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Sunday, August 30, 2020

Speaking About Chan (by Bai JuYi)

Here is a poem by Bai JuYi that I translated today. This will likely be one of the poems that will be included in The Poetry of Awakening, an anthology of Chinese poems about the search for enlightenment that I am preparing for publication later this year. 

Full of paradox and word play, this poem is something of a departure from Bai JuYi's usual plainspoken style.  It was written late in life, as Bai JuYi immersed himself more deeply in the study of Chan Buddhism.  When it comes to enlightenment, being plainspoken will only get you so far.

Speaking About Meditation


What you must know is

Nothing is as it seems

What appears lacking  

Overflows in abundance


Words soon forgotten

Words clearly understood

In a dream to speak of dreaming

Is profound and void of meaning


How does emptiness blossom

To provide a double blessing

How does a searing flame

Transform into a fish


Disturbance comes amidst

Meditation’s stillness

Meditation is movement

Not meditating

Not moving

Such as it is



须知诸相皆非相  若住无余却有余

 言下忘言一时了  梦中说梦两重虚 

 空花岂得兼求果  阳焰如何更觅鱼

摄动是禅禅是动  不禅不动即如如

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