Tag Archives: poetry

Another Hsu Yun poem…

 

 

Found this poem, thought I would share

The water and my mind have both settled down
Into perfect stillness.
Sun and moon shine bright in it.
At night I see in the surface
The enormous face of my old familiar moon.
I don’t think you’ve ever met the source of this reflection.
All shrillness fades into the sound of silence.
But now and then a puff of mist floats across the mirror.
It confuses me a little
But not enough to make me forget to forget my cares.

 

~Hsu Yun

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The long journey out of the self…

Today David over at The Endless Further has a wonderful post up about the magic found in poetry, please check it out if you have the chance.

image of Roethke sourced from jungcurrents.com

It got me thinking about one of my favorite poets, Theodore Roethke, whom I haven’t dealt much with in years. Roethke is from my hometown of Saginaw, MI, and there are places he mentions in his poetry that were literally my old stomping grounds:

Out Hemlock Way there is a stream
That some have called Swan Creek;
The turtles have bloodsucker sores,
And mossy filthy feet;
The bottoms of migrating ducks
Come off it much less neat.

I used to dig in Swan Creek for golf balls to sell to golfers at the nearby hole-in-the-wall course. My father went through the ice of the creek as a youth while snowmobiling. It is a beautiful yet unassuming body of water. It really is just a creek. Creek creeks creek.

Upon digging around for some of my favorite works of his, I ran across the following two gems, and couldn’t help but be struck by the similarity to some of the old Chinese Ch’an masters works. The first poem is titled Journey into the Interior

In the long journey out of the self,
There are many detours, washed-out interrupted raw places
Where the shale slides dangerously
And the back wheels hang almost over the edge
At the sudden veering, the moment of turning.
Better to hug close, wary of rubble and falling stones.
The arroyo cracking the road, the wind-bitten buttes, the canyons,
Creeks swollen in midsummer from the flash-flood roaring into the narrow valley.
Reeds beaten flat by wind and rain,
Grey from the long winter, burnt at the base in late summer.
— Or the path narrowing,
Winding upward toward the stream with its sharp stones,
The upland of alder and birchtrees,
Through the swamp alive with quicksand,
The way blocked at last by a fallen fir-tree,
The thickets darkening,
The ravines ugly.
The first thing that jumps out is right there in the first line, “journey out of the self”. The rest of the poem goes on to describe the traps and hazards our phenomenal mind throws at us in our attempt to escape its binding reach.
 
Another that I stumbled upon was In a Dark Time:
 
In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood–
A lord of nature weeping to a tree,
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.
What’s madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day’s on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall,
That place among the rocks–is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is–
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

Dark,dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

To me, this is all about finding the true self, making sense of the observer watching the observer phenomenon, feeling trapped that there is no hope, no way of getting to the Source.

Roethke suffered from depression not long into his life, fueled by the tragic deaths of his uncle and father that both occurred when he was 15. This colored many of his later works, though it is for his lighter, “greenhouse” poems that he is more well-known. These poems revolve around his direct experience and contact with nature and the beauty he found growing up around his uncle’s greenhouse in Saginaw (only a couple of miles from my childhood home). At the young age of 55, Roethke died of a heart attack in a swimming pool on Bainbridge Island, here in Washington. According to wiki the pool has since been covered and a Zen rock garden has apparently been placed on top. His remains are a stone’s throw from many of my great-grandparents and their siblings.

I’m not claiming that Roethke was Zen, or a Buddhist or anything of the sort. If anything he seemed to be a sort of pantheist or transcendentalist or something of that sort. But the problems that he digs at are universal, and strike at the heart of Zen. His desire to find pure Mind and make sense of it all mirrors the path of the 10 Ox Herding images well.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the magic that Roethke helped bring to the world. Cheers.

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Heart of the Buddha

Oregon Coast

No need to chase back and forth like the waves.

The same water which ebbs is the same water that flows.

No point turning back to get water

When it’s flowing around you in all directions

The heart of the Buddha and the people of the world…

Where is there any difference?

~ Hsu Yun Heart of the Buddha

I’ve been sporadically reading a bit of Zen/Chan poetry lately. Some of it I dismiss fairly quickly. Quite a bit of it doesn’t speak to me, though I know the reasons for this are many (they’ve been written by wisdom, meant to be read with wisdom). But some of it takes you somewhere.

Heart of the Buddha is one of those poems that really shouted out to me, even though it was just a whisper. I like the water analogies used in Buddhism, as I think they are usually the most accurate descriptions of mind, dualism, and non-conceptual awareness one can use that people can easily relate to. This poem in particular opened up to me almost instantly. Here is what I found:

No need to chase… – chasing, grasping, reaching, swimming – none of these actions will help you to realize Buddha nature. Buddha nature is not something to be found while scuba diving on a treasure hunt.

…back and forth like the waves – this is samsara. The phenomenal world of dukkha leading us here then there then here then there. We’re all chasing. And we’re all swimming with the tide.

The same water that ebbs is the same water that flows – this line brought many thoughts to mind. The same ‘stuff’ that brings us pain is the same ‘stuff’ that brings us pleasure. Buddha nature is defilement, defilement is buddha nature. No samsara apart from nirvana. Water waters water.

No point turning back to get water – That which we are chasing we have already left behind. Seeking Buddha nature outside the self is like searching for a wave already crashed back into the ocean.

When it’s flowing around you in all directions – no self no buddha. Our deluded mind is creating all this samsara around us, when we are able to free our deluded mind, we can find the heart of buddha, which is all around us. But when we turn back and seek, it is again unreachable.

The heart of the Buddha and the people of the world… where is there any difference? – This is just the non-dual nature of reality. Again, no nirvana apart from samsara. Also I felt like this pointed at the 10th Ox Herding picture a little, in the idea of bringing Buddha nature back down into the marketplace, or back to be with “the people of the world”.

Just some thoughts of mine. Yours?

Cheers.

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