddha Way,
I go the non-Way
Without abandoning my
Ordinary person's affairs.
The conditioned and
Name-and-Form,
All are flowers in the sky.
Nameless and formless,
I leave birth-and death.

(Pang Yun)

 

Shariputra,
Form does not differ from emptiness;
Emptiness does not differ from form.
Form itself is emptiness;
Emptiness itself is form.
So too are feeling, cognition, formation, and consciousness.

(Heart Sutra)

 

As flowing waters disappear into the mist
We lose all track of their passage.
Every heart is its own Buddha.
Ease off ... become immortal.

Wake up! The world's a mote of dust.
Behold heaven's round mirror.
Turn loose! Slip past shape and shadow,
Sit side by side with nothing, save Tao.

(Shih-shu)

 

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Everything
just as it is,
as it is,
as is.
Flowers in bloom.
Nothing to add.

(Robert Aitken)

 

Fathomed at last!
Ocean's dried. Void burst.
Without an obstacle in sight,
It's everywhere!

(Joho)

 

The body is the tree of enlightenment,
The mind like a clear mirror stand;
Time and gain wipe it diligently,
Don't let it gather dust.

(Shenxiu)

 

Enlightenment is basically not a tree,
And the clear mirror is not a stand.
Fundamentally there is not a single thing -
Where can dust collect.

(Huineng, Sixth Zen Patriarch in China)

 

Chanting the sutras,
I receive the rice;
The shrikes sing.

(Santoka Taneda)

 

There I was, hunched over office desk,
Mind an unruffled pool.
A thunderbolt! My middle eye
Shot wide, revealing - my ordinary self.

(Layman Seiken)

 

An explosive shout cracks the great empty sky.
Immediately clear self-understanding.
Swallow up buddhas and ancestors of the past.
Without following others, realize complete penetration.

(Dogen)

 

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Two come about because of One,
but don't cling to the One either!
So long as the mind does not stir,
the ten thousand things stay blameless;
no blame, no phenomena,
no stirring, no mind.

The viewer disappears along with the scene,
the scene follows the viewer into oblivion,
for scene becomes scene only through the viewer,
viewer becomes viewer because of the scene.

(Seng-ts'an)

 

Shame on you Shakyamuni for setting
the precedent
of leaving home.
Did you think it was not there--
in your wife's lovely face
in your baby's laughter?
Did you think you had to go elsewhere
to find it?

(Judyth Collin)

 

Direct your eye right inward, and you'll find
A thousand regions of your mind
Yet undiscovered. Travel them and be
Expert in home-cosmography.

(Henry David Thoreau)

 

Step out onto the Planet.
Draw a circle a hundred feet round.
Inside the circle are
300 things nobody understands, and maybe
nobody's ever seen.
How many can you find?

(Lew Welch)
 

The Three Thousand Worlds
that step forward
with the light snow,
and the light snow that falls
in those Three Thousand Worlds.

(Ryokan)
 

Gone, and a million things leave no trace
Loosed, and it flows through the galaxies
A fountain of light, into the very mind--
Not a thing, and yet it appears before me:
Now I know the pearl of the Buddha-nature
Know its use: a boundless perfect sphere.

(Han-Shan)

 

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Manjusri, a bodhisattva should regard all living beings as a wise man
Regards the reflection of the moon in water,
As magicians regard men created by magic.
As being like a face in a mirror,
like the water of a mirage;
like the sound of an echo;
like a mass of clouds in the sky;
like the appearance and disappearance of a bubble of water;
like the core of a plantain tree;
like a flash of lightning;
like the appearance of matter in an immaterial realm;
like a sprout from a rotten seed;
like tortoise-hair coat;
like the fun of games for one who wishes to die...

(Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra)

 

Spring has its hundred flowers,
Autumn its moon,
Summer has its cooling breezes,
Winter its snow.
If you allow no idle concerns
To weight on your heart,
Your whole life will be one
Perennial good season.

 

Earth, mountains, rivers - hidden in this nothingness.
In this nothingness - earth, mountains, rivers revealed.
Spring flowers, winter snows:
There's no being or non-being, nor denial itself.

(Saisho)

 

The true man of no rank -
What a piece of dry crap he is!

(Hung-Chih)

 

A special transmission outside the scriptures;
No dependence upon words and letters;
Direct pointing at the soul of man:
Seeing into one's nature and the attainment of Buddhahood.

(Bodhi-Dharma)

 

Buddha preached in the twelve divisions,
each division full of purest truth.
East wind -- rain comes in the night,
making all the forest fresh and new.
No sutra that does not save the living,
no branch in the forest not visited by spring.
Learn to understand the meaning in them,
don't try to decide which is "valid," which is not.

(Ryokan)

 

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To what shall
I liken the world?
Moonlight, reflected
In dewdrops.
Shaken from a crane's bill.

(Dogen

 

The world? Moonlit
Drops shaken
From the crane's bill.

(Dogen)

 

The thief
Left it behind -
The moon at the window.

(Ryokan)

 

In ten directions everywhere, throughout the sea of lands,
Every hair-tip encompasses oceans of past, present and future.
So, too, there is a sea of Buddhas, a sea of Buddha lands;
Pervading them all, I cultivate for seas of endless time.

(The Flower Adornment Sutra)

 

To study the buddha way is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be enlightened by the ten thousand dharmas.
To be enlightened by the ten thousand dharmas is to free
one's body and mind and those of others.
No trace of enlightenment remains, and this traceless
enlightenment is continued forever.

(Dogen)

 

But I say unto you,
Take this staff just as a staff;
Movement is movement;
Sitting is sitting,
but don't wobble
under any circumstances!
My staff has turned into a dragon
and swallowed up the whole world.
Where are the poor mountains and rivers and great earth now?

Vasubandhu happened to transform himself
Into a staff of chestnut wood, and,
Striking the earth once,
All the innumerable Buddhas were released
from their entangling words.

(Yun-men Wen-yen)

 

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If you are a poet,
you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper.
Without a cloud there will be no water;
without water,
the trees cannot grow;
and without trees,
you cannot make paper.
So the cloud is in here.
The existence of this page is dependent upon the existence of a cloud.
Paper and cloud are so close.

(Thich Nhat Hahn)

 

All that's visible springs from causes intimate to you.
While walking, sitting, lying down, the body itself is complete truth.
If someone asks the inner meaning of this:

"Inside the treasury of the dharma eye a single grain of dust."

(Dogen)

 

Only the idea of self remains
Floating on a sea of cells;
Only heartbeats short of eternity
In breath after breath we dwell.

 

Nothing remains
Of the house that I was born in--
Fireflies.

(Santoka)

 

However looked at,
it's a world
to be loathed --
but as long as you live here
I'm drawn to it!

(Saigyo)
 

The secret of the receptive
Must be sought in stillness;
Within stillness there remains
The potential for action.
If you force empty sitting,
Holding dead images in mind,
The tiger runs, the dragon flees --
How can the elixir be given?

(Sun Bu-er)

 

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The Perfect Way knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preferences;
Only when freed from hate and love,
It reveals itself fully and without disguise;
A tenth of an inch's difference,
And heaven and earth are set apart;
If you wish to see it before your own eyes,
Have no fixed thoughts either for or against it.

(Sosan Canchi Zenji)

 

When the mind is at peace,
the world too is at peace.
Nothing real, nothing absent.
Not holding on to reality,
not getting stuck in the void,
you are neither holy or wise, just
an ordinary fellow who has completed his work.

(Layman Pang-yun)

 

If you ignore its profundity,
you can never practice stillness.
Like the Great Void, it is Perfect and lacks nothing,
nor has any excess.
If you discriminate,
you will miss its suchness.
Cling not to external causes,
nor stay in the Void.
Differentiation ceases if you can be impartial.
Stillness comes when all disturbances are stopped,
clinging to stillness is also a mistake.
If you cling to opposites,
how will you know the One?

(Third Patriarch of Zen)

 

No tranquilization, No disturbance,
No sitting, No meditation ...
This is the Tathagata's Dhyana.
The five Skandhas are not realities;
The six object of sense are by nature empty.
It is neither quiet nor illuminating;
It is neither real nor empty;
It does not abide in the Middle Way;
It is not-doing,
It is no-effect-producing;
Yet, functioning with the utmost freedom:
the Buddha-nature is all inclusive.

(Yung)

 

That the self advances and confirms the ten thousand things
is called delusion;
That the ten thousand things advance and confirm the self
is called enlightenment.

(Dogen Zenji)

 

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Clambering up the Cold Mountain path,
The Cold Mountain trail goes on and on:
The long gorge choked with scree and boulders,
The wide creek, the mist-blurred grass.
The moss is slippery, though there's been no rain.
The pine sings, but there's no wind.
Who can leap the world's ties
And sit with me among the white clouds.

(Han-shan)

 

Mind, mind, mind -- above the Path.
Here on my mountain, gray hair down,
I cherish bamboo sprouts, brush carefully
By pine twigs. Burning incense,
I open a book: mist over flagstones.
Rolling the blind, I contemplate:
Moon in the pond. Of my old friends
How many know the Way.

(Zengetsu)

 

Fishermen
by a rocky shore,
winds blowing wildly,
in a boat unmoored--
such is our condition.

(Saigyo)

 

Leaves fall
where no green earth remains:
a person at his ease,
wears a plain, white robe.

With simplicity and plainness
his original nature still,
what need to practice
"calming of the heart."

(Chia-Tao)

 

I see a vision of a great rucksack revolution, thousands or even
millions of young Americans wandering around with their rucksacks,
going up the mountains to pray, making children laugh and old men
glad ... Zen lunatics who go about writing poems."

(Jack Kerouac)

 

The body of man is like a flicker of lightning
existing only to return to Nothingness.
Like the spring growth that shrivels in autumn.
Waste no thought on the process for it has no purpose,
Coming and going like dew.

(Van Hanh)

 

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Why are people called Buddhas
After they die?
Because they don't grumble any more,
Because they don't make a nuisance
Of themselves any more.

(Ikkyu)

 

Before the mountain and by grace
of nature
I was allowed to realize "Oh!
I am only a child!"
Tendered by spruce and birds
I saw without my usual defenses
and endless thinking I know
anything or everything
coming between me
and creation.

(Myochi Roko Sherry Chayat)

 

With a voice as vast as an ocean that sounds all sounds,
Producing numberless wondrous words,
I shall sing, through all the kalpas of time to come
In praise of the ocean of merit in the depths of the Buddha's heart.

Beyond thinking, beyond speaking,
these depths are still greater,
and neither my word nor my heart can plumb them.

(Senshi)

 

However innumerable all beings are,
I Vow to save them all.
However inexhaustible delusions are,
I Vow to extinguish them all.
However immeasurable Dharma teachings are,
I Vow to master them all.
However endless the Buddha's Way,
I Vow to follow it.

(The Four Great Vows of Mahayana Buddhism)

 

The Great Way has no gate;
there are a thousand paths to it.
If you pass through the barrier,
you walk the universe alone.

(Wu-Men)

 

The name "Three Teachings" was empty right from the
start--
Miss even one one and all go wrong.
Looking inward or outward, see there is no fixed self.
Break in the front door, if you want to enter your home.

(Dogen Zenji)

 

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Last day of Winter,
leafless walnut trees--
form is emptiness.

First day of Spring,
clear sky to Mt. Shasta--
emptiness is form.

Daybreak--
forms are forms,
emptiness is speechless.

 

Transience, emptiness and enlightenment --
These are the ultimate truths of Buddhism;
Keeping and teaching them is true Sangha devotion.
If you don't agree, please ask me about it.
Cut out directly the root of it all;
This is the very point of the Buddha-seal.
I can't respond to any concern about leaves and branches.

(Zen Master Yung-chia Hsuan-chueh)

 

When we see truly, there is nothing at all.
There is no person; there is no Buddha.
Innumerable things of the universe
Are just bubbles on the sea.
Wise sages are all like flashes of lightning.

(Yoka Genkaku)

 

In all lands of the ten directions,
Vast, great, pure, and wonderfully adorned,
All Tathagatas sit beneath regal Bodhi trees,
While assemblies walk around in wonder.

 

Why is it? Because:
All phenomena are like a dream, an illusion,
a bubble, a shadow,
like dew and lightning.
Thus should you meditate on them.

 

When you hear the splash
Of the water drops that fall
Into the stone bowl,
You will feel that all the dust
Of your mind is washed away.

(Sen-No-Rikyu)

 

The Buddha was not really a god.
In fact, he thought it quite odd
That we go all around
Worshipping mounds
More mindless than peas in a pod!

 

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His Thirty-two Marks and Unequaled Light and Virtue!
They are beyond all comparison!
The White Curled One Who Pervades the Five Mystical Mountains!
His Violet-eyed Purity Extends to the Four Seas!
His Inner Illumination has transformed Buddhas beyond number and counting,
And also transformed Bodhisattva Assemblies without number!

 

Tie up the tiger and return it to the true lair;
Bridle the dragon and gradually increase the elixir.
Nature should be as clear as water,
Mind should be as still as a mountain.
Turning the breath, gather it into the gold crucible;
Stabilizing the spirit, guard the jade pass.
If you can increase the grain of rice day by day,
You will be rejuvenated.

(Sun Bu-er)

 

High summer's tyranny has loosed its hold;
From their hot zenith my desires descend
To genial afternoon. Though I grow old,
Autumnal ripeness comes before the cold.
The hostile sun, with whom I would contend,
Tempers his lustful fire, and as a friend
Inaugurates my evening years of gold.
I, who could not give up the world, go free:
This irreligious world renounces me.
Ignored in peace and decently neglected
Till I am safely dead, I lay no claim
To riches, privilege, prestige, degree,
Nor crave the flaring fraudulence of fame,
But work unknown, my only wealth the Name.

 

All beings are from the very beginning Buddhas.
It is like water and ice:
Apart from water, no ice,
Outside living beings, no Buddhas.
Not knowing it is near, they seek it afar.
What a pity!
It is like one in the water who cries out with thirst;
It is like the child of a rich house who has strayed among the poor.
The cause of our circling through the six worlds
Is that we are on the dark paths of ignorance.
Dark path upon dark path treading,
When shall we escape from birth-and-death?

(Hakuin)

 

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Do you not know the ease of the man of the Way;
One who has gone beyond learning, and whose state is "non-action,"
Who neither suppresses thoughts, nor seeks the "Truth?"
To him the reality of ignorance is the Buddha Nature;
The empty illusory is the Dharmakaya.

When one who is awakened to the Dharma-body, there are no objects;
The essence of all things comes from the self-nature -- Buddha!
The Five Aggregates -- mere floating clouds aimlessly coming and going;
The Three Poisons -- bubbles that appear and disappear.

Release the Four Elements: cling to nothing!
And in the midst of Nirvana you may eat and drink!
Seeing that all things are not lasting and are Void,
One attains the Great Perfect Enlightenment of the Tathagatas.

(Ch'an Master Hsuan Chuen of Yung Chia)

 

In the morning, bowing to all;
In the evening, bowing to all.
Respecting others is my only duty--
Hail to the Never-despising Bodhisattva.

In heaven and earth he stands alone.

A real monk
Needs
Only one thing--
a heart like
Never-despising Buddha.

(Ryokan)

 

The Three Noble Principles:
Good in the Beginning,
Good in the Middle,
Good at the End.

(Pema Chodron)

 

Unity attained:
Who dares to equal him
Who falls into neither being nor non-being!
All men want to leave
The current of ordinary life,
But he, after all, comes back
To sit among the coals and ashes.

(Tung-Shan)

 

Earth, mountains, rivers - hidden in this nothingness.
In this nothingness - earth, mountains, rivers revealed.
Spring flowers, winter snows:
There's no being or non-being, nor denial itself.

(Saisho)

 

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We pray for our life of tomorrow,
Ephemeral life though it be;
This is the habit of our mind
That passed away yesterday.

(Ikkyu)

 

Like the little stream
Making its way
Through the mossy crevices
I, too, quietly
Turn clear and transparent

The wind has settled, the blossoms have fallen;
Birds sing, the mountains grow dark --
This is the wondrous power of Buddhism.

(Ryokan)

 

What a difference! What a difference!
Raise the blind, and see the world!
If someone asks me to tell him what my religion is
I raise my hossu and strike his mouth.

(Chokei)

 

For twenty years I've sought the Other.
Now, letting go, I fly out of the pit.
What use oneness of mind and body?
These days I only sing la-la-la.

(Keso Shogaku)

 

Thirty spokes join together in the hub.
It is because of what is not there that the cart is useful.
Clay is formed into a vessel.
It is because of its emptiness that the vessel is useful.
Cut doors and windows to make a room.
It is because of its emptiness that the room is useful.
Therefore, what is present is used for profit.

But it is in absence that there is usefulness.

(Tao Te Ching)

 

Standing alone on a solitary peak,
The gateless gate crumbles.
Moving straight up the windy
road,
Heaven and earth are walking as one.

Buddhas intimate with buddhas--
What need is there for old
medicine bottles?
Then thousand blossoms perfume
the vast sky.
Like this, like this !

(Tetsugen)

 

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All beings by nature are Buddha,
as ice by nature is water;
apart from water there is no ice,
apart from beings no Buddha.

(Hakuin Zenki)

 

Although I try
to hold the single thought
of Buddha's teaching in my heart,
I cannot help but hear
the many crickets' voices calling as well.

(Izumi Shikibu)

 

An instant realization sees endless time.
Endless time is as one moment.
When one comprehends the endless moment
He realizes the person who is seeing it.

 

With thy perfect intelligence and compassion
Which are beyond all limit,
Thou comprehends the egolessness of things and persons,
And, art free and clear from the hindrances of passion and egoism.
Thou do not vanish into Nirvana,
Nor does Nirvana abide in thee,
For Nirvana transcends all duality of knowing and known,
Of being and non-being.
Those who see thee thus,
Serene and beyond conceptions,
Will be emancipated from attachment,
Will be cleansed of all defilement,
Both in this world and in the spiritual world beyond.
In this world, whose nature is like a dream,
there is a place for praise and blame;
But, in the ultimate Reality of the Dharmakaya,
Which is far beyond the senses and the discriminating mind,
What is there to praise?
O Thou Most Wise!

(Sutra)

 

In Zen, poetry is not a technology of language, but rather a
practice of closing the gap between word and action so that
one may come to a point when word is will-manifest, where
real and dream are no more discrete realms. The Zen poet
then ultimately concerns himself not with the skeletons of
words but with shock, with riddle, and with the movement
from head to entirety of being-in-body.

(Leon Tang)

 

There is no answer.
There is not going to be an answer.
There never has been an answer.
That's the answer.

 

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A man as old as a dragon bell, I walk slowly
to visit a meditation temple,
to ask the mean of a good heart. Remotely,
I feel the sickness of the void is itself void.
Mountains and rivers are in the Buddha's eye,
the universe in dharma's body.
Don't be surprised that meditation controls hot days
and raises wind over the land.

(Wang Wei)

 

Centre of all centres, core of cores,
almond self-enclosed and growing sweet--
all this universe, to the furthest stars
and beyond them, is your flesh, your fruit.

Now you feel how nothing clings to you;
your vast shell reaches into endless space,
and there the rich, thick fluids rise and flow.
Illuminated in your infinite peace ......

 

Completely freed from yes and no;
great emptiness charged within;
no questions, no answers;
like a fish, like a fool.

 

Walking is Zen,
Sitting, too, is Zen.
If I speak or am silent,
Tarry or hasten:
Everything, in its true nature,
Is stillness.

(Shodoka)

 

You should know that such people will have planted good roots
With not just one Buddha, two Buddhas, three, four or five Buddhas,
But will have planted good roots with measureless millions of Buddhas.
All who hear such phrases and produce even one thought
Of pure faith are completely known and completely seen by the Tathagata.
Such living beings thus obtain measureless blessings and virtue.
And why?
Those living beings have no further mark of self, of others, of living beings,
Or of a life;
No mark of dharmas and no mark of no dharmas.
If your hearts grasp at marks, then that is attachment to self, to others, to living beings, and to a life.
For that reason you should not grasp at dharmas, nor should you grasp at no dharmas.
All you Bhiksus should know that the dharma which I speak is like a raft.
Even dharmas should be relinquished, how much the more so no dharmas.

(The Buddha, The Diamond Sutra)

 

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And before the Wise Ones appeared,
Forty million years of ducks in the mud.

Blowing out a candle
ten thousand miles away
Cutting up a duck for dinner.

A dog barks at nothing,
a thousand ducks twitch--
winds of winter.

Has a duck the Buddha-Nature?
"Sssshhh!
Stop quacking like a duck."

 

As all things are Buddha-Dharma,
There are delusion, realization, practice,
birth and death,
buddhas and sentient beings.
As myriad things are without an abiding self,
There is no delusion, no realization,
no buddha, no sentient being,
no birth and death.
The buddha way, in essence,
Is leaping clear of abundance and lack;
thus there are birth and death,
delusion and realization,
sentient beings and buddhas.
Yet in attachment blossoms fall,
And in aversion weeds spread.

(Zen Master Dogen)

 

Tea is not but this:
First you make the water boil,
Then infuse the tea.
Then you drink it properly.
That is all you need to know.

(Verses of Sen-No-Rikyu, Tea Master)

 

The sound of the water
says what I think.
(Chuang Tzu)

 

Contemplating the clear moon
Reflecting a mind empty as the open sky -
Drawn by its beauty,
I lose myself
In the shadows it casts.

(Dogen)

 

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Then in the end
one leaves the body
together with one's possessions.
Knowing this, the intelligent man
Enjoys possessions and gives.

Having enjoyed and given
in line with his means,
uncensored he goes
to the heavenly state.

(Aditta Sutra)

 

Weary body, inviting bed
nestled around zendo
under the stars.
The world my pillow,
the sky my blanket,
the dharma my warmth
dreams of sesshin.

 

Above, below and around you, all is
Spontaneously existing, for
There is nowhere which is
Outside Buddha-Mind.

(Huang Po)

 

Old Pan Kou knows nothing about time
and nothing about space has well.
His life is self-natured and self-sufficient.
He needs to ask for nothing outside of his own being.
The genesis of the world is the exercise of his mind.
When his mind starts to think, the world starts to move.
The world has never been made by any special design.
Neither has an end ever been put to it.

 

A little while when I am gone
My life will live in music after me,
As spun foam lifted and borne on
After the wave is lost in the full sea.

A while these nights and days will burn
In song with the bright frailty of foam,
Living in light before they turn
Back to the nothingness that is their home.

 

I asked a child, walking with a candle,
"From where comes that light?"
Instantly he blew it out.
"Tell me where it is gone --
then I will tell you where it came from."

(Hasan of Basra)

 

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If you want to be free,
Get to know your real self.
It has no form, no appearance,
No root, no basis, no abode,
But is lively and buoyant.
It responds with versatile facility,
But its function cannot be located.
Therefore when you look for it,
You become further from it;
When you seek it,
You turn away from it all the more.

(Linji)

 

When mortals are alive, they worry about death.
When they're full, they worry about hunger.
Theirs is the Great Uncertainty.

But sages don't consider the past.
And they don't worry about the future.
Nor do they cling to the present.
And from moment to moment they follow the Way.

Bodhidharma

 

Look directly!
What is this?
Look in this manner
And you won’t be fooled!

Bassui

 

In a moonlit night on a spring day,
the croak of a frog
pierces through the whole cosmos
turning it into
a single family.

(Chang Chin-ch'en, From the Golden Age of Zen)

 

It is as though you have an eye
That sees all forms
But does not see itself.
This is how your mind is.
Its light penetrates everywhere
And engulfs everything,
So why does it not know itself?

(Foyan)

 

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Untold unspeakables
Fill all unspeakables;
The unspeakable eons
Explanation of the unspeakable
cannot be finished.

If untold Buddha-lands are reduced
to atoms,
In one atom are untold lands,
And as in one,
So in each.

 

despite fascination
do not be concerned
that form is emptiness
and emptiness is form
It is All
a brown falling leaf
no different
from
anything
else.

 

Last day of Spring,
ripe purple plums drop--
form is emptiness.

First day of Summer,
ditch completely dry--
emptiness is form.

 

Those who see worldly life as an obstacle to Dharma
see no Dharma in everyday actions.
They have not yet discovered that
there are no everyday actions outside of Dharma.

(Dogen)

 

Food and clothes sustain
Body and life;
I advise you to learn
Being as is.
When it’s time,
I move my hermitage and go,
And there’s nothing
To be left behind.

(Layman P’ang)

 

A lifetime adrift in a boat,
or in old age leading a tired horse into the years,
every day is a journey,
and the journey itself is home.

(Basho)

 

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Achieve enlightenment,
then return to this world
of ordinary humanity.

(Basho)

 

After the spring song, "Vast emptiness, no holiness,"
Comes the song of snow-wind along the Yangtze Rive.
Late at night I too play the noteless flute of Shorin [Shaolin],
Piercing the mountains with its sound, the river.

(Shunoku)

 

All along this road
not a single soul—only
autumn evening.

(Basho)

 

All day in the gray sun
Hollyhocks following sun's
Invisible road.

 

Coming, going, the waterfowl
Leaves not a trace,
Nor does it need a guide.

(Dogen)

 

Dew of the bramble,
Thorns
sharp white.

(Buson)

 

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