The Guest House

Straw zouri, photograph by Ewan Malcolm
Straw zouri, photograph by Ewan Malcolm

A practitioner’s perspective, on and off the zafu – Three

The Guest House

Mowlānā Jalāloddin Balkhi, known in Persia as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī and in the West as Rumi, was born on September 30, 1207 C. E. in Balkh Province, Afghanistan, on the eastern edge of the Persian Empire. His poem ‘The Guest House’ captures the spirit of open acceptance which zazen calls for.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Jalaluddin Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks

The wren

Artwork by Margaret Kerr

The wren
Earns his living

Margaret Kerr


More translation and notes: Kyougebetsuden, Dogen’s Oyster poem

This post is related to the References for Kusen 274 post.


あら磯の波もえよせぬ高岩に かきも付くへきのりならはこそ

intuitive awakening outside teaching

rugged coast’s
waves can’t reach
the high rock
oysters cling to it
because of the dharma


Jinjippoukai shinjitsunintai – poem by Dogen Zenji

盡十方界真実人體 Jinjippoukai shinjitsunintai, waka poem by Dogen Zenji, with some translations and our notes.

yo no naka ni
真 のひとや
makoto no hito ya
kagiri mo mienu
oozora no iro 

True person manifest throughout the ten quarters of the world

The true person is
Not anyone in particular;
But, like the deep blue color
Of the limitless sky,
It is everyone, everywhere in the world.

Translation: Steven Heine, The Zen Poetry of Dogen

everywhere in ten directions world the true person manifests expresses

in the society
the person of the teaching
isn’t there
the limits can’t be seen
of the big blue sky

Translation: Shogen Blair

The True Person is
Everyone in particular
The blue silk of the whole sky
Is pulled through each open face

Translation: John Fraser