31 January 2012

Ryokan and Han-shan

All day I walk in the forest gathering food
At dusk I enter my hut and close the door behind me
I kindle a fire with branches still bearing dried leaves
Quietly I read the poems from Cold Mountain
A rising west wind brings rain sweeping across the land
My little hut creaks and moans under the hand of the storm
But stretched serene upon the floor, I breathe and listen to the rain
There is not a doubt in my heart or a worry to disturb my mind.

Ryokan is a beloved Zen monk, known for his simplicity, humour, poetry and calligraphy.
He lived 1758 - 1851, mostly as a wandering hermit, spending his days and nights at peace in nature.
In the poem above Ryokan refers to Cold Mountain, so it seems he was influenced by the 8th century hermit Han-shan, whose poetry is singing through my soul.

Han-shan also left the world of men - he travelled to a remote area called Cold Mountain where he eventually found a cave, and lived in the wild, gathering fruit, growing vegetables, meditating and watching the moon. After he died his poems (about 600 of them written on cliffs, bamboo, wood, stones etc) were compiled under the title of the Cold Mountain Poems.

If you have Cold Mountain poems in your house
They are better for you than sutras
Hang them up where you can see them
Read them and read them again.

translated by Wandering Poet

The water of the valley stream
Never shouts at the tainted world: "Purify yourself!"
But naturally, as it is,
Shows how it is done.


Together, the poems of these two hermits are comforting me in my simple, reclusive life - wandering in the forests, watching the moonrise, the sunset, listening to the birds, observing the changing leaves and grasses, meditating, purifying the mind until it is as clear as a quiet mountain stream, eating little, smiling lots, wanting nothing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jack Kerouac dedicated his book, Dharma Bums, to the Cold Mountain poet. Cold Mountain poetry is awesome. Many of Wandering Poet's translations of these poems are posted on Wikipedia and Wikiquote.