Stonehouse (Shiwu, Shih-wu) Verses

March 6, 2013

Shiwu or Stonehouse (1272–1352) was a Chinese Zen poet and hermit who lived during the Yuan Dynasty.  After living in a hut for 20 years, he became abbot of Fuyuan temple for 8 years.  He returned to his mountain hut and composed the “Mountain Poems” (Shan-shih). The translation of his work is by Red Pine  THE ZEN WORKS OF STONEHOUSE: POEMS AND TALKS OF A FOURTEENTH-CENTURY CHINESE HERMIT

These are the verses from the recent talk.  I have deleted my comments so that they can appreciated from the perspective of today.


This body’s existence is like a bubble’s

may as well accept what happens

events and hopes seldom agree

but who can step back doesn’t worry


We blossom and fade like flowers

gather and part like clouds

worldly thoughts I forgot long ago

withering away on a mountain peak.


Nothing is better than being free, but getting free is not luck.


Not one care in mind all year
I find enough joy every day in my hut
and after a meal and a pot of strong tea
I sit on a rock by a pond and count fish.


Koan Excerpt

Without knowing what’s coming, the cricket sings beside the golden well.  Shining for no reason, the moon before the shrine hall announces early autumn.  If you can unite limitless worlds into a single speck of dust, and let every speck of dust be a great sea of enlightenment, if you can combine ten lifetimes into a single thought and let every thoughts be the day of release, the leave here like this, without taking roads, much less a staff or bundle or tightly woven shoes, and with leaving your footprints throughout the four quarter a thousand miles from home.

If you think Zen practice means traveling across rivers and mountains in search of a teacher or (the Way), your’re just running around like lost fools.  Even if you jump as high as the thirty-third heaven in the blink of an eye, or circle Mount Sumaru and its perfumed sea a million times. . . .  Grabbing his staff and raising it, the master said, You still can’t leave here.