Snow on a hot stove: Zen Poems

In the Zen school poetry has always been used as a means of expression of personal experience and as a way to communicate the understandings of Zen. It is said that a short poem can pierce the heart-mind in a way that one hundred miles of explanatory prose can never do. Collected in this volume are poems from the Korean Zen tradition.

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Extracts from Snow on a Hot Stove
 

21. Birth and Death

Birth and death are endlessly repeated
how long have you been going round and round?
If you’re not fooled –
then wherever you go you find nirvana. 

Chingak Hyeshim (1178-1234 CE)

24. Reputation

You hurry about from morning to night
carrying the heavy weight of your reputation.
Take a look at your achievement –
you’re just a figure of fun.

Wongam (1226-1292 CE)

30. No Need to Look for It

No need to look for realization –
it’s already right here.
In the colour of the mountains
and the sound of the mountain stream.

Kyonghan Paegun (1299-1375 CE)

37. The Song of Endless Joy

Can’t you hear the song?
It’s the song of endless joy.
What else is there for me to do
but to sing and dance to this song.
Why not let go of it all
and sing this song with me?

T’aego P’ou (1301-1382 CE)

74. The Reason for It All

In early spring
there are the plum blossoms.
In mid-autumn the chrysanthemums
are at their best.
You ask me the reason for it all –
white clouds drift across the sky.

Puyo (1543-1608 CE)