From the BlogMeet Ron


Dear friends,

Just wanted to share with you a poem by the Gary Snyder, a long time Zen Buddhist practitioner and Pulitzer Prize winning poet, essayist and environmental activist.

Mu Ch’I’s Persimmons

There is no remedy for satisfying hunger other than a painted rice cake.
—Dōgen, November, 1242.

On a back wall down the hall

lit by a side glass door

is the scroll of Mu Ch’i’s great
sumi painting, “Persimmons”

The wind-weights hanging from the
axles hold it still.

The best in the world, I say,
of persimmons.

Perfect statement of emptiness
no other than form

the twig and the stalk still on,
the way they sell them in the
market even now.

The original’s in Kyoto at a
lovely Rinzai temple where they
show it once a year

this one’s a perfect copy from Benrido
I chose the mounting elements myself
with the advice of the mounter

I hang it every fall.

And now, to these overripe persimmons
from Mike and Barbara’s orchard.
Napkin in hand,
I bend over the sink
suck the sweet orange goop
that’s how I like it
gripping a little twig

those painted persimmons

sure cure hunger

Mu Chi was a Zen monk in 13th century Japan.

He is famous for his “religious” (Zen) paintings that did not depict any Buddhist symbols at all — no Buddhas or bodhisattvas or any other celestial beings, no heavens or hells, no paradise scenes, no mandalas.

Just simple, unadorned, everyday objects, as they are, with “nothing holy about them.”

The whole universe is right there in Mu Chi’s persimmons. What else do we need? But we don’t want persimmons; we seem to crave something holy or sacred or deep.

This is the lesson Bodhidharma gave Emperor Wu.

The Emperor was a devoted Buddhist practitioner who spent a lot of money to build temples all across China. He traveled a great distance to see Bodhidharma, the greatest Zen master of the day, because he wanted Bodhidharma’s approval for all his great work. He wanted to be recognized by the fabled sage from India.

“What is the significance of what I have done?” Emperor Wu asked.

Bodhidharma replied, “No significance!”

In looking for Bodhidharma’s approval, Emperor Wu had missed seeing reality “as it is”. He missed the essence of life because he was distracted by his need for validation, his craving for attention.

Emperor Wu was dumbfounded and asked another way.

Bodhidharma cut him off by summarizing his teaching as:

“A vast emptiness, with nothing holy about it.”

I think this teaching is so striking because we often don’t feel whole.
We crave for the holy outside.

We want things to be different than the way they are = discontent.

The holiness of life is just here in the wholeness of things just as they are.
Mu Chi was a contemporary of Dogen.

You may remember I cite these four lines of Dogen’s frequently on Thursdays:

To study Buddhism is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be intimate with all life.

When you take in Mu Chi’s simple painting — don’t you feel this intimacy?

Have a wonderful rest of your week.

Tom, Katina, Kupaianaha … and Uilalani in NY

Ron Richey
3856A Claudine St.
Honolulu, Hi 96816

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