A death poem was composed on one's deathbed, with the aim of encapsulating the understanding of impermanence at that moment.
Category: Japanese Poetry
Ryokan – Playing with the Children
Ryokan loved children, and played with them so much that other adults began to question his sanity. He says, 'Even if I were able to say something/how could I explain?' His wholehearted immersion in playful activity is the essence of Ryokan's very particular Zen expression.
Chiyono’s Enlightenment Poem
Adachi Chiyono (also known as Mugai Nyodai) was the daughter of a samurai warrior in the 13th century who became the first woman - and mother - to found and head a Zen monastery in Japan.
Snow Makes a Mountain
In addition to the volumes of essays and lectures on Zen and Zen practice, Dogen also expressed himself and his teachings through poetry. This particular verse, which reflects on a moment of realization in which the poet's mind underwent a profound perceptive shift, is written in a Chinese style. The translation is Philip Whalen and… Continue reading Snow Makes a Mountain
Dogen’s Waka on Impermanence
Waka is a Japanese word for poem that surfaced more than a millenium ago to differentiate the Chinese kanshi poems from the work of local scribes. A waka can have a long or short form, and the short ones can often read like haikus, a poetic embodiment of transience. This short one was written by… Continue reading Dogen’s Waka on Impermanence
Muso’s Green Mountains
Muso Soseki was a Japanese monk born in the 13th century who achieved satori at the age of 30 while staying in a hermitage in the countryside. One night he was walking about in the dark and reached out for a wall he thought was there. When he realized it wasn't, he gave a great… Continue reading Muso’s Green Mountains
Empty Bowl: Two Poems
In the blue sky a winter goose cries. The mountains are bare; nothing but falling leaves. Twilight: returning along the lonely village path Alone, carrying an empty bowl. Foolish and stubborn - what day can I rest? Lonely and poor, this life. Twilight: I return from the village - Taigu Ryokan (1758-1831)… Continue reading Empty Bowl: Two Poems