The legendary inventor of the kyozo, the custom-made building for housing sutras, Fu Ta-shih (also known as Bodhisattva Shan-hui) was a 6th century Chinese poet and lay master. Below are two translations of one of his famous short poems or gathas. Empty-handed, I hold a hoe. Walking on foot, I ride a buffalo. Passing… Continue reading Fu Ta-shih’s Poem: Empty Handed, I Hold a Hoe
The Awakening of Faith (the Mahāyāna śraddhotpādaśāstra) is a text that summarizes the major tenets of Mahayana Buddhism and gives hands-on advice for transcending our finite lives to participate in the infinite life while living in the midst of phenomena. The origin of the text is shrouded in mystery: it has for a long time… Continue reading The Awakening of Faith
"Strange words and extraordinary actions" were the hallmark of 8th century Ch'an master Ma-tsu (also written as Mazu Daoyi) whose teaching methods involved the kind of unorthodox actions that became associated with certain forms of Zen, especially Rinzai. Ma-tsu was particularly fond of holding up his fly whisk, shouting and hitting his students, in order… Continue reading Master Ma-tsu and Original Mind
With great power also comes great responsibility, but not always great wisdom. Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu, whose writings form one of the pillars of Taosim, took a dim view of much of human activity and the accumulation of power and knowledge, recommending instead the cultivation of a kind of wisdom in tune with the Tao,… Continue reading Chuang Tzu: How To Find What You Already Know?
Su Tung-P'o was a poet of the Song era who is also known as Su Shi, and who published under the name Dongpo Jushi. A prolific figure of his time, Su Tung-P'o was a statesman who was accomplished not only in literary terms, but also as a painter, calligrapher and cook. Influenced by his study… Continue reading Su Tung-P’o’s Rapt in Wine Against the Mountain Rains
The theme of host and guest is popular within Chinese Zen, broadly used to illustrate the interplay between relative and absolute. One of Zen's major tenets is that our personalities and beliefs are not absolute, but rather 'guests' within an impenetrable 'host'. This relationship then becomes more complex when we talk about guests within hosts… Continue reading Host and Guest
This short poem by an 11th century Chinese poet called Gen of Kohoin is written as an uncomplaining, almost joyful anticipation of death. The Jewel Hare he refers to in the last line is a classic image for the moon, after the myth of the rabbit on the moon's face. At ninety-nine, snowy side-locks,… Continue reading Swift Clouds and the Jewel Hare
Cold Mountain (Han Shan) was a Chinese poet and hermit who wrote his poetry 1,200 years ago on the rocks, trees and temple walls of the Tientai Mountains where he lived. He was a Taoist and a Buddhist and though he was never critically acclaimed as a great poet, he's become a much loved persona… Continue reading Look Beyond the Town Gate at the Mounds Below the Pines