But do not ask me where I am going,
As I travel in this limitless world,
Where every step I take is my home.
One of the great lessons in life – something that if we preserver we come to gracefully accept – is impermanence. This is a lesson Dōgen learned early in life. He lost both parents when he was a child.
When Dōgen decided to become a monk he join the Tendai Tradition and was ordained in it. With his strong questioning intellect, he became dissatisfied with Tendai. He left Japan for China to learn what he felt would be a more authentic Buddhism. After two years study Dōgen returned to Japan where he founded Soto Zen.
To what shall
I liken the world?
Shaken from a crane’s bill.
Dōgen was a prolific essayist and poet, his works much valued because of the esteem in which he was held as a religious leader of consequence, a creative thinker and refined literary mind. His work reflects his effort to express the inexpressible. That is something he does with excuisite grace as you can see from the poems included here. The Essential Dogen, Writings of the Great Zen Master includes some of Dōgen’s poetry and essays. It is a gentle book filled with peace, a nice vacation from trying times.
Fifty-four years lighting up the sky.
A quivering leap smashes a billion worlds.
Entire body looks for nothing.
Living, I plunge into Yellow Springs.
Dōgen Zenji’s death poem
The recommended read for this week is Poems That Make Grown Men Cry: 100 Men on the Words That Move Them compiled by the father and son team, Anthony Holden and Ben Holden. I have to thank my good friend Linda F. for this recommendation. A moving book and a unique perspective. This is a poetry anthology in which 100 men from diverse backgrounds share the poems that they can’t read without being moved to tears and they tell us why. The poems and poets featured span the centuries and the world. Definitely worthy of our time.
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