Howardism Musings from my Awakening Dementia
My collected thoughts flamed by hubris
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Deserted mountains - not a man is seen,
Only the sounds of wind can be heard.
The sunbeam, entering the deep woods,
Reflects again, on the green moss.

—Han Shan (8th century)

hey howard. forget the millions. if you really want what stonehouse had, i'm sure you could have it. follow your breath. (i'm talking to myself, too)


there are many words on this page.
clattering in a bucket.
chase money or not, don't worry.
you haven't attained satori.
your hand on the mouse.


"I find enough joy every day in my hut" poem 118- the joy that can be had in a hut can be had in a palace too! you dont have to wait for your retirement- satori is being here and now. but its easier said than done, i am in the same boat as you. trying to make millions and then retire- but i wonder if it ever happens!

—a zen fan

Good to see depth-poetry shared! Regards


The Poetry of Stonehouse

I don't understand koans and I'm sure I won't reach satori, but I sure do love the poetry written by Zen masters and monks. Lately, I've been reading the poetry of a Zen monk named Stonehouse (translated by Red Pine). I thought I would just share some of my favorites.

Before I ramble on about Stonehouse's poetry, let me introduce my background to Zen poetry. I have often thought a "Zen poem" would be a description of natural scenes, haunting and beautiful, but perhaps purposeless, even pointless.

Perhaps that is the actual point of Zen poetry. An attempt to break a person out of their conventional views. To wake them from their sleep of illusions into the true reality.

Not one care in mind all year
I find enough joy every day in my hut
and after a meal and a pot of strong tea
I sit on a rock by a pond and count fish

Poem 118

Regardless, in contrast to such lofty goals, the poems of Stonehouse are quite unpretentious. He abandoned life at the Zen temples in China to live at the tops of a mountain in a secluded world. Some fellow monks gave him some paper and asked him to write down his "thoughts." His "Mountain Poems" are the result.

In reading these poems, I've felt like I was transported to an unfamiliar world of the life of a monk. A simple life of solitude and work to survive. Some of his poems are downright cute and others you'll hear him complain. Many of them even have some point. ;-)

The stream is clear enough to see pebbles
my ungabled hut sits among vines
gibbons howl late at night when the moon
few guests get past the moss below the cliffs bamboos in the yard bend with spring snow
plum trees on the ridge are gnarled by winter nights
the solitude of this path isn't old or new
grinding a brick on a rock is a waste

Poem 15

For example, Poem #15, like many poems from the world of Zen monks, it begins with an apt description of a natural scene, but ends with poem-provoking thought. The problem in this example, is that people in America are unfamiliar with the background.

So allow me to paraphrase the translator's footnote: A Zen master saw a monk meditating and asked him what he was doing. He replied that he was trying to become a Buddha. The zen master then picked up a rock and started rubbing it against a bolder. The monk asked him what he was doing. The master replied that he was trying to grind a mirror.

A clean patch of ground after it rains
an ancient pine half-covered with moss
such scenes appear before us all
but how we use them isn't the same

Poem 99

In other words, Buddhism teach that a person needs to end his suffering by ending desire … a life of "detachment," but isn't a goal, even the goal of detachment, a desire?

And so, the goal of solitude to become enlightened can't be a desire. But still he stands like a plum tree on a cliff to be gnarled by the winter winds.

However, in another of his poems, Stonehouse complains that in trying to get rid of all thoughts, he struggles with that last thought of having no thoughts.

My home is secluded far from the world
the moss and woods are thick and the plants perfumed
I can see mountains rain or shine
all day I hear no market noise
I light a few leaves to make tea on my stove
to patch my robe I cut a cloud whisp
lifetimes seldom fill a hundred years
why bother chasing profit or fame

Poem 13

So, let's be honest here. I often read for the joy of escape. And I guess I just love to read these poems … almost stories as you can guess as the events or thoughts that provoked the poem. But I like to read the poems and pretend that I am a monk living out my days in quiet solitude with little to disturb my peace. I like to think that my retirement, after I've made my millions, will be like the poems in his book.

Perhaps I need to stop my desire for millions and start my retirement earlier.

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