Poems Related to the Dharma


Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at peace.
Watch the turmoil of beings,
but contemplate their return.

East separate being in the universe
returns to the common source.
Returning to the source is serenity.

If you don’t realize the source,
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
disinterested, amused,
kindhearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,
you can deal with whatever life brings you,
and when death comes, you are ready.

Translated by Stephen Mitchell

Two Clouds
by Dan Gerber

These songs may be known without singing

Five black crows
who steal corn

A pine forest
surrounding individual trees

A power line leading
to an empty field

One brown apple
sweet beyond tasting

Two clouds
that pass only for clouds

Abū Nuwās (747-813)

  1. The man hardened with passion is a weary man, deep emotion unsteadies him.
  2. If he weeps, it is right that he should; what he is charged with is no joke.
  3. Whensover one cause of my pains comes to an end, another cause returns from you to me.
  4. You are laughing lightheartedly, whilst the lover bursts into tears.
  5. You marvel at my sickness; that I am hale and hearty—that is the true marvel.
Translated by A. J. Arberry

Bunan (1603-1676)

Die while you’re alive
and be absolutely dead.
Then do whatever you want:
it’s all good.

Translated by Stephen Mitchell