Of late there are numerous interesting posts around about Buddhism and Poetry.
So with all this poetry in the air the inspiration has stricken this blog as well. This time while reading Harry’s blog We Angry Buddhists where he had written a post about Dogen’s instructions for sitting. Harry said: “I decided to compile a list of the things which Dogen Zenji clearly advises us to do in his instructions for zazen “Fukan-Zazengi”.”
This immediately invoked a poetic reaction particularly towards strict haiku and tanka syllabification. (It may have been the mention of the word “list”-that usually sends me into a spin) (The 33 numbered items in bold are from Harry’s blog.)
33 Poems About Sitting Instructions
1. Cease the intellectual work of studying sayings and chasing words.
Poets make castles
A world or the universe
Tiny paper gods
2. Learn the backwards step of turning light and reflecting.
A silver dollar
Signals a helicopter
Sent for the rescue
3. [We should] practice the matter of the ineffable at once.
Someone said plainly
to eff the ineffable
An interesting practice
Alan Watts (1961) wrote, it involves trying to speak the unspeakable, scrute the inscrutable and eff the ineffable. Wiktionary
4. Find a quiet room to practice.
Rooms here are many
The first thing to discover-
How to lock the door
5. Eat and drink in moderation.
The grocery list
Does not include chips, ding-dongs
Tiramisu or Shiraz
6. Cast aside all involvements.
Chasing the sardines
Minds fanning like outspread nets
Fishing in shallows
7. Give the myriad things a rest.
Without any choice
Not two or ten thousand things
Litter the pathway
8. Do not think of good or bad.
A bird on a wire
Sings the same shrill melody
As when on a branch
9. Do not consider right and wrong.
My two hands are cleaned
Before preparing our food
Both help cut onions
In India the left hand is used for washing the genitals with water after using a squat toilet. The right hand is used for eating food.
10. Stop the driving movement of mind, will, consciousness.
The conductor shouts,
“Stop the train. We have arrived.”
The platform empty
11. Cease intellectual consideration through images, thoughts, and reflections.
A photo album
Bulging overstuffed pages
Is set on the shelf
12. Do not aim to become a buddha.
There’s always a path
That veers into the forest
Leaves cover the way
Going forward or backward
Direction not to be found
13. [we usually] spread a thick mat on the place where we sit, and use a round cushion on top of that.
A carpet of grass
And a rounded mushroom top
Look. The Cheshire Cat
14. Sit in full or half lotus posture.
An arch of the spine
Subtle bridge of antique bone
Across the rushing waters
Traffic humming. Dive. Dive. Dive.
15. Spread one’s clothing loosely and make it neat.
Preparing the tents
Carnival of thought goes calm
Work to be done first
16. Position the hands in the mudra.
In elegant folded hands
17. Just make the body right and sit up straight.
An old leaning shed
Provides a little refuge
When propped up just so
18. Do not lean to the left, incline to the right, slouch forward, or lean backward.
A stake in the ground
Pounded down with diligence
To tie a wild horse
19. Align the ears with the shoulders and the nose with the navel.
Lines, planes, angles, points all joined
The picture complete
20. Hold the tongue against the palate, keep the lips and teeth closed, and keep the eyes open.
Eyes open mouth closed
Listen to the bumblebee
Outside the window
As it taps incessantly
Wanting to be admitted
21. Breathe softly through the nose.
Nasal rasp and whine
Breathing with influenza
Not exactly soft
I have the flu as I am writing these poems
22. When the physical posture is settled, make one complete exhalation and sway left and right.
When planting a tree
The gardener digs a hole
And settles the roots
23. Sitting immovably in the mountain-still state … This is just the pivot of Zazen.
Provide a leverage point
For the fulcrum tilt
Physics is not a subject
Without any awareness
24. If we rise from sitting, we should move the body slowly, and stand up calmly. We should not be hurried or violent.
Jump up from a seat
And risk a broken body
The ceiling is low
25. [We] do not discuss intelligence as superior and stupidity as inferior. Do not choose between clever people and dull ones.
Upstairs or downstairs
The house is inhabited
And the lights burn bright
26. [If we] single-mindedly make effort [in Zazen] [then] that truly is pursuit of the truth.
On a humid day
Though beads of sweat sting the eyes
They remain open
Dust from open windows flies
A fan hums in the corner
27. We should just practice [za]zen and pursue the truth.
Here and there, getting nowhere
To sit and to know
28. We must never pass time in vain.
Check the ticking clock
There may be some small spaces
Lost between minutes
29. Do not become so accustomed to images that you are dismayed by the real dragon.
Must lower the camera
To replace the film
30. Devote effort to the truth which is directly accessible and straightforward.
Nothing is hidden
Compass and map are options
For other journeys
31. Revere people who are beyond study and without intention.
The books are in boxes
In some garage or attic
Their words all consumed
32. Accord with the bodhi of the buddhas.
The mind’s committees
Will never agree on terms
That mean surrender
33. Become a rightful successor to the samadhi of the patriarchs.
Are not merely on paper
But in memory
Note: For hardcore poetry nuts. I took these poems out of their context and posted them to my literary blog and they provided quite another perspective.