Sunday, February 24, 2019

Death Poems of two Zen Masters

The practice of zen practitioners writing death poems was the topic during the afternoon discussion yesterday while on zen retreat at Woodburn Hill Farm.

Here is the death poem of Zen Master Keizan which was read during the Zazenkai tea.

"This peaceful rice-field that one has cultivated by oneself, however often one has gone to sell or buy (rice) is as a virgin land.  Young sprouts and spiritual seeds, infinitely, ripen and shed (their leaves).  Ascending the Dharma Hall,  I see men holding a hoe in their hands."  Then throwing away his brush,  Zen Master Keizan passed away.


Inryu recalled the beautiful death poem of a former Abbot at the San Francisco Zen Center, Abbot Myogen Steve Stucky.

Here is Myogen Steve Stucky's death poem, which was placed on the altar in the room with his body when he passed in December 2013.

This human body truly is the entire cosmos
Each breath of mine, is equally one of yours, my darling
This tender abiding in "my" life
Is the fierce glowing fire of inner earth
Linking with all pre-phenomena
Flashing to the distant horizon
From "right here now" to "just this"
Now the horizon itself
Drops away--


Many Zen priests follow a form of writing death poems such as this, sometimes even with regularity throughout their lives.

In Gassho,
Inryu Sensei

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