Jisei: Zen Death Poems

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Jisei: Zen Death Poems

Post by Bankei » Sat Oct 19, 2013 12:15 pm

Just now I am reading Stephen Addiss The Art of Zen which is a fabulous book.

There is a poem listeed on p41 by the monk, Seigan Soi:
Joy of living
living joy...
Zen doctrine is null,
Before I die,
Here is the secret of my teaching -
My staff nods in agreement.

Would anyone know the original for this poem, and/or how to find original poems of this and other translations.



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Re: Jisei: Zen Death Poems

Post by Meido » Sat Oct 19, 2013 5:04 pm


If you haven't seen it, you might be interested in Japanese Death Poems, Written by Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the Verge of Death, by Yoel Hoffmann: http://www.amazon.co.jp/Japanese-Death- ... 0804831793

It discusses the farewell poem in Japan in general, and contains quite a few of them. It shows the romaji for some, though the majority are in translation only.

A lot of interesting material in that book. While many Zen monks and laypersons did leave behind death poems, Hoffmann reminds that there were others who refused to do so, or who openly disagreed with the custom. It's more accurate I think to view the death poem primarily as a cultural custom that some Zen practitioners followed, rather than something connected specifically to Zen practice or to the Zen understanding of what an ideal practitioner's death looks like.

In that vein, Hoffman's book also contains a few instances of poems which mock death poems. My favorite...

The dying monk
looks as if
he knew it all.


In any case, I suspect you'd enjoy it.

~ Meido
Even though you have attained insight into the True Nature (kensho), there is yet the barrier of differentiation, and there is the One Path of Advanced Practice. If you have not yet even seen into the True Nature, what a lot there is yet to do! - Torei

The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice
Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org
Madison, WI Rinzai Zen Community [機山龍源寺] - http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org
The Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.rinzaizen.org

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Re: Jisei: Zen Death Poems

Post by Bankei » Sun Oct 20, 2013 4:39 am

Hi Meido,

Thanks for that. I actually have that book too and agree it is a good one, but it would be great if this too had the original poem in japanese/chinese and also modern Japanese translation.

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