Sky Above, Great Wind: The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan [NOOK Book]

Overview

Ryokan (1758?1831) is, along with Dogen and Hakuin, one of the three giants of Zen in Japan. But unlike his two renowned colleagues, Ryokan was a societal dropout, living mostly as a hermit and a beggar. He was never head of a monastery or temple. He liked playing with children. He had no dharma heir. Even so, people recognized the depth of his realization, and he was sought out by people of all walks of life for the teaching to be experienced in just being around him. His poetry and art were wildly popular even ...

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Sky Above, Great Wind: The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan

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Overview

Ryokan (1758–1831) is, along with Dogen and Hakuin, one of the three giants of Zen in Japan. But unlike his two renowned colleagues, Ryokan was a societal dropout, living mostly as a hermit and a beggar. He was never head of a monastery or temple. He liked playing with children. He had no dharma heir. Even so, people recognized the depth of his realization, and he was sought out by people of all walks of life for the teaching to be experienced in just being around him. His poetry and art were wildly popular even in his lifetime. He is now regarded as one of the greatest poets of the Edo Period, along with Basho, Buson, and Issa. He was also a master artist-calligrapher with a very distinctive style, due mostly to his unique and irrepressible spirit, but also because he was so poor he didn't usually have materials: his distinctive thin line was due to the fact that he often used twigs rather than the brushes he couldn't afford. He was said to practice his brushwork with his fingers in the air when he didn't have any paper. There are hilarious stories about how people tried to trick him into doing art for them, and about how he frustrated their attempts. As an old man, he fell in love with a young Zen nun who also became his student. His affection for her colors the mature poems of his late period. This collection contains more than 140 of Ryokan's poems, with selections of his art, and of the very funny anecdotes about him.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Tanahashi, a translator (most significantly of Dogen, founder of the Soto Zen school), calligrapher, teacher, and peace activist, has rendered into English a selection of poems by Ryokan (1758-1831), a revered Zen monk who lived during Japan's late Edo period. To provide context, Tanahashi , a fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science, offers the reader glimpses into the trajectory of Ryokan's life as a "pilgrim, a hermit, and a beggar"; illustrations and discussion of the master's calligraphy; traditional anecdotes; and discussion of his "poetic forms." But the book's centerpiece is a set of luminous translations of Ryokan's poetry. The monk focuses on minute details of the natural world, observations about impermanence and illusion, and wry observations about his own life. In late life Ryokan found love with a young nun, with whom he exchanged delicate short verses. Each poem is printed starkly on an otherwise white page and organized by phases in Ryokan's life. At the book's end Tanahashi describes the complex process of translating Ryokan's Japanese and Chinese scripts into English to produce these simple, radiant poems. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
“The Zen monk Ryokan has become one of the most popular poets in Japanese history. Living in a small mountain hut rather than a temple, and preferring to play with children to ceremonies, he captured his warm humanity, gentle humor, and deep spirit in his poetry.  This fine new translation by Kazuaki Tanahashi includes a generous serving of his poetry in Japanese and Chinese styles, as well as a biography, analysis of his poetry, and charming anecdotes about his life. It is easy to see why Ryokan has become so beloved, not only in Japan, but in the rest of the world as well.”—Stephen Addiss, author of The Art of Zen and The Art of Haiku

“The ‘Great Fool’ Ryokan is one of the most revered figures in Japanese poetry, and in Kaz Tanahashi, he has found as perfect an advocate-translator as could be imagined. In this translation, we find an insightful introduction and poem after poem revealing Ryokan’s great good humor, his aloneness, his eccentricities, his poverty in a small hut in the mountains, his Buddhist insightfulness, his love of children and silk-thread balls, and, eventually, his love for a much younger woman. This is a marvelous achievement and a joy to read.”—Sam Hamill, author of Almost Paradise

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780834828162
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/13/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 905,636
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Kazuaki Tanahashi, a Japanese-trained calligrapher, is the pioneer of the genre of "one stroke painting" as well as the creator of multicolor enso (Zen circles). His brushwork has been shown in solo exhibitions in galleries, museums, and universities all over the world. Tanahashi has edited several books of Dogen’s writings and is also the author of Brush Mind.
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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    Sky Above, Great Wind Here Tanahashi presents a well-rounded sa

    Sky Above, Great Wind

    Here Tanahashi presents a well-rounded sampling of the ancient writings of Master Ryokan accompanied by biographical information along with insightful analysis of this ancient master’s calligraphy, poetic form, and subject matter. Sampling a diverse array of Ryokan’s works, Tanahashi demonstrates that there is more to the Great Fool than many have presumed. He thus paints a complex image of the poet through a balance of poems dwelling on simplistic child-like elation with those depicting the internal struggle of loneliness, along with the whole spectrum of emotions in between. These poems evoke contemplation of the many facets of existence, including the individual’s understanding of the universe. For example, Ryokan asks us:

    How could we discuss
    This and that
    Without knowing
    The whole world is
    Reflected in a single pearl?

    Tanahashi constantly strives to capture that which is lost in translation and enlivens these ancient works with crisp and deliberate diction. With its detailed yet succinct commentary, humorous anecdotes, and disarmingly beautiful poems, this collection is invaluable for any connoisseur of Zen poetry or Buddhist teachings. For further reading on this subject, check out John Stevens's Extraordinary Zen Masters.

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  • Posted June 21, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Great poesy and enlightening!

    A wodnerul written and edited book about Zen Master Ry¿kan Taigu (¿¿¿¿ by Kazuaki Tanahashi ¿¿¿¿ who is an excellent writer and practitioner of Zen. The poesy is short and engaging and allow one to assimilate or transcend Ry¿kan's thoughts.I read the book several times in a row and each time I enjoyed new things about it; this is a great book to read and add to one's collection of Zen, especially if one is a practicing Buddhist. Simply enjoyable! Namaste.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2013

    WindClan Bios

    Put bios here.

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