Saturday, July 31, 2010
Ryokan was a Japanese Zen hermit monk who lived from 1758-1831. In his life of extreme seclusion he wrote poetry, drew calligraphy, and communed with nature.
I found the following poems on the Anam Cara Site and copied them here so that we could all enjoy them. They are from "Dewdrops On A Lotus Leaf, Zen Poems of Ryōkan," translated by John Stevens and published by Shambhala Publications.
Abbot of Ganjo-ji
Ganjo-ji is west of Hokke-do, a temple
Secluded among rocks and hidden by thick mist.
In the deep valley, moss grows rampant and visitors
are rarely seen.
Fishes dance in an ancient pond,
Tall pines reach toward the blue sky,
And between the trees a glimpse of Mount Yahiko.
One bright September day, on my begging rounds,
I impulsively decided to knock on the temple gate.
I'm a free-spirited Zen vagrant,
And the abbot, too, has lots of time to spare.
We stayed together all day, not a care in the world,
Sipping wine, toasting the mountains and laughing
How can I possibly sleep
This moonlit evening?
Come, my friends,
Let's sing and dance
All night long.
Under the vast sky:
Beneath the cherry blossoms.
Plucked from fields,
Full of croaking frogs:
Float them in your wine
And enjoy every minute!
Long ago a pretty girl lived next door:
She used to pick mulberries in a distant grove,
Returning with her white arms full of
Gold and silver branches,
She sang with a heart-rending voice
And sparkled with life.
Young farmers put aside their hoes when they saw her,
And many forgot to return home when she was around.
Now she is just a white-haired granny,
Burdened with the aches and pains of old age.
When I think
About the misery
Of those in this world
Oh, that my monk's robe
Were wide enough
To gather up all
The suffering people
In this floating world.
Nothing makes me
More happy than
Amida Buddha's vow
In this world
If there were one
Of like mind -
We could spend the night
Talking in my little hut!
My life the last few days has been very much "chop wood, carry water," only for me it has been "do laundry, shop for groceries, try to learn the ways of the new ipod I purchased." I find I am indeed a slow learner, but think it will be beneficial in the end--hope to find out how to put up links to actual readings of my poems in future. Fortunately, the young folks (the instructors) at the Apple store have lots of patience, and don't mind repeating the lessons often for me. As a former English professor (and current spiritual researcher), I am used to thinking about symbols, themes, overall meanings of things--not the itty-bitty details of the cyber world. But I feel that exploring the "new" technology is good as mind exercise--and I do make progress now and again.
Sometimes I think Ryokan had the right idea. The life of a hermit monk does have its attractions.