May 27, 2007

one art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)

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May 25, 2007

the world of truth

Not so long ago, the great patriarch Song Chol Sunim said, "Mountain is mountain, water is water." First we said that mountain is water, water is mountain. Next we went to the place where there is no mountain, no water. Now we say, "mountain is mountain, water is water." This is the place of attaining my true self. So, mountain is just mountain, water is just water. Our true self is like a clear mirror -- a great round mirror. In this clear mirror everyhing is reflected. Mountain is just mountain reflected; water comes, just water is reflected. If we completely empty our mind it's like a clear mirror. Then everything in our world is reflected in my mind: mountain is reflected, water is reflected, everything is just reflected. We call that "truth like this," the world of truth. We also say that is true form or just truth.

First, we talked about the world of impermanence. Attaining enlightenment is to lose enlightenment. Losing enlightenment is getting enlightenment. Mountain becomes water, water becomes mountain.

Next we went to the world of emptiness. Attainment is emptiness; also, no attainment is emptiness. Mountain is emptiness and water is emptiness. Complete and true emptiness.

Then, taking one more big step from the world of emptiness we come to the world of truth. Here everything is just as it is. Mountain is mountain; water is water. Attaining enlightenment is just attaining enlightenment; losing enlightenment is just losing enlightenment. We call that truth.

Now three different worlds have appeared. Of these three worlds, which one is the correct? Once again: Mountain is water, water is mountain. That's the world of impermanence. Next, no mountain, no water. That's the world of emptiness. And lastly mountain is mountain, water is water -- truth or moment world. If we have time and space, then all things exist. If we transcend time and space, then we come to the world of emptiness. Taking one more step, we come to the world of truth. In the world of truth everything we see, hear, smell, taste and touch is always teaching us. Every moment is truth. The sky is blue, the dog is barking: woof woof, sugar is sweet. This is the world of truth.

excerpt from part one of two of a talk given by Zen Master Seung Sahn to the members of Hwa Gye Sah temple in Seoul, on an evening before Buddha's Enlightenment Day. Traditionally Buddhists will stay up all night practicing meditation on this night in emulation of the Buddha before his great enlightenment.

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photo: Just sitting, somewhere in Norway, August 2006 ©parazerzen/zentobe

May 23, 2007

reaching for the moon

Mikô suigetsu o saguri,
Shi ni itaru made kyûketsu sezu.
Hôshu shinsen ni mossureba,
Jippô hikari kôketsu.

The monkey is reaching for the moon in the water
Until death overtakes him he'll never give up.
If he'd let go the branch and disappear in the deep pool,
The whole world would shine with dazzling pureness.

drawing by Hakuin Ekaku (1685-1768), hanging scroll, ink on paper.

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If you would like to read Hakuin's writings please refer to this selection:

May 19, 2007

now and forever

May we become at all times,
both now and forever,
a protector for those without protection,
a guide for those who have lost their way,
a ship for those with oceans to cross,
a bridge for those with rivers to cross,
a sanctuary for those in danger,
a lamp for those in need of light,
a place of refuge for those in need of shelter,
and a servant to all those in need.

The Dalai Lama

in Prayer for Everyday Living, Alan Walker, Godsfield Press, Hampshire, 2003

May 16, 2007

May 14, 2007

to bow or not to bow

Thây has often said to his students, “To bow or not to bow is not the question. The important thing is to be mindful.” When we greet someone with a bow, we have the chance to be present with that person and with the nature of awake-ness, of Buddhahood, within us and within the other person. We do not bow just to be polite or diplomatic, but to recognize the miracle of being alive. When we see a person joins his or her palms to bow to us, we can do the same. Breathing in, we silently say, “A lotus for you.” Bowing our head down and breathing out, we say, “A Buddha to be.” We do this in mindfulness, truly aware that the person is there in front of us. We bow with all the sincerety of our heart. Sometimes, when we feel a deep connection to what is there in front of us- a sense of awe at the wonders of life, whether that be a flower, a sunset, a tree, or the cool drops of rain, whatever it may be- we might like to bow in this way as well, to offer our presence and gratitude.

text taken from the booklet How to enjoy your stay in Plum Village

Because often I miss Plum Village so much...

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Photo: monk and nun in Plum Village, The Breath of the Buddha retreat, June 2006 ©Richard&Joanne Friday

May 10, 2007

be with us this day

Lord, be with us this day.
Within us to purify us;
Above us to draw us up;
Beneath us to sustain us;
Before us to lead us;
Behind us to restrain us;
Around us to protect us.
Lord, be with us this day.

Saint Patrick
(387- 461)

from the book by Alan Walker, Prayer for everyday living, Godsfield Press, 2003

image: Albrecht Dürer, Study of an Apostle's Hands (Praying Hands), c. 1508, Brush drawing on blue primed paper, 290 x 197 mm, Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna

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May 7, 2007

perfectly at ease

Just get rid
Of that small mind
That is called "self",
And there is nothing
In a thousand million worlds
That can harm or hinder you.

How delightful it is
To make all space
Our dwelling place!
Our hearts and minds
Are perfectly at ease.

from Zen and Zen Classics - Volume One by R. H. Blyth, The Hokuseido Press/Heian International, San Francisco, 1982

if you would like to read more excerpts from this book please refer to:

photo: sunset, ferryboat from Stockholm to Helsinki, August 2006 ©paraserzen/zentobe

May 4, 2007

never at ease

So, beneath the starry dome
And the floor of plains and seas,
I have never felt at home,
Never wholly been at ease.

Basho Matsuo (1644 ~ 1694)

translation by R.H. Blyth

if you would like to read more of Basho haikus please refer to:

painting by Evard Munch, Starry Night, oil on canvas, 1893
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May 3, 2007

timelessness and nowhere

Home again. But what was home? The fish has the vast ocean for home. And man has timelessness and nowhere. “I won’t delude myself with the fallacy of home,” he said to himself. “The four walls are a blanket I wrap around in, in timelessness and nowhere, to go to sleep.”

D. H. Lawrence, Kangaroo

if you would like to read the complete text please refer to:

painting by Edward Hopper, Sun in an Empty Room, 1963

May 2, 2007

time elapsed

A camellia flower fell;
A cock crowed;
Some more fell.


from Zen and Zen Classics - Volume One by R. H. Blyth, The Hokuseido Press/Heian International, San Francisco, 1982

if you would like to read more excerpts from this book please refer to:

Illustration: Ando Hiroshige, Sparrows in the Sazanka in Snow (Setchu Sazanka ni Suzume),1832-34, from the series Nature Prints (O-Tanzaku), Publisher: Jakurindo
(Sazanka is the Japanese common name for Camellia)

if you would like to see more prints by Ando Hiroshige please refer to: