Friday, September 10, 2010

I sit on rocks and watch clouds

More than forty years I've lived as a hermit
out of touch with the world's rise and fall
a stove full of pine needles keeps me warm at night 
a bowl of wild plants fills me up at noon
I sit on rocks and watch clouds and let thoughts wander
I patch my robe in sunlight and cultivate silence
until someone asks why Bodhidharma came east
and I list all my possessions
Scorpion tails and wolf hearts overrun the world
everyone has a trick to get ahead
but how many smiles in a lifetime
how many moments of peace in a day
who knows a toppled cart means try another track
when trouble strikes there is no time for shame
this old monk isn't just talking
he's trying to remove your obstacles and chains
The crow and the hare race without rest 
living in the cliffs suddenly I'm old
my reflection looks thin when I walk beside a stream
my eyes have turned blue viewing mountains through pines
I gather red leaves to burn in my stove
I pick yellow flowers to put in a vase
toiling away for the wine of success
others get drunk and can't be revived
A thatched hut blue mountains green streams
visits by now are up to me
two or three peach trees and plum trees in bloom
green and yellow fields of vegetables and wheat
I sit all night in bed listening to rain
I open my paper window and doze off watching clouds
nothing is better than being free
but getting free isn't luck
~ Stonehouse
from The Zen Works of Stonehouse
by Red Pine
art by Huang Kung-wang


37. Stonehouse lived as a hermit for thirty-five years on Hsiamushan, but he also lived for three years with Kao-feng on Tienmushan's West Peak and six years with Chi-an on Langyashan near Chienyang. Although the practice was never as widespread in China as it was in India, monks were encouraged to restrict themselves to a noon meal, which they ate following their morning begging rounds. One of the most common koans asked by Zen masters is:"Why did Bodhidharma come east?" The student's answer is expected to express the essence of Zen rather than supply the Patriarch's presumed motivation.

38. One of the first measures enacted by the First Emperor when he unified China in 221 BC was to standardize the axle length of carts so that all tracks would be the same width. The Five Obstacles include desire, anger, tiredness, anxiety, and doubt. And the Ten Chains include shamelessness, insensitivity, envy, meanness, regret, laziness, over-activity, self-absorption, hate, and secretiveness.

39. According to Chinese mythology, the sun is the home of a crow, and the moon is the abode of a hare. The moon is yin and represents Earth, hence its symbol is an animal of the land; the sun is yang and represents Heaven, hence its totem is a creature of the air. Stonehouse's blue eyes could refer to the Zen eyes of Bodhidharma, the "blue-eyed barbarian," who brought Zen to China. But they could also refer to cataracts. Ironically, cataract surgery was introduced to the Chinese by Indian monks about the same time that Bodhidharma arrived, but the technique had been lost by Stonehouse's time. While Stonehouse used chrysanthemums for his altar, others infused them in their wine.

40. Etiquette requires paying a return visit to someone else who visits. Apparently Stonehouse no longer held up his side of such relationships. Perhaps he didn't like leaving his hut. As previously noted, windows were usually covered with oilpaper.

the author provides similar notes for each portion of the work.


Anonymous said...

thank you. please don't stop.