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Friday, August 19, 2016

A Blossom Falling on Water ( by Qi Ji)

The connection between silence and poetry runs deep.  This is a discovery that can be newly made every time one of us slows enough and settles on the mat.  What sometimes emerges from quiet contemplation is a meditative poem, as our thoughts gradually lose velocity and trend towards stillness.

Here's a fine example of a meditative poem by the Chan monk Qi Ji which was written in the late 9th century/early 10th century.   Instead of calling this a poem (诗) or using one of the many other standard Chinese synonyms for poetic writing, Qi Ji describes this piece with the phrase 怀 which I have translated as words inscribed in the heart.  This strikes me as a very apt way to describe a poem that serves as a bridge leading us to a place where words no longer suffice.

Along the path to the forest temple
Words inscribed in the heart

There’s clamor enough
When a blossom
Falls on the water
In this remote place
Residing in faith
Night and day

Whoever comes to
This mountain temple
Can grasp it
If first they take
Broom in hand
To sweep pine needles
From the front gate

These are the matters
Which should remain
Unsaid except for the poem
Still unformed and
Wordless in your head
Rumor and innuendo
And good news
From the world
The countless desires
That burden us
Along with the cries
Of the forest apes







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