A Quiet Temple in the White Dew

Time passes, spring to autumn; the temple is quiet, white dew dense, Through crickets near the window run their looms, they do not add ne thread for this poor monk.

 By Zen Master Ryokan from Sky Above, Great Wind: the Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan. Kazuaki Tanahashi

Shinshu’s Commentary:

It’s not so hard to imagine Ryokan in the quiet autumn dusk listening to the crickets. His temple is surrounded by hoary frost in a still cocoon. In his poem, Ryokan refers to the first koan in the koan collection Book of Serenity “The World Honored One Ascends the Seat.” In this koan the Buddha takes the teaching seat while Manjusri makes a rather grandiose introduction. The Buddha immediately gets off the seat and leaves the room. The commentary points out that Manjusri rather states the obvious and that the Buddha’s very life itself is the teaching. The verse that accompanies the koan’s commentary is: The unique breeze of reality—do you see? Continuously creation runs her loom and shuttle, Weaving the ancient brocade, incorporating the forms of spring, But nothing can be done about Manjusri’s leaking.

Crickets running their loom, a temple in the mist, and a monk in attendance are all each one thing or one being’s activity. Yet, that activity is the totality of our world. Time passing, seasons turning, and in midst of this is our continuous activity. The cricket’s loom produces the same ancient brocade woven by Creation. Each and every thing is running the loam of reality. The “poor monk” is not in need of a single thing. To mention the added thread is like Manjusri’s leaking. Manjusri states what is already apparent to those who can see. We live in the world of form and leaking is the human condition. We say it is enough, and yet….and yet? Not one threat can be added.

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