I would like to share a poem with you. This poem was translated by Taigen Daniel Leighton and is part of a terrific book for Dharma freaks Cultivating the Empty Field: The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi (Tuttle Library of Enlightenment),The Song of the grass hut was written a long time ago by Sekito Kisen, our Chinese ancestor who you are already familiar with because you are studying another poem he wrote, the Sandokai, a part of the daily chanting menu of all Soto Zen temples. Of course, I was trained as a big headed scholar but I am not into explanations and complicated philosophy anymore (still love it, I must confess) I just wanted to share with you a bit of my experience with Zen poems. How can one make use of this Zen poem? What to do with a Zen poem? Pretty useless thing actually. Poems, and Zen poems especialy, are good for nothing (that's why we like them, we can't buy anything with them, cheap things, they are as free as the wind or poppies in summer) You may first give it a loud rendition but not as a sacred something. Just as you would welcome a vistor, having a friend for tea. Nothing special or holy here. And then, get on with your life, and... forget it. A great part of our practice is to forget: forgetting is allowing, the poem will come back and permeate your vision of dogs, buses and supermarket shelves, it will just make all these living poems more obvious to you, and you will see beauty in simple stuff, bits and bobs, for wonder will be your friend.The poem will turn into flesh and bones and light and darkness, as you live-sit-go-come-go, just read and forget. Of course, you may study it and discuss it ( and pleaaaaase, share your impressions below!!!), it is rather easy to grasp that it is all about the core practice of our school: just sitting. A big chunk of Fukanzazengi is already written there. But I must say I still prefer the grass hut to the treasure room...and what Jundo teaches all the time, you know the "when you let the Samsara be the Samsara...", well, just read the four last verses. If you ever doubted it, I think those two are talking about excatly the same good old-new thing!
The song of the grass hut
?I?ve built a grass hut where there?s nothing of value.
After eating, I relax and enjoy a nap.
When it was completed, fresh weeds appeared.
Now it?s been lived in, covered by weeds.
The person in the hut lives here calmly,
not stuck to inside, outside, or in-between.
Places worldly people live, he doesn?t live.
Realms worldly people love, she doesn?t love.
Though the hut is small, it includes the entire world.
In ten feet square, an old man illumines forms and their nature.
A Mahayana bodhisattva trusts without doubt.
The middling or lowly can?t help wondering;
Will this hut perish or not?
Perishable or not, the original master is present,
Not dwelling south or north, east or west.
Firmly based on steadiness, it can?t be surpassed.
A shining window below the green pines —
Jade palaces or vermilion towers can?t compare with it.
Just sitting with head covered all things are at rest.
Thus, this mountain monk doesn?t understand at all.
Living here he no longer works to get free.
Who would proudly arrange seats, trying to entice guests?
Turn around the light to shine within, then just return.
The vast inconceivable source can?t be faced or turned away from.
Meet the ancestral teachers, be familiar with their instructions,
Bind grasses to build a hut, and don?t give up.
Let go of hundreds of years and relax completely.
Open your hands and walk, innocent.
Thousands of words, myriad interpretations,
Are only to free you from obstructions.
If you want to know the undying person in the hut,
Don?t separate from this skin bag here and now.
Shitou Xiqian (Sekito Kisen; 700-790)