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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A Few Buddhist Homilies (by Shide)

Recently I've been searching for material to include in a collection of classical Chinese poems I'm hoping to publish later this year.  The working title of the book is The Poetry of Awakening and the collection will feature spiritually themed poems written in both the Daoist and Buddhist traditions.

One of the things I'm enjoying about this project is that it has given me a chance to hunt around for work by some lesser known poets, in the hope of expanding the range of voices included in the collection beyond the more familiar suspects, such as Wang Wei, Bai Juyi and Han Shan.  This morning I translated a few short poems by Shide - one of Han Shan's lesser known sidekicks, sometimes regarded as a simpleton (as seems to be consistent with his portrait shown on the side) but who was also a poet in his own right.

I'm not sure whether I'll include any translations of Shide's poems in the collection but I thought it would be interesting to publish some of them here on my blog.  They are quite different from Han Shan's poems - less personal and vivid.  In some ways, the sound like short little Buddhist homilies, not at all didactic but much more down to earth.

The many Buddhas
Left us with scriptures
To help humankind
With the difficulties of
The transformational task
Not just for the virtuous
But also for simpletons like me
So each of us can build
A structure that endures
In our heart



If you want to build
Something grand
As a mountain
How can you 
Be distracted
By worry and fear
You must be able
To focus on a slender thread
Day and night the mind
Works its treachery


Yesterday was a day for fasting
Today we slaughter animals to feast
Always led along by custom and practice
Not in accord with actual feeling or need


For each time we make a paradise
A hundred times we make a hell
Yet if the King of Hell comes after us
The whole household loudly begins to wail


To be a monk calls for some idleness
But such idleness comes at a price
Just as dust gathers on man’s outside
So too the dust enters within


Bewildered always by the heart’s core
 The end result of serving fortune and fame
No matter what the personal rewards
Soon comes a wan and sallow appearance


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