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Issue #1352 - Sunday, February 16, 2003 - Editor: Gloria Lee

200 AD bronze lamp

Karma is not in fact a material accumulation, and does not depend on
externals; rather its power to condition us depends on the obstacles
that impede our knowledge. If we compare our karma and the ignorance
that creates it to a dark room, knowledge of the primordial state
would be like a lamp, which, when lit in the room, at once causes the
darkness to disappear, enlightening everything. In the same way, if
one has the presence of the primordial state, one can overcome all
hindrances in an instant.

Dzogchen, The Self Perfected State


Essence of Perception
—The Surangama Sutra

"You should know that the essential Bodhi is wondrous and bright, being neither cause nor condition, neither self as such nor not self as such, neither unreality nor not unreality, for it is beyond all forms and is identical with all things. How can you now think of it and use frivolous terminology of the world to express it? This is like trying to catch or touch the void with your hand; you will only tire yourself, for how can you catch the void?"

— from The Surangama Sutra
Translated by Upasaka Lu K'uan Yu (Charles Luk) 1966

full quote at:



(Quotations from Chuang Tzu)

To name Tao is to name no-thing.
Tao is not the name of (something created).
"Cause" and "chance" have no bearing on the Tao.
Tao is a name that indicates without defining.

Tao is beyond words and beyond things.
It is not expressed either in word or in silence.
Where there is no longer word or silence
Tao is apprehended.

(25:11, p. 226)

~~~   Attain the center of emptiness,
Preserve the utmost quiet;
As myriad things act in concert
I thereby observe the return.
Things flourish,
Then each returns to its root.
Returning to the root
Is called stillness:
Stillness is called return to Life,
Return to Life is called the constant;
Knowing the constant is called enlightenment.

- Tao-te Ching  




20 below  


my maxwell house       


of cherry blossoms.                          

- mary bianco  

mmm, mary in the morning.  

well, i'm gonna brave the outdoors and go out and get something to eat.  

oh, look.  

in my coat pocket  

a cherry blossom!              

- jerry katz


Sincerity is the fulfillment
of our own nature,
and to arrive at it we need
only follow our own true Self.
Sincerity is the beginning
and end of existence;
without it, nothing can endure.
Therefore the mature person
values sincerity above all things.

- Tzu-ssu (483-402 BC)


Taoist Ritual

While the ignorant only talk,
The wise apply their minds to practice.
There are also ignorant people
Who sit in meditation
With an empty mind and
Without thinking of anything
And who call themselves great.
It is useless to talk to them
Because of their views.

- Altar Sutra

Mazie Lane


Dear Satsang,


Today we were thrilled and then deeply pierced to discover the following letter from Han Shan to Shih Teh, which we now share below with you, and we are sure that some of you will recognize the fine hilt of the blade that slays us:

This letter was recently discovered, and the original is on display at the UC Berkeley Art Museum, along with other works of Han Shan.

My dear mischievous friend Shih-Teh,

As I write this, I hope your health and mind are happy and well. I have been at Cold Mountain for two seasons now without leaving. I spend my days sitting alongside the gentle flowing water of the mountain streams, and among the bamboo trees. I sit and when I get hungry I eat some roots, leaves, and berries that nature is kind enough to provide. I do sometimes miss your leftovers you are so good at saving for me, and especially think of them when I look in the hollow of a bamboo tube.

Ha Ha Ha!


I am an old man with an ugly lined face. I have seen many things, but what do I know? Maybe I know nothing. Maybe I know why the rain falls from the clouds. When the grasses are wet with morning dew, I can hear their soft voices. I can hear the wind and the leaves rustling.
I can hear the soft steps of a mother deer and her fawn quietly
approaching. I can remember hearing these things when I was very young. I can remember these things before I was born onto this earth. I can see many lifetimes ahead of me and am not afraid. I may be very old yet I do not fear leaving this existence. I only need to look at my hand; lined and wrinkled, to smile.

I was sitting yesterday at the bank of the river. As I was sitting, a fish flopped out of the water and lay gasping at my side. The eyes of the fish were bulging and staring, and the body frantically flipped and twisted. At last it managed to flop back into the water and swam quickly away. My friend, how many times do we find ourselves gasping for air? How many times do we feel as though we are suffocating under the heavy blanket of society's pressures? Watching the fish today reminded me of the life outside Cold Mountain. The hectic pace, the crowded streets, people hurrying this way and that. I want to shout at them, Wake up!


It is good to be at Cold Mountain. When the cold night wind blows, I move inside to a cave.

When the clouds cry, I take refuge under the
spreading arms of the trees. My clothing is worn thin, my shoes are wood, but I am happy!

When I visit you at Kuo-ch'ing,

the monks laugh at such a clown.

I laugh with them-

Ha Ha Ha!

My friend, I write these words to you on the wall of my cave. Maybe you will see them in this life, maybe you will see them in two lifetimes. Who knows? Someday, others, too will read my words and remember Han Shan!


An excerpt from 
"The Clouds Should Know Me By Now:  Buddhist Poet-Monks of China"

Edited by Red Pine and Mike O'Connor
[This excerpt has been kindly provided by National Book Network and is used with the permission of Wisdom Publications.]

INTRODUCTION by Andrew Schelling (complete at:

Gnarled pines, wind-blown clouds, jutting mountain pinnacles, exiled
scholars, horses, trailing willows. Moonlight on meandering rivers,
fishermen, white cranes and mandarin ducks, the eerie screech of a gibbon,
tiny white plum blossoms on twisted branches, a battered wooden boat moored
in the distance. For more than a thousand years the poets in this book
wandered a landscape that is vast and at the same time intimate,
mysterious, and deeply familiar: the same mountain peaks, the same
villages, the same river gorges. What makes this landscape feel so much
like home? The old poets of China had a way of quickly getting down to
elemental things. Using a vocabulary of tangible, ordinary objects, they
composed unsentimental poems that seem the precise size of a modest human
life-the reflective sadness, the fleeting calm pleasures.

This book is a collection of poetry written by Ch'an Buddhist poet monks
(shih-seng), men of enviable literary talent who lived out their years
during turbulent times in accord with old Buddha's precepts. Their work
spans 1100 years, from the middle T'ang dynasty to the beginning of the
twentieth century. One or two have had a taste of renown in the West, on
the basis of a couple of poems, but the rest have gone unheralded. Several
were established Buddhist teachers of their own day, the influence of their
subtle minds reaching deep, but they had little reputation as poets.
Recognition of their literary efforts comes late. Only Chia Tao, the
earliest of the poets translated here, did not devote his adult life to
Buddhist monasticism. He slipped off the monk's "robe of patches" in his
early thirties to pursue a life of poetry, which he supported with marginal
government employment and years of inadequate pay. One lingers over the
detail: at the time of his death, his only worldly possessions were a
five-string zither and an ailing donkey. Chia Tao stuck by his decision to
make poetry a life's path, but a hint of regret sometimes lifts from his


What was so modern about these old poets? Kenneth Rexroth wrote of Tu Fu
(712-770): "Tu Fu comes from a saner, older, more secular culture than
Homer, and it is not a new discovery with him that the gods, the
abstractions and forces of nature, are frivolous, lewd, vicious,
quarrelsome, and cruel, and only men's steadfastness, love, magnanimity,
calmness, and compassion redeem the nightbound world." He also said, "Tu Fu
is not religious at all. But for me his response to the human situation is
the only kind of religion likely to outlast this century. 'Reverence for
life,' it has been called." Reverence for life (Sanskrit ahimsa:
non-injury, no wanton killing) was a cornerstone of Buddhist practice in
India long before a few first sutra literatures took the rugged northeast
road into China, influencing Chia Tao and his poetry cohorts. Maybe we're
in a position now to see that this is what's so compelling in 1500 years of
Ch'an poetry. The best poems push no doctrine or dogma, there's no jingo,
no proselytizing. The Buddhism is carefully hidden away in tight five- and
seven-syllable lines. (This metric pattern, according to Yunte Huang, "is
intimately related to the translations from the Sanskrit Buddhist texts. It
was the encounter with an alphabetical language-Sanskrit-that made the
Chinese realize for the first time that a Chinese character was pronounced
by a combination of vowel and consonant.") There it lurks-archaic and
instantly modern-a reverence for life: one's own, one's companions, one's
fellow earth-dwelling creatures.


According to Lu-ch'iu Yin, a minor T'ang government official and
Buddhist enthusiast, Han-shan's gatha, or Buddhist verse, were left
littered about the forbidding cliff from which he took his name. The
Han-shan promontory lies along the T'ien-t'ai range in Chekiang, a
strikingly wild country in southern China. Contemporary photographs
show cornfields beneath the rock wall, but in Han-shan's day it was
heavily forested land, and local woodcutters or monks occasionally
saw the poet disappear into a cave, which in some unsettling accounts
would close up behind him.

Unable to coax Han-shan into establishing closer ties to the world of
civilized people (Han-shan just giggled, threw things, and ran into
the woods) the well-intended Lu-ch'iu Yin sent a troop of men into the
mountains to collect what of the scattered poems they could find-about
three hundred in total. The legend of ragged Han-shan and his equally
eccentric comrade Shih-te became a reference for countless later
poets, who saw in their cryptic behavior-as much as in their poetry-a
deep Buddhist realization. In the 1960s, California poet Lew Welch,
much taken with Chinese scholar poems and the habits of Ch'an
hermits, is said to have left the sole copy of one of his poems
tacked to a barroom wall in Sausalito.
Yes, meditation and poetry. It is hard to imagine with what sobriety
the early Buddhists in India enjoined monks and nuns against literary
pursuits. It is equally striking that as late as 817 c.e. the
renowned Po Chu-i could write:

"Since earnestly studying the Buddhist doctrine of emptiness, I've
learned to still all the common states of mind. Only the devil of
poetry I have yet to conquer- let me come on a bit of scenery and I
start my idle droning."

~(translation by Burton Watson)


Han-shan Te-ch'ing (1546-1623)
Translations by Red Pine

Snow besieges my plank door I crowd the stove at night
although this form exists it seems as if it doesn't
I have no idea where the months have gone
every time I turn around another year on earth is over

Bone-chilling snow on a thousand peaks
wild raging wind from ten thousand hollows
when I first awake deep beneath my blanket
I forget my body is in a silent void

The mountains stand unmoving just the way they are
all day they let the clouds roll out and roll back in
even though red dust is countless layers deep
not a single speck reaches my thatched hut



Poetic Minds Complete the Greater Elegance: The Nine Monks and Chih
Yuan, Poet Monks of Early Sung China (late tenth century)
Translations by Paul Hansen


Inside the Pass
The freeze, arriving early,
Half-withers South Mountain's
Myriad trees.

In long space,
Human prospects are extreme.
Alone, as snow drifts up, you watch
The distance. The work of Quiet Breathing
Precludes fellow hermits. Chanting idle
Rhymes, you neglect to carry

Moon pressing tight,
Remembrance rises
In the night.

Hsi Chou

From Stones and Trees: The Poetry of Shih-shu (late 17th century-early 18th
century) Translations by James H. Sanford


against the gently flowing spring morning
the arrogant rattle of a passing coach
peach blossoms beckon from the distant village
willow branches caress the shoulder of my pond

as bream and carp flash their golden scales
and mated ducks link embroidered wings
the poet stares about; this way, then that
caught in a web beyond all speaking

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Nonduality: The Varieties of Expression Home

Jerry Katz
photography & writings

The wind carves shapes into the beach sand

Search over 5000 pages on Nonduality: