Returning to my native village after many years’ absence:
I put up at a country inn and listen to the rain.
One robe, one bowl is all I have.
I light incense and strain to sit in meditation;
All night a steady drizzle outside the dark window --
Inside, poignant memories of these long years of pilgrimage.
I watch people in the world
Throw away their lives lusting after things,
Never able to satisfy their desires,
Falling into deeper despair
And torturing themselves.
Even if they get what they want
How long will they be able to enjoy it?
For one heavenly pleasure
They suffer ten torments of hell,
Binding themselves more firmly to the grindstone.
Such people are like monkeys
Frantically grasping for the moon in the water
And then falling into a whirlpool.
How endlessly those caught up in the floating world suffer.
Despite myself, I fret over them all night
And cannot staunch my flow of tears.
An old grave hidden away at the foot of a deserted hill,
Overrun with rank weeds growing unchecked year after year;
There is no one left to tend the tomb,
And only an occasional woodcutter passes by.
Once I was his pupil, a youth with shaggy hair,
Learning deeply from him by the Narrow River.
One morning I set off on my solitary journey
And the years passed between us in silence.
Now I have returned to find him at rest here;
How can I honor his departed spirit?
I pour a dipper of pure water over his tombstone
And offer a silent prayer.
The sun suddenly disappears behind the hill
And I’m enveloped by the roar of the wind in the pines.
I try to pull myself away but cannot;
A flood of tears soaks my sleeves.
First blooming in the Western Paradise,
The lotus has delighted us for ages.
Its white petals are covered with dew,
its jade green leaves spread out over the pond,
And its pure fragrance perfumes the wind.
Cool and majestic, it raises from the murky water.
The sun sets behind the mountains
But I remain in the darkness, too captivated to leave.
My house is buried in the deepest recess of the forest
Every year, ivy vines grow longer than the year before.
Undisturbed by the affairs of the world I live at ease,
Woodmen’s singing rarely reaching me through the trees.
While the sun stays in the sky, I mend my torn clothes
And facing the moon, I read holy texts aloud to myself.
Let me drop a word of advice for believers of my faith.
To enjoy life’s immensity, you do not need many things.
When I was a lad,
I sauntered about town as a gay blade,
Sporting a cloak of the softest down,
And mounted on a splendid chestnut-coloured horse.
During the day, I galloped to the city;
At night, I got drunk on peach blossoms by the river.
I never cared about returning home,
Usually ending up, with a big smile on my face,
at a pleasure pavilion!
You stop to point at the moon in the sky,
but the finger's blind unless the moon is shining.
One moon, one careless finger pointing --
are these two things or one?
The question is a pointer guiding
a novice from ignorance thick as fog.
Look deeper. The mystery calls and calls:
No moon, no finger -- nothing there at all.
Two miles from town, I meet an old woodcutter
and we travel the road lined with huge pines.
The smell of wild plum blossoms
drifts across the valley.
My walking stick has brought us home.
In the ancient pond – huge, contented fish.
Long sunbeams penetrate the deep woods.
And in the house – a long bed
all covered with poetry books.
I loosen my belt and robes,
copy phrase after phrase for my poems.
At twilight, I walk to the east wing –
spring quail startle into the air.
Tramping for miles I come upon a farm house
as the great ball of sun sets in the forest.
Sparrows gather near a bamboo thicket,
flutter about in the closing dark.
From across a field comes a farmer
who calls a greeting from afar.
He tells his wife to strain their cloudy wine
and treats me to his garden's feast.
Sitting across table we drink each other's health
our talk rising to the heavens.
Both of us are so tipsy and happy
we forget the rules of this world.
Too confused to ever earn a living
I've learned to let things have their way.
With only three handfuls of rice in my bag
and a few branches by my fireside
I pursue neither right or wrong
and forget worldly fortune and fame.
This damp night under a grassy roof
I stretch out my legs without regrets.
Though frost come down,
Night after night
What does it matter?
They melt in the morning sun.
Though the snow falls
Each passing year,
What does it matter?
With spring days it thaws.
Yet once let them settle
On a man’s head,
Fall and pile up-
Then the New Year
May come and go,
But never you’ll see them fade away.
In a dilapidated three-room hut
I’ve grown old and tired;
This winter cold is the
Worst I’ve ever suffered through.
I sip thin gruel, waiting for the
Freezing night to pass.
Can I last until spring finally arrives?
Unable to beg for rice,
How will I survive the chill?
Even meditation helps no longer;
Nothing left to do but compose poems
In memory of deceased friends.
First days of Spring-the sky
is bright blue, the sun huge and warm.
Everything's turning green.
Carrying my monk's bowl, I walk to the village
to beg for my daily meal.
The children spot me at the temple gate
and happily crowd around,
dragging to my arms till I stop.
I put my bowl on a white rock,
hang my bag on a branch.
First we braid grasses and play tug-of-war,
then we take turns singing and keeping a kick-ball in the air:
I kick the ball and they sing, they kick and I sing.
Time is forgotten, the hours fly.
People passing by point at me and laugh:
'Why are you acting like such a fool?'
I nod my head and don't answer.
I could say something, but why?
Do you want to know what's in my heart?
From the beginning of time: just this! just this!
of Mount Kugami—
in the mountain's shade
a hut beneath the trees—
how many years
it's been my home?
The time comes
to take leave of it—
my thoughts wilt
like summer grasses,
I wander back and forth
like the evening star—
till that hut of mine
is hidden from sight,
till that grove of trees
can no longer be seen,
at each bend
of the long road,
at every turning,
I turn to look back
in the direction of that mountain.
No luck today on my mendicant rounds;
From village to village I dragged myself.
At sunset I find myself with miles of mountains
between me and my hut.
The wind tears at my frail body,
And my little bowl looks so forlorn --
Yes this is my chosen path that guides me
Through disappointment and pain, cold and hunger.
In stubborn stupidity, I live on alone
befriended by trees and herbs.
Too lazy to learn right from wrong,
I laugh at myself, ignoring others.
Lifting my bony shanks, I cross the stream,
a sack in my hand, blessed by spring weather.
Living thus, I want for nothing,
at peace with all the world.
Your finger points to the moon,
but the finger is blind until the moon appears.
What connection has moon and finger?
Are they separate objects or bound?
This is a question for beginners
wrapped in seas of ignorance.
Yet one who looks beyond metaphor
knows there is no finger; there is no moon.
Yes, I’m truly a dunce
Living among trees and plants.
Please don’t question me about illusion and enlightenment --
This old fellow just likes to smile to himself.
I wade across streams with bony legs,
And carry a bag about in fine spring weather.
That’s my life,
And the world owes me nothing.
In my youth I put aside my studies
And I aspired to be a saint.
Living austerely as a mendicant monk,
I wandered here and there for many springs.
Finally I returned home to settle under a craggy peak.
I live peacefully in a grass hut,
Listening to the birds for music.
Clouds are my best neighbors.
Below a pure spring where I refresh body and mind;
Above, towering pines and oaks that provide shade and brushwood.
Free, so free, day after day --
I never want to leave!