Zen Poem by Hakuin

The monkey is reaching
For the moon in the water.
Until death overtakes him
He’ll never give up.
If he’d let go the branch and
Disappear in the deep pool,
The whole world would shine
With dazzling pureness.

About Hakuin

Hakuin Ekaku (Hakuin Ekaku or Hakuin Zenji, 1686-1769) was one of the most influential figures in Japanese Zen Buddhism. He transformed the Rinzai school from a declining tradition that lacked rigorous practice into a tradition that focused on arduous meditation and koan practice. Most modern practitioners of Rinzai Zen use some practices directly derived from the teachings of Hakuin.

The most important and influential teaching of Hakuin was his emphasis on koan practice. Hakuin deeply believed that the most effective way for a student to achieve enlightenment was through extensive meditation on a koan. The psychological pressure and doubt that comes when one struggles with a koan is meant to create tension that leads to awakening. Hakuin called this the great doubt, writing, “At the bottom of great doubt lies great awakening. If you doubt fully, you will awaken fully”. Only with incessant investigation of their koan will a student be able to become one with the koan, and attain enlightenment.

3 thoughts on “Zen Poem by Hakuin

  1. A lot of good poetry Don, including this one – makes me think about koan!?:) Various themes artfully juxtaposed. Stopping here after reading my friend’s 14 sonnets from his sonnet wreath entitled ‘Politics is a whore’…

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