May 2, 2009

Selected Poetry of Ryokan Taigu (1758–1831)

If someone asks what is the mark of enlightenment or illusion,
I cannot say -- wealth and honor are nothing but dust,
As the evening rain falls, I sit in my hermitage
And stretch out both feet in answer.

The ridicule or praise of worldly people means nothing
This is an old truth; don't think it was discovered recently.
"I want this, I want that"
Is nothing but foolishness.
I'll tell you a secret:
All things are impermanent.

I have nothing to report, my friends.
If you want to find the meaning,
Stop chasing after so many things.

Why do you so earnestly seek the truth in distant places?
Look for delusion and truth in the bottom of your own hearts.

In my youth I put aside my studies
And I aspired to be a saint.
Living austerely as a mendicant monk,
I wandered here and there for many springs.
Finally I returned home to settle under a craggy peak.
I live peacefully in a grass hut,
Listening to the birds for music.
Clouds are my best neighbors.
Below a pure spring where I refresh body and mind;
Above, towering pines and oaks that provide shade and brushwood.
Free, so free, day after day --
I never want to leave!


Yes, I’m truly a dunce
Living among trees and plants.
Please don’t question me about illusion and enlightenment --
This old fellow just likes to smile to himself.
I wade across streams with bony legs,
And carry a bag about in fine spring weather.
That’s my life,
And the world owes me nothing.


First days of spring -- the sky
is bright blue, the sun huge and warm.
Everything's turning green.
Carrying my monk's bowl, I walk to the village
to beg for my daily meal.
The children spot me at the temple gate
and happily crowd around,
dragging to my arms till I stop.
I put my bowl on a white rock,
hang my bag on a branch.
First we braid grasses and play tug-of-war,
then we take turns singing and keeping a kick-ball in the air:
I kick the ball and they sing, they kick and I sing.
Time is forgotten, the hours fly.
People passing by point at me and laugh:
"Why are you acting like such a fool?"
I nod my head and don't answer.
I could say something, but why?
Do you want to know what's in my heart?
From the beginning of time: just this! just this!

Friday, March 27, 2009 at 11:31pm

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