Quit Complaining!

Cold Mountain: 100 Poems by the T’ang Poet Han-shan
Translated and with an Introduction by Burton Watson

I first learned of Han-shan 30 years ago when reading Jack Kerouac’s novel, The Dharma Bums, which starred Japhy Ryder, a fictionalized Gary Snyder who was working at UC Berkeley  on translating the Chinese Buddhist.  I enjoy  his versions, as well of some I later found by Steve Ruppenthal, a student of Sri Eknath Easwaran, in The Path of Direct Awakening: Passages for Meditation.

Burton Watson’s translations of Han-shan are a pleasure to read. A small,  olive green paperback easy to carry along when I  leave my Chouteau home, I can dip into  it while standing in line at the Lindell Schnucks,  sitting at Northwest  Coffee awaiting a student,  or walking on campus on a lovely spring day—Han-shan inspires, reminds, alerts, moans, muses, advises, startles,  and boasts. Some short excerpts…

In the daytime wandering over green mountains,
At night coming home to sleep by the cliff.  79

Man, living in the dust,
Is like a bug trapped in a bowl. [98]

Fairer in form than the gods and immortals,
Her face like a blossom of peach or plum. 27

Out of work, our only joy is poetry:
Scribble, scribble, we wear out our brains.  28

Swiftly the springs and autumns pass,
But my mind is at peace, free from dust or delusion. 79

Do you have the poems of Han-shan in your house?
They’re better for you than sutra-reading!  118

Though they say life lasts a hundred years,
Who has seen a full thirty thousand days? 82

But it always carries the sword of True Wisdom
To cut down the thieves of senseless desire. 97

Seasons pass and my hair grows ragged and grey;
Year’s end finds me old and desolate. 69

You have seen the blossoms among the leaves;
Tell me, how long will they stay?  25

A meal of greens will do for this old body,
A ragged coat with cover this phantom form.  107

You complain that Buddha is hard to find.
Turn your mind within! There he is! 88

My mind is free from every thought,
Nothing in the myriad realms can move it. 105

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