"Stop Chasing After So Many Things" - Ryokan and Wang Wei

When I am in need of a sense of perspective, I often turn to the poetry of Ryokan (1758-1831) or Wang Wei (c. 701-761). Ryokan was a Zen monk who lived much of his life in a hut in the wooded hills near the coast of the Sea of Japan. (Present-day Niigata Prefecture.) He is one of the most beloved of Japanese poets, valued for his humility, his simplicity, and his integrity.

My hut lies in the middle of a dense forest;
Every year the green ivy grows longer.
No news of the affairs of men,
Only the occasional song of a woodcutter.
The sun shines and I mend my robe;
When the moon comes out I read Buddhist poems.
I have nothing to report, my friends.
If you want to find the meaning, stop chasing after so many things.

-- John Stevens (translator), One Robe, One Bowl: The Zen Poetry of Ryokan (1977)

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