Zen Verses and Quotes

Selected Quotations








That the self advances and confirms the ten thousand things
          is called delusion;
That the ten thousand things advance and confirm the self
          is called enlightenment.

                       -    Zen Master Dogen Zenji, 1200 - 1253
                             Moon in a Dewdrop
                             Translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi  






                         Clambering up the Cold Mountain path,
                         The Cold Mountain trail goes on and on:
                         The long gorge choked with scree and boulders,
                         The wide creek, the mist-blurred grass.
                         The moss is slippery, though there's been no rain.
                         The pine sings, but there's no wind.
                         Who can leap the world's ties
                         And sit with me among the white clouds.

                                                           -    Han-shan
                                                                Cold Mountain Poems
                                                                Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems, 1990, p.46
                                                                Translated by Gary Snyder






Zen Poetry: Selected Quotations I







Mind, mind, mind -- above the Path.
Here on my mountain, gray hair down,
I cherish bamboo sprouts, brush carefully
By pine twigs.  Burning incense,
I open a book: mist over flagstones.
Rolling the blind, I contemplate:
Moon in the pond.  Of my old friends
How many know the Way.

         -   Zengetsu
             Zen Poems of China and Japan, p. 42
             Translated by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto







                                           by a rocky shore,
                                           winds blowing wildly,
                                           in a boat unmoored--
                                           such is our condition.

                                                            -    Saigyo, 1118 - 1190
                                                                      Saigyo: Poems of a Mountain Home, p. 137
                                                                      Translated by Burton Watson







The Five Precepts of Zen Buddhism






Leaves fall
where no green earth remains:
a person at his ease,
wears a plain, white robe.

With simplicity and plainness
his original nature still,
what need to practice
"calming of the heart."

             -    Chia-Tao   (779-843)
                   The Clouds Should Know Me By Now, 1998, p. 26
                   Translated by Mike O'Connor






Zen Poetry: Links, Bibliography and Resources








                       I see a vision of a great rucksack revolution, thousands or even
                       millions of young Americans wandering around with their rucksacks,
                       going up the mountains to pray, making children laugh and old men
                       glad ... Zen lunatics who go about writing poems."

                                               -    Jack Kerouac  (1922-1969)
                                                    The Dharma Bums, 1958, p.







Spirituality - Meditations Along a Garden Path








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The body of man is like a flicker of lightning
existing only to return to Nothingness.
Like the spring growth that shrivels in autumn.
Waste no thought on the process for it has no purpose,
Coming and going like dew.

        -   Van Hanh, 1018, Vietnamese Buddhist
Translated by W. S. Merwin






Zen Poems: Links, Bibliography, Resources, Notes






         Why are people called Buddhas
After they die?
          Because they don't grumble any more,
Because they don't make a nuisance
Of themselves any more.

             -   Ikkyu
                  Zen and Zen Classics:  Selections from R. H. Blyth, p. 112







                   Before the mountain and by grace
                   of nature
                   I was allowed to realize "Oh!
                   I am only a child!"
                   Tendered by spruce and birds
                   I saw without my usual defenses
                   and endless thinking I know
                   anything or everything
                   coming between me
                   and creation.

                                       -    Myochi Roko Sherry Chayat, 1990
                                            Butsumon - The Gate of the Buddha, Vol. VI, Spring 1990, pp.15








With a voice as vast as an ocean that sounds all sounds,
Producing numberless wondrous words,
I shall sing, through all the kalpas of time to come
In praise of the ocean of merit in the depths of the Buddha's heart.

Beyond thinking, beyond speaking,
these depths are still greater,
and neither my word nor my heart can plumb them.

-   Great Kamo Priestess Senshi (964-1035)







However innumerable all beings are,
       I Vow to save them all.
However inexhaustible delusions are,
       I Vow to extinguish them all.
However immeasurable Dharma teachings are,
       I Vow to master them all.
However endless the Buddha's Way,
       I Vow to follow it.

            -     The Four Great Vows of Mahayana Buddhism







The Great Way has no gate;
there are a thousand paths to it.
If you pass through the barrier,
you walk the universe alone.

-   Wu-Men
    The Enlightened Heart, Edited by Stephen Mitchell, p. 46







                                The name "Three Teachings" was empty right from the
                                Miss even one one and all go wrong.
                                Looking inward or outward, see there is no fixed self.
                                Break in the front door, if you want to enter your home.

                                                 -   Zen Master Dogen Zenji, 1200 - 1253
                                                                 Enlightenment Unfolds, Edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi, p. 28






        Last day of Winter,
           leafless walnut trees--
           form is emptiness.

           First day of Spring,
           clear sky to Mt. Shasta--
           emptiness is form.

                       forms are forms,
                       emptiness is speechless.  

                                   -   Michael P. Garofalo, Above the Fog






Cloud Hands: Taijiquan and Qigong






                                      Transience, emptiness and enlightenment --
                                      These are the ultimate truths of Buddhism;
                                      Keeping and teaching them is true Sangha devotion.
                                      If you don't agree, please ask me about it.
                                      Cut out directly the root of it all;
                                      This is the very point of the Buddha-seal.
                                      I can't respond to any concern about leaves and branches.

                                                        -    Zen Master Yung-chia Hsuan-chueh







                   When we see truly, there is nothing at all.
                   There is no person; there is no Buddha.
                   Innumerable things of the universe
                   Are just bubbles on the sea.
                   Wise sages are all like flashes of lightning.

                              -   Yoka Genkaku (665-713 CE), Shodoka







In all lands of the ten directions,
Vast, great, pure, and wonderfully adorned,
All Tathagatas sit beneath regal Bodhi trees,
While assemblies walk around in wonder. 

-    The Flower Adornment Sutra
      Translated by The Buddhist Text Translation Society






Why is it?   Because:
All phenomna are like a dream, an illusion,
                                     a bubble, a shadow,
                                     like dew and lightning.
Thus should you meditate on them.

-    The Diamond Sutra
      Translated at the Sukhavati Forest Retreat







             When you hear the splash
             Of the water drops that fall
 Into the stone bowl,
                You will feel that all the dust
                    Of your mind is washed away.

                                    -    Zen Tea Master, Sen-No-Rikyu







The Buddha was not really a god.
In fact, he thought it quite odd
That we go all around
Worshipping mounds
More mindless than peas in a pod!

-   Ethan A Mills







His Thirty-two Marks and Unequaled Light and Virtue!
They are beyond all comparison!
The White Curled One Who Pervades the Five Mystical Mountains!
His Violet-eyed Purity Extends to the Four Seas!
His Inner Illumination has transformed Buddhas beyond number and counting,
And also transformed Bodhisattva Assemblies without number!

-   Homage to Amitabha








Tie up the tiger and return it to the true lair;
Bridle the dragon and gradually increase the elixir.
Nature should be as clear as water,
Mind should be as still as a mountain.
Turning the breath, gather it into the gold crucible;
Stabilizing the spirit, guard the jade pass.
If you can increase the grain of rice day by day,
You will be rejuvenated.   

-   Sun Bu-er (circa 1100 CE)








High summer's tyranny has loosed its hold;
From their hot zenith my desires descend
To genial afternoon. Though I grow old,
Autumnal ripeness comes before the cold.
The hostile sun, with whom I would contend,
Tempers his lustful fire, and as a friend
Inaugurates my evening years of gold.
I, who could not give up the world, go free:
This irreligious world renounces me.
Ignored in peace and decently neglected
Till I am safely dead, I lay no claim
To riches, privilege, prestige, degree,
Nor crave the flaring fraudulence of fame,
But work unknown, my only wealth the Name.

Harold Stewart








All beings are from the very beginning Buddhas.
It is like water and ice:
Apart from water, no ice,
Outside living beings, no Buddhas.
Not knowing it is near, they seek it afar.
What a pity!
It is like one in the water who cries out with thirst;
It is like the child of a rich house who has strayed among the poor.
The cause of our circling through the six worlds
Is that we are on the dark paths of ignorance.
Dark path upon dark path treading,
When shall we escape from birth-and-death?

   -   Hakuin, 1689-1769
         Song of Meditation







Emptiness in Full Bloom:  Flowers in the Sky (Kuge)







Do you not know the ease of the man of the Way;
One who has gone beyond learning, and whose state is "non-action,"
Who neither suppresses thoughts, nor seeks the "Truth?"
To him the reality of ignorance is the Buddha Nature;
The empty illusory is the Dharmakaya.

When one who is awakened to the Dharma-body, there are no objects;
The essence of all things comes from the self-nature -- Buddha!
The Five Aggregates  --  mere floating clouds aimlessly coming and going;
The Three Poisons  --  bubbles that appear and disappear.

Release the Four Elements: cling to nothing!
And in the midst of Nirvana you may eat and drink!
Seeing that all things are not lasting and are Void,
One attains the Great Perfect Enlightenment of the Tathagatas.

-  Ch'an Master Hsuan Chuen of Yung Chia
    The Song of Enlightenment







In the morning, bowing to all;
In the evening, bowing to all.
Respecting others is my only duty--
Hail to the Never-despising Bodhisattva.

In heaven and earth he stands alone.

A real monk
Only one thing--
a heart like
Never-despising Buddha.

-   Ryokan
    Translated by John Stevens
    Three Zen Masters, p. 128







The Three Noble Principles:
Good in the Beginning,
Good in the Middle,
Good at the End.

-   Pema Chodron
    The Places That Scare You, p. 1







Unity attained:
Who dares to equal him
Who falls into neither being nor non-being!
All men want to leave
The current of ordinary life,
But he, after all, comes back
To sit among the coals and ashes.

-   Tung-Shan (806-869), Verses on the Five Ranks








Zen Poetry: Selected Quotations

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Compiled by Michael P. Garofalo


Poetry Notebook III of Michael P. Garofalo
Zen Poetry: Selected Quotations III
Available on the Net since January, 2000.
April 8, 2005




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Zen Poetry