Read One Robe, One Bowl: The Zen Poetry of Ryōkan by Ryōkan John Stevens Online


The hermit-monk Ryokan, long beloved in Japan both for his poetry and for his character, belongs in the tradition of the great Zen eccentrics of China and Japan. His reclusive life and celebration of nature and the natural life also bring to mind his younger American contemporary, Thoreau. Ryokan's poetry is that of the mature Zen master, its deceptive simplicity revealingThe hermit-monk Ryokan, long beloved in Japan both for his poetry and for his character, belongs in the tradition of the great Zen eccentrics of China and Japan. His reclusive life and celebration of nature and the natural life also bring to mind his younger American contemporary, Thoreau. Ryokan's poetry is that of the mature Zen master, its deceptive simplicity revealing an art that surpasses artifice. Although Ryokan was born in eighteenth-century Japan, his extraordinary poems, capturing in a few luminous phrases both the beauty and the pathos of human life, reach far beyond time and place to touch the springs of humanity....

Title : One Robe, One Bowl: The Zen Poetry of Ryōkan
Author :
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ISBN : 9780834805705
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 96 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

One Robe, One Bowl: The Zen Poetry of Ryōkan Reviews

  • Annet
    2019-02-17 12:17

    Beautiful poetry... Since last year I’ve read poems from Asia and have grown fond of these beautiful writings. This is a collection poems of Ryokan, a famous 18th century hermit-monk and Zen-buddhist, living in poverty and simplity in a hut in the Japanese mountains. His poety is charming and simple, wonderfully beautiful I find... He wrote many styles –classical Chinese, haiku, waka, folk songs and Man’yo style poems. Most of the poems are concerned with Ryokan’s daily life – begging for his food, playing with the children, visiting local farmers, walking through the fields and hills, drinking sake ;-) and describing the seasons and his moods, often melancholy. I especially liked the Waka and Haiku poems. ‘Twilight – the only conversationon this hillIs the wind blowing through the pines’… ‘As I watch the children happily playing, Without realizing it,My eyes fill with tears.'He must have been a special person and his poems beautiful. This booklet gave me some wonderful peace of mind in busy turbulent life…Truly recommended, close to five stars.

  • Peycho Kanev
    2019-02-14 19:24

    IF THERE is beauty, there must be ugliness;If there is right, there must be wrong.Wisdom and ignorance are complementary,And illusion and enlightenment cannot be separated.This is an old truth, don’t think it was discovered recently.“I want this, I want that”Is nothing but foolishness.I’ll tell you a secret—“All things are impermanent!”ALONE, wandering through the mountains,I come across an abandoned hermitage.The walls have crumbled, and there is only a path for foxes and rabbits.The well, next to an ancient bamboo grove, is dry.Spider webs cover a forgotten book of poems that lies beneath a window.Dust is piled on the floor,The stairway is completely hidden by the wild fall grasses.Crickets, disturbed by my unexpected visit, shriek.Looking up, I see the setting sun—unbearable loneliness.WHO SAYS my poems are poems?My poems are not poems.After you know my poems are not poems,Then we can begin to discuss poetry!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.EARLY summer—floating down a clear running river in a wooden boat,A lovely girl gently plays with a crimson lotus flower held in her white hands.The day becomes more and more brilliant.Young men play along the shoreAnd a horse runs by the willows.Watching quietly, speaking to no one,The beautiful girl does not show that her heart is broken.THE THIEF left it behind—the moonAt the window.

  • Thaisa Frank
    2019-02-05 19:26

    The thief left it behind-- the monAt the window.This is Ryokan's most famous haiku. Perhaps because he is the true thief,the secret thief. He has literally stolen the moon, given it to us outside the window so we see it as direct experience. However, Rokan's ability to create direct experience and to use language transparently to give us *the thing itself* is apparent in all these poems. They are precise descriptions of moments and emotions that always give the reader room to experience the event as though they are right in the midst of 18th century Japan. And becuse Ryokan is always personal and direct--without ever being confessional--they give us a clear sense of a particular man, as well as a door into universal experience. We experience his life in his hermitage, his being drnk on sake, his loss of a friend, and his bouts of inebriation (supposedly reserved for his trips to the villages--although it's hard to imagine Ryokan alone in his winter hermitage without sake.) Postmdoernist thought never eluded Ryokan. "Who says my poems are poems? My poems are not poems.After you now my poems are not poems, Then we can begin to discuss poetry!:For people who love poetry, haiku, language as a door to direct experience, as well as people who are interested in Japan and in Zen. Few people I can think of will not find something of value in this collection of poems by John Stevens.

  • Raven
    2019-02-01 13:33

    Some that I especially loved:"How can we ever lose interest in life? Spring has come againAnd cherry trees bloom in the mountains.I came to this village to see the peach blossoms but spent the day insteadLooking at the flowers along the river bank.Summer evening - the voice of a hototogisu rises from the mountainsAs I dream of the ancient poets.The willows are in full bloom! I want to pile up the blossomsLike mountain snow.When it is evening, please come to my hut to listen to the insects sing;I will also introduce you to the autumn fields.From today the nights turn colder -I sew my tattered robe,The autumn insects cry.Midautumn - the mountains are crimson and the sake and ink are ready,But still no visitors.The village has disappeared in the evening mist and the path is hard to follow.I return to my lonely hut, walking through the pines.Thinking about the people in this floating world far into the night - My sleeve is wet with tears.The thief left it behind -the moonAt the window.O, that my priest's robe were wide enough to gather all the suffering peopleIn this floating world.Months pass, days pile up, like one intoxicated dream - An old man sighs."

  • Jan Leent
    2019-01-21 16:38

    This translation and introduction by John Stevens is highly recommended for its beauty. It is also a marvellous introduction to the way of living of the Japanese hermit-monk RyokanOne example: after returning to his small hut - metaphor for clinging to his earthly ego? - Ryokan noticed that all was gone, he composed the haiku:The thief left behindthe moonAt the window.Another translation of this haiku:The thief leaves behind,the ever changeful Moonat the firmamentMoon is often used to refer to Tao; it also indicates the firm belief of Ryokan.

  • Patty
    2019-02-04 16:22

    “Not much to offer you Just a lotus flower, floatingIn a small jar of water.” p. 65This is the last book that I have to read for my Book Riot challenge. I haven’t done a challenge in years and when I discovered this one in May, I thought I could manage it. There were twenty-four categories and I read many of them regularly. It was no hardship for me to read a romance, a guilty pleasure, an audiobook, short stories or a YA novel. It turned out that reading poetry was a no brainer also. I used three books of poetry for the challenge.One Robe, One Bowl has been sitting on my TBA shelf for a long time. I don’t remember how I encountered it, but I am very glad that I took the time to read it. Most of the poems are short, many are haiku. Almost all of them are thought-provoking and worth several rereads. I will be revisiting this small volume on a regular basis.I know that lots of people think they don’t like poetry. I know that school almost completely drummed any interest out of me. However, as an adult, I have found many poems that speak to me. This collection includes some of those. Even if you don’t read Ryokan, try to find a poem or two that says something to you about life, love or nature. “My heart beats faster and faster and I cannot sleep.Tomorrow will be the first day of spring!”p. 73

  • Jessaka
    2019-02-03 20:29

    What a beautiful poet by a man who lived a very humble life. Ryokan was an 18th century hermit-monk who came from the village of Izumozaki in Echigo province of Japan. While his youth was serene, when he was 18, he succeeded his father as the village headman. This job was filled with many conflicts, something that Ryokan disliked immensely for he hated contention. At some point during this time he reached a spiritual crisis and withdrew into silence. It was then that he decided to become a Buddhist monk and entered Kosho-ji monastery.Four years later a Zen priest known as Kokusen visited the monastery, and Ryokan decided become his student and so left the monastery with him. A few years later Kokusen died, and so Ryokan left the monastery and went on pilgrimages. After a time he decided to go back to his former monastery but on the way there he found an empty hermitage where he took up residence. Ryokan often went to a neighboring village where he played with the children, picked flowers, drank sake and visited with friends. He preached though his own actions and not through words. When his health began to fail he went to live with his disciple Kimur Motoemon, and it was there that he met a nun name Teishin, whom he fell in love with and who he wrote about in some of his poems. To her he wrote:Have you forgotten theway to my hut?Every evening I waitfor the sound of yourfootsteps,But you do not appear." Here are some various poems that I loved: "I came to the village to see the peach blossomsbut spent the dayinsteadLooking at the flowersalong the river bank.""In my bowlviolets anddandelions are mixedTogether with theBuddhas of the three worlds.""Light rain--the mountainforest is wrapped in mist.Slowly the fog changes to clouds and haze.Along the boundless riverbank, many crows.I walk to a hill overlookingthe valley to sit in zazen." Statue of Ryokan at the Ryūsen-ji temple in Nagaoka, Niigata Japan

  • Rosa Frei
    2019-02-10 13:36

    The book ‘One Robe, One Bowl’ contains a beautiful collection of poems by Ryokan, one of the most famous Japanese poets and Soto Zen buddhist monk. The poems give insight into the simple life of this hermit monk. The simplicity of his poems of nature in conjunction of human nature touches the reader in the very heart of his being. A jewel in the world of poetry.

  • Michael Lawrie
    2019-01-20 13:22

    In my "in progress" comments I wrote "inspiring," because he turned my head around on a particular topic with one verse. I still hold to that assessment. I found his poetry like a breath of fresh air, both timely and timeless.

  • Ryan Acosta-Fox
    2019-02-01 17:21

    Ryōkan is a gift.

  • Walter Parsons
    2019-01-24 17:34

    My sleeve is wet with tears Transcendent all inclusive emptiness in a small hermitage in a remote location. One two three four five six seven eight.

  • Black Elephants
    2019-02-11 12:45

    In Texas, a different friend and I wandered over to a New Age-y shop to look (smell) over some incense, which different friend said was the best incense she'd ever burned.Upon entering the shop, I originally planned to entertain myself with astrology books, but I easily got distracted by a small vertical shelf of poetry. Already amazed that within a period of three weeks I had bought two poetry books, I scanned the shelf to see if "it" would somehow happen again."It" did. The Zen poetry of Ryokan (translated by John Stevens) practically lept into my hands.I'd read a Ryokan poem a few years back when I was in Asia. I think it was in a book about Japanese culture as compared to Korean and Chinese cultures. I still remember the poemThe thief left it behind--the moonAt the window.It was because of this little haiku that I picked up Ryokan's book; I wanted to find it. Instead, I fell head first into his lovely poetry. Unlike Ryan and Neruda, Ryokan just describes the natural world as it is. His poetry is about a feeling, like the sun on your face, seeing rain on a window or hearing a sound in the dead of night. It makes you all shiver-y at the filling beauty and empty lonliness of the world. Like with Ryan and Neruda, I continually found myself laughing, sighing and sharing bits with my different friend, who happily laughed and sighed with me too.Here are some of my favorite excerpts:From "Poem of Early Fall"My life may appear melacholy,But traveling through this worldI have entrusted myself to Heaven.In my sack, three sho of rice;By the hearth, a bundle of firewood.If someone asks what is the mark of enlightenmentor illusion,I cannot say--wealth and honor are nothing but dust,As the evening rain falls I sit in my hermitageAnd stretch out both feet in answer.From "Dawn"Staff in hand, I walk along the river bank toward the village.Snow lingers on the fence, but the east wind brings the firstnews of spring.The voice of an uguisu drifts from tree to tree;The grass has begun to show a touch of dark green.Unexpectedly, I meet an old friend.We converse together sitting on a hill overlooking the river valley.Later, at his cottage we open many books and drink tea.Tonight I am translating the evening scene into verse--Plum blossoms and poetry, how wonderful together!From "Keeping Out of the Rain"Always, when I was a boy,I would play here and there.I used to put on my favorite vestAnd ride a chestnut horse with a white nose.Today I spent the morning in townAnd the evening drinking amid the peach blossoms by the river.Returning home, I have lost my way. Where am I?Laughing, I find myself next to the brothel.I love how each line and every excerpt is like a picture among a string of pictures. (A montage? A mosaic? I don't know.) Maybe I find them beautiful because I've been to Japan and can conjure up all the wonderful nature before my eyes. Whatever the reason, I found such peace in that book and bookshop. And later that night, as I went to bed, I caught a glimpse of my different friend curled up by the lamp, reading the poems to herself.

  • Duncan
    2019-01-27 13:35

    For me, Ryokan's work is the pinnacle of Japanese poetry. The simplicity of his writing is masterful, completely free from artifice or pretension. Here Ryokan pieces together fragments of his life and daily experience into a set of deeply moving poems. Ryokan describes the deprivation and loneliness he endures as a buddhist hermit-monk living in a hut on a mountain side. He goes hungry and watches his store of firewood run out as he longs for visitors in the freezing winter months. Does Ryokan wish for an easier life, perhaps running a temple like Basho and other famous Zen monks? Not at all. This book serves as a beautiful affirmation of Ryokan's deep conviction that no other path in life would be for him.

  • Mmars
    2019-02-16 20:42

    Ryokan honestly expresses the feelings of hermitage. The satisfaction of solace in nature but also the loneliness. The harshness of winter and the joys of summer. The sadness of a friend not visiting and unexpected moments of enlightenment.This is a contemplative collection that extols both wisdom and humility and explores a broad spectrum of emotion and wonder.

  • Chitra Divakaruni
    2019-02-03 19:16

    This is one of my favorite books of all time. The beautiful, seemingly simple poems are meditations in themselves. Deep, yet filled with a childlike joy and sometimes a yearning. If you sit in silence with them, they have the potential to change your life.

  • Meyps
    2019-02-03 16:23

    This is a good buy, a good read. I wanted to learn Japanese/ Chinese, while I was reading this thin volume. I'm sure the original versions of Ryokan's poetry are more lyrical, more touching, in their original form. John Steven's translations though, would suffice.

  • Todd
    2019-01-27 18:31

    An incredibly captivating book made to join you on your journeys, whether on the road or on the mat.

  • Lawrence Barrow
    2019-01-23 15:38

    Wonderful waka and kanshihis museum in Izumozaki is well. worth a visitalso his hermitage gogoan nearby in Niigata

  • Jordan
    2019-02-16 13:44

    This is one of the most soothing things I've ever read.

  • Katie
    2019-02-20 19:38

    I'm always reading this wonderful one!

  • Shawn
    2019-02-10 17:22

    Small sample size, but I'm pretty sure that I've been sleeping better when I read this book before bed.

  • John Murray
    2019-01-27 17:37

    Possibly my favorite book of all time.An excellent translation from John Stevens

  • Stephen
    2019-01-28 17:24

    Simply wonderful!! Ryokan's verse touches upon every human emotion.Beautiful Zen poetry,. 'Priest Ryokan must fade like this morning's flowers,But his heart will remain behind.' My favourite book.

  • H
    2019-01-28 19:40

    Lying in my grass pillow,dreaming about this dream world again--Lonely, fitful sleep.

  • Brio Jaxen
    2019-02-11 18:37

    Just perfect

  • Rachel Teferet
    2019-01-26 20:31

    A really lovely collection:)

  • Stephen
    2019-02-12 14:18

    Woulda been a FAR better book had it lived up to the promise of:a)it's author's fameb)it's PERECT titlec)its (sadly) few precious and profound poemsor,d)poetry

  • Matimate
    2019-01-21 17:35

    The hermit-monk Ryokan made path to awakening trough his poetry. The style is clean , fresh and timeless.

  • Marianna Monaco
    2019-02-09 18:42

    Lovely little bookThe haiku are translated in a longish form, and are beautiful.Example:The willows are in full bloom!I want to pile up the blossomsLike mountain snow.

  • LemontreeLime
    2019-01-23 18:23

    So many good reminders. And so many amazing images. Thank you John Stevens for such a good translation.