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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sitting in Stillness (a meditation by Chan master Fa Yan)

Today I came across this poem by the Chan master Fa Yan, who was the founder of one of the Five Houses of Chan.  It's a lovely poem that cross back and forth over the indistinct boundary line that separates meditation and poetry.

Hidden in a grove
A bird sings like a flute
The willows tremble
Golden catkins streaming
Clouds are gathering over
The peaceful valley
The wind brings a trace
Of apricot fragrance

Forever today
I'm sitting in stillness
My heart settles and
Ten thousand worries
Pass away
Yearning for words
But they just won’t do
Underneath these trees
It’s good to sit
Taking measure



If someone were to ask me to explain my own practice of translation and poetry, I think this poem comes as close as possible to describing it; 欲言言不及 as Fa Yan expresses it in the poem's second to last line, which I have translated as yearning for words but they just won't do.     

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