November 20, 2014

Poems by Zen Master Hsu Yun: Series I

Meeting Tang Yousheng

Twenty-one years old and from my village, yet!
So bright and filled with fresh ideas.
No wonder you gained such a high post in Tenchong.
I seemed ancient when I came to Chan.

We simmered tea and talked and talked
Coming up with one great line after another.
We hung up a lamp and read old poems.
I only just met you and yet I knew you all my life.

All night long we talked in an adventure
That continued until dawn. Then we parted.
I'm back on South Dian Road now
With my old companions, the sighing wind and bright moon.

The night sky is as lovely and charming as ever.
The stars are all there, but something's wrong.
Something is missing from the night's beauty.

 

 

 

 


Mirror Pond on Mount Taibo in Shanxi

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.

 

 

 

 

 


Clouds and Mist (a rare sight) on the Gansu Road

Cold smoke lingers like fog around a single lit house.
Like a lonely star the house rises up out of the cloud.

The ground is red like the inside of a fish's cheeks.
The mountains dark blue like a spiral conch's flared headdress.

Around half the pond grow poet Tao Qian's willows
And every ten miles stands one of Lord Xie Lingyun's pavilions.

To say Hello and Goodbye to such congenial and famous guests
Takes my breath away! Gives me a heady feeling
That's pretty hard to match.

 

 

 


After the Rain, Climbing a Tall Building to View the Mountains

It was just clearing after the rain of the night before
Mossy traces were on the steps.
I didn't climb the building thinking about writing a poem.

This poet's fest doesn't need any wine warming.
Just open the window, the mountain range will come in.
Before the eye, the village, drenched in smoke,
Will materialize.

I write now and see it as I saw it then -
The mountains and the sea -
Viewing it in detail
Like a painted picture.

 

 


Hearing the Bell at Ge Jiang Shan Temple - between the river and the mountains

Heaven turns so slowly and gently, it tolerates my age.
Without mercy, days and months advance to cut off my time.

I return to my cave in the mountain, but the trees are all gone.
I look down on the river and all I see are meandering curves.
The sun is captured in a cage of delicate clouds.
I listen to the wind.

Suddenly I hear the Temple Bell!
The sound comes washing over me,
Waking me from the dusty labor of my thoughts.
And distant heaven opens wider and wider to me.

 

 


Outside a Mountain Temple resting at noon in a grove of bamboo

A summer day can seem as long as a year.
Mountain people know this.
I had forgottten it.

Because I'm simple and not very foresighted
I had destroyed my life's half-way house.
This mountain pavilion was not a rest house for strangers.

Yet, a bamboo screen is as good for privacy as a ceramic screen.
I was just getting comfortable and had pulled out my pen
When I suddenly realized I was looking up at stars.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Fa Jie Temple, Reliving an Ancient Practice

Slowly, one step at a time, I walk back and forth
As the smoke and low clouds on all four sides dissipate
Revealing my audience to me.

The pines so tall, the cranes sit and nest in them.
The old, half-hidden caves.

The hushed rustlings of the mountain reward my heart.
Sounds come to my ears like gentle, pulsing waves of applause.

That Worthy One who used to be here...
Where has he gone?
Since his seat is empty,
I sit on his discourse ledge and pretend awhile longer.

 

 

 


A response to the Magnanimous Layman Fu Wen Min

The Buddha, The Reverend One of the World, ascended the Snowy Peak.
Whoever witnessed this?

Relying on the heartlessness of my sword
I went and cut off all my black hair.

Whatever the style, a surface appearance is essentially just that -
the outside of something.
Whatever the determination, a plan to perform any Dharma method is
essentially just that - an interior scheme.

Only the person who gets rid of within and without
Escapes from birth and death and ascends to eternity.

 

 

 


Answering Layman Long Cheng Che who in accordance with instructions from Venerable Yin Guang to repair the barn of Lao Mountain asked me to go and live there

For a long time I've foolishly wanted
To be "an old man of the mountain."
Heaven finally heard my wish
And was moved to let it come true.

But "finally" is too late.
I'm in the closing act of my years.
For this performance, I've got to defer to a younger actor.

My dear companion! We've rummaged through riverbanks
And combed the beaches of seas.
Yet from one page of Master Yin's letter
You've managed to create an ever-bubbling spring.
A tiny stream of precious hope that will flow on forever.

 

 


Six Poems on Living in the Mountains

1.
I've got a little picture in my mind of a clean and quiet place.
Everywhere you look it's completely natural.
The house is made of plaited rushes.
There's a good half-acre for growing tubers and flowers.

Beautiful birds perch on cliffs
That encase a few clouds that hang around green peaks.
The world's red dust won't be able to get up here.
Simple elegance is better than saintliness or spirituality.

2.
Can joy be found in the mountains?
Let me tell you. There's more joy in the mountains
Than anywhere else.

Pines and bamboos perform sacred chants.
The songs of Sheng flutes are played by birds.
In the trees, monkeys climb for fruit.
In the ponds, ducks cavort with lotus lilies.

This escape from the ordinary world
Month by month and year by year
Eliminates the hindrances to Enlightenment.

3.
Don't try to stand tall in the courtyards of fame.
In the mountains such dreams fade away.
Your body stands on its own when it's up with the clouds.
Your heart pulls away from worldly attachments.

The moon that I love clears a path through the pines
And guides a stream right to the bamboo gate.
Naturally, this is nothing short of amazing.
How could you disparage it... or ever tire of the sight?

4.
In the mountains there's nothing at all which prohibits
Dreams of cooking millet during afternoon naps.
If you're lazy by nature, you won't brood about problems.
You'll make light of the body and won't fear the cold.

Chrysanthemums grow by the three ancient paths.
A few planted plum trees make the whole yard fragrant.
Engagements are blessedly short.
Leisure is blessedly long.

5.
Just wake up from an afternoon nap in a grass hut.
Drag a walking stick and let it bounce free and easy.
Lean on a rock and watch the clouds rise.
Listen to the pine saplings and hear the sound of waves.

When the forest is dense, no guests pass by.
When the roads are dangerous, they're only used for gathering firewood.
The place is so pristine and cool
How could it fail to quench my mind's furnace of cares?

6.
People complain of a hard life in the mountains.
I don't think it's much different from the hardships of anywhere else.
A clay oven burning birch twigs,
A stone cauldron boiling wild sprouts.

It seems that you've only just picked the chrysanthemums
That grow in the three months of autumn
When it's time to view the flowers of March.

Pity more the moon that night after night
Is forced to entertain society.