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Thread: Childlike, joy, wonder and simplicity

  1. #1

    Childlike, joy, wonder and simplicity

    Early spring
    The landscape is tinged with the first
    fresh hints of green
    Now I take my wooden begging bowl
    And wander carefree through town
    The moment the children see me
    They scamper off gleefully to bring their friends
    They’re waiting for me at the temple gate
    Tugging from all sides so I can barely walk
    I leave my bowl on a white rock
    Hang my pilgrim’s bag on a pine tree branch
    First we duel with blades of grass
    Then we play ball
    While I bounce the ball, they sing the song
    Then I sing the song and they bounce the ball
    Caught up in the excitement of the game
    We forget completely about the time
    Passersby turn and question me:
    “Why are you carrying on like this?”
    I just shake my head without answering
    Even if I were able to say something
    how could I explain?
    Do you really want to know the meaning of it all?
    This is it! This is it!

    -Ryokan, Japanese Soto Zen poet (1758–1831)

    Is the childlike joy, wonder and simplicity of Ryokan in this poem just the icing on the cake of this practice?

    Or is childlike joy, wonder and simplicity of Ryokan to be found in living each moment wholeheartedly itself?

    Or what do you get or what’s your interpretation?
    Last edited by StoBird; 09-25-2020 at 06:06 AM.

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by StoBird View Post
    Early spring
    The landscape is tinged with the first
    fresh hints of green
    Now I take my wooden begging bowl
    And wander carefree through town
    The moment the children see me
    They scamper off gleefully to bring their friends
    They’re waiting for me at the temple gate
    Tugging from all sides so I can barely walk
    I leave my bowl on a white rock
    Hang my pilgrim’s bag on a pine tree branch
    First we duel with blades of grass
    Then we play ball
    While I bounce the ball, they sing the song
    Then I sing the song and they bounce the ball
    Caught up in the excitement of the game
    We forget completely about the time
    Passersby turn and question me:
    “Why are you carrying on like this?”
    I just shake my head without answering
    Even if I were able to say something
    how could I explain?
    Do you really want to know the meaning of it all?
    This is it! This is it!

    -Ryokan, Japanese Soto Zen poet (1758–1831)

    Is the childlike joy, wonder and simplicity of Ryokan in this poem just the icing on the cake of this practice?

    Or is childlike joy, wonder and simplicity of Ryokan to be found in living each moment wholeheartedly itself?

    Or what do you get or what’s your interpretation?
    Love Ryokan!
    What I still got since childhood (so not an effect of practice, though I feel like my practice started long before I've heard of Buddhism) are curiosity, wonder and happiness (I'm not sure if the last one is the right word but I can't describe it). Even in the darkest moments, in depression, when in trouble I had a deep underlying sense of happiness, even in the darkness I saw its rays beaming shyly through, even when lost I felt that I belong. There may have been no joy, laughter but tears and despair - yet deep inside I sensed there's more to it than what I'm experiencing and that everything is as it should be.
    The "official" fruits of practice that I've noticed relate more to the fact that I started observing my mind, particularly paying attention to the moment before a thought or reaction to something appears. It gave me more freedom in the ways how I deal with daily situations - habitual patterns are not so strong any more.

    Sorry for going over three sentences.
    Gassho
    Sat

  3. #3
    Member RobD's Avatar
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    I'm slowly working my way through a book of Ryokan's work myself these days—he's one of my favorites!

    Personally, I think that much of Ryokan's childlike sense of playfulness/wonder, was just his natural personality shining through, but at the same time, I'm sure that his Zen practice played a role in nurturing that attitude.

    We'll, that doesn't really answer the question. Sorry. I do find that through practice, I'm more open to experiencing/enjoying the little things in life, so I suppose that some of his attitude could be a direct result of Zen practice, but again, it could also be different for each of us depending on our personalities, etc.

    Gassho,
    Rob

    -stlah-


    Sent from my Pixel 2 XL using Tapatalk
    Last edited by RobD; 09-25-2020 at 12:57 PM.

  4. #4
    I think that this practice really does point to that childlike wonder and awe. I think a lot of the words of the teachers that have been handed down and our current teacher is pointing to this. I think that's why it's impossible to really grasp some of this intellectually, e.g. the Heart Sutra. It just doesn't compute. I think that's why Dogen pointed out enlightenment is practice, but it takes a while to realize that. The point of practice is practice for practice's sake to taste this - this ineffable wonder of how everything is. We can't necessarily understand it, but we can experience that sort of like in "Enter the Dragon" when Bruce Lee's character says: "It is like a finger pointing to the moon. Do not focus on the finger or you will miss all the heavenly glory."

    But the heavenly glory isn't out there somewhere when things finally go "your" way or when you can live in that mountain retreat or in that fancy house. This is heaven now. And when you see a poetic master like Ryokan show how even just a simple thing like a leaf floating to the ground is so perfectly perfect beyond anything we could ever conceive, it's incredible.

    And really - not to get too corny here but think about how wondrous it is that you breathe - but is it you? IT just sort of does it. Or when you perceive - it just happens; or taste it just happens. These are all miracles. The fact that we can see color, or hear sound - and make sense of sound to make meaning of things. You could break this down as just some sort of electrical signal in the brain - but that electrical firing is absolutely incredible - it's magical.

    It's easy to take the sky, etc for granted, but why is anything at all like this? Why is it this way? I think there is a playfulness in practice and that is expressed in some Zen humor - you see it in koans. The whole thing is absurd. In a way it's a dream - a fantastic, crazy, twisted dream. Is any of this real? What's real anyway? But at the same time, we have to take care of this a great deal - it's as real as real is - even if what we perceive is fabricated by our mind so we can live here. It's so fantastic - words will never do it justice. We have to take care of each other; we have to be careful how we treat each other - we have to be careful about fixed viewpoints because how much do we really know anyway?

    If any words can sort of get to any modicum of wonder, in life etc I think it's poetry. I'm certainly no poet myself, but Ryokan's poetry or the language of Koans or Dogen - that type of language to me gets so close or as close as words can get to THIS. But practice is where it's at lol I also really dig the Chinese Zen master poetry - check out "Commentary on the Song of Awakening" or Ben Connelly's "Song of the Grass Hut". Those masters were wordsmiths but beyond that - I was reading some poetry that really hit me yesterday from the "Commentary on the Song of Awakening"

    Entering the deep mountains, I live in a hermitage
    Under a great pine on a steep peak overhanging the abyss.
    I sit tranquilly and without care in my humble abode.
    Silent retreat, serene simplicity.
    It doesn't literally mean finding a cave in the mountains - it means like Jundo says - find that "spot" here and now amidst the cries of the world, amidst the panic and fear and anger and love and hate - become a child again - view things with awe, be thankful for things that have long since become rote. I think there is an awful lot of usefulness for such a useless practice.

    just some musings - Ryokan is fantastic

    Gassho

    Risho
    -stlah

    apologies for going over 3sentences
    Last edited by Risho; 09-25-2020 at 11:29 PM.

  5. #5
    think that's why it's impossible to really grasp some of this intellectually, e.g. the Heart Sutra. It just doesn't compute. I think that's why Dogen pointed out enlightenment is practice, but it takes a while to realize that. The point of practice is practice for practice's sake to taste this - this ineffable wonder of how everything is. We can't necessarily understand it, but we can experience that sort of like in "Enter the Dragon" when Bruce Lee's character says: "It is like a finger pointing to the moon. Do not focus on the finger or you will miss all the heavenly glory."


    Lovely, Risho! As you doubtless know, the finger pointing at the moon is a familiar idea in Zen, I think originating in the Śūraṅgama Sūtra, but I love that it appears in popular culture.

    I think that Rob makes a good point that a lot of the childlike behaviour may well have come naturally to Ryōkan but it is also true that Zen practice is fully and completely experiencing here and now which the same kind of openness as a child explores the world (Shunryu Suzuki almost certainly was pointing at the same thing with his idea of beginner's mind).

    During Ango, I am reading some of Nagarjuna's philosophy and teachings and at first I could make no sense of them. Then I realised that, in a similar way to the Heart Sutra, he is negating all of the ways that we try to fit the living and breathing world of experience into fixed and solid concepts. There is no other way to experience the taste of tea than to taste the tea (however much I might be beguiled by descriptions from internet tea stores!).

    If we look at Zen poetry as a whole, and culturally related forms such as haiku, we see they are filled with sense impressions from the present moment which allow us to see what they saw and hear what they heard. There is an immediacy of experience that reflects that childlike wonder. Ryōkan's pleasures were certainly rather more wholesome than those of Ikkyū but the immediacy of their words is very similar.

    one hundred sutras
    all at once
    the wind in the trees


    Apologies for more than three sentences.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday-
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  6. #6
    Kokuu,

    I love how you gift us with a beautiful turn of words...

    Gassho
    Anne

    ~lahst~

  7. #7
    What a lovely thread, thank you everyone for your posts.

    By chance I've been reading some of Ryokan's autumn poetry this week..

    From today the nights turn colder -
    I sew my tattered robe,
    The autumn insects cry.

    Gassho
    Meitou
    sattoday lah
    命 Mei - life
    島 Tou - island

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by StoBird View Post

    Is the childlike joy, wonder and simplicity of Ryokan in this poem just the icing on the cake of this practice?

    Or is childlike joy, wonder and simplicity of Ryokan to be found in living each moment wholeheartedly itself?
    Honestly, I asked myself the same question while reading the poem before I even read this! I think the answer is... yes.

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

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