December 20th, 2009

Ryokan: You stop to point at the moon in the sky

Ryokan: You stop to point at the moon in the sky

Ryokan's poems do not "grab" me like many do, but I like them; and they are full of imagery and metaphor from nature, flowers, grasses, trees, rocks, water, and especially, the moon.

I put Ryokan in my journal because he (along with Dorothy Day) is my hero. He is called foolish and his behavior is described as "antics" but to me he captures beautifully the spirit of Zen. and therefore the Tao, and therefore the practical aspects of all mysticism.

If I truly believe that all is one, why would I be concerned if someone "stole" "my" "possessions." There is no "my," there are no "possessions," therefore how can anyone steal from me. Ryokan simply lives out the detachment recommended by all mysticism. But why does he throw in something extra for the thief? Because of compassion, generosity, which is also recommended by the mystics.

But Ryokan is not impractical, in one story, he asks the thief to leave him enough money to pay his taxes the following day, The theif obliges willingly. And in the most famous story, the thief is eventually caught (he evidently also stole from less detached and compassionate victims). Ryokan refuses to testify against him, and later accepts him as a student.