Alan Watts Lectures – Zenrin Poems (1)



you know I'm not really a musician but it just so happens that I have in front of me a fabulous instrument which the Japanese call caught doll I suppose it would be best described as a table heart long instrument strings with bridges horizontal heart it was customary among Chinese poets in the old days to read poetry and strum on the lute or tabletop at the same time and I've got here a curious old text called cycle time which means the vegetable root discourses written by Koji say somewhere around 16 24 and the translation is by rh flies in the first volume of his book haiku which is published in japan and I thought I'd like to read some of this to you and to get into the right mood I suggest that you try to become a little stupid that is to say childlike as if you hardly knew how to talk and didn't really know very much about anything that's going on just listen as you would listen to the wind if the mind is clear a dark room has its blue sky if the mind is sombre broad-daylight gives birth to demons and evil spirits the just man has no mind to seek happiness heaven therefore because of this mindlessness opens its inmost heart the bad man biz's himself with avoiding misfortunes heaven therefore confounds him for this desire how unsearchable are the ways of heaven how useless the wisdom of men water not disturbed by waves settles down of itself a mirror not covered with dust is clear and bright the mind should be like this when what because it passes away it's brightness appears happiness must not be sought for when what disturbs passes away happiness comes the Dow is common property it should be pointed out to all we meet learning is as ordinary as eating rice at home according to the circumstances it should be applied circumspectly the ancients left rice for mice and did not light lamps out of pity for moths these thoughts of theirs are the operation point of humanity in life lacking this a man is a mere earth not a wooden body at the sound of the Bell in the silent night I wait from my dream in this dream world of ours gazing at the reflection of the moon in a clear pool I see beyond my form my real form the song of birds the voices of insects are all means of conveying truth to the mind in flowers and grasses we see messages of the dark of the way of nature the scholar pure and clear of mind serene and open of heart should find in everything what nourishes men know how to read printed books they do not know how to read the unprinted ones they can play on a string table but not on a string this one applying themselves to the superficial instead of the profound how should they understand music or poetry if you know the inner significance of things the misty moon of the five lakes is always in you if you understand the activity of human phenomena the heroism and nobility of the great man of all ages is in your grasp walking alone leaning on a staff in a valley of pine trees clouds rise round my montes robes sleeping with a book as my pillow by the window beneath the bamboos I wake when the moonlight steps on the floor close a solitary cloud comes out of a mountain cave it stays or departs without reference to anything else the brightener of the moon hangs in the sky it is aloof from both quietness the Zen SEC says when you are hungry eat when you are weary sleep poetry aims at the description and common language of beautiful scenery the sublime is contained in the ordinary the hardest in the easiest what his self-conscious and doubt area is far from the truth what is mindless is near the body is like a boat adrift floating along on motionless in a deep pool the mind is like a piece of burnt wood what matters if it is split fuel or varnished with scented lacquer reading The Book of Changes of the morning window I robbed a Vermillion stick of ink in the dill that drips from the pine trees discussing the sutras with a visitor the sound of the wooden clapper is borne away on the wind from the bamboos an ancient worthy says the shadow of the bamboo sweeps over the stairs but the dust does not move the disk of the moon passes through the water of the lake leaving no trace one of our Confucian says the stream rushes down swiftly but all is silent around the flowers fall incessantly but we feel quiet if you have grasped the meaning of this in all your relations with things you are free in mind and body if your heart is without stormy waves everywhere are blue mountains and green trees if our real nature is creative like nature itself wherever we may be we see that all things are free like sporting fishes and circling kites when in the moon I take off my shoes and walk barefooted through the sweet-smelling grasses of the fields wild birds without fear accompanying me my heart at one with nature I loosen my shirt as I sit absorbed beneath the falling petals while the clouds silently unfold me as if wishing to keep me there just as a whirlwind roaring down a valley leaves nothing behind it so the ear is to have nothing to do with right and wrong just as the moon only reflects its light in a pool cell the mind empty and unattached does not know itself from the outside world as two things when waves reach the sky those in the boat are unaware of the danger but onlookers are trembling with fear a drunken Dinah is swearing and cursing at the others but they are quite unalarmed whereas those outside are biting their tongues in apprehension of a quarrel thus with the superior man his body may be immersed in affairs but his mind is above and beyond them though mighty is not the very best the partners never dry my wine is not exquisite but the barrel is not empty my plain loot though stringless is always entombed my short flute though a formless one suits me well following Buddha's adapting ourselves to circumstances and our confusion acting in accord with once positioned these two phrases are the life boy for us to pass over the sea of life the paths of life are illimitable if we desire perfection all kinds of obstacles arise but if we obey our destiny we are free everyone the following our verses from a book called zenrin crucial verses which are collected from ancient chinese and japanese classics and which are used by Zen monks to understand the spiritual discipline of the corn that is to say their understanding of the ancient dialogues between their masters and their disciples the translation of these verses is by Ruth Sasaki from her book Zen dust published by Harcourt brace and world the cold kills you with cold the heat kills you with heat above there isn't a piece of tile to cover his head below there isn't an inch of earth for him to stand on when the mouth wants to speak about it words fail when the mind seeks affinity with it thought vanishes Sun and Moon cannot illuminate it completely heaven and earth cannot cover it entirely though we are born of the same lineage we don't die at the same lineage when we are revealing one another you may give me tit for tat when we are spitting at one another you may still me with slobber the deer hunter doesn't see the mountains the miser doesn't see man last year's poverty was not real poverty but this year's poverty is poverty indeed the Angels finds no path on which to screw flowers the heretics secretly spying find nothing see last year's plum and this year's willow their color and fragrance ours are old at the limits of heaven the Sun rises and the moon sets beyond the balustrade the mountains deepened and waters become chill he sees only the winding of the stream and the twisting of the path he does not know that already he is in the land of the Immortals he who would understand the meaning of buddha-nature must watch for the season and the causal relations every voice is the voice of Buddha every form is the Buddha form the wild goose has no intention of leaving traces the water has no thought of engulfing reflections the instant you speak about a thing you miss the mark the Badger and the white bowl the metal glorious radiance with no bird singing the mountain is yet more still in the spring beyond time the withered tree flowers when the snowy Heron stands in the snow the colors are not the same a pair of monkeys are reaching for the moon in the water when pure gold enters the fire its color becomes still brighter endlessly rise the distant mountains blue heaped upon blue you must see for yourself the reed flowers drenched in moonlight the marks are on the balance arm not on the scale ban water from the edge of the bamboos flows out refreshing breeze from the heart of the flowers passes by treatment you've been listening to Alan Watts from a program on zen in the arts for information on how to obtain the radio program on cassette tape call one eight hundred nine six nine two eight eight seven or you can write to the electronic university p o– box to 3:09 San Anselmo California nine four nine seven nine when you call a right please indicate the name of your local station and you heard a program andhe's and in the arts again the phone number is

4 thoughts on “Alan Watts Lectures – Zenrin Poems (1)

  1. the just don't adjust/the law they not embrace/fathom the riples//the law encloses/like squares to the circles/the mind opens up//trying hard to fetch/triangle at octagon/expressions of beauty//mercy with the meak/the truth no gender sides/fares no angles//dispute like glass/obscures the visionist/torching the antlings//grasslands endure/the folly of wisemen/who came to see//blossoming petals/lush gardens and fruits from trees/never look under//Boots bring to beauty/destroyed is the pathway/still it forgives//Picking up flowers/to enjoy values indeed/life growls deadly//Words fail in grasping/the butterflies keep flying/nobody cought up//powerty knowing/wisdom as hungergames/path like gallows//dost you aspire/if afraid of loosing all/contempt and belief//

  2. As a poet myself, I think the Chinese and the Japanese have been the best poets. Their work is deceptively simple, yet it says so much and it brings images to the mind, even when writing only of concepts. They are a very large influence in my writing.

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