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

Selected Quotations








Black! crow standing
in his eye all eternity
Long shadows draw

Wild winds abate
In morning's first light
A broken teahouse

Bursting open
The rose dawn fills
My empty universe

No barrier now
Lofty mountain to one
Riding the wind.

-   Sho Ka, 1991
Source: Zen Group of Western Australia Newsletter, Spring 1991, pp.7







The road enters green mountains near evening's dark;
Beneath the white cherry trees, a Buddhist temple
Whose priest doesn't know what regret for spring's passing means-
Each stroke of his bell startles more blossoms into falling.

-   Keijo Shurin







Zen Poetry: Selected Quotations I







True nature is always elusive,
Only the heart of no-heart
can grasp-it.
Up in the mountain,
the burning jade stays brilliant.
And in the roaring furnace,
lotus blossoms keep their fragrance.

-   Ngo An, Korea,  (circa 1090)
Source: Mind Moon Circle Quarterly, Summer 1984, pp.7







The moon, like you,
is far away from me, but it's our sole memento:
if your look and recall our past through it,
we can be one mind.

-   Saigo
Awesome Nightfall



Walking Meditation





All night I could not sleep
because of the moonlight on my bed.
I kept on hearing a voice calling:
Out of Nowhere, Nothing answered "yes."

-   Zi Ye, Collection of Chinese Folk Songs
6th-3rd century B.C.E.








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The morning glory!
It has taken the well bucket,
I must seek elsewhere for water.

Chiyo-ni, 1703-1775







Some babble on about Zen,
Loquaciously showing off their ability to speak;
Pointing to the sky, they talk of voidness,
Making a useless fuss.
Raising a fist, holding up a finger,
The do not know the source;
Bringing up sayings and contemplative methods,
They quip and jabber.
They deal with students by picking up a gavel,
Or by holding up a whisk;
Winking the eyes and raising the eyebrows
They consider awakening.
They consider studying stories
To be pure concentration.
A genuine highly developed Buddhist
Is never like those
Who consider rationalization wisdom,
Who will never clarify the mind
Or see its essence.

The Book of Balance and Harmony, p. 98
Translated by Thomas Cleary







Zen Poetry: Selected Quotations II







In Sunyata:
No Form, no Feeling, no Thought,
No Volition, no Consciousness.
No Eyes, no Ears, no Nose, no Tongue, no Body, no Mind.
No Seeing, no Hearing, no Smelling, no Tasting,
No Touching, no Thinking;

No world of Sight.
No world of Consciousness;
No Ignorance and no end to Ignorance;
No Old Age and Death and no end to Old Age and Death.
No Suffering, no Craving, no Extinction, no Path;

No Wisdom, no Attainment.

           -   Heart Sutra






                  Blood & snot.

      -   Seven Poems
                 Douglas Imbrogno








The moon's the same old moon,
The flowers exactly as they were,
Yet I've become the thingness
Of all the things I see!

-   Bunan






Zen Poetry: Selected Quotations III







Infinite realms of light and dark convey the Buddha Mind;
Birds and trees and stars and we ourselves come forth in perfect harmony;
We recite our gatha and our sutra for the many beings of the world;
In grateful thanks to all our many guides along the ancient way:
            All Buddhas throughout space and time
            All Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas;
            The Great Prajna Paramita.

                      -    Evening Dedication, Diamond Sangha, Koko An Zendo, Hawaii
                               Robert Aitken, Roshi







    Let us be respectfully reminded:
                  Life and death are of supreme importance.
                  Time swiftly passes by, and with it,
                           our only chance.
                  Each of us must aspire to awaken.
                  Be aware.
                  Do not squander our life.

                                     -    Charlotte Joko Beck







Emptiness in Full Bloom
Reflections on Zen Master Dogen's "Flowers in the Sky."







The spiritual light, shining independently,
transcends the senses and objects;
the essence is revealed, real and eternal,
not confined to written words.

The nature of mind has no stain;
it is basically complete in itself.
Just detach from false mental objects
and be enlightened to being-as-is.

- Baizhang





Words crystallize the spirit in the place of power.
The sixth month the white snow is suddenly seen to fly.
The third watch the disk of the sun sends out shining rays.
The water blows the wind of gentleness.
Wandering in Heaven, one eats the spirit-power of the receptive.
The deeper secret within the secret:
Land that is nowhere, that is the true home. 
-  Yu Ching, Magic Spell for the Far Journey




Question:  How many Zen Buddhists does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer:  Three - one to change it, one to not-change it,
and one to both change and not change it.





Green Way Blog by Michael P. Garofalo






There is more faith in an honest doubt,
Believe me,
than in half the creeds.

-   Alfred Lord Tennyson







Mild and moist were the months of spring;
Cool and clear is the white season of autumn.
Now the dew congeals, no longer drifting mists.
The sky is high, the landscape sharp and clear.
Soaring peaks rise from yonder mountain range --
Seen from here, their lofty beauty is unsurpassed.
Fragrant chrysanthemums deck the woods with splendor;
The green pines stand in rows above the cliff.
I admire their beauteous grandeur,
Elegant and lofty under the frost.
Holding my wine cup, I toast to the mystics
Who once roamed along the pines.
Searching for the essence I have not yet acquired,
Reluctantly I await the rising moon.

-   T'ao Yuan-ming (365-427 CE)







Nothing left: thought smoke.
A moment - a billion years.

Dont curl like orange peel, dont ape
a mummified past.  Uncage eternity.

When selfs let go, universe is all -
O for speed to get past time.

-   Shinkichi Takahashi







Zen Poetry: Links, Bibliography and Resources







                     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.

                                                 -   Nampo, 1306
                                                      Zen Buddhism: A History, Japan, Heinrich Dumoulin, p. 40







      December fog -
                     among the yellow leaves
 a dead frog.

                                       -   Michael P. Garofalo, Cuttings








        Always working alone, always walking alone,
        The enlightened one walks the free way of Nirvana
        With melody that is old and clear in spirit
        And naturally elegant in style,
        But with body that is tough and bony,
        Passing unnoticed in the world.  

              -   Yoka Genkaku (665-713 CE), Shodoka







                                                               Coming, going, the waterbirds
                                                               don't leave a trace,
                                                               don't follow a path.

                                                                         -   Dogen Zenji, 1200 - 1253
                                                                             The Enlightened Heart, Edited by Stephen Mitchell, p 50






The Cypress Tree in the Courtyard







                   When I see
                   Heaven and earth as
                   My own garden,
                   I live that moment
                   Outside the Universe.

                            -   A Zen Harvest: Japanese Folk Zen Sayings, p. 53
                                    Compiled and translated by Soiku Shigematsu





Great Doubt, Great Awakening,
Little Doubt, Little Awakening,
No Doubt, No Awakening.







Sacred Circles





In illusion what is true?
Illusion is from the outset true.
In illusion what is manifested?
The very illusion itself is manifestation.
If this is so,
     then one can never be apart from illusion?
No matter how you seek illusion,
     you won't find it."
-   Ts'ao Shan (840-901), Roaring Stream





Just stop your wandering,
Look penetratingly into your inherent nature,
And, concentrating your spiritual energy,
Sit in zazen
And break through.

-   Bassui




Well Being





Refining the self, and setting up the foundation are not a matter of forced control,
forced effort, or austere practices. What the work requires is first to recognize the
natural, innocent true mind, and then to use this true mind to refine the self. Then
a point of celestial energy emerges within the darkness - this is called
true consciousness.
-   Chang Po-Tuan, Commentary by Liu I-Ming






                                The whole universe
                                shatters into a hundred pieces.
                                In the great death
                                there is no heaven, no earth.

                                Once body and mind have turned over
                                there is only this to say:

                                Past mind cannot be grasped,
                                present mind cannot be grasped,
                                future mind cannot be grasped.

                                                 -   Zen Master Dogen Zenji, 1200 - 1253
                                                                 Enlightenment Unfolds, Edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi, p. 206






Cloud Hands: Taijiquan and Qigong






All these things arise dependently, from causes,
Yet they are neither existent nor nonexistent,
Therein is neither ego, nor experiencer, nor doer,
Yet not action, good or evil, looses its effects.

                                                 -   Vimalakirta Nirdesa Sutra
                                                                  Translated by Robert A. F. Thurman







In the third month of spring
the fruit is full on the enlightenment tree;
One night the flower blooms
and the whole world is fragrant.

                    -   Dogen Zenji,  1200 - 1253
                                                        Rational Zen: The Mind of Dogen Zenji, p. 43
                                               Translated and edited by Thomas Cleary






Zen (Ch'an) Buddhist Poems: Links, Bibliography, Resources, Notes






                                         Sound swallowed away,
                                         no waters, no mountains, no
                                         bush, no grass and
                                                      because no grass
                                         no shade but your shadow.
                                         Not flatness because no not-flatness.
                                         No loss, no gain.  So--
                                         nothing in the way!

                                                                -    Gary Snyder
                                                                        Finding the Space in the Heart
                                                                        Mountains and Rivers Without End, p. 151






You've got to practice meditation when you walk, stand, lie down, sit, and work,
while washing your hands, washing the dishes, sweeping the floor, drinking tea,
talking to friends, or whatever you are doing. When you are washing the dishes,
washing the dishes must be the most important thing on your life. Just as when

you are drinking tea, drinking tea must be the most important thing in your life.
-  Thich Nat Hahn







Supernatural power, wondrous activity - just a matter of
carrying fuel or drawing water.

    -    Zen Words for the Heart; Hakuin's Commentary on the Heart Sutra, p. 57
Translated by Norman Waddell. 





Where beauty is, then there is ugliness;
Where right is, also there is wrong.
Knowledge and ignorance are interdependent;
Delusion and enlightenment condition each other.
Since olden times it has been so.
How could it be otherwise now?
Wanting to get rid of one and grab the other
is merely realizing a scene of stupidity.
Even if you speak of the wonder of it all,
how do you deal with each thing changing?
-   Ryokan





Sitting alone amongst the forest trees,
The sixfold faculties always still and quiet.
It seems as if you've lost a precious jewel,
But have no pain of worry or distress.
In all the World your visage has no peer,
And yet you always sit with your eyes closed.
The thoughts of each of us possess a doubt:
What do you seek by dwelling in this place?

-   Nagarjuna, Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom




Walking Meditation





The unspoiled colors of a late summer night,
The wind howling through the lofty pines --
The feel of the autumn approaching;
The swaying bamboos keep resonating,
And shedding tears of dew at dawn;
Only those who exert themselves fully
Will attain the Way,
But even if you abandon all for the ancient path of meditation,
You can never forget the meaning of sadness.

-   Zen Master Dogen, Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace, 
Translated by Steven Heine, p. 133






"When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego,
and when we escape
like squirrels in the cage of our personality
and get into the forest again, we shall shiver
with cold and fright.
But things will happen to us
so that we don't know ourselves.
Cool, unlying life will rush in,
and passion will make our
bodies taut with power.
We shall laugh, and
institutions will curl up
like burnt paper."
-  D. H. Lawrence, Escape 






                    The raspy-voiced crow
                     perched on a pine pole
                     preached the Winged Dharma;
                     wayward birds trembled, fearing
                     rebirth as human beings.  

                     -  Michael P. Garofalo, Above the Fog







                                                   Barn's burnt down--
                                                   I can see the moon.    

                                                     -  Masahide (1657-1732), Translated by Lucien Stryk






Then what is the answer?--  Not to be deluded by dreams.
To know that great civilizations have broken down into violence,
      and their tyrants come, many times before.
When open violence appears, to avoid it with honor or choose
      the least ugly faction; these evils are essential.
To keep one's own integrity, be merciful and uncorrupted
      and not wish for evil; and not be duped
By dreams of universal justice or happiness.  These dreams will
      not be fulfilled.
To know this, and know that however ugly the parts appear
      the whole remains beautiful.  A severed hand
Is an ugly thing, and man dissevered from the earth and stars
      and his history ... for contemplation or in fact ...
Often appears atrociously ugly.  Integrity is wholeness,
      the greatest beauty is
Organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty
     of the universe.  Love that, not man
Apart from that, or else you will share man's pitiful confusions,
     or drown in despair when his days darken.   

       -  Robinson Jeffers, The Answer, 1936







"If one sees me in forms,
If one seeks me in sounds,
He practices a misleading way.
He cannot see the essence of creeds:

All conditioned creeds
are like dreams, illusions, bubbles, shadows,
like dew drops and a lightning flash:
contemplate them thus." 

Creeds and doctrines are like a raft
to carry one to the other shore,
and then to relinquish. 
Neither cling to the raft forever,
or reject it when drowning. 
Even better, 
become a strong swimmer.

Diamond Sutra
   A paraphrase and modification by Mike Garofalo





The monkey is reaching
For the moon in the water.
Until death overtakes him
He'll never give up.
If he'd let go the branch and
Disappear in the deep pool,
The whole world would shine
With dazzling pureness.
-   Hakuin






Zen Poetry: Selected Quotations

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A Short Biography of Mike Garofalo


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



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