The Autumn Moon

October 8, 2015 § Leave a comment

The Autumn Moon 2

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?


The Autumn Moon, By Ryokan

English version by John Stevens
Original Language Japanese


Ryokan’s Midsummer

July 30, 2015 § Leave a comment

Midsummer —

I walk about with my staff.

Old farmers spot me

And call me over for a drink.

We sit in the fields

using leaves for plates.

Pleasantly drunk and so happy

I drift off peacefully

Sprawled out on a paddy bank.

Short Zen Poem by Ryokan

June 21, 2015 § Leave a comment

The wind has settled, the blossoms have fallen;
Birds sing, the mountains grow dark –
This is the wondrous power of Buddhism.


Learn the backward step

May 15, 2015 § Leave a comment

Learn the backward step

that turns your light inward

to illuminate your self.

Body and mind of themselves

will drop away,

and your original face will be manifest.


Coming, going, the waterbirds

don’t leave a trace,

don’t follow a path.



No waves,

no wind, the empty boat

is flooded with moonlight.


Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water.

The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken.

Although its light is wide and great,

The moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide.

The whole moon and the entire sky

Are reflected in one dewdrop on the grass.


Zen Master Dogen (1200-1253)

When your bow is broken

April 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

Interestingly, “The Book of Mu” cites the following as a waka poem written by an old Japanese Zen Master.

When your bow is broken and your arrows are exhausted,

There, shoot!

Shoot with your whole being!

The Book of Mu P. 92

While an internet search has the following line written by Roger Zelazny, an American writer of fantasy and science fiction short stories and novels.

“When your bow is broken and your last arrow spent, then shoot, shoot with your whole heart.”

Roger Joseph Zelazny (May 13, 1937 – June 14, 1995)

Without Words, Without Silence

March 31, 2015 § Leave a comment

“I always remember spring-time in southern China. The birds sing among innumerable kinds of fragrant flowers.”

Such was Fuketsu’s response to a monk’s question, “Without speaking, without silence, how can you express the truth?”

Mumon’s comment on this, the 24th koan in The Gateless Gate, said that Fuketsu’s response “only borrowed from an old Chinese poem.”  Though I looked for it, I could not find the original poem which may have been lost to history.  Still.  I like the image of spring it portrays as today I saw two woodpeckers.  They were not singing but pecking rather intensely, the male on a tree and the female on a metal street lamp!  What spring does to the senses.


January 15, 2015 § Leave a comment

This is a matter for strong people. People who do not discern what is being asked give replies depending on what comes up. They do not know it is something you ask yourself — to whom would you answer? When people do not understand an answer, they produce views based on words. They do not know it is something you answer for yourself — what truth have you found, and where does it lead? Therefore it is said, ‘It’s all you.’ Look! Look!

Zen Master Foyan (1067-1120)

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