Chan (Zen) Buddhism
Poetry, Sayings, Quotes, Verses, Quips, Koans, Poems

Selected Quotations









Does your room really have a view,
Or even a window to look through?
All I want is for you to look inside of you.
Don't be afraid to walk through the door.
Believe it or not, you've opened it.

-   Chris Cormack, 1992
Source: Mind Moon Circle Quarterly, Autumn 1992, pp.21







Who speaks the sound of an echo?
Who paints the image in a mirror?
Where are the spectacles in a dream?
Nowhere at all -- that's the nature of mind!

-   Tantric Buddhist Women's Songs,  8th - 11th c.







The Spirit of Gardening







A yellow flower
(Light and spirit)
Sings by itself
For nobody.

A golden spirit
(Light and emptiness)
Sings without a word
By itself.

-   Thomas Merton
Thomas Merton's Poetry: Emblems of a Sacred Season








               Mountain fruit drop in the rain
               and grass insects sing under my oil lamp.
               White hair, after all, can never change
               as yellow gold cannot be created.
               If you want to know how to get rid
               of age, its sickness, study nonbeing.

                                     -   Wang Wei,  699-761
                                         Laughing Lost in the Mountains: Poems of Wang Wei,   p. 129







The Five Precepts of Zen Buddhism







One thing, all things:
move among and intermingle,
without distinction.
To live in this realization
is to be without anxiety about non-perfection.
To live in this faith is the road to non-duality,
Because the non-dual is one with the trusting mind.

-   Hsin Hsin Ming, Verses On The Faith Mind
     By Seng T'san,Third Zen Patriarch
     Translated from the Chinese by Richard B. Clarke








A serving of snow in a silver bowl,
Or herons concealed in the glare of the moon
Apart, they seem similar, together, they're different.
Meaning cannot rest in words,
It adapts itself to that which arises.
Tremble and you're lost in a trap,
Miss and there's always regrets.

-   Tozan Ryokai, The Song of the Jeweled Mirror Samadhi
               Translation by:  Toshu John Neatrour, Sheng-yen, Kaz Tanahashi








Zen Poetry: Selected Quotations III







           Crape myrtle, brilliant red, bursting forth;
               Hiding the garden.
               Some days, only the Garden, entire, serene;
               Yet, hiding from sight, shy, single plants.  
               Seeing Both, seldom, but as One: 
               Sweat poured from my startled brow,
               Dripping on the dry earth,
               And all became Sunshine
               And shadows of surprise unraveling.  

                                 -   Michael P. Garofalo,  Above the Fog








Being and non-being produce each other.
Difficulty and ease bring about each other.
Long and short delimit each other.
High and low rest on each other.
Sound and voice harmonize each other.
Front and back follow each other.

Therefore the sage abides in the condition of unattached action.
And carries out the wordless teaching.
Here, the myriad things are made, yet not separated.

-   Tao Te Ching, #2
Translated by Charles Muller







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Past mind can't be grasped,
Present mind can't be grasped,
Future mind can't be grasped.
With which mind will you drink this tea?

-  A businesswoman questions Te Shan







Dust and sand in his eyes, dirt in his ears,
He doesn't consent to stay in the myriad peaks.
Falling flowers, flowing streams, very vast.
Suddenly raising my eyebrows - where has he gone?

-   Hsueh-tou (980-1052),  Roaring Stream







        For such as, reflecting within themselves,
        Testify to the truth of Self-nature,
        To the truth that Self-nature is no-nature,
        They have really gone beyond the ken of sophistry.
        For them opens the gate of the oneness of cause and effect,
        And straight runs the path of non-duality and non-trinity.
        Abiding with the not-particular which is in particulars,
        Whether going or returning, they remain for ever unmoved;
        Taking hold of the not-thought which lies in thoughts,
        In every act of theirs they hear the voice of the truth.

                        -    Hakuin (1685-1768),  Song of Meditation
Manual of Zen Buddhism







Flowers in the Sky (Kuge): Zen Master Dogen






"I you want to follow the doctrine of the One,
Do not rage against the World of the Senses.
Only by accepting the World of the Senses
Can you share in the True Perception."
-   Seng-ts'an




Walking Meditation




One is all; all are one.
When you realize this,
what reason for holiness or wisdom?
The mind of absolute trust
is beyond all thought, all striving,
is perfectly at peace, for in it
there is no yesterday, no today, no tomorrow.

-   Sent-Ts'an, The Mind of Absolute Trust
Translated by Stephen Mitchell,
The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry







The 'you' who you think you are does not exist.

-   Alan Watts





Cloud Hands: Taijiquan and Qigong





         The deepest words
of the wise man teach us
the same as the whistle of the wind when it blows
or the sound of the water when it is flowing.

-   Antonio Machado (1875-1939)
    The Enlightened Heart, Edited by Stephen Mitchell, p. 129







The Cypress Tree in the Courtyard







"Zen poetry is based on the simple idea that self-contemplation is the key
to understanding the universe. The subject and form of Zen poems must
embody the teachings of the Buddha and demonstrate an intellectual skill
beyond that demonstrated in an orthodox poetic subject.

Zen poetry believes that 'Zen is Poetry, and Poetry is Zen'.   

While forms such as Buddhist poetry demand the poet writes solely
about Buddhist subjects, the poem may have any subject, so long as
it can be suffused with the spirit of Zen.  The basic formula of a Zen
poem follows seven principles: asymmetry, simplicity, agedness,
naturalness, latency, unconventionality and quietness."

     -   Zen and Poetry   By Cynthia Muraca.
See also:  R. H. Blyth







Zen Poetry: Links, Bibliography, Resources, Notes






                   Hearing a crow with no mouth
                   Cry in the deep
                   Darkness of the night,
                   I feel a longing for
                   My father before he was born.

                            -   A Zen Harvest: Japanese Folk Zen Sayings, p. 147
                                       Compiled and translated by Soiku Shigematsu







                             only one koan matters

                            -   Ikkyu, Crow with No Mouth, Translated by Stephen Berg







In studying ourselves,
we find the harmony
that is our total existence.
We do not make harmony.
We do not achieve it or gain it.
It is there all the time.
Here we are, in the midst of this perfect way,
and our practice is simply to realize it and then
to actualize it
in our everyday life.
-  Maezumi Roshi







                Great is the robe of liberation,
                the robe of no form, the field of happiness!
                I wear the Tathagata's teaching
                to awaken countless beings.

                            -   Zen Master Dogen, 1200 - 1253
                                       Enlightenment Unfolds, Edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi, p. 95







With desire
         the world is tied down.
With the subduing
         of desire
it's freed.

With the abandoning
         of desire
All bonds
         are cut through.

          -   Iccha Sutta
                 Translated by John Bullitt







Green Way Blog by Michael P. Garofalo








Buddhas and Fathers cut to pieces--
The sword is ever kept sharpened!
Where the wheel turns,
The void gnashes its teeth.

-   Daito (1282-1336)
               Manual of Zen Buddhism







Even plants and trees,
Which have no heart,
Wither with the passing days;
Beholding this,
Can anyone help but feel chagrin?

-   Dogen, 1200 - 1253
    Translated by Steven Heine
    Motion and Emotion in Medieval Japanese Buddhism






Do not stray from "Walking is Ch'an, sitting is Ch'an!"
Essentially at ease whether talking or remaining silent, moving or staying still.
It is serene even when greeted with sharp weapons,
And is not worried about poisons.

It cannot be grasped, nor let go of,
But, if you do neither,
It goes its own way.
If you remain silent, it will speak.

Speak and it is silent.

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







We all sat in silence.  This guy walks onto the stage and up to the microphone. 
He adjusts his glasses.  This is him, D. T. Suzuki, we've seen pictures of him before,
but he looks smaller.  He reaches out and taps the mike.  A hollow ping sounds
though the hall.   He says: "Zen Buddhism, Very hard to understand.   Thank you."
Then he walked off the stage.
-   A story told by Jonathan Greenlee about a a visit by D. T. Suzuki to UCLA.




Walking Meditation




But whatever you do,
Do not hold on to the open mind;
For in doing so,
You will close it.
Abandon control;
The more you force it,
The more you remove yourself from it.
If it cannot come naturally,
Be open-minded about it and accept it;
Then the mind will open on it's own,
Without you obstructing it.
-   By Anders Honore
    Perceiving Mind







                For thirty years I have been in search of the swordsman;
                Many a time have I watched the leaves decay
                           and the branches shoot!
                Ever since I saw for once the peaches in bloom,
                Not a shadow of doubt do I cherish.

-   Ling-Yün and the Peach Blossoms
                                       D.T. Suzuki,  Essays in Zen Buddhism, 1953, 2nd Series, p. 145, 







         I hear the truth--
          gray rain on clay.

                                                           -   Michael P. Garofalo,   Above the Fog







The Buddha Mind contains the universe. 
In this universe there is only one pure substance, 
One absolute and indivisible Truth. 
The notion of duality does not exist.
The small mind contains only illusions of separateness, of division. 
It imagines myriad objects and defines truth in terms of relative opposites. 
Big is defined by small, good by evil, pure by defiled, 
Hidden by revealed, full by empty. 
What is opposition? 
It is the arena of hostility, of conflict and turmoil. 
Where duality is transcended peace reigns. 
This is the Dharma’s ultimate truth.  

-   Maxims of Master Han Shan Te'Ch'ing, # 76, 1600
    Journey to Dreamland
    Translated by Grandmaster Jy Din Shakya



Cold Mountain Buddhas
Han Shan and Han Shan Te'-Ch-ing







How long had Ryoanji been there? You must have asked --
but there is no remembrance, just the rocks
and the gravel and the wall
and the very great silence,
the rootedness of deep meditation,
the weight of the rocks and the trees of this earth,
as if their roots grew right down through your heart...
-   Jan Haag, Ryoanji Zen Garden







Long ago there was an immortal man
Who lived on the slope of Shooting Mountain.
Riding clouds and commanding flying dragons,
He did his breathing and supped on precious flowers.
He could be heard, but not seen.
Sighing sorrows and full emotions,
Self-tortured, he had no companion;
Grief and heartbreak piled upon him
"Study the familiar to penetrate the sublime"
But time is short and what's to be done?

-   Juan Chi (210-263 CE)







My heart accepts its karma.  In the end
The loss, defeat, and failure time may send
Can clear the way within to Buddhahood,
Which from the start foresaw and understood
That all things as they are, with no rejection,
Before the mind can judge them bad or good,
Are even now the Land of Pure Perfection.

Harold Stewart








The round pearl has no hollows,
The great raw gem isn't polished.
What is esteemed by people of the Way is having no edges.
Removing the road of agrement, senses and matter are empty.
The free body, resting on nothing, stand out unique and alive.

-  Hung-Chih, Book of Serenity







Do not go after the past,
Nor lose yourself in the future.
For the past no longer exists,
And the future is not yet here.
By looking deeply at things just as they are,
In this moment, here and now,
The seeker lives calmly and freely.
You should be attentive today,
For waiting until tomorrow is too late.
Death can come and take us by surprise--
How can we gainsay it?
The one who knows
How to live attentively
Night and day
Is the one who knows
The best way to be independent.
-   Bhaddekaratta Sutra
    In the Pocket Buddha Reader, edited by Anne Bancroft





Few people believe their
Inherent mind is Buddha.
Most will not take this seriously,
And therefore are cramped.
They are wrapped up in illusions, cravings,
Resentments, and other afflictions,
All because they love the cave of ignorance.
-   Fenyang





To be able to be unhurried when hurried;
To be able not to slack off when relaxed;
To be able not to be frightened
And at a loss loss for what to do, 
When frightened at at a loss;
This is the learning that returns us 
To our natural state and transforms our lives.
-  Liu Wenmin







Zen Poetry: Selected Quotations

Next: VI

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Distributed on the Internet by Michael P. Garofalo


I Welcome Your Comments, Ideas, Contributions, and Suggestions


A Short Biography of Mike Garofalo




Poetry Notebook III of Mike Garofalo
Zen Poetry: Selected Quotations V
Available on the Net since January, 2000.




The Spirit of Gardening

Quotes for Gardeners

Haiku Poetry:  Links, References, Resources

Zen Poetry