The following two poems from the book The Recorded Sayings of Layman Pang, Weatherhill 1971, translated from the Chinese by Ruth Fuller Sasaki, Yoshitaka Iriya, and Dana R. Fraser
I have a great robe
Not of this world’s silk.
It can’t be dyed by any color,
Being crystalline, like white floss.
No scissors were used to cut it,
No thread was used to stitch it.
I keep it always close about me,
But there’s no man who of himself has seen it.
It shelters a Trichilial** Cosmos from heat and cold,
Covering over sentient and non-sentient alike.
Should you be able to obtain this great robe,
Having donned it, you straightway enter the palace of the King of emptiness.
**A thousand to the third power, or one billion worlds. This is said to constitute the domain of a buddha.
The past is already past–
Don’t try to regain it.
The present does not stay–
Don’t try to touch it from moment to moment.
The future is not come–
Don’t think about it beforehand.
With the three times non-existent,
Mind is the same as Buddha-mind.
To silently function relying on Emptiness–
This is profundity of action.
Not the least dharma exists–
Whatsoever comes to eye leave it be.
There are no commandments to be kept,
There is no filth to be cleansed.
With empty mind really penetrated,
The dharmas have no life.
When you can be like this
You’ve completed the ultimate attainment.
The following translations are from the book Original Teachings of Chan Buddhism, by Chang Chun-Yuan, A Vintage Book, 1971.
From Master Tsao-shan
He who says that a dragon is singing in the dry woods
Is he who truly sees Tao.
The skull has no consciousness,
But wisdom’s eye begins to shine in it.
If joy and consciousness should be eliminated,
Then fluctuations and communication would cease.
Those who dry this do not understand
That purity is impure.
From Master Fen-yang
Under the moonlight are the towers and chambers of a thousand houses;
Lying in the autumn air are lakes and rivers of myriad li.
Blossoms blow in the reeds, differing not in their colors.
A white bird descends the white sandbank of a stream.
Selections 4 and 5 for National Poetry Month. These two poems of Zen Master Ryokan are from Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf, Zen Poems of Ryokan, translated by John Stevens.
If someone asks
“The east edge of
The Milky Way.”
Like a drifting cloud,
Bound by nothing:
I just let go
Giving myself up
To the whim of the wind
The Autumn Moon
The moon appears in every season, it is true,
But surely it’s best in fall.
In autumn, mountains loom and water runs clear.
A brilliant disk floats across the infinite sky,
And there is no sense of light and darkness,
For everything is permeated with its presence.
The boundless sky above, the autumn chill on my face.
I take my precious staff and wander about the hills.
Not a speck of the world’s dust anywhere,
Just the brilliant beams of moonlight.
I hope others, too, are gazing on this moon tonight,
And that it’s illuminating all kinds of people.
Autumn after autumn, the moonlight comes and goes;
Human beings will gaze upon it for eternity.
The sermons of Buddha, the preaching of Eno,
Surely occurred under the same kind of moon.
I contemplate the moon through the night,
As the stream settles, and white dew descends.
Which wayfarer will bask in the moonlight longest?
Whose home will drink up the most moonbeams?
Selection #2 and #3 for National Poetry Month is Sign-Post and Evening Ebb by Robinson Jeffers, from his collection The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, 2001 Stanford.
Civilized, crying how to be human again: this will tell you how.
Turn outward, love things, not men, turn right away from humanity,
Let that doll lie. Consider if you like how the lilies grow,
Lean on the silent rock until you feel its divinity
Make your veins cold, look at the silent stars, let your eyes
Climb the great ladder out of the pit of yourself and man.
Things are so beautiful, your love will follow your eyes;
Things are the God, you will love God and not in vain,
For what we love, we grow to it, we share its nature. At length
You will look back along the stars’ rays and see that even
The poor doll humanity has a place under heaven.
Its qualities repair their mosaic around you, the chips of strength
And sickness; but now you are free, even to be human,
But born of the rock and the air, not of a woman.
The ocean has not been so quiet for a long while; five night-herons
Fly shorelong voiceless in the hush of the air
Over the calm of an ebb that almost mirrors their wings.
The sun has gone down, and the water has gone down
From the weed-clad rock, but the distant cloud-wall rises. The ebb
Great cloud-shadows float in the opal water.
Through rifts in the screen of the world pale gold gleams and the evening
Star suddenly glides like a flying torch.
As if we had not been meant to see her; rehearsing behind
The screen of the world for another audience.
For National Poetry Month, I will be selecting poems I enjoy by other writers and artists and will post them here and on Stone Path Review.
At the Western Wall, by Wendy Brown-Baez
From transparencies of light, 2011, Finishing Line Press
I saw here at the Wall
flattened against the stones by prayer
and I thought:
Where is her God
now that our tears
have tuned to blood?
She brushed the wind
out of her hair, and wiped
her eyes on the tiny slip of paper
folded and refolded
as if to protect
the fragile message inside,
as if the crushing weight of war
had not already torn it into shreds.
Can God read
and I thought of how our
hearts were like that paper
folded within themselves
destined to the least crack in the stones.