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Wang Wei

March 19, 2012

by Stephen Damon

Often a line from a poem or a turning phrase from a koan will appear in the silence of a morning sitting, the way a feathery cloud appears on the horizon of a perfectly blue sky.  But unlike the clouds above, these kinds of things seem to come from the earth—from the ground of my being.  They are phrases of others that I’ve studied but now seem to come from me. This morning the opening lines of Wang Wei’s poem, “My Cottage at Deep South Mountain” appeared: In my middle years I have grown fond of the Tao. The Japanese for “study” is “narau,” which means “to get accustomed to,” “to be familiar with,” or “intimate with.” Over the years I have become more and more familiar with the poem’s phrasings and images.   I remember when the poem was given to me by my first Zen teacher as something to keep with me as a guidebook for the inner life.  Over the years,  I have found my own way through the treacherous terrain of Deep South Mountain, but I still keep this poem now faded and dog-eared with me. I’d like to share it with you:

In my middle years I have grown fond of the Tao
and by Deep South Mountain I make my home.
When happy I go alone into the mountains.
Seeing only the sights that I can see.
I walk until the water ends, and sit
waiting for the hour when clouds rise.
If I happen to meet an old woodcutter,
I chat with him, laughing and lost to time.



From → Zen Buddhism

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