Koans and poetry tumble over each other. Good poetry has an objective quality and is related to koanville in that way. It does not try to persuade or recruit. Not knowing always supports us—you are always in the jeweled net. Music for meditation and the four vows with Jordan McConnell and Amaryllis Fletcher. Participants create poetry from a few momentary observations. Poems by John Tarrant and others.
The peach trees, without words, make a path.
—Verse from the Book of Serenity, Case 79
How should I practice? Enjoy yourself. It’s easy to be at ease in the Temple. Gradually you turn your space into the Temple, then you realize that you’re always in the Temple. You meditate, and when you are at peace no matter what’s happening outside, suddenly a path opens through the orchard.
Exiled poet Czeslaw Milosz said, “Language is my only homeland.” In a way, we are all exiled from our childhoods, and from what we’d imagined we would have.
John Tarrant credits poetry for bringing him to Zen through the light and spaciousness it opened for him in early life. As a young man working in a copper smelter with sparks flying, poetry lit something in him during the long hours. Snatches of poetry would come, and with it a change of consciousness.
Writing his own poetry, John noticed that something would reliably come to him, would open up out of any situation, and that it was lively. The richness of living ecosystems communicate how to endure, how to be surprised, how to love.
He followed his love of poetry into Zen. At some point, finding that Zen was “trying to be too pure,” John wrote the essay, The Soul in Zen which became the basis for his book, The Light Inside the Dark.
To expand the range of your life is part of Zen. Zen includes the whole of it.
Poetry, like Zen, is the work of the soul. You have to walk through the whole of it, to let in the excluded bits, the sorrow, and the tenderness.
A poem of John’s:
The owl and the bell
open the silence.
They persuade the night
to be my friend
Koans and poetry tumble over each other. Good poetry has an objective quality and is related to koanville in that way. It does not try to persuade or recruit.
Koans and poems address impossible tasks where we are not doing the ordinary stuff. Not-knowing is like an atmosphere we’re in—it’s thick and supports us. You are always in the jeweled net.
Old Zen masters used snatches of poetry as koans.
What is Jiashan’s state of mind?”
Jiashan answered,“Monkeys, clasping their young to their breasts,
return beyond the green peaks:
a bird with a flower in its beak alights before the blue grotto.
No moment in meditation can be wrong. We come here to live for the vastness.
More poems and readings from Basho, Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, Duke Zhi, Milosz, Rachel Remen, Derek Wolcott.
Meditation music and vows with Jordan McConnell and Amaryllis Fletcher.