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The Journey to the West

Though we journey to the West We pray to the East More or less that's the way Each day begins and ends It’s a tale everyone ...

Sunday, May 27, 2018

On Dong Yang Creek - The Answer in a Moment's Passing

This is an exquisite little poem by Xie Ling Yun, a Chinese poet of the 4th century.  On the one hand, it's a simple folk song that tells the story of an encounter, or non-encounter, between a man and a woman along the banks of the Dong Yang River.  The first verse is sung by the man and the second verse is sung by the woman, which makes it easy to imagine this duet being performed by the 4th century equivalent of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.  But the poem also invites another layer of meaning. Xie Ling Yun was a lifelong practicing Buddhist and the two verses together present a vivid image of life's ephemeral passage on the banks of Dong Yang Creek. 



How lovely on the riverbank
Whose wife do you suppose that is
So karma flows on as she
Washes silken clothes
The bright moon
In the midst of the clouds
Playing hide and seek
Just out of reach




How lovely on the passing barge
Whose husband do you suppose that is
So karma flows on as
He goes downriver
Take note of this feeling
As if it were real
The moon passes
Amidst the clouds waning








东阳溪中赠答
谢灵运

可怜谁家妇
缘流洗素足
明月在云间
迢迢不可得


可怜谁家郎
缘流乘素舸
但问情若为
月就云中堕

Friday, May 25, 2018

A Joyful Passage - Chapter and Verse (by Xie Ling Yun)

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A brief life span
But a long journey
In the world
A sleep that endures
Day and night alas
To look in the mirror
To look askance
All that we hold
Is sure to collapse
What seems so grand
How long will it last
What matters most
Is not turning back
But thrusting onward
Like a knife blade
To sit and watch
The setting sun as
It enters the earth






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豫章行
灵运

短生旅
白日欹
览镜
华颜岂久期
无回戈
落崦

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Wandering on Mt. Lu (by Hui Yuan)

This is a poem I came across online that is attributed to Hui Yuan, who is designated as the first patriarch of the Pure Land school of Buddhism.  His dates are given as 334-416 AD, which means he predates Bodhidharma's arrival in China by more than two centuries.  As such this is the oldest Chinese enlightenment poem I've yet come across in the Mahayana tradition.  It's quite remarkable, at least to me, that Chinese monks chose to convey the essence of spiritual awakening through poetry so long before it became customary practice during the Tang Dynasty. 

On a cliff sublime
That emits the purest qi
In a cave remote
Dwelling amidst
Traces of divinity
I hear the music of
A flute that resounds from
The surrounding peaks
And fades away beneath
A solitary guest wandering
From the lower deptsh
Has found the right path
To pursue forgetfulness

Here I raise my hands and
Caress the cloudy gate
Alert yet cloaked in peace
Surpassingly open
As what flows forth is
A knock unheard before
Upon the mysterious gate
A sense of arrival at what
Is inseparable from
The essence within
Which soars to
The ninth heaven
Without the slightest effort
Buoyant as a feather
How exquisite to be
So much at one
To attain all three realms
In a single transcendent leap

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游廬山
慧遠

崇岩吐清氣
幽岫棲神跡
希聲奏群籟
響出山溜滴
有客獨冥游
徑然忘所適
揮手撫雲門
靈關安足闢
流新叩玄扃
感至理弗隔
孰是騰九霄
不奮沖天翮
妙同趣自均
一悟超三益


Mt. Lu is depicted above in the painting by Jing Hao ,which dates back to the Five Dynasties period.  Mt. Lu was the site where Hui Yuan built Donglin Temple and to this day it is considered to be sacred ground for Pure Land practitioners.  The photo below suggests that the place seems to have retained some distinctive traces of divinity - a suitable spot, among other things, for caressing the cloudy gate, either without or within.






   
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