A death poem was composed on one's deathbed, with the aim of encapsulating the understanding of impermanence at that moment.
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.
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.
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
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 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
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