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Dogen’s Poetry

The following were translated by Dr. Steven Heine, Professor of Religious Studies and History as well as Director of Asian Studies at Florida International University. Dr. Heine has published more than thirty books on Master Dogen and Zen.


True Person Manifest Throughout the Ten Quarters of the World

The true person is
Not anyone in particular;
But, like the deep blue color
Of the limitless sky,
It is everyone, everywhere in the world.

Source: The Zen Poetry of Dogen: Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace


Coming or Going

The migrating bird
leaves no trace behind
and does not need a guide.

Source: The Zen Poetry of Dogen: Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace


In the Stream

In the stream,
Rushing past
To the dusty world,
My fleeting form
Casts no reflection.

Source: The Zen Poetry of Dogen: Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace


Ching-Ch’ing’s Raindrop Sound

Because the mind is free —
Listening to the rain
Dripping from the eaves,
The drops become
One with me.

Source: The Zen Poetry of Dogen: Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace


A Zen Monk Asked for a Verse

“Mind itself is buddha” — difficult to practice, but easy to explain;
“No mind, no buddha” — difficult to explain, but easy to practice.

Source: The Zen Poetry of Dogen: Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace


Like Tangled Hair

Like tangled hair,
The circular delusion
Of beginning and end,
When straightened out,
A dream no longer.

Source: The Zen Poetry of Dogen: Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace


Impermanence

To what
Shall I liken this world of ours?
Moonlight, reflected
In dewdrops
Shaken from a crane’s bill.

Source: Dogen: His Life, Religion, and Poetry


One of fifteen verses on Dogen’s mountain retreat

Joyful in this mountain retreat yet still feeling melancholy,
Studying the Lotus Sutra every day,
Practicing zazen singlemindedly;
What do love and hate matter
When I’m here alone,
Listening to the sound of the rain late in this autumn evening.

Source: The Zen Poetry of Dogen: Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace


On the Harvest Moon in the Year of Dogen’s Death

Just when my longing to see
The moon over Kyoto
One last time grows deepest,
The moon I behold this autumn night
Leaves me sleepless for its beauty.

Source: Remembering Dogen’s Death


In the heart of the night,
The moonlight framing
A small boat drifting,
Tossed not by the waves
Nor swayed by the breeze.

Source: Dogen: His Life, Religion, and Poetry


The white mountains of Echizen
Are my winter retreat. A blanket of clouds
Covers the frosted peaks
And snowy slopes.

Source: Dogen: His Life, Religion, and Poetry


How pitiful is life and death’s ceasing and arising, I lose my way yet find my path as if walking in a dream. Even though there is still one thing left to do I must not forget, The deep grass of Fukakusa settles in the sound of the evening rain.

Source: Dogen: His Life, Religion, and Poetry


Colors of the mountains,
Streams in the valleys,
All in one, one in all
The voice and body
Of our Sakyamuni Buddha

Source: Dogen: His Life, Religion, and Poetry


In the spring, cherry blossoms,
In the summer, the cuckoo,
In autumn, the moon,
And in winter, the snow, clear, cold.

Dogen: His Life, Religion, and Poetry


Will their gaze fall upon
The petals of words I utter,
Shaken loose and blown free by the spring breeze
As if only the notes
Of a flower’s song?

Source: Dogen: His Life, Religion, and Poetry


Like a blade of grass,
My frail body
Treading the path to Kyoto,
Seeming to wander
Amid the cloudy mist on the
narrow mountain pass.

Source: Dogen: His Life, Religion, and Poetry


In spring, the cherry blossoms,
In summer, the cuckoo’s song,
In autumn, the moon, shining,
In winter, the frozen snow.
How pure and clear are the seasons!

Source: Dogen: His Life, Religion, and Poetry


Living for so long in this world without attachments,
Since giving up using paper and pen.
I see flowers and hear birds without feeling much,
While dwelling on this mountain I am embarrassed by my meager efforts.

Source: Dogen: His Life, Religion, and Poetry


How pitiful is life and death’s ceasing and arising!
I lose my way yet find my path as if walking in a dream.
Even though there are still things that are hard to forget,
Listening to the sound of evening rain sitting in the deep grass of my Fukakusa hut.

Source: To Write or Not to Write, Dr. Steven Heine

 

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