“The sorrow of parting is meaningful and so hard to dismiss;Tweet
But if the way is in tune with no-mind, it will go as it should.”
– Chan Nun and Master, Ziyong Chengru
Ziyong Chengru was a Chan Master who lived in 17th century China. Less well-known than many of her contemporary counterparts, she was a prominent teacher and Abbess of many monasteries who was given the moniker, ‘Ship of Compassion.’ A keen traveler and spiritual pilgrim, Ziyong often documented her thoughts, feelings and understanding of the Dharma through poetry. This one longer poem, goes under the lengthy title ‘Ten Verses Presented on the Occasion of a Gathering in the Capital of My Disciples to See Me Off‘ is a reflection of impermanence and a dedication and teaching to her disciples who were grieving, and in her words, nattering on, about their love for her. In these verses, Ziyong draws on her faith in the cyclical nature of time and landscape, as well as on her love for the Yan Mountains that surround Beijing, and uses their power to soothe and inform any startling grief in her own heart. She ends the poem with the rousing insight, ‘If the way is in tune with no-mind, it will go as. it should.’
Ten Verses Presented on the Occasion of a Gathering in the Capital of My Disciples to See Me Off
Yesterday my disciples spoke to me of the grief of separation
As they poured out the endless sorrow that was in their hearts.
I’ve ordered the flowers in the courtyard not to be too anxious,
Lest they startle the pearly dewdrops on the autumn blooms.
I bought myself a light boat in anticipation of going south.
A bright moon fills my breast; my empty heart feels foolish!
In front of the cliffs, hidden birds sing out time and again,
Saying, “When you reach the south, consult the fifty-three!”
Last night the numinous blossom in my dream split in two;
But when I awoke, it was as before—vast and without a trace.
A heavenful of luminous moon, as clear as if just bathed;
The jade waters of the Yan hills all lift the traveler’s spirits.
Do not slight the lazy and foolish: both come from no mind.
Clouds emerge without thinking, birds just sing their songs.
The wind pierces the flowers’ shimmer, their fragrance so fine.
What need to seek for anything more than surprises like these!
It is just that I love the Yan Mountains and their jade waters,
Where clear breezes and bright moon complement each other.
The birds in the trees know how things will turn out in the end;
Flying close to my carriage, from afar they seal a vow with me.
A skiff of a boat floats in the vastness under the bright moon;
In northern lands or southern skies the landscape is the same.
Stop nattering on, my disciples, about how fond of me you are;
When fall comes, you can expect the geese to return as before.
Two sleevefuls of springtime light as I leave the Forbidden City;
One breastful of anxious thoughts poured out toward the south.
The mountains of Yan on my mind as grieving clouds thicken,
But if you wait until high autumn, then its colors will become clear.
The lightweight sail hangs high among the five-colored clouds;
Ten thousand miles of road to travel, as far as the eye can see.
Its two banks of reed flowers reach beyond the edge of the sky;
The sun’s glow rises above me at the gateway to the eastern sea.
A willow-colored overcoat reminds me it is a cold time of year;
And peach reds still recall the sorrowful feelings of separation.
Filling all the world’s jade waters, one bright moon in the sky;
If you stay and wait on Golden Terrace, you can see it very well.
The Chan mind is not solitary, as clouds in the wilds know;
Reed moon and plum blossom, to whom can I send them?
The sorrow of parting is meaningful and so hard to dismiss;
But if the way is in tune with no-mind, it will go as it should.
Ziyong Chengru (1645-after 1700)
From Eminent Nuns: Women Chan Masters of Seventheenth-Century China