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#1791 - Saturday, May 8, 2004

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  • Michael A. Read
    Any great truth can -- and eventually will -- be expressed as a cliche -- a cliche is a sure and certain way to dilute an idea. For instance, my grandmother
    Message 1 of 1 , May 10, 2004
      Any great truth can -- and eventually will -- be expressed as a cliche -- a cliche
      is a sure and certain way to dilute an idea. For instance, my grandmother used
      to say, 'The black cat is always the last one off the fence.'
      I have no idea what she meant, but at one time, it was undoubtedly true.
      Solomon Short

      #1791 - Saturday, May 8, 2004 - Editor: michael

      Highlights Home Page and Archive: http://nonduality.com/hlhome.htm
      Letter to the Editors: Click 'Reply', compose your message, and 'Send'. All the editors will see your letter.

      Zen & Other Spiritual Cliches

      Dear Friends,

      Cliches, we've all used them. They come in handy. They irritate. They're everywhere.

      They are Zen. No doubt about it, 'cause I'm as honest as the day is long. And I wouldn't

      pull the wool over your eyes. Even Zen itself is a cliche. You know, like everybody says

      'Zen' as if they used thier heads for nothing but  hatracks.


      In this edition I've provided some cliches and set them against  Zen poems or quotes.

      May you be amused,


      All Zen quotes used in this edition were found starting at this web page.
      The cliches were just lying around like old dogs.

      Love thy neighbor as thyself.

      In the morning, bowing to all;
      In the evening, bowing to all.
      Respecting others is my only duty--
      Hail to the Never-despising Bodhisattva.

      In heaven and earth he stands alone.

      A real monk
      Only one thing--
      a heart like
      Never-despising Buddha.

      -   Ryokan
          Translated by John Stevens
          Three Zen Masters, p. 128

      Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

      We pray for our life of tomorrow,
            Ephemeral life though it be;
      This is the habit of our mind
            That passed away yesterday.

                     -    Ikkyu
                          Zen and Zen Classics: Selections from R. H. Blyth, p. 111

      If it was a snake, it would have bit you.

                                                Above, below and around you, all is
                                                Spontaneously exisitng, for
                                                There is nowhere which is
                                                Outside Buddha-Mind.

                                                                      -    Huang Po

      God works in mysterious ways.

      I asked a child, walking with a candle, 
            "From where comes that light?"
      Instantly he blew it out. 
             "Tell me where it is gone -- 
               then I will tell you where it came from." 
      -   Hasan of Basra

      No man is an island.

       An explosive shout cracks the great empty sky.
      Immediately clear self-understanding.
      Swallow up buddhas and ancestors of the past.
      Without following others, realize complete penetration.
      -    Dogen, 1200 - 1253
      Moon in a Dewdrop, p, 218 
      Translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi


      If you meet the Buddha on the path, kill him.

       Why are people called Buddhas
      After they die?
                Because they don't grumble any more,
      Because they don't make a nuisance
      Of themselves any more.

                   -   Ikkyu
      Zen and Zen Classics:  Selections from R. H. Blyth, p. 112

      shit happens

      by a rocky shore,
      winds blowing wildly,
      in a boat unmoored--
      such is our condition.

        -    Saigyo, 1118 - 1190 Saigyo: Poems of a Mountain Home, p. 137
      Translated by Burton Watson

      The path is narrow...


      Mind, mind, mind -- above the Path.
      Here on my mountain, gray hair down,
      I cherish bamboo sprouts, brush carefully
      By pine twigs.  Burning incense,
      I open a book: mist over flagstones.
      Rolling the blind, I contemplate:
      Moon in the pond.  Of my old friends
      How many know the Way.

               -   Zengetsu
      Zen Poems of China and Japan, p. 42
                   Translated by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto

      Life is but a dream.


      The Perfect Way knows no difficulties
      Except that it refuses to make preferences;
      Only when freed from hate and love,
      It reveals itself fully and without disguise;
      A tenth of an inch's difference,
      And heaven and earth are set apart;
      If you wish to see it before your own eyes,
      Have no fixed thoughts either for or against it.

      -   On Believing in Mind,   Sosan Canchi Zenji


      Honor among thieves.

      The thief
      Left it behind -
      The moon at the window. 

        -    Ryokan,  1758-1831
      Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf

      Translated by John Stevens


      It's all an illusion.

             To what shall
             I liken the world?
             Moonlight, reflected
             In dewdrops.
             Shaken from a crane's bill.

                          -    Dogen, 1200 - 1253
      The Zen Poetry of Dogen
                               Translated by Steven Heine

      Earth, mountains, rivers - hidden in this nothingness.
       In this nothingness - earth, mountains, rivers revealed.
      Spring flowers, winter snows:
      There's no being or non-being, nor denial itself. 

        -    Saisho  (? - 1506)
       Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter, p.32
      Translated by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto

      Chop wood, carry water.

      My daily activities are not unusual,
       I'm just naturally in harmony with them.
      Grasping nothing, discarding nothing...
      Supernatural power and marvelous activity -
       Drawing water and carrying firewood.
      -    Layman Pang-yun (740-808)

      I think, therefore, I am.

              The mind of the past is ungraspable;
              the mind of the future is ungraspable;
              the mind of the present is ungraspable.

                                       -    Diamond Sutra

      Nobody lives forever.

      Nothing in the cry
      of cicadas suggests they
      are about to die 
      -  Basho

      The kingdom of heaven is within.

      It is too clear and so it is hard to see.
      A dunce once searched for a fire with a
      lighted lantern.
      Had he known what fire was,
      He could have cooked his rice much sooner.

      -   Joshu Washes the Bowl, The Gateless Gate #7
      Zen Flesh, Zen Bones,  p. 176
      Translated by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki

      Don't put new wine into old wineskins.

      In this way and that I have tried to save
       the old pail
      Since the bamboo strip was weakening and
      about to break
       Until at last the bottom fell out.
      No more water in the pail!
       No more moon in the water!
      -    Chiyono's enlightenment poem, 
      Zen Flesh, Zen Bones,  1957, p. 31
      Translated by Paul Reps and Nyogen Zenzaki

      If it's not one thing, it's another.

      Before I had studied Zen for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains,
                  and waters as waters.
      When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point
      where I saw that mountains are not mountains,
                  and waters are not waters.
      But now that I have got its very substance I am at rest.
      For it's just that I see mountains once again as mountains,

                  and waters once again as waters.
                                     -     Ching-yuan

      Everything is energy.

      Form does not differ from emptiness;
      Emptiness does not differ from form.
      Form itself is emptiness;
      Emptiness itself is form.
      So too are feeling, cognition, formation, and consciousness.

      Heart Sutra

      Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

      As flowing waters disappear into the mist
      We lose all track of their passage.
      Every heart is its own Buddha.
      Ease off ...  become immortal.

      Wake up!   The world's a mote of dust.
      Behold heaven's round mirror.
      Turn loose!  Slip past shape and shadow,
      Sit side by side with nothing, save Tao.

          -   Shih-shu, 1703
              Stones and Trees; The Poetry of Shih-Shu
              Translation by James H. Sanford
              The Clouds Should Know Me By Now, 1998, p. 153

      Leave well enough alone.

      just as it is,
      as it is, 
      as is. 
      Flowers in bloom.
      Nothing to add. 

      -    Robert Aitken, Roshi, As it Is

      If thine eye be single...

      Fathomed at last!
      Ocean's dried.  Void burst.
      Without an obstacle in sight,
      It's everywhere!

                   -    Joho, 12th Century
                        Zen Poems of China and Japan, 1973,  p. 15
                        Translated by Lucien Stryk, Takashi Ikemoto and Taigan Takayama

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