Extract | Poems of the Japanese Zen Masters

Book Extracts

The Zen masters reveal some of the secrets of Zen practice through poetry.

The Western Patriarch's doctrine is transplanted!

 I fish by moonlight, till on cloudy days.

Clean, clean! Not a worldly mote falls with the snow

As, cross-legged in this mountain hut, I sit the evening through.

 DOGEN (1200-1253)


Coming, going, the waterfowl

Leaves not a trace,

Nor does it need a guide.



The all-meaning circle:

No in, no out;

No light, no shade.

Here all saints are born.

 SHOICHI (1202-80)


Clear in the blue, the moon!

Icy water to the horizon,

Defining high, low. Startled,

The dragon uncoils about the billows.

 RYUZAN (1274-1358)


Invaluable is the Soto Way —

Why be discipline s slave?

Snapping the golden chain,

Step boldly towards the sunset!

 GASAN (1275-1365)


(The Penguin Book of Zen Poetry ed. & tr. Lucien Stryk & Takshi Ikemoto pub. 1977)

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