A Buddhist Journal

August 21, 2006

Zen Poem Study – Small Pond 小塘

” />   Countryside in Thailand

Photo Courtesy by a Great Young Photographer ZiFeng/Flickr






Small Pond

Window front has a half acre of land there unused.
Dug it out and a square water pond was made.

Temporary shadows of moving clouds visited.
Moonlight shines whenever moon appears.

Plants were watered for cultivating the beauty lent by spring blossom,
Ink fragrant spreaded out after inkslab was washed with pond water.

There just be the water in pond,
I almost forgot it, from my calm and tranquil mind.

————-Ancient Chinese Zen poem
by Zen master Yung-Chuie Yuen-Xien (1578-1657) —————

Zen Poem Study:

The first 2 paragraphs use 10 Chinese words to describe
the pond location, size and its independent arisen cause.
The land left unused there, so he makes good use of it in a natural way.

The 3rd and 4th paragraphs describe what happens in pond.
Clouds are the visitor in the daytime. Moonlight is the invited guest in the
night. There are so many beautiful changes on the surface of water pond
from daylight to dark in a day. However there is no attachment to the nature
of water itself.
The 5th and 6th paragraphs:
The author’s life is very easy and free. He starts using the pond water to
cultivate his own garden, meantime he takes the advantage in observing
how the upcoming seasonal beauty of spring blossom will bring to him.
He practiced the same way for his spiritual liberation as how he follows
the law of natural world for his gardening. He cultivates in a easy natural
way and he deserves a good harvest at the end.

He uses Chinese brush pens for writing his poems. Chinese calligraphic
writing needs inkstick and inkslab. Inkslab has to be maintained and cleaned
from time to time. He uses the pond water to wash it. There is Ink fragrant 
spreads off when he washes it.

Reflection from this Zen poem:

The author lives himself into the natural world. He carefully observes what
is happening around him and senses it by his bodily organs. He also writes
and puts his hands-on for the gardening works as part of his practicing life.
He practices with his full-mindfulness and always remains awakening for
his doing.
A simple small water pond brought him a joyful life. Although clouds come
and go, moonlight comes and goes. It changes the reflection from daylight
to dark on the water, but the water in pond is till the water and has not change
the character. It can also be utilized for gardening and for washing other things.
Here in this poem, the author conveys his message that for a Zen practitioner 
whose mind shall always remains calm and tranquil just like this water pond
no matter what he does. In fact, the small pond water in this poem represents
the mind status of author through Zen practice.


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