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Yasai Nehan (Vegetable Nirvana)

By Ito Jakuchu (March 2, 1716 - October 27, 1800)
Yasai Nehan painted around 1792




For an explanation of the significance of this painting of vegetables by Ito Jakuchu,
Parinirvana (Death scene - Liberation) paintings, the views of Tendai Buddhists
about the Buddha-nature of plants, and the cultural significance of radishes and
turnips in Japan, please refer to the essay by Yoshiaki Shimizu "Multiple
Commemorations: The Vegetable Nehan of Ito Jakuchu," found in
Flowing Traces: Buddhism in the Literary and Visual Arts of Japan,
edited by James H. Sanford (Princeton University, 1992). 





The implication of the content of the Yasai Hehan is that the issue of life
and death for all beings, sentient or insentient, always returns to the essential
teaching of the Buddha.  Blurring the conventional distinction of things,
this message applies as much to vegetables as to humans.
-  Yoshiaki Shimizu, Multiple Commemorations





When one Buddha who perfected the Way
beholds the Dharma world,
all those in the plant-and-tree realms,
without exception,
attain Buddhahood.
-  Keami, Nue (a No libretto), circa 1440






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Whenever learners or those beyond learning awaken the mind, for the first
time they plant one buddha-nature.  Working with the four elements and
five clusters, if they practice sincerely they attain enlightenment.  Working
with plants, trees, fences and walls, if they practice sincerely they will attain
enlightenment.  This is because the four elements and five clusters and
plants, trees, fences and walls are fellow students; because they are of the
same essence, because they are the same mind and the same life, because
they are the same body and the same mechanism.
-   Dogen Zenji, Japanese Zen Buddhist Grand Master
Awakening the Unsurpassed Mind, #31
Translated by Thomas Cleary, Rational Zen:  The Mind of Dogen Zenji






To the fuki plant, dandelions, and their kind that lie for long patiently
under the fallen snow, comes the season of breezy spring.  No sooner
do they see the light of the world, stretching their longing heads out
from the cracks in the snow, than they are instantly nipped off.  For
these plants isn't the sorrow as deep as that of the child's parents
[whose child had accidentally died]?  They say everything in the plant
and tree kingdom attains Buddhahood.   Then they, too,
must have Buddha-nature.
-   Kobayashi Issa, The Spring That Is Mine, 1815







Emptiness in Full Bloom
Poem and Notes about

Zen Master Dogen's Flowers in the Sky






                Fifty classes of beings assembled, from myriad bodhisattvas to infinite numbers
                of bees and insects ...  Buddha Sakyamuni lay down on his right side [dying] his
                head placed in the north and his feet south.  His face facing west and his back east,
                he immediately entered four stages of meditation, and attained Parinirvana   ... 
                Thereupon, the arhats, who were in the state of complete freedom from worldly
                attachment, forgot their rule of asceticism; bodhisattvas, who were making efforts
                to reach a higher state of bodhisattvahood, let go their wisom of knowing the
                brirthlessness of myriad beings.  Guhyapada threw away his vajra staff and howled
                into the sky.  Great Brahma threw away his net and collapsed on the ground.  The
                king of myriad lions threw himself on the ground and wailed.  The water birds, wild
                geese, and ducks felt deep sorrow.  Lion, tiger, boor, and deer all stood hoof-to-hoof,
                forgetting to attack one another.  Gibbons and dogs saddened by grief dropped their
                heads; ... the great earth shook and quaked; the great mountains collapsed; plants
                and trees, groves and forest, all cried out their grief.
                                                -   Myoe, Koben (1173-1232), Rules of Liturgy







In the assemblies of the enlightened ones there have been many cases of
mastering the Way bringing forth the heart of plants and trees; this is what
awakening the mind for enlightenment is like.  The fifth patriarch of Zen
was once a pine-planting wayfarer; Rinzai worked on planting cedars and
pines on Mount Obaku.   ...  Working with plants, trees, fences and walls,
if they practice sincerely they will attain enlightenment.
-   Dogen Zenji, Japanese Zen Buddhist Grand Master
Awakening the Unsurpassed Mind, #31






Why should we cherish all sentient beings?
Because sentient beings
are the roots of the tree-of-awakening.
The Bodhisattvas and the Buddhas are the flowers and fruits.
Compassion is the water for the roots.
-   Avatamsaka Sutra






The best place to find God is in a garden.  
You can dig for him there.
    -   George Bernard Shaw






Yun-yen replied, "Haven't you seen it?  In the Amitabha Sutra it says,
'Water, birds, tree groves, all without exception recite the Buddha's name,
recite the Dharma.'"
The part of the Amitabha Sutra quoted is where Shakyamuni's describes
the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss, the Western Paradise. 
The Roaring Stream: A New Zen Reader, p. 119







Wonderful!  How wonderful!
Sermons by insentient creatures;
You fail if you listen with your ears;
Listening with your eyes, you hear them.
Hekiganroku, Case43
Translated with commentaries by Katsuki Sekida






The Tao exists in the crickets ... in the grasses ...
in tiles and bricks ... and in shit and piss.
-   Chuang-tzu
The Roaring Stream: A New Zen Reader, p. 117






The flowing waters carry the image of the peach
blossoms far, far away;
There is an earth, there is a heaven, unknown to men.
-   Li Po, Answering a Question in the Mountains






Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes -
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
-  Elizabeth Barrett Browing







Shadows from a slice of moonshine
Ripple round the sagging vines
Unburdened of their sweet red sex,
Withered, grotesquely bent, impotent.
Yet they live on, now as I:
Mouthfuls of wet seeds turned to chyme,
Reborn as muscles, eyes, and Mind.
Tomato Vines in November, Michael P. Garofalo, Cuttings







Joshu asked the zen-man, Sekito, "Does a dog have Buddha-Nature?"
Sekito answered, "Shut your mouth!  No barking like a dog, please."
A zen-man once asked Joshu, "Does a dog have Buddha-Nature?"
Joshu answered, "No!"

Mu! - The Gateless Barrier of Zen
Zen and Zen Classics: Selections from R. H. Blyth, pp. 54-69






The color of the mountains is Buddha's body;
the sound of running water is his great speech.
-  Zen Master Dogen






In the garden the door is always open into the holy.
-   May Sarton






in the water bucket
        a melon and an eggplant
    nodding to each other
              -   Yosa Buson






What was paradise, but a garden full of vegetables
and herbs and pleasure?  Nothing there but delights.
        -  William Lawson






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






All sentient things without exception have the Buddha-Nature.
-   Nirvana Sutra

To study the self is to forget the self. 
To forget the self is to be enlightened by the ten thousand things.
-  Zen Master Dogen

The more we understand individual things, the more we understand God.
-  Benedict De Spinoza

God is in the details.
-  Mies Van Der Rohe

Caress the detail, the divine detail.
-   Vladimir Nabokov

Details are all there are.
-  Maezumi Roshi






        Leafing is the practice of seeds.
        This cabbage, these carrots, these potatoes, these onions ... will soon become me.   Such a tasty fact.
          The only Zen you'll find flowering in the garden is the Zen you bring there each day.
            Gardening is a kind of deadheading - keeping us from going to seed.
              Does a plum tree with no fruit have Buddha Nature?   Whack!!
                Complexity is closer to the Truth.
                 Dearly respect the lifestyle of worms.
                   One purpose of a garden is to stop time.
                     All enlightened beings are enchanted by water.
                      The joyful gardener is evidence of an incarnation.
                        Inside the gardener is the spirit of the garden outside.
                          A callused palm and dirty fingernails precede a Green Thumb.
                            When a gardener becomes a gardener, Zen becomes Zen.
                               When the Divine knocks, don't send a prophet to the door.
                                  Becoming invisible to oneself is one pure act of gardening.
                                     Sitting in a garden and doing nothing is high art everywhere.
                                      -  Mike Garofalo,  Pulling Onions: Quips and Maxims of a Gardener







Only insentient beings hear the sermon of insentient beings;
Walls and fences cannot instruct the grasses and trees to
     actualize spring,
Yet they reveal the spiritual without intention, just by being
     what they are,
So too with mountains, rivers, sun, moon, and stars.

-  Dogen
   Translated by Steven Heine
   The Zen Poetry of Dogen, 1997, p. 141








Recommended Reading and Links

Ito Jakuchu


"Buddha-Nature and Karma," by R. H. Blyth; found in Zen and Zen Classics: Selections from R.H. Blyth,
edited by Frederick Franck, Vintage Books, 1978, pp. 54-69. 

Cocks and Hens - Paintings

Ito Jakuchu   12K

Ito Jakuchu's Art on the Internet

Jakuchu - Special Exhibit.   Kyoto National Museum.  13K+

Lotus Pond - Paintings

"Multiple Commemorations: The Vegetable Nehan of Ito Jakuchu," by Yoshiaki Shimizu;
found in Flowing Traces: Buddhism in the Literary and Visual Arts of Japan,
edited by James H. Sanford (Princeton University, 1992). 

Review by Erin C. Harding of   Yoshiaki Shimizu's Multiple Commemorations: The
Vegetable Nehan of Ito Jakuchu
.  8K

Roosters and Hens - Paintings

White Plum Blossom and Moon - Painting    Metropolitan Museum of Art

Zen Poetry:  Links, Bibliographies, Resources, Studies

Ito Jakuchu (1716-1800):  Also called 'Jokin,' a Japanese painter, from Kyoto,   "of the mid-Tokugawa
period (1603-1867) who excelled in drawing flowers, fish, and birds, especially fowl, which he used
to keep at his home in order to observe them closely.  The son of a greengrocer, he first studied
drawing with a painter of the Kano school (stressing Chinese subject matter and techniques). He
also made copies of old Chinese masters. He developed an amazingly realistic style and added
to it decorative touches that he learned in part from the works of Ogata Korin (1658-1716).
He made a set of 30 pictures for the Shokoku Temple, entitled "Doshokusai-e" (coloured
pictures of animals and plants), which, along with "Gunkei zu fusumae" (screen painting of fowl),
are his most famous works. He later became a recluse and assumed the name Tobeian
("Bushel Monk"). It is said that those who got his paintings gave him one to
(approximately two bushels) of rice in return."   -   Encyclopedia Britannica

Biographical Information:   Encyclopedia Britannica    Embark Web Kiosk    Ito Jakuchu





Recommended Reading and Links

Related Topics



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Animism    8K

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Nature and Buddha Nature.    By Stewart McFarlane.  64K.

A Northern Pantheism: Notes on the Confederation Poets and Contemporary
Mythographers.  By Maia Bhojwani.  50K

Oak Tree in the Garden

On the Soul (De Anima) by Aristotle.   Translated by J. A. Smith.

Our Intelligent Companions - The Plants.   By John Van Mater, Jr.  16K

Panentheism vs. Pantheism   9K

Pantheism: A Religion for All  15K

Pantheism:  Nature, Universe, Science and Religion   By Paul Harrison.   20K

Pantheism.   Principia Cybernetica Web.  9K

Pantheism.   Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  103k

Practical Animism

Shinto & Buddhism: Wellsprings of Japanese Spirituality.   By Paul Watt.  15K

Spirituality and Religion - Quotes for Gardeners

The Standpoint of Dogen and His Ideas on Time    56K

Ten Oxherding Pictures    75K



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The Spirit of Gardening




Quotes for Gardeners




Zen Poetry




Compiled by Michael P. Garofalo

A Short Biography of Mike Garofalo

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


Mike Garofalo's Poetry Notebooks III
Zen Poetry
Vegetable Nirvana:  31K, 6 May 2002, Version 4.5.


Quotes for Gardeners

The Spirit of Gardening

The History of Gardening Timeline

Zen Poetry