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Zen Poems


Sharing a Mountain Hut with a Cloud

A lonely hut on the mountain-peak towering above a thousand others;

One half is occupied by an old monk and the other by a cloud:

Last night it was stormy and the cloud was blown away;

After all a cloud could not equal the old man's quiet way.

Kuei-tsung Chih-chih, a monk who lived in a humble hut on Lu-shan (盧山 Rozan)

(Essays in Zen Buddhism – Second Series 352)

"he aptly gives vent to his appreciation of Emptiness; the verse is not to be understood as merely describing his solitary hut where he lived in company with clouds." (Essays in Zen Buddhism – Second Series 351-2)


Carrying Water, Chopping Wood

神通並妙用 Miraculous power and marvelous activity–

運水及 Drawing water and hewing wood!23

P'ang Yün ( Hõ Un, 740-808), a lay disciple of the eighth century, also known as P'ang Chü-shih (居士 Hõ Koji) (Chü-shih/koji is a title of respect for a lay student of Ch'an)

(The Way of Zen 221 o)

23 Ch'uan Teng Lu, 8. (The Way of Zen 133)


How wondrous this, how mysterious!

I carry fuel, I draw water. (Zen and Japanese Culture 16)


How wondrously supernatural,

And how miraculous this!

I draw water, and I carry fuel. (Essays in Zen Buddhism – First Series 319)


Supernatural power, wondrous activity – just a matter of

carrying fuel or drawing water. (Zen Words for the Heart 57)


日日事無別 Daily, nothing particular,

惟吾自偶諧 Only nodding to myself,

頭頭非取捨 Nothing to choose, nothing to discard.

處處沒張乖 No coming, no going,

朱紫誰 No person in purple,

邱山絶塵埃 Blue mountains without a speck of dust.

神通妙用 I exercise occult and subtle power,

運水及搬柴 Carrying water, shouldering firewood.

(Two Zen Classics 262-3)

"Hõ Koji (Hõ was his family, Koji a title of respect for a lay student of Zen) studied first with Sekitõ and then with Baso, who he succeeded. When he first met Sekitõ, he asked, 'Who is he that is independent of all things?' Before he had finished asking this, Sekitõ covered Koji's mouth with his hand. At this Koji underwent an experience and expressed himself in the following verse:" (Two Zen Classics 262-3)


日日事無別 In my daily life there are no other chores than

惟吾自偶諧 Those that happen to fall into my hands.

頭頭非取捨 Nothing I choose, nothing reject.

處處沒張乖 Nowhere is there ado, nowhere a slip.

朱紫誰 I have no other emblems of my glory than

邱山絶塵埃 The mountains and hills without a spot of dust.

神通妙用 My magical power and spiritual exercise consists in

運水及搬柴 Carrying water and gathering firewood.

P'ang Chü-shih (The Golden Age of Zen 94, 304 n.5)

"Ma-tsu's outstanding lay disciple, Pang Yün" (The Golden Age of Zen 94)



十方同聚會 The ten directions converging,

個個學無爲 Each learning to do nothing,

此是選佛場 This is the hall of Buddha's training;

心空及第歸 Mind's empty, all's finished.

P'ang Yün ( Hõ Un) (Two Zen Classics 263)

"When he came to Baso he again said, 'Who is he that is independent of all things?' Baso said, 'When you have drunk all the water in the Yang-tze river, I will tell you.' At this, Koji underwent his great experience and composed another verse:" (Two Zen Classics 263)


Without Name and Form

Well versed in the Buddha way,

I go the non-Way

Without abandoning my

Ordinary person's affairs.

The conditioned and


All are flowers in the sky.

Nameless and formless,

I leave birth-and-death.

P'ang Yün ( Hõ Un)


Mind at Peace

When the mind is at peace,

the world too is at peace.

Nothing real, nothing absent.

Not holding on to reality,

not getting stuck in the void,

you are neither holy or wise, just

an ordinary fellow who has completed his work.

P'ang Yün ( Hõ Un) (The Enlightened Heart 34)


Being as Is

Food and clothes sustain

Body and life;

I advise you to learn

Being as is.

When it's time,

I move my hermitage and go,

And there's nothing

To be left behind.

P'ang Yün ( Hõ Un)


The Ultimate Attainment

The past is already past.

Don't try to regain it.

The present does not stay.

Don't try to touch it.

From moment to moment.

The future has not come;

Don't think about it


Whatever comes to the eye,

Leave it be.

There are no commandments

To be kept;

There's no filth to be cleansed.

With empty mind really

Penetrated, the dharmas

Have no life.

When you can be like this,

You've completed

The ultimate attainment.

P'ang Yün ( Hõ Un)



春有百花秋有月    Spring comes with its flowers, autumn with the moon,

夏有涼風冬有雪    summer with breezes, winter with snow;

若無閑事挂心頭    when useless things don't stick in the mind,

更是人間好時節    that is your best season.

Wu-men Huai-kai (無門慧開 Mumon Ekai), from Wu-men kuan (Mumonkan) case 19

(The Light Inside the Dark 97)


春有百花秋有月    The spring flowers, the autumn moon;

夏有涼風冬有雪    Summer breezes, winter snow.

若無閑事挂心頭    If useless things do not clutter your mind,

更是人間好時節    You have the best days of your life.

(Two Zen Classics 73)


春有百花秋有月    Hundreds of spring flowers; the autumnal moon;

夏有涼風冬有雪    A refreshing summer breeze; winter snow;

若無閑事挂心頭    Free thy mind of all idle thoughts,

更是人間好時節    And for thee how enjoyable every season is!

(Essays in Zen Buddhism – First Series 349)


春有百花秋有月    Hundreds of flowers in the spring, the moon in the autumn,

夏有涼風冬有雪    A cool breeze in summer; and snow in winter;

若無閑事挂心頭    If there is no vain cloud in your mind

更是人間好時節    For you it is a good season.

(Zen Comments on the Mumonkan 140)


In spring hundreds of flowers,

In summer, refreshing breeze.

In autumn, harvest moon,

In winter, snowflakes accompany you.

If useless things do not hand in your mind,

Every season is a good season. (Zen Word, Zen Calligraphy 9)


Spring has its hundred flowers,

Autumn its moon.

Summer has its cooling breezes,

Winter its snow.

If you allow no idle concerns

To weight on your heart,

Your whole life will be one

Perennial good season. (The Golden Age of Zen 286-7)

[This source have the 3rd line with a variant character (3rd character): 若無事挂心頭 (The Golden Age of Zen 324 n.95)]


The Great Tao

大道無形      Daidõ mugyõ,                                      The Great Tao is without form,

眞理無對      Shinri mutai,                                         The Absolute is without opposite;

等空不動      Hitoshiku kû fudõ,               It is both empty and unmoving,

非生死流      Shõji no nagare ni arazu;   It is not within the flow of Samsara;

三界不攝      Sangai fushõ,                                        The Three Realms do not contain it,

非古夾今      Koraikon ni arazu.               It is not within past, future, or present.

Nan-ch'üan P'u-yüan (Nansen Fugan 南泉普願)

(The Development of Chinese Zen After the Sixth Patriarch 58)


大道無形      The Great Tao has no form,

眞理無對      Truth has no counterpart,

等空不動      It is motionless like the Void,

非生死流      It does not wander through [the samsara of] life and death,

三界不攝      The Three Worlds do not contain it,

非古夾今      Within it there is neither past, nor present, nor future.

(The Development of Chinese Zen After the Sixth Patriarch 11-2)



彌勒眞彌勒 O Maitreya, O true Maitreya!

分身千百億 Thou dividest the body into hundreds of thousands of million forms.

時時示時人 Thus manifesting thyself to men of the world;

時人自不識 But how they are ignorant of thee!

Verse attributed to Pu-tai (布袋 Hotei), one of the Seven Gods of Luck

(Essays in Zen Buddhism – Second Series 289)



物先天地 Something there is, prior to heaven and earth,

無形本寂寥 Without form, without sound, all alone by itself.

爲萬象主 It has the power to control all the changing things;

不逐四時凋 Yet it changes not in the course of the four seasons.

Bodhisattva Shan-hui (), better known as Fu Ta-shih (傅大士) (497-?)

(The Golden Age of Zen 254, 322 n.25)



空手把         Empty-handed, I hold a hoe.

行騎水牛         Walking on foot, I ride a buffalo.

人在橋上過               Passing over a bridge, I see

橋流水不流               The bridge flow, but not the water.

Bodhisattva Shan-hui (), better known as Fu Ta-shih (傅大士) (497-?)

(The Golden Age of Zen 254, 322 n.24)


空手把         Empty-handed I go and yet the spade is in my hands;

行騎水牛         I walk on foot, and yet on the back of an ox I am riding:

人在橋上過               When I pass over the bridge,

橋流水不流               Lo, the water floweth not, but the bridge doth flow.

(Essays in Zen Buddhism – First Series 272)


Beyond This World

通玄峯頂      Over the crest of the T'ung-hsuan-feng,

不是人間      The human world is no more.

心外無      Nothing is outside the Mind;

満目青山      And the eye is filled with green mountains.

T'ien-t'ai Te-chao (天台 Tendai Tokushõ; 891-972), most prominent disciple of Fa-yen (法眼 Hõgen), and abbot of a temple on Mount T'ung-hsuan-feng (通玄峯).

(The Golden Age of Zen 240, 321 n.37)



行到水窮處 I stroll along the stream up to where it ends.

坐看雲起時 I sit down watching the clouds as they begin to rise.

Wang Wei (王維, 699-761) (The Golden Age of Zen 271, 323 n.62)

"The most favorite lines among the Zen masters are Wang Wei's (王維):" (The Golden Age of Zen 271) "I have seen this charming couplet many times in Zen literature." (The Golden Age of Zen 271-2)



幽鳥語如篁 A bird in a secluded grove sings like a flute.

柳搖金線長 Willows sway gracefully with their golden threads.

雲歸山谷静 The mountain valley grows the quieter as the clouds return.

風送杏花香 A breeze brings along the fragrance of the apricot flowers.

永日蕭然坐 For a whole day I have sat here encompassed by peace,

澄心萬 Till my mind is cleansed in and out of all cares and idle thoughts.

欲言言不及 I wish to tell you how I feel, but words fail me.

林下好商量 If you come to this grove, we can compare notes.

Ch'an master Fa-yen (法眼 Hõgen) (The Golden Age of Zen 238, 321 n.31)



The wind traverses the vast sky,

clouds emerge from the mountains;

Feelings of enlightenment and things of the world

are of no concern at all.

Zen Master Keizan Jõkin (瑩山紹瑾 1268-1325)

From Transmission of the Light (傳光録 Denkõroku), chap. 22 (Transmission of Light 97)


Nan-ch'üan's Serenity

Drinking tea, eating rice,

I pass my time as it comes;

Looking down at the stream, looking up at the mountains,

How serene and relaxed I feel indeed!

(Essays in Zen Buddhism – First Series 264)

Ch'an master Nan-ch'üan P'u-yüan (南泉普願 Nansen Fugan)



At Nantai I sit quietly with an incense burning,

One day of rapture, all things are forgotten,

Not that mind is stopped and thoughts are put away,

But that there is really nothing to disturb my serenity.

Shou-an (守安 Shuan) (Essays in Zen Buddhism – First Series 349)

Nan-t'ai (南台 Nantai)


Emptiness Poem

Old P'ang requires nothing in the world:

All is empty with him, even a seat he has not,

For absolute Emptiness reigns in his household;

How empty indeed it is with no treasures!

When the sun is risen, he walks through Emptiness,

When the sun sets, he sleeps in Emptiness;

Sitting in Emptiness he sings his empty songs,

And his empty songs reverberate through Emptiness:

Be not surprised at Emptiness so thoroughly empty,

For Emptiness is the seat of all the Buddhas;

And Emptiness is not understood by the men of the world,

But Emptiness is the real treasure:

If you say there's no Emptiness,

You commit grave offence against the Buddhas.

P'ang (Essays in Zen Buddhism – Second Series 341)

"Who flourished in the Yüan-ho period (806-821) and thereabout, and was a younger contemporary of Ma-tsu." (Essays in Zen Buddhism – Second Series 341 n.1)


Cutting the Spring Breeze





Throughout heaven and earth there is not a piece of ground where a single stick could be inserted;

I am glad that all things are void, myself and the world:

Honored be the sword, three feet long, wielded by the great Yüan swordsmen;

For it is like cutting a spring breeze in a flash of lightning.

(Essays in Zen Buddhism – First Series 255 n.2)

"Tsu-yüan (1226-1286) came to Japan when the Hõjõ family was in power at Kamakura. He established the Engakuji monastery, which is one of the chief Zen monasteries in Japan. While still in China his temple was invaded by soldiers of the Yüan dynasty, who threatened to kill him, but Bukkõ was immovable and quietly uttered the following verse:" (Essays in Zen Buddhism – First Series 255 n.2)

Wu-hsüeh Tsu-yüan (無學祖元 Mugaku Sogen; also known as Fo-kuang Kuo-shih 佛光國師/Bukkõ Kokushi, 1226-1286)

Variant character in the last line 電光影斬春風 ( instead of )


There is not a room in the whole universe where one can insert even a single stick;

I see the emptiness of all things—no objects, no persons.

I admire the sword of the Great Yüan40 three feet in length:

[When it cuts at all,] it is like cutting the spring breeze with a flash of lightning.

(Zen and Japanese Culture 201-2)

40The Mongolian dynasty (1260-1367) that invaded China and replaced the Sung dynasty. (Zen and Japanese Culture 202) [ Yüan; Sung]


The heaven and earth afford me no shelter at all;

I'm glad, unreal are body and soul.

Welcome thy weapon, O warrior of Yuan! Thy trusty steel,

That flashes lightning, cuts the wind of Spring, I feel. (The Spirit of Zen 95)


Wu-hsüeh Tsu-yüan's poem is reminiscent of a poem by Seng-chao (僧肇 Sõjõ), a disciple of Kumarajiva, the founder of the San-lun (三論 Sanron) Sect of Buddhism. On the verge of death by a vagabond's sword, Seng-chao expressed his feelings in the following verse:

In body there exists no soul.

The mind is not real at all.

Now try on me thy flashing steel,

As if it cuts the wind of Spring, I feel. (file ZenHistory)


Even the Fire is Cool

三伏閉門披一衲    In the midsummer heat, the gate is closed and we're wearing monk's robes,

兼無蔭松竹房廊    In addition, there are no pines or bamboos shading the rooms and corridors,

禪必不須山水    For a peaceful meditation, we need not to go to the mountains and streams;

滅却心頭火亦涼    When thoughts are quieted down, fire itself is cool and refreshing.

Ch'an monk Tu Kou-hao (杜苟鶴 To Junkaku)

Famous poem of T'ang monk and poet Tu Kou-hao, known as 題夏日悟空上人院詩.

(Suzuki quotes only the last two verses of the poem, as the words of Zen master Kaisen (快川), abbot of Erinji (恵林寺) in Japan's Kai province. These were Kaisen's words prior to being burned alive in his temple by soldiers. Zen and Japanese Culture 79)

The last verse is used as a saying in Japan. (心頭を滅却すれば火も亦涼し Shintõ o mekkyaku sureba, hi mo mata suzushi.)


Immovable Mind

欲識永明旨 You wish to know the spirit of Yung-ming Zen?

門前一湖水 Look at the lake in front of the gate.

日照光明至 When the sun shines, it radiates light and brightness,

波夾波浪起 When the wind comes, there arise ripples and waves.

Yung-ming Yen-shou (永明延壽 Yõmyõ Enju; 904-975) disciple of T'ien-t'ai Te-chao (天台 Tendai Tokushõ; 891-972). (The Golden Age of Zen 241, 321 n.41)

"There is a time for peaceful contemplation; there is a time for dynamic action; and all the time the lake remains itself." (The Golden Age of Zen 241)


Hsiang-yen's Gatha of Enlightenment

一撃忘所知 Forgetting all knowledge at one stroke,

更不修治 I do not need cultivation anymore.

動容揚古路 Activity expressing the ancient road,

不堕悄然機 I don't fall into passivity.

處處無蹤跡 Everywhere trackless,

声色忘威儀 conduct beyond sound and form:

諸方達道者 the adepts in all places

咸言上上機 call this the supreme state.

Gâthâ of enlightenment (省悟偈) by Ch'an master Hsiang-yen Chih-hsien (智閑 Kyõgen Chikan) (Rational Zen 119)


一撃忘所知 One stroke and all is gone,

更不修治 No need of stratagem or cure;

動容揚古路 Each and every action manifests the ancient Way.

不堕悄然機 My spirit is never downcast,

處處無蹤跡 I leave no tracks behind me,

声色忘威儀 Enlightenment is beyond speech, beyond gesture;

諸方達道者 Those who are emancipated

咸言上上機 Call it the unsurpassed.

(Two Zen Classics 40)


一撃忘所知 One stroke has made me forget all my previous knowledge,

更不修治 No artificial discipline is at all needed;

動容揚古路 In every movement I uphold the ancient way,

不堕悄然機 And never fall into the rut of mere quietism;

處處無蹤跡 Wherever I walk no traces are left,

声色忘威儀 And my senses are not fettered by rules of conduct;

諸方達道者 Everywhere those who have attained to the truth,

咸言上上機 All declare this to be of highest order.

(Essays in Zen Buddhism – First Series 243)


一撃忘所知 Ichigeki shochi o bõzu,      At a single stroke all I'd known was forgotten,

更不修治 Sara ni shûchi o karazu.     Now there's no further need for cultivation.

(The Development of Chinese Zen After the Sixth Patriarch 18, 64)


Yen-shou's Poem of Enlightenment

落非他物         Something dropped! It is no other thing;

縱横不是塵              Right and left, there is nothing earthy:

山河并大地              Rivers and mountains and the great earth,—

全露法王身              In them all revealed is the Body of the Dharmarâja.

Ch'an master Yung-ming Yen-shou (永明延壽 Yõmyõ Enju) (904-975)

(Essays in Zen Buddhism – First Series 250)

Variant of the line 3 山河及大地

"His realization took place when he heard a bundle of fuel dropping on the ground." (Essays in Zen Buddhism – First Series 250)


Chang Chiu-ch'en's Poem of Enlightenment



In a moonlit night on a spring day,

The croak of a frog

Pierces through the whole cosmos and turns it into

a single family!

Chang Chiu-ch'en (張九成) (The Golden Age of Zen 284, 324 n.88)

"The Upasaka Chang Chiu-ch'en (張九成) was pondering a koan when he was in the toilet. Suddenly he heard the croak of a frog, and he was awakened, as evidenced by the following lines:" (The Golden Age of Zen 284)



Versified questions and replies between T'ang emperor Shun-tsung (順宗) and Ch'an master Fo-kuang Ju-man (佛光如滿 Bukkõ Nyoman):


佛從何方來 From where did the Buddha come,

滅向何方去 To where did the Buddha go?

既言常住世 If the Buddha is still around,

佛今在何處 Where can be the Buddha found?             Shun-tsung


佛從無 From non-activity the Buddha came

滅向無 To non-activity the Buddha disappeared.

法身滿虚空 Cosmic reality his spiritual body is,

常住無心處 In no-mind the Buddha will appear.        Ju-man


山河與大海 Great mountains, rivers and seas,

天地及日月 Heaven and earth, sun and moon.

時至皆歸盡 Who says there is no birth and death?

誰言不生滅 For even these meet their end soon.        Shun-tsung


生亦未曾生 Birth is also before birth,

滅亦未曾滅 Death is also before death.

了見無生處 If you have attained no-mind,

自然無法説 Naturally there will be nothing left.        Ju-man

(The Complete Book of Zen 242-3)

"Emperor Soon Zong of the Tand dynasty asked the Zen master Ru Man, in poetic style:" (The Complete Book of Zen 242)

(In The Complete Book of Zen, the longer verses are used partly to make quatrains. The original verses run as follows (the verses used in the above poems are emphasized):

Shun-tsung asked: 佛從何方來滅向何方去既言常住世佛今在何處

Ju-man replied:


Shun-tsung asked:

佛向王宮來、滅向雙林滅、住世四十九、又言無法説。山河與大海天地及日月時至皆歸盡誰言不生滅? 疑情猶若斯、智者善分別。

Ju-man replied:



Gathas of Shen-hsiu and Hui-neng

身是菩提樹 This body is the Bodhi-tree,

心如明鏡台 The soul is like a mirror bright;

時時勤拂拭 Take heed to keep it always clean,

莫使惹塵埃 And let no dust collect on it.                      Shen-hsiu


菩提本無樹 The Bodhi is not like the tree,

明鏡亦非台 The mirror bright is nowhere shining;

本夾無一物 As there is nothing from the first,

何處惹塵埃 Where can the dust itself collect?            Hui-neng


Gâthâs of Shen-hsiu (神秀 Jinshû) and Hui-neng (慧能 Enõ)

From Hui-neng's Platform Sûtra (T'an-ching /Dankyõ,

full title Liu-tsu Ta-shih Fa-pao-t'an-ching 六祖大師法寶壇 Rokuso Daishi Hõhõdankyõ)

(Essays in Zen Buddhism – First Series 206, 207)


身是菩提樹 The body is the tree of enlightenment.

心如明鏡台 The mind is the stand of a bright mirror.

時時勤拂拭 Wipe it constantly and with ever-watchful diligence,

勿使惹塵埃 To keep it uncontaminated by the worldly dust.           Shen-hsiu

(The Golden Age of Zen 60, 300 n.4)


菩提本無樹 Enlightenment is no tree,

明鏡亦非台 Nor is the Bright Mirror a stand.

本夾無一物 Since it is not a thing at all,

何處惹塵埃 Where could it be contaminated by dust?          Hui-neng

(The Golden Age of Zen 60, 300 n.5)


The body is the Bodhi tree,                                       Bodhi by nature is no tree,

The mind is like a mirror.                            The mirror is inherently formless.

Every now and then dust and polish it,  There is originally nothing,

And let no dust settle on it.                                       On what, then, can the dust settle?

(Two Zen Classics 160-1)


The body is like unto the Bodhi-tree,                   Neither is there Bodhi-tree,

And the mind to a mirror bright;               Nor yet a mirror bright;

Carefully we cleanse them hour by hour            Since in reality all is void,

Lest dust should fall upon them.              Whereon can the dust fall?

(The Spirit of Zen 37)


The body is the tree of enlightenment,   Enlightenment is basically not a tree,

And the mind like a clear mirror stand;  And the clear mirror not a stand.

Time and again wipe it diligently,                          Fundamentally there is not a single thing—

Don't let it gather dust.                                  Where can dust collect?

(Transmission of Light 140-1)


The body is the bodhi-tree,                                        Bodhi is actually not a tree,

The mind is like the mirror bright.                        The mind not a mirror bright.

Clean it diligently every time,                                  Buddha nature is always tranquil,

Do not ever let dust alight.                                       Wherefore can dust alight?

(The Complete Book of Zen 81)


The body is the tree of wisdom,                Wisdom never had a tree,

the mind a bright mirror in its stand.                    the bright mirror lacks a stand.

At all times take care to keep it polished,           Fundamentally there is not a single thing—

never let the dust and grime collect!                     where could the dust and grime collect?

(Zen: Tradition and Transition 127)


Japanese readings of the gâthâs:


身是菩提樹 Mi wa kore Bodaiju

心如明鏡台 Shin wa meikyõdai no gotoshi

時時勤拂拭 Jiji ni tsutomete fusshiki shite

莫使惹塵埃 Jin'ai o shite hikashimuru koto nakare   Shen-hsiu


菩提本無樹 Bodai moto ju nashi

明鏡亦非台 Meikyõ mo mata dai ni arazu

本夾無一物 Honrai muichimotsu

何處惹塵埃 Dore no sho ni ka jin'ai o hikan   Hui-neng


Variations of Hui-neng's gâthâ in two different manuscripts:

Kõshõji manuscript, Kyõto           Tun-huang (Tonkõ) manuscript

(興聖寺本)                              (敦煌本)

菩提本無樹                            菩提本無樹

明鏡亦                            明鏡亦

本夾無一物                                        佛性常清浄

何處塵埃                            何處塵埃

"According to the Tun-huang MS. copy of the Platform Sûtra, the third line reads: 'The Buddha-nature is ever pure and undefiled' " (Essays in Zen Buddhism – Second Series 46 n.1) 佛性常清浄


Gathas of Wo-lun and Hui-neng

"A monk once made reference to a gâthâ composed by Wo-luan which reads as follows:" (Essays in Zen Buddhism – First Series 225)

"Hearing this, the sixth patriarch remarked: 'That is no enlightenment but leads one into a state of bondage. Listen to my gâthâ:" (Essays in Zen Buddhism – First Series 225)


臥輪有伎倆 I, Wo-luan, know a device

能斷百思想 Whereby to blot out all my thoughts:

對境心不起 The objective world no more stirs the mind,

菩提日日長 And daily matures my Enlightenment!   Wo-lun


惠能沒伎倆 I, Hui-neng, know no device

不斷百思想 My thoughts are not suppressed:

對境心數起 The objective world ever stirs the mind,

菩提作 And what is the use of maturing Enlightenment?        Hui-neng

Gâthâs of Wo-lun (臥輪 Garin) and Hui-neng (慧能 Enõ)

From Hui-neng's T'an-ching (Essays in Zen Buddhism – First Series 225)


臥輪有伎倆 Wo-Lun possesses a special aptitude:

能斷百思想 He can cut off all thoughts.

對境心不起 No situation can stir his mind.

菩提日日長 The Bodhi tree grows daily in him.         Wo-lun


惠能沒伎倆 Hui-neng has no special aptitude:

不斷百思想 He does not cut off any thoughts.

對境心數起 His mind responds to all situations.

菩提作 In what way can the Bodhi tree grow?   Hui-neng

From Hui-neng's T'an-ching (The Golden Age of Zen 81, 302 n.33)


Emptiness Gnashing its Teeth

截断佛祖      Buddhas and patriarchs cut to pieces;

常磨吹毛      The sword is ever kept sharpened.

機輪転処      Where the wheel turns,

虚空咬牙      The void gnashes its teeth.

Death verse of Shûhõ Myõchõ (宗峰妙超, titled Daitõ Kokushi, 1282-1337)

(Manual of Zen Buddhism 148)

"For many years Shuho had been unable to meditate in the full lotus position because of a crippled leg. When he felt death approaching, he broke his leg with his own hands and took the full lotus. Then, despite agonizing pain, he wrote his final words and died with the last stroke of the brush." (Samadhi 41)


Bright Pearl

我有明珠一顆         There is a bright pearl within me,

久被塵勞關鎖         Buried for a long time under dust.

今朝塵盡光生         Today, the dust is gone and the light radiates,

照破山河萬朶         Shining through all the mountains and rivers.

Master Yueh of Ch'a-ling (茶陵郁) (The Golden Age of Zen 248, 322 n.7)

Master Yueh of Ch'a-ling "came to his enlightenment when he slipped and fell in crossing a bridge, and that he hit off a very wonderful gatha on the occasion." (The Golden Age of Zen 248)


我有明珠一顆         I have one jewel shining bright,

久被塵勞關鎖         Long buried it was under worldly worries;

今朝塵盡光生         This morning the dusty veil is off and restored is its lustre,

照破山河萬朶         Illuminating rivers and mountains and ten thousand things.

(Essays in Zen Buddhism – First Series 250)


我有明珠一顆         I have one jewel shining bright,

久被塵勞關鎖         Long buried it was underneath worldly worries;

今朝塵盡光生         This morning the dusty veil is off, and restored its lustre,

照破山河萬朶         Illuminating the blue mountains in endless undulations.

(Essays in Zen Buddhism – Second Series 211)


Between Heaven and Earth

春山疊亂青 The spring mountains covered with layers of most variegated colors,

春水漾虚碧 And the spring streams fancifully laden with the reflecting images.

寥寥天地間 Standing by himself between heaven and earth,

獨立望何極 Facing infinitude of beings.

Ch'an master Hsüeh-t'ou Ch'ung-hsien (雪竇重顯 Secchõ Jûken, 980-1052)

(Zen and Japanese Culture 298)


The Essence

一字七字三五字    One, seven, three, five.

萬象窮不爲拠    What you search for cannot be grasped.

夜深月白下滄溟    As the night deepens, the moon brightens over the ocean.

捜得驪珠有多許    The black dragon's jewel is found in every wave.

                                         Looking for the moon, it is here in this wave and the next.

A verse that master Hsueh-t'ou Ch'ung-hsien wrote for a disciple


One, seven, three, five.

What you search for cannot be grasped.

As the night deepens,

the moon brightens over the ocean.

The black dragon's jewel

is found in every wave.

Looking for the moon,

it is here in this wave

and the next.

(Translated by Yasuda Joshu Roshi and Anzan Hoshin Roshi, from Cooking Zen, Great Matter Publications. 1996)



1. Ch'an master Hsueh-t'ou Ch'ung-hsien (雪竇重顯 Xuedou Zhongxian/Secchõ Jûken, 980-1052). The second ideogram is a false character (usoji). (Usoji for t'ou: or ) There is also a newer form of the fourth ideogram: . See The Development of Chinese Zen After the Sixth Patriarch 39 for the correct ideogram.

2. Master Hsueh-t'ou gathered the one hundred kõan that became the Blue Cliff Records (Pi-yen Lu 碧巖録/Hekigaroku).

3. The poem is from Zen master Dõgen Kigen's (道元希玄 1200-1253) Instructions for the Head Cook (Tenzo Kyõkun 典座教訓).


Huai's Poem of Enlightenment

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven—

Yes, many thousand feet high is the mountain peak, and lo, someone stands there on one leg;

He has carried away the gem from the dragon's jaws,

And Vimalakîrti's secrets he holds in one word.

I-huai of T'ien-i (Essays in Zen Buddhism – Second Series 206)

"While he was carrying water, the pole suddenly broke, and the incidence gave him the chance to become conscious of the truth hitherto hidden to him. The poem he composed to express the feeling he then had runs as follows:" (Essays in Zen Buddhism – Second Series 206)



Be detached, be detached!

Be thoroughly detached!

What then?

The pine is green,

And white is the snow.

Author unknown (The Essentials of Zen Buddhism 237)










Monks sit peacefully among the trees,

Ridding themselves of illusion with a calm mind.

Quietly realizing enlightenment,

They experience a joy that is beyond that of heaven.

Laymen seek fame and profit,

Or fine robes, seats, and bedding.

Though the joy in getting them is only fleeting,

They are untiring in their quest.

Monks, however, beg for food in humble robes,

Their daily actions being one with the Way.

With their Wisdom-eye opened

They realize the essence of the Law.

Gathering all together to listen

To the countless Buddhist teachings,

They leave behind the world of illusion,

Quietly enveloped in enlightenment's Wisdom.

Bodhisattva Nâgârjuna

From Treasury of Eyes of True Teaching (Shõbõ Genzõ 正法眼藏) of Dõgen

(Zen Master Dogen 69-70)


Light Itself


You are Light itself.

Rely on yourself,

Do not rely on others.

The Dharma is the Light,

Rely on the Dharma.

Do not rely on anything other than Dharma.

A Pali verse (Zen Word, Zen Calligraphy 31)


Poem on Bodhidharma

Poem by Lu Yu, a famous poet of Southern Sung Dynasty (1131-1162). A poem describing Bodhidharma's personal philosophy.




達大道兮過量、 通佛心兮出度

凡聖同、 超然名之曰祖

Others are revolted, I am unmoved.

Gripped by desires, I am unmoved.

Hearing the wisdom of sages, I am unmoved.

I move only in my own way. (Muscle/Tendon Changing and Marrow/Brain Washing Chi Kung 24)


Three Mysteries





The three mystical doors and the three essential points

Are in actuality hard to divide and distinguish.

If you get the idea, you must forget the words:

This is the simple way to approach the Tao.

All phenomena are clearly comprehended in one sentence:

At the feast of Double-Nine, the chrysanthemums bloom afresh.

Ch'an master Fen-yang Shan-chao (汾陽善昭 Funnyõ Zenshõ, 947-1024)

(The Golden Age of Zen 209-10, 317 n.45)


Dead Man's Zazen

生夾坐不臥 While living, one sits up and lies not,

死去臥不坐 When dead, one lies and sits not;

元是臭骨頭 A set of ill-smelling skeleton!

立功課 What is the use of toiling and moiling so?

A gâthâ by Hui-neng, T'an-ching (Essays in Zen Buddhism – First Series 216)


生夾坐不臥 When alive, one keeps sitting without lying down:

死去臥不坐 When dead, one lies down without sitting up.

一具臭骨頭 In both cases, a set of stinking bones!

立功課 What has it to do with the great lesson of life?

(The Golden Age of Zen 82, 302 n.38)


生夾坐不臥 A living man who sits and does not lie down,

死去臥不坐 A dead man who lies down and does not sit!

元是臭骨頭 After all these are just dirty skeletons. (The Way of Zen 111, 218 hh)


The Essence

The bamboo shadows are sweeping the stairs,

Buy no dust is stirred:

The moonlight penetrates deep in the bottom of the pool,

But no trace is left in the water.

Author unknown (Essays in Zen Buddhism – First Series 352)


Beyond the Gate

靈光不昧      The celestial radiance undimmed,

萬古徽猷      The norm lasting for ever more;

入此門來      For him who entereth this gate,

莫存知解      No reasoning, no learning.

Ch'an master P'ing-t'ien P'u-an (平田普岸 Heiden Fugan)

From Ching-te Record of the Transmission of the Lamp (Ching-te Ch'uan-teng Lu 景徳傳/Keitoku Dentõroku), book 9 平田普岸章

(Essays in Zen Buddhism – Second Series 101)

(In Ching-te Ch'uan-teng Lu the first line is 神光不昧)



Here rules an absolute quietness, all doings subside;

Just a touch, and lo, a roaring thunder-clap!

A noise that shakes the earth, and all silence;

The skull is broken to pieces, and awakened I am from the dream!

Tu-feng Chi-shan's stanza, from Chu-hung's Biographies of the Famous Zen Masters of Ming

(Essays in Zen Buddhism – Second Series 133 n.2)


One with It

Long seeking it through others,

I was far from reaching it.

Now I go by myself;

I meet it everywhere.

It is just I myself,

And I am not itself.

Understanding this way,

I can be as I am.

Ch'an master Tung-shan Ling-chia (洞山良价 Tõsan Ryõkai, 807-869) (Two Zen Classics 267)


Do not seek from another,

Or you will be estranged from self.

I now go on alone,

Finding I meet It everywhere.

It now is I,

I now am not It.

One should understand in this way

To merge with suchness as is. (Transmission of Light 38)


Don't seek from others,

Or you'll be estranged from yourself.

I now go on alone—

Everywhere I encounter It.

It now is me, I now am not It.

One must understand in this way

To merge with being as is. (Transmission of Light 167)


A Death Verse

I rebuke the wind and revile the rain,

I do not know the Buddhas and patriarchs;

My single activity turns in the twinkling of an eye,

Swifter even than a lightning flash.

Death verse of Zen master Nanpo Jõmyõ (titled Daiõ Kokushi 大應國師, 1235-1308)

(Zen Buddhism: A History, Japan, 40)


Old Pan Kou

Old Pan Kou knows nothing about time

and nothing about space has well.

His life is self-natured and self-sufficient.

He needs to ask for nothing outside of his own being.

The genesis of the world is the exercise of his mind.

When his mind starts to think, the world starts to move.

The world has never been made by any special desing.

Neither has an end ever been put to it.

The Song of Pan Kou



松老雲閑      As the pines grew old and the clouds idled

曠然自適      He found boundless contentment within himself.

Babo, preface to The Record of Lin-chi (Lin-chi Lu 臨済録/Rinzairoku)

(Zen Word, Zen Calligraphy 127)


Mind and Senses

The mind is an organ of thought and objects are set against it:

The two are like marks on the surface of the mirror;

              When the dirt is removed, the light begins to shine.

Both mind and objects being forgotten, Ultimate Nature

              reveals itself true.

Yung-chia Hsüan-chüeh (永嘉玄覺 Yõka Genkaku) (The Essentials of Zen Buddhism 236)


Free Spirit

Every day I'm either in a wine shop or a brothel,

A free-spirited monk who is hard to fathom;

My surplice always appears torn and dirty,

But when I patch it, it smells so sweet.

Ch'an master Tao-chi (Lust for Enlightenment 92)


Three Teachings into One

道冠儒履佛袈裟    With a Taoist cap, a Buddhist cassock, and a pair of Confucian shoes,

會成三家作一家    I have harmonized three houses into one big family!

Bodhisattva Shan-hui (), better known as Fu Ta-shih (傅大士) (497-?)

(The Golden Age of Zen 254, 322 n.23)


Autumn Wind

朝日待つ      Asahi matsu

草葉の露の kusaha no tsuyu no

程無きに      hodo naki ni

急ぎな           isogina

立ちぞ           tachizo

野辺の秋風 nobe no akikaze

On leaf and grass

Awaiting the morning sun

The dew melts quickly away.

Haste thee not, O autumn wind

Who dost now stir in the fields!

A verse (on'uta 御歌) composed by Dõgen Kigen (道元希玄 1200-1253) shortly before his death

(Zen Buddhism: A History, Japan, 72)


Forgetting the Self

To learn Buddha Dharma is to learn the self.

To learn the self is to forget the self.

To forget the self is to become one with

endless dimension, Universal Mind.

Dõgen (Zen Word, Zen Calligraphy 23)

("Endless dimension, Universal Mind" is another name for Amitâbha Buddha)


This is Our World

We eat, excrete, sleep, and get up;

This is our world.

All we have to do after that–

Is to die.

Dõka (way song/poem) by Zen master Ikkyû Sojun (一休宗純) (The Way of Zen 162)

"In Japan, wandering monks are called unsui—literally, 'cloud and water'—as a reminder to be always floating and flowing. Ikkyu himself took the moniker Kyoun, or 'Crazy Cloud,' to describe his eccentric, nonconformist style of zen. (In Japan, the word kyo has connotations of bravery and high intention, of living outside the rules in order to retain the spirit of the rules.) He called his collected poems the 'Crazy Cloud Anthology.' " (Zen Sex 148) Crazy cloud (狂雲 Kyõun)



Misery only doth exist, none miserable,

No doer is there; naught save the deed is found.

Nirvâna is, but not the man who seeks it.

The Path exists, but not the traveller on it.

Visuddhimagga (chapt. 16)

Trs. H.C. Warren (Essays in Zen Buddhism – Second Series 311)