Category Archives: Buddhist Poems

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Thich Nhat Hanh

Let us be at peace with our bodies and our minds.
Let us return to ourselves and become wholly ourselves.

Let us be aware of the source of being,
common to us all and to all living things.

Evoking the presence of the Great Compassion,
let us fill our hearts with our own compassion—
towards ourselves and towards all living beings.

Let us pray that we ourselves cease to be
the cause of suffering to each other.

With humility, with awareness of the existence of life,
and of the suffering that are going on around us,
let us practice the establishment of peace in our hearts and on earth.

— Thich Nhat Hanh – in Singing The Living Tradition – #505

(image source: viewonbuddhism.org)

Let us practice the establishment of peace in our hearts and on earth

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The Great Way is not difficult
for those not attached to preferences.
When neither love nor hate arises,
all is clear and undisguised.
Separate by the smallest amount, however,
and you are as far from it as heaven is from earth.

If you wish to know the truth,
then hold to no opinions for or against anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike
is the disease of the mind.

When the fundamental nature of things is not recognized
the mind’s essential peace is disturbed to no avail.
The Way is perfect as vast space is perfect,
where nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.

Indeed, it is due to our grasping and rejecting
that we do not know the true nature of things.
Live neither in the entanglements of outer things,
nor in ideas or feelings of emptiness.
Be serene and at one with things
and erroneous views will disappear by themselves.

When you try to stop activity to achieve quietude,
your very effort fills you with activity.
As long as you remain attached to one extreme or another
you will never know Oneness.
Those who do not live in the Single Way
cannot be free in either activity or quietude, in assertion or denial.

Deny the reality of things
and you miss their reality;
assert the emptiness of things
and you miss their reality.
The more you talk and think about it
the further you wander from the truth.
So cease attachment to talking and thinking,
and there is nothing you will not be able to know.

To return to the root is to find the essence,
but to pursue appearances or “enlightenment” is to miss the source.
To awaken even for a moment
is to go beyond appearance and emptiness.

Changes that seem to occur in the empty world
we make real only because of our ignorance.

Do not seek for the truth;
Only cease to cherish opinions.

Do not remain in a dualistic state;
avoid such easy habits carefully.
If you attach even to a trace
of this and that, of right and wrong,
the Mind-essence will be lost in confusion.
Although all dualities arise from the One,
do not be attached even to ideas of this One.

When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way,
there is no objection to anything in the world;
and when there is no objection to anything,
things cease to be— in the old way.
When no discriminating attachment arises,
the old mind ceases to exist.
Let go of things as separate existences
and mind too vanishes.
Likewise when the thinking subject vanishes
so too do the objects created by mind.

The arising of other gives rise to self;
giving rise to self generates others.
Know these seeming two as facets
of the One Fundamental Reality.
In this Emptiness, these two are really one—
and each contains all phenomena.
If not comparing, nor attached to “refined” and “vulgar”—
you will not fall into judgment and opinion.

The Great Way is embracing and spacious—
to live in it is neither easy nor difficult.
Those who rely on limited views are fearful and irresolute:
The faster they hurry, the slower they go.
To have a narrow mind,
and to be attached to getting enlightenment
is to lose one’s center and go astray.
When one is free from attachment,
all things are as they are,
and there is neither coming nor going.

When in harmony with the nature of things, your own fundamental nature,
and you will walk freely and undisturbed.
However, when mind is in bondage, the truth is hidden,
and everything is murky and unclear,
and the burdensome practice of judging
brings annoyance and weariness.
What benefit can be derived
from attachment to distinctions and separations?

If you wish to move in the One Way,
do not dislike the worlds of senses and ideas.
Indeed, to embrace them fully
is identical with true Enlightenment.
The wise person attaches to no goals
but the foolish person fetters himself or herself.
There is one Dharma, without differentiation.
Distinctions arise from the clinging needs of the ignorant.
To seek Mind with the discriminating mind
is the greatest of mistakes.

Rest and unrest derive from illusion;
with enlightenment, attachment to liking and disliking ceases.
All dualities come from ignorant inference.
They are like dreams, phantoms, hallucinations—
it is foolish to try to grasp them.
Gain and loss, right and wrong; finally abandon all such thoughts at once.

If the eye never sleeps,
all dreams will naturally cease.
If the mind makes no discriminations,
the ten thousand things
are as they are, of single essence.
To realize the mystery of this One-essence
is to be released from all entanglements.
When all things are seen without differentiation,
the One Self-essence is everywhere revealed.
No comparisons or analogies are possible
in this causeless, relationless state of just this One.

When movement stops, there is no movement—
and when no movement, there is no stopping.
When such dualities cease to exist
Oneness itself cannot exist.
To this ultimate state
no law or description applies.

For the Realized mind at one with the Way
all self-centered striving ceases.
Doubts and irresolutions vanish
and the Truth is confirmed in you.
With a single stroke you are freed from bondage;
nothing clings to you and you hold to nothing.
All is empty, clear, self-illuminating,
with no need to exert the mind.
Here, thinking, feeling, understanding, and imagination
are of no value.
In this world “as it really is”
there is neither self nor other-than-self.

To know this Reality directly
is possible only through practicing non-duality.
When you live this non-separation,
all things manifest the One, and nothing is excluded.
Whoever comes to enlightenment, no matter when or where,
Realizes personally this fundamental Source.

This Dharma-truth has nothing to do with big or small, with time and space.
Here a single thought is as ten thousand years.
Not here, not there—
but everywhere always right before your eyes.
Infinitely large and infinitely small: no difference,
for definitions are irrelevant
and no boundaries can be discerned.
So likewise with “existence” and “non-existence.”

Don’t waste your time in arguments and discussion
attempting to grasp the ungraspable.

Each thing reveals the One,
the One manifests as all things.
To live in this Realization
is not to worry about perfection or non-perfection.
To put your trust in the Heart-Mind is to live without separation,
and in this non-duality you are one with your Life-Source.

Words! Words!
The Way is beyond language,
for in it there is no yesterday,
no tomorrow
no today.

—  Seng-ts’an – Verses on the Faith of Mind (transl. Richard B. Clarke)

Verses on the Faith of Mind

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Strong in the rain
Strong in the wind
Strong against the summer heat and snow
He is healthy and robust
Unselfish
He never loses his temper
Nor the quiet smile on his lips
He eats four go of unpolished rice
Miso and a few vegetables a day
He does not consider himself
In whatever occurs…his understanding
Comes from observation and experience
And he never loses sight of things
He lives in a little thatched-roof hut
In a field in the shadows of a pine tree grove
If there is a sick child in the east
He goes there to nurse the child
If there’s a tired mother in the west
He goes to her and carries her sheaves
If someone is near death in the south
He goes and says, “Don’t be afraid”
If there’s strife and lawsuits in the north
He demands that the people put an end to their pettiness
He weeps at the time of drought
He plods about at a loss during the cold summer
Everyone calls him “Blockhead”
No one sings his praises
Or takes him to heart…

That is the sort of person
I want to be

— Kenji Miyazawa – Strong In The Rain (Ame ni mo Makezu)

Strong In The Rain

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I watch people in the world
Throw away their lives lusting after things,
Never able to satisfy their desires,
Falling into deeper despair
And torturing themselves.
Even if they get what they want
How long will they be able to enjoy it?
For one heavenly pleasure
They suffer ten torments of hell,
Binding themselves more firmly to the grindstone.
Such people are like monkeys
Frantically grasping for the moon in the water
And then falling into a whirlpool.
How endlessly those caught up in the floating world suffer.
Despite myself, I fret over them all night
And cannot staunch my flow of tears.

— Ryokan

Caught up in the floating world and suffering

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Treading along in this dreamlike, illusory world,
Without looking for the traces I may have left;
A cuckoo’s song beckons me to return home –
Hearing this, I tilt my head to see
Who has told me to run backwards;
But do not ask me where I am heading,
As I travel in this limitless world
Where every step I take is my home.

— Dogen

Where are you going?

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Whether you are going or staying or sitting or lying down,
The whole world is your own self.
You must find out
Whether the mountains, rivers, grass, and forests
Exist in your own mind or exist outside it.
Analyze the ten thousand things,
Dissect them minutely,
And when you take this to the limit
You will come to the limitless.
When you search into it you come to the end of search.
Where thinking goes no further and distinctions vanish.
When you smash the citadel of doubt,
then the Buddha is simply yourself.

— Daikaku

The whole world is in your own self