The Oak Tree in the Courtyard




A monk asked Joshu, "What is the meaning of Bodidharma's coming to China?"  Joshu said,
    "The oak tree in the front garden."
A monk asked Zhaozhou, "What is the living meaning of Zen?."   Zhaozhou said,
    "The cypress tree in the courtyard."
Mumonkan, Case 37




When Koko went to see Hogen, he was asked where he had been most recently. 
"With Joshu," Koko answered.
Hogen said, "I have heard about Joshu and the oak tree; itsn't this so?"
Koko said, "It is not so!"
Hogen said, "But everyone says that when a monk asked about the meaning of
Bodidharma's coming from the West, Joshu answered,
'The oak tree in the front garden.'
How can you say it was not so?"
Koko said, "My master said nothing of the kind!
Please do not insult the late master."
Hogen said, "Truly, you are a lion's cub!"

Zen and Zen Classics: Selections from R.H. Blyth, p. 75
Chao-chou Ts'ung shen, Joshu,  777-897, Chinese Chan (Zen) Master




Mumon's Verse for Chao-chou's Oak Tree, Case 37

Words cannot express things;
Speech does not convey the spirit.
Swayed by words, one is lost;
Blocked by phrases, one is bewildered.

Two Zen Classics: Mumonkan & Hekiganroku, p. 110
Translated with commentaries by Katsuki Sekida



A monk asked Chao-chou, "Has the oak tree Buddha nature?"
Chao-chou said, "Yes, it has."
The monk said, "When does the oak tree attain Buddhahood?"
Chao-chou said, "Wait until the great universe collapses."
The monk said, "When does the universe collapse?"
Chao-chou said, "Wait until the oak tree attains Buddhahood.
The Gateless Barrier, The Wu-Men Kuan (Mumonkan)
    Translated by Robert Aitken, Case 37





Joshu's "Oak in the courtyard"--
Nobody's grasped its roots.
Turned from sweet plum trees,
They pick sour pears on the hill.
-  Eian
The Awakened Self: Encounters with Zen

    Lucien Stryk, 1995, p. 123






The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a
green thing that stands in the way.  Some see Nature all ridicule and
deformity, and some scarce see Nature at all.  But to the eyes of the
man of imagination, Nature is Imagination itself.
-  William Blake, 1799, The Letters 





Flowers of Longing, Weeds of Distain






I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow
to keep an appointment with a beech-tree,
or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.
-  Henry David Thoreau,  1817 - 1862





Mountains and rivers are in the Buddha's eye,
the universe in dharma's body.
-  Wang Wei,  699-761
Laughing Lost in the Mountains: Poems of Wang Wei,   p. 133





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Some keep the Sabbath going to a Church,
I keep it staying at Home -
With a bobolink for a Chorister,
And and Orchard, for a Dome.

-    Emily Dickenson, No. 324, 1862





I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way
they have to live than other things do.
-   Willa Cather (1873-1947), O Pioneers 1913





The groves were God's first temples.
-  William Cullen Bryant, A Forest Hymn





A man is a bundle of relations, a knot of roots,
whose flower and fruitage is the world.
-  Ralph W. Emerson,  1803 - 1882





The Wind Moves, The Leaves Move, The Mind Moves






When you enter a grove peopled with ancient trees, higher than
the ordinary, and shutting out the sky with their thickly inter-twined
branches, do not the stately shadows of the wood, the stillness of
the place, and the awful gloom of this doomed cavern then strike
you with the presence of a deity?
-    Seneca





                                       What kind of times are they, when
                                       A talk about trees is almost a crime
                                       Because it implies silence about so many horrors?
                                                                   -    Bertolt Brecht, To Those Born Later





One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the ages can.
-  William Wordsworth, The Tables Turned





Trees in Blossom




That tree whose leaves are trembling:
is yearning for something. 
That tree so lovely to see acts as if it wants to flower:
it is yearning for something.
-  Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, 1395 






The buddha in the mind is like a fragrance in a tree.
The buddha comes from a mind free of suffering,
Just as a fragrance comes from a tree free of decay.
There's no fragrance without a tree and no buddha without the mind.
If there's a fragrance without a tree it's a different fragrance.
If there's a buddha without your mind, it's a different buddha.

The Teachings of Bodhidharma





And you, how old are you?
I asked the maple tree:
While opening one hand,
- he started blushing.
-   Georges Bonneau, Le Sensibilite Japonaise, 1935





Quotes for Gardeners

Quotes, Sayings, Proverbs, Poetry, Maxims, Quips, Cliches, Adages, Wisdom
A Collection Growing to Over 2,000 Quotes Arranged by Over 105 Topics
Many of the Topics also have Recommended Readings and Internet Links.
Compiled by Michael P. Garofalo





Because they are primeval, because they outlive us, because they are fixed, trees seem to
emanate a sense of permanence.  And though rooted in earth, they seem to touch the sky. 
For these reasons it is natural to feel we might learn wisdom from them, to haunt about
them with the idea that if we could only read their silent riddle rightly we should learn
some secret vital to our own lives; or even, more specifically, some secret vital to
our real, our lasting and spiritual existence.
-  Kim Taplin,  Tongues in Trees, 1989, p. 14. 




Each time these blossoms open I recall the friend who gave me the saplings,
And the times we used to stop to drink beneath his trees;
But those springs of twenty years ago are like a dream,
And the wine cups of those days are tea-bowls now.
-   Kisei Reigen




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Give me a land of boughs in leaf,
A land of trees that stand;
Where trees are fallen there is grief;
I love no leafless land."
-  A.E. Housman





The day I see a leaf  is a marvel of a day.
-   Kenneth Patton





Hui Tzu said to Chuang Tzu:  "I have a big stinktree in my garden.   The trunk is so bent
and knotty that nobody can get a good straight plank out of it.  The branches are so
crooked you can't cut them up in any way that makes sense.  There it stands beside the
road and no carpenter will even look at it.   Such is your teaching, Chuang - big and useless."
Chuang Tzu replied: "Have you ever watched the wildcat crouching, watching its prey?  
This way it leaps, and that way, high and low, and at last - it lands in the trap.  Have you
ever seen the yak?   It is great as a thundercloud, standing in his might.   Big?  Sure. 
But, he can't catch mice!  So for your big tree.  No use?   Then plant it in the wasteland -
in emptiness.  Walk idly around it and rest under it's shadow.  No axe or saw prepares
its end.  No one will ever cut it down.   Useless?  You should worry!.
-  Chuang Tzu, The Useless Tree, circa 200 B.C..  





A tree uses what comes its way to nurture itself.  By sinking its roots deeply into
the earth, by accepting the rain that flows towards it, by reaching out to the sun,
the tree perfects its character and becomes great.  ...  Absorb, absorb, absorb. 
That is the secret of the tree.
-   Deng Ming-Dao,  Everyday Tao, 1996, p. 18.





Trees - Quotes for Gardeners  Part II





And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the
running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.
-   William Shakespeare





Trees serve as homes for visiting devas who do not manifest in earthly bodies,
but live in the fibers of the trunks and larger branches of the trees,  feed from
the leaves and communicate through the tree itself.  Some are permanently
stationed as guardians of sacred places.
-   Hindu Deva Shastra, verse 117,   Nature Devas





God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying, "Ah!"
-   Joseph Campbell





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Trees are poems that earth writes upon the sky,
We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness.
-   Kahlil Gibran





                                          -- Say it, no ideas but in things --
                                          nothing but the blank faces of the houses
                                          and cylindrical trees
                                          bent, forked by preconception and accident --
                                          split, furrowed, creased, mottled, stained --
                                          secret -- into the body of the light!
                                                                -    William Carlos Williams, Patterson, 1946, Book I, p. 7






The wonder is that we can see these trees and not wonder more.
-   Ralph Waldo Emerson






All it has experienced, tasted, suffered:
The course of years, generations of animals,
Oppression, recovery, friendship of sun and - Wind
Will pour forth each day in the song
Of its rustling foliage, in the friendly
Gesture of its gently swaying crown,
In the delicate sweet scent of resinous
Sap moistening the sleep-glued buds,
And the eternal game of lights and
Shadows it plays with itself, content.
-   Herman Hesse, 1877 - 1962





The sacred tree, the sacred stone are not adored as stone or tree;
they are worshipped precisely because they are hierophanies,
because they show something that is no longer stone or tree but sacred,
the ganz andere or 'wholly other.'
-  Mircea Eliade,  Myths, Dreams and Mysteries




Spirituality - Quotes for Gardeners





Among archetypal images, the Sacred Tree is one of the most widely know
symbols on Earth.  There are few cultures in which the Sacred Tree does
not figure: as an image of the cosmos, as a dwelling place of gods or spirits,
as a medium of prophecy and knowledge, and as an agent of metamorphoses
when the tree is transformed into human or divine form or when it bears
a divine or human image as its fruit or flowers.

-  Christopher and Tricia McDowell,
The Sanctuary Garden, 1998, p 128





I'll lie here and learn How, over their ground,
Trees make a long shadow And a light sound.
-  Louise Bogan, 1898-1970






In towering splendor once I stood
A regal monarch of the wood,
My branches once reached to the sky
See me now but do not cry.
The Creator's work has yet to cease
I've become a shelter for bird and beast,
And when at last I fall to the Earth
The life I leave will inspire new birth;
A seedling springs forth from the ground
Nature's cycle goes round and round.
-   S. Edward Palmer, Spirit Tree





From the earliest times, trees have been the focus of religious life of many peoples around
the world. As the largest plant on earth, the tree has been a major source of stimulation to
the mythic imagination. Trees have been invested in all cultures with a dignity unique to
their own nature, and tree cults, in which a single tree or a grove of trees is worshipped,
have flourished at different times almost everywhere. Even today there are sacred woods
in India and Japan, just as there were in pre-Christian Europe. An elaborate mythology of
trees exists across a broad range of ancient cultures.
-   Sacred Places:  Trees and the Sacred.





Just think of the trees: they let the birds perch and fly, with no intention to
call them when they come and no longing for their return when they fly away.
If people's hearts can be like the trees, they will not be off the Way.
-  Langya





twisting inland,
the sea fog takes awhile
in the apple trees.
Michael McClintock





Zen Poetry





We can see from the experience of Odin that the image of the tree was the template
within which all of the sacred world could be apprehended. The tree was the framework
within which one "flew" to these Otherworlds. And since the exploration of sacred space
was also a quest into the nature of human consciousness, the tree was regarded as an
image of the ways in which we, humans, are constructed psychically. It was a natural
model for our deepest wisdom, our highest aspirations.
-  Brian Bates, Sacred Trees






If we represent knowledge as a tree, we know that things that
are divided are yet connected.  We know that to observe the
divisions and ignore the connections is to destroy the tree.
-   Wendell Berry






Handle even a single leaf of green in such a way that it
manifests the body of the Buddha. 
This in turn allows the Buddha to manifest through the leaf.
-  Dogen






When walking through a warm and lush forest setting one's thoughts can easily
take flights of fancy. It is not difficult to shed the layers of modern life and find
one's more subtle or primitive beginnings.  Somewhere from deep within the spirit
and majesty of each single tree steps forth and at once one can find themselves
transported to a world of shadow and shade.
-  Morgan La Fey,  Sacred Trees






Does a dragon still sing from within a withered tree?
-   Dogen






You know the Zen question, 'The Bodhisattva of Great Mercy
[Avalokitesvara, or Kannon] has a thousand hands and a
thousand eyes; which is the true eye?'  I could not understand
this for a long time.  But the other day, when I looked at the
pine trees bending before the cold blasts from the mountain,
I suddenly realized the meaning.  You see, all the boughs,
branches, twigs, and leaves simultaneously bend
to the wind with tremendous vigor.
Two Zen Classics, Translated by Katsuki Sekida, Case 37, Joshu's Oak Tree





Enormous and solid
                                  but swaying,
beaten by the wind
                                  but chained,
murmur of a million leaves
against my window.
                                 Riot of trees,
surge of dark green sounds.
                                            The grove,
suddenly still,
                     is a web of fronds and branches.
-   Octavio Paz, The Grove, Return - 1975.  
The Collected Poems of Octavio Paz: 1957 -1987.   (New Directions Paperback.)





The flowing water makes the still mountain move;
the vivid trees make the obdurate stone alive.
-   Shitao






Links and References



The Attentive Heart:  Conversations with Trees.    By Stephanie Kaza.   Edited by Emily Bower.
Shambhala Publications, 1996.   ISBN: 1570622515.   Deep ecology and Dogen. 




Compiled by Michael P. Garofalo

I Welcome Your Comments, Ideas, Contributions, and Suggestions
E-mail Mike Garofalo in Red Bluff, California

A Short Biography of Mike Garofalo


The Oak Tree in the Garden, Zen Poetry:   Version 3.3.3.
This document was first distributed on the Internet on February 13, 2001.

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