Two Classic Zen Poems

Han-shan and Ryokan

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Han-shan

Chinese Buddhist hermit who lived on Mount Han-shan (ColdMountain) around the middle of the seventh century

I came once to sit on Cold Mountain
And lingered here for thirty years.
Yesterday I went to see relatives and friends;
Over half had gone to the Yellow Springs.
Bit by bit life fades like a guttering lamp,
Passes on like a river that never rests.
This morning I face my lonely shadow
And before I know it tears stream down.

Today I sat before the cliff,

Sat a long time till mists had cleared.

A single thread, the clear stream runs cold;

A thousand yards the green peaks lift their heads.
White clouds—the morning light is still;
Moonrise—the lamp of night drifts upward;
Body free from dust and stain,

What cares could trouble my mind?


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