Creative Muse:

Glimpses of the Dharma

Chinese Buddhist Poetry



Late in the Day, Gazing Out From a River Pavilion

Water to the horizon
veils the base of clouds;
mountain mist
blurs the far village.
Returning to nest, birds
make tracks in the sand;
passing on the river, a boat
leaves no trace on the waves.
I gaze at the water
and know its gentle nature;
watch the mountains
until my spirit tires.
Though not yet ready
to leave off musing,
dusk falls,
and I return by horse.

- Chia Tao (779-843)

as flowing waters disappear into the mist
we lose all track of their passage
every heart is its own Buddha
ease off; become immortal
wake up: the world's a mote of dust
behold heaven's round mirror
turn loose: slip past shape and shadow
sit side by side with nothing -- save Tao
mountain sounds carry a chill wisdom
an upwelling spring whispers subtle tales
pine breezes stir the fire beneath my tea
bamboo shadows soak deep into my robe
I grind my ink: clouds scraping across the crags
copy out a verse: birds settling on branches
as the world rolls right on by
its every turn tracing out non-action

- Shih-shu (late 17th century - early 18th century)


Poetry excerpted from The Clouds Should Know Me by Now: Buddhist Poet Monks of China, edited by Red Pine and Mike O'Connor

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