Kakuan Shion

I normally post poems without much commentary, but I thought I would say more about the next few. The ten ox-herding pictures are a historic sequence in zen practice, and many versions exist in picture and verse form. Kakuan is supposed to be the originator of these (his drawings can be seen here, along with a couple of translations of his verses and commentary). I came across the Paul Reps translation online a while ago, and then when I was at Tassajara earlier in the summer, I read the Mumon Yamada book on the subject. Here, and for the next two weeks, are alternate translations of some of the poems; I thought these ones particularly highlight the difficulties of translating poetry (you can see the original characters here if that would help you at all. My understanding is that there would have been no personal pronouns in the original)

RIDING THE BULL HOME (Number 6 of 10)

Mounting the bull, slowly I return homeward.
The voice of my flute intones through the evening.
Measuring with hand-beats the pulsating harmony, I direct the endless rhythm.
Whoever hears this melody will join me.

Riding high on your ox, leisurely you head for home.
Trilling on a nomad’s flute, you leave in the evening mist.
In each beat and verse, your boundless feeling,
To a close companion, what need to move your lips?

One thought on “Kakuan Shion

  1. I look forward to your posting for the next two weeks!

    Take care, Lee Lee Lewis 651-353-6409

    Pessimism is the analysis of the situation; optimism is the orientation of the spirit



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