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Observations placeholder

Han Shan - Poems by Han-shan Translated by Arthur Waley - 15 to 27



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Poems by Han-shan  Translated by Arthur Waley

A place to prize is this Cold Mountain,
Whose white clouds for ever idle on their own,
Where the cry of monkeys spreads among the paths,
Where the tiger's roar transcends the world of men.
Walking alone I step from stone to stone,
Singing to myself I clutch at the creepers for support.
The wind in the pine-trees makes its shrill note;
The chatter of the birds mingles its harmony.

The people of the world when they see Han-shan
All regard him as not in his right mind.
His appearance, they say, is far from being attractive,
Tied up as he is in bits of tattered cloth.
"What we say, he cannot understand;
What he says, we do not say."
You who spend all your time in coming and going,
Why not try for once coming to the Han-shan?

Ever since the time when I hid in the Cold Mountain
I have kept alive by eating the mountain fruits.
From day to day what is there to trouble me?
This my life follows a destined course.
The days and months flow ceaseless as a stream;
Our time is brief as the flash struck on a stone.
If Heaven and Earth shift, then let them shift;
I shall still be sitting happy among the rocks.

When the men of the world look for this path arnid the clouds
It vanishes, with not a trace where it lay.
The high peaks have many precipices;
On the widest gulleys hardly a gleam falls.
Green walls close behind and before;
White clouds gather east and west.
Do you want to know where the cloud-path lies?
The cloud-path leads from sky to sky.

Since first I meant to explore the eastern cliff
And have not done so, countless years have passed.
Yesterday I pulled myself up by the creepers,
But half way, was baffled by storm and fog.
The cleft so narrow that my clothing got caught fast;
The moss so sticky that I could not free my shoes.
So I stopped here under this red cinnamon,
To sleep for a while on a pillow of white clouds.

Sitting alone I am sometimes overcome
By vague feelings of sadness and unrest.
Round the waist of the hill the clouds stretch and stretch;
At the mouth of the valley the winds sough and sigh.
A monkey comes; the trees bend and sway;
A bird goes into the wood with a shrill cry.
Time hastens the grey that wilts on my brow;
The year is over, and age is comfortless.

Last year when the spring birds were singing
At this time I thought about my brothers.
This year when chrysanthemums are fading
At this time the same thought comes back.
Green waters sob in a thousand streams,
Dark clouds lie flat on every side.
Till life ends, though I live a hundred years,
It will rend my heart to think of Ch'ang-an.

In the third month when the silkworms were still small
The girls had time to go and gather flowers,
Along the wall they played with the butterflies,
Down by the water they pelted the old frog.
Into gauze sleeves they poured the ripe plums;
With their gold hairpins they dug up bamboo-sprouts.
With all that glitter of outward loveliness
How can the Cold Mountain hope to compete?

Last night I dreamt that I was back in my home
And saw my wife weaving at her loom.
She stayed her shutde as though thinking of something;
When she lifted it again it was as though she had no strength.
I called to her and she turned her head and looked;
She stared blankly, she did not know who I was.
Small wonder, for we parted years ago
When the hair on my temples was still its old colour.

I have sat here facing the Cold Mountain
Without budging for twenty-nine years.
Yesterday I went to visit friends and relations;
A good half had gone to the Springs of Death.
Life like a guttering candle wears away--
A stream whose waters forever flow and flow.
Today, with only my shadow for company,
Astonished I fred two tear-drops hang.

In old days (how long ago it was!)
I remember a house that was lovelier than all the rest.
Peach and plum lined the little paths;
Orchid and iris grew by the stream below.
There walked beside it girls in satins and silks;
Within there glinted a robe of kingfisher-green.
That was how we met; I tried to call her to me,
But my tongue stuck and the words would not come.

I sit and gaze on tiffs highest peak of all;
Wherever I look there is distance without end.
I am all alone and no one knows I am here,
A lonely moon is mirrored in the cold pool.
Down in the pool there is not really a moon;
The only moon is in the sky above.
I sing to you this one piece of song;
But in the song there is not any Zen.

Should you look for a parable of life and death
Ice and water are the true comparisons.
Water binds and turns into ice;
Ice melts and again becomes water.
Whatever has died will certainly be born,
Whatever has come to life must needs die.
Ice and water do each other no harm;
Life and death too are both good.

The source of the experience

Han Shan

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Contemplation and detachment