Words of WonderLooking for stars - Erik Johansson

In all ten directions of the universe,
there is only one truth.
When we see clearly,
the great teachings are the same.
What can ever be lost? What can be obtained?
If we attain something, it was there from the beginning of time.
If we lost something, it is hiding somewhere near us.
Look: this ball in my pocket:
can you see how priceless it is?

by Ryōkan
translated from Japanese by Stephen Mitchell


I was meandering through the poetry feast that is ‘SOUL FOOD: nourishing poems for starved minds’, and came across these words by the Zen Buddhist monk Ryōkan (1758-1831). I remembered his poetry from a little book in the Purelands library over a decade ago, which left a deep impression on me: the simplicity, joy, and how he would often point at expansive truths as well as at immediate here-and-now observations. Some words I associate with him are wise, expansive, simple, down-to-earth, nature, playing with children and drinking rice wine. My favourite haiku from that little book I remember is this:

Not much to offer you
just this lotus flower
in a small jar of water

Finding the words yesterday about the ten directions of the universe, it immediately brought to mind the image above (by the talented photographer and digital artist Erik Johansson). It had been shared by one of the participants on the Engaged Mindfulness weekend as an example of how images, like poetry, can point at something beyond words – that images can be just as evocative in that way as poems.

To me these two point in the same direction… a direction that’s worth remembering!