Deep in the Mountains, Saigo

Deep in mountains

The moon to the mind

Shines brightly so

It’s Light mirrors all things,

Like an enlightened mind.

Saigyō, 1118-1190

Every great poet reads and is inspired by other great poets.

Saigyō

Satō Norikiyo (西行法師, Saigyō, 1118-1190) was born in Kyoto to a noble family. Emulating Siddhārtha, at age 22, he quit worldly life, becoming a monk. In his three score and a dozen years, he took many long, poetic journeys to the north of Japan.

And so, five hundred years later, … inspire Bashō and his Narrow Road to the Interior. And four hundred years later inspire me:

Lovely thought, I think,

Do you?

An enlightened mind

Original Japanese Characters

深き山に 心の月し すみぬれば

鏡に四方の 悟りをぞ見る

fukaki yama ni kokoro no tsuki shi suminureba

kagami ni yomo no satori o zo miru

Notes on Translation

心 is an ethereal concept encompassing many things including: heart, mind, thought, idea, intention, center, and core. One wonders if a single word can convey an image. One wonders if everything is changing, in a state of flux, so to speak, temporary and ephemeral. “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river, and he’s not the same man.” Heraclitus, 6th century BC.

Saigo, Basho, and you, gentle reader see the same sun rise each morning.

Enjoy the moment!

Stone upon stone

Saigo’s lovely thought was in turn based on a verse dialogue between Yuquan Shenxiu (玉泉神秀, 606?–706), Patriarch of Chan Buddhism, and Dàjiàn Huineng (大鑒惠能, 638-713) Tang Dynasty eminent monk. (638—713)唐代高僧。

Our body is the Bodhi-tree
And our mind a mirror bright.
Carefully we clean them hour by hour
And let no dust alight.

“Wisdom has no tree, no stand of a mirror bright. Since all is a void (everything is nothing), where can dust alight?” 

Basho took a different path, “Learn about the pine tree from the pine, about bamboo from bamboo.” meaning that Nature is diverse.

Upon the Shoulders of Giants

Inspired thought comes by standing on the shoulders of others, using their insights to further ours. The image can be traced to the 12th century philosopher, Bernard of Chartres. Its most familiar English expression is”If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” Isaac Newton, 1675. The idea is however ancient, Confucius also having said similar things.

From parent to child, from teacher to student, we are inspired, we inspire.

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