I am flicking through the virtual pages of the latest treasure handed over by Kazuaki Tanahashi, a pricelesss collection of a bunch of Ryokan selected poems, which with some other Dogen stuff and Santoka bullshit haiku would be my desert island book. Ryokan was a homeless, filthy, stincky beggar, priest without student, lover of poetry and the Lotus Sutra, who used to roam Japan 200 years ago and is now seen as an very clear manifestation of Kannon. The book is called Sky Above, Great Wind, the title is from a famous piece of calligraphy Ryokan gave a boy who wanted to turn the written paper into a flying kite. This is as good as it gets, I worked on a couple of poems with a Japanese friend , and I am surprised to see that Kaz's translation is almost identical to what we came up with. Out of everything I know in English and French, this is the very best.
Rain frogstake great care
my scrubbing of the pot
The cloud covered sky
is all open.
the heart of Takuhatsu*
as it is~
a gift from heaven
*ritual begging wearing a large straw hat, robes and with a begging bowl
You see the moon by pointing your finger.
You recognize the finger by the moon.
The moon and the finger are not different. not the same.
In order to guide a beginner,
this analogy is temporaly used.
When you have realized this,
there is no moon, no finger.
And this wonderful description of his life and the action of sitting:
Rags upon rags,
tatter is my life.
I pluck my food on a country path.
My hut is buried in a tangle of weeds.
Looking at the moon, I hum all night;
deluded by blossoms, I forget to return.
Since leaving the monastery
what a fool I have become!