into the woods...

Ryōkan / 1775-1831

When all thoughts
Are exhausted
I slip into the woods
And gather
A pile of shepherd’s purse.

Like the little stream
Making its way
Through the mossy crevices
I, too, quietly
Turn clear and transparent.

          (Trans. John Stevens)


This untitled piece by Ryōkan, a master Zen poet, focuses directly on the relationship between human being and universe. To begin, the mind must be emptied – exhausted – before enlightenment is possible. “Turn[ing] clear and transparent” illustrates the self’s passing form a state of “in the world” to “of the world” – a part of the living system.

In the first stanza, the shepherd’s purse is rooted in the ground, but it flowers into the outside world – connecting both. The stream in stanza two cuts into the ground, touching each crevice. And like the stream, the self connects with its universe, becoming transparent – again emptied – for the journey.

To touch the world is to find the way.

1 comment:

DeadMule said...

What a beautiful poem. Spiritual on every level. So filled with truth, it beomes light. Nothing to stop it on its way.
Helen Losse