Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Poetics of Ikkyu (Crazy Cloud) in Eleven Poems

Hearing a crow with no mouth
Cry in the deep
Darkness of the night,
I feel a longing for
My father before he was born.

Monks these days study hard in order to turn
A fine phrase and win fame as talented poets.
At Crazy Cloud's hut there is no such talent, but he serves up the taste of truth
As he boils rice in a wobbly old cauldron.

Rinzai's disciples never got the Zen message,
But I, the Blind Donkey, know the truth:
Love play can make you immortal.
The autumn breeze of a single night of love is better than a hundred thousand years of sterile sitting meditation…

Stilted koans and convoluted answers are all monks have,
Pandering endlessly to officials and rich patrons.
Good friends of the Dharma, so proud, let me tell you,
A brothel girl in gold brocade is worth more than any of you.

Every day, priests minutely examine the Dharma
And endlessly chant complicated sutras.
Before doing that, though, they should learn
How to read the love letters sent by the wind and rain, the snow and moon.

Bliss and sorrow, love and hate, light and shadow, hot and cold, joy and anger, self and other.
The enjoyment of poetic beauty may well lead to hell.
But look what we find strewn all along our Path:
Plum blossoms and peach flowers!

Even if I were a god or a Buddha you'd be on my mind.
I sit beneath the lamp, a skinny monk chanting love songs.
The fierce autumn wind nearly bowls me over
And my heart is choked with thick clouds.

Studying texts and stiff meditation can make you lose your Original Mind.
A solitary tune by a fisherman, though, can be an invaluable treasure.
Dusk rain on the river, the moon peeking in and out of the clouds;
Elegant beyond words, he chants his songs night after night.

Sexual love can be so painful when it is deep,
Making you forget even the best prose and poetry.
Yet now I experience a heretofore unknown natural joy,
The delightful sound of the wind soothing my thoughts.

Memories and deep thoughts of love pain my breast;
Poetry and prose all forgotten, not a word left.
There is a path to enlightenment but I've lost heart for it.
Today, I'm still drowning in samsara.

Long ago, there was an old woman who had supported a hermit monk for twenty years. She had a sixteen-year-old girl bring him meals. One day she instructed the girl to embrace the monk and ask, "How do you feel right now? " The young girl did as told, and the monk's response was, "I'm an old withered tree against a frigid cliff on the coldest day of winter. " When the girl returned and repeated the monk's words to the old woman, she exclaimed. "For twenty years I've been supporting that base worldling!" The old woman chased the monk out and put the hermitage to the torch.

The old woman was big-hearted enough
To elevate the pure monk with a girl to wed.
Tonight if a beauty were to embrace me
My withered old willow branch would sprout a new shoot!

(tr. Sōiku Shigematsu: 1)
(tr. John Stevens: 2-11)

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