Some “Buddhist” Poems for National Poetry Day

Today is National Poetry Day when Britain is encouraged to “break the tyranny of prose for 24 hours by sharing poetry in every conceivable way.”

Here are a selection of Buddhist poems and poems with a “Buddhist” theme to them for the day…

Wind and Rain

Wind and rain,
Mara again
But no, I don’t feel no pain
Wind and rain,
Trying to drive me insane
But I know it’s all in the brain

Demons, demons!
At it again
Trying to mind-hack me once more
Her body so fine,
But there’s no gold mine
Behind the exterior

Sensations are temporal,
Their value material
And I’ve glimpsed beyond this lower realm
If you ain’t got wisdom,
You better get spiritual
I’ll see you in the next life,
Yes, I’ll see you in the next life

Ashley Burns

Ode I. 11

Leucon, no one’s allowed to know his fate,
Not you, not me: don’t ask, don’t hunt for answers
In tea leaves or palms. Be patient with whatever comes.
This could be our last winter, it could be many
More, pounding the Tuscan Sea on these rocks:
Do what you must, be wise, cut your vines
And forget about hope. Time goes running, even
As we talk. Take the present, the future’s no one’s affair.

Horace (Roman, 65-8 BCE)

Night Prologue

Warm at centre, on a long winter’s night.
Through the bone-cage, through the breathflow,
buds of silence are opening out:
awareness shimmers; suffusions glow;
the heart is listening, translucent, bright;
a filigree pulse unbinds my head.

This joy – what is this lovely drawing near,
gathering up horizons, moulding attention?
A spring, welling up through still zero;
a turning tide that unbends intention
into a resonance that enshrines us here:
bare room; a small lamp; presence, burning.

Shine: let my colours find the axis.
And my soft-edged shadow feel your turning.

Ajahn Sucitto

And now, why poetry matters…………………………

 

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A Buddhist Poem for World Poetry Day

Here’s a poem by Kenji Miyazawa – “Strong In The Rain” (Ame ni mo Makezu) for World Poetry Day.

 

Strong in the rain
Strong in the wind
Strong against the summer heat and snow
He is healthy and robust
Unselfish
He never loses his temper
Nor the quiet smile on his lips
He eats four go of unpolished rice
Miso and a few vegetables a day
He does not consider himself
In whatever occurs…his understanding
Comes from observation and experience
And he never loses sight of things
He lives in a little thatched-roof hut
In a field in the shadows of a pine tree grove
If there is a sick child in the east
He goes there to nurse the child
If there’s a tired mother in the west
He goes to her and carries her sheaves
If someone is near death in the south
He goes and says, “Don’t be afraid”
If there’s strife and lawsuits in the north
He demands that the people put an end to their pettiness
He weeps at the time of drought
He plods about at a loss during the cold summer
Everyone calls him “Blockhead”
No one sings his praises
Or takes him to heart…
That is the sort of person
I want to be.
 

World Poetry Day is today, the 21 March, and was declared by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) in 1999. The purpose of the day is to promote the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout the world and, as the UNESCO session declaring the day says, to “give fresh recognition and impetus to national, regional and international poetry movements”.

A Poem That I Like

When I visited the Newport Soto Zen Group the other week Val, one of the group’s members, offered a reading from an English rendering of the Satapañcasatka otherwise known as Matrceta’s Hymn to the Buddha. The translation is by Ven. S. Dhammika……

 

In Praise of Benefits Conferred
 
Just to hear you brings joy; 
just to look upon you calms the heart; 
your speech refreshes and your teaching frees. 
 
People rejoice at your birth, 
they celebrate as you grow, 
they benefit from your presence 
and sorrow in your absence. 
 
To praise you removes faults, 
to recollect you brings joy, 
to follow you gives understanding, 
to know you purifies the heart. 
 
To approach you brings good fortune, 
to serve you gives wisdom, 
to worship you dispels fear, 
to wait upon you bestows prosperity . 
 
You are a great lake of goodness, 
with waters purified by virtue, 
surface calmed by meditation 
and depths stilled by wisdom. 
 
Your form is a jewel to see, 
your speech is a jewel to hear, 
your teachings are a jewel to reflect upon. 
Truly, you are a mine bearing the jewels of goodness. 
 
You are an island for those swept along by the flood, 
a shelter for the stricken, 
a refuge for those in fear of becoming, 
a resort for those who aspire to liberation. 
 
To, all living beings 
you are a useful vessel because of your virtue, 
a fertile field because of your perfect fruit, 
a true friend because of the benefits you confer. 
 
You are admired for your altruism, 
charming for your tenderness, 
beloved for your gentleness 
and honoured for your many virtues. 
 
You are cherished because of your flawlessness, 
delightful because of the goodness of your form and speech, 
opulent because you promote the good of all, 
and blessed because you are the abode of virtues. 

Leonard Cohen 1934 – 2016

 

Leonard Cohen, poet, singer and Buddhist monk wrote this letter to Marianne Ihlen, his muse, his lover and the subject of his song So Long Marianne and the inspiration behind Bird on the Wire, on hearing of her impending death.

“Well Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.

And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and for your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey.

Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.”

Leonard Cohen died early today…………………………….

 

National Poetry Day

Back in March we posted some Buddhist poems for World Poetry Day. Well, today is National Poetry Day so here are two poems by one of my favourite British Buddhist poets, Wendy Stern……………..
Every day

Every day,
Every day it seems
A raindrop rests in the crook of a fragile willow branch
Outside my window.

Not all day,
But at a precise and special moment
As if by some strange and prearranged agreement.

It is a glow infused with light,
Effortlessly yet magnificently reflecting the early spring sunlight.

Does it cling,
Clutching ferociously with all its might,
Trembling, terrified
Of that which is to come,
That which is yet to face it
As the gentle breeze quivers the surrounding leaves,
Rouses and awakens the freshly formed blossom,
Lightly brushes against your cheek should you notice it?

Or does it rest,
Nestling in its willow branch home
Undisturbed, idle,
Complacent and unbothered even –
Just is?

Will we ever know?

Every day,
Every day it seems
A raindrop rests in the crook of a fragile willow branch
Outside my window.

Trapped on the inside

Life came to me today,
Through my window,
All feathers and passion,
With more colour, intensity, swiftness and determination
Than perhaps I’ve ever known before.

It perched, finally,
Trapped on the inside for once,
And it looked at me.
I spoke to it, calming it,
And then I set it free.

Life came to me today,
Trapped on the inside for once.

(Wendy is a Buddhist and poet living in Bristol, in the west of England. For many years she has been completely bedridden, and her poetry therefore comes from this unusual perspective.)

Leonard Cohen’s Goodbye to Marianne

Leonard Cohen wrote this letter to Marianne Ihlen, his muse, his lover and the subject of his song So Long Marianne and the inspiration behind Bird on the Wire, on hearing of her impending death.

“Well Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.

And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and for your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey.

Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.”



She died in Norway on the 29th of July at the age of 81 of leukaemia.

Leonard Cohen was ordained a Zen Buddhist monk in 1996.

Some Buddhist Poems for World Poetry Day

Today is World Poetry Day.

One of the main objectives of the Day is to support linguistic diversity through poetic expression and to offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their communities.

The observance of World Poetry Day is also meant to encourage a return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals, to promote the teaching of poetry, to restore a dialogue between poetry and the other arts such as theatre, dance, music and painting, and to support small publishers and create an attractive image of poetry in the media, so that the art of poetry will no longer be considered an outdated form of art, but one which enables society as a whole to regain and assert its identity.

TODAY
This day is a special day, it is yours.
Yesterday slipped away, it cannot be filled anymore with meaning.
About tomorrow nothing is known.
But this day, today, is yours, make use of it. 
Today you can make someone happy. 
Today you can help another. 
This day is a special day, it is yours.
Vijaya Samarawickama

Shrine Room

I have no shrine room
There are no flowers
There is no smell of incense burning in the room
There are no candles flickering gently
 
No meditation stool
No other bodies positioned round me
There is just me
 
What do I have?
I have a bed beneath me
I have my breath coming in, flowing out
And some, at least, awareness
I have pain in my body
And the cool detachment of moments of mindfulness
 
May that be enough
May I be well, may I be happy
May I be free from suffering
May I be at peace
Wendy Stern

 

(Wendy is a Buddhist and poet living in Bristol, in the west of England. For many years she has been completely bedridden, and her poetry therefore comes from this unusual perspective.)

Butsumon – The Gate of the Buddha

 

Before the mountain and by grace
of nature
I was allowed to realise “Oh!
I am only a child!”
Tendered by spruce and birds
I saw without my usual defences
and endless thinking I know
anything or everything
coming between me
and creation.
Myochi Roko Sherry Chayat