Zen Death Poetry

Vajradhara

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Traditionally, a Zen Master would write a poem when he was about to die. Charged with his spirit, the Masters' poem served both as a summation of life and as a parting gift to inspire his students.

here are a few that have been collected into a small book called "The Little Zen Companion."


"Coming and going, life and death;
A thousand hamlets, a million houses.
Don't you get the point?
Moon in the water, blossom in the sky."

-Gizan


"Finally out of reach ---
No bondage, no dependency.
How calm the ocean,
Towering the void."

-Tessho


"Life as we
Find it - death too.
A parting poem?
Why insist?"

-Ta-hui Tsung-kao


"Four and fifity years
I've hung the sky with stars.
Now i leap through-----
What shattering!"

-Dogen (one of my personal favorites)
 

Darkwolf

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Vajradhara said:
"Four and fifity years
I've hung the sky with stars.
Now i leap through-----
What shattering!"

-Dogen (one of my personal favorites)

Em Hotep (in peace) Vajradhara,

I like those. :) Especially the Dogen one.
 

Vajradhara

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Darkwolf said:
Em Hotep (in peace) Vajradhara,

I like those. :) Especially the Dogen one.

Namaste Darkwolf,

welcome to the forum!

thank you for the post.

i enjoy dogen's writings quite a bit. for a lay person, he's had a tremendous influence upon Buddhism, especially in the West.
 

Susma Rio Sep

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Trouble with dying

Namaste all.

Zen masters appear to indulge on their dying moments in the luxury of short verses purporting to leave messages of wisdom for Buddhist enthusiasts to relish and profit from.

My interest and occupation is rather very mundane.

I have witnessed people dying.

It is a very troublesome process, you can see it in the hospital as you wait out the death watch.

Decisions have to be made which cost money for doctors' fees, equipment, and medications.

And it will entail more of pain and indignity for the signing-off patient.

Can Zen masters meditate themselves to a painless quick terminal death, to save themselves all the inconvenience, cost, and indignity of the dying process as it is now occurring with people who don't die instantaneous sudden death.

But all death is troublesome to the survivors who have to take care of all the details of wake and burial. And woe to them who have scarce money to meet the decent expenses for their deceased beloved.

What do Zen masters think about my occupation, which should also burden their minds.


Your poetry is all right, but tell me how you prepare for the death passage so that it will be least inconvenient in terms of pain, cost, and trouble to yourself, but especially for all your survivors who have to take charge of your earthly remains.

Susma Rio Sep
 

Vajradhara

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Susma Rio Sep said:
Namaste all.


Your poetry is all right, but tell me how you prepare for the death passage so that it will be least inconvenient in terms of pain, cost, and trouble to yourself, but especially for all your survivors who have to take charge of your earthly remains.

Susma Rio Sep

Namaste Susma,

personally, this is not an issue for me. on several levels. one... i've no survivors that need to worry. secondly, the cost will be borne by the government, or more specifically, all you tax payers. same with hospital costs.
 

Susma Rio Sep

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Merits of self-termination

My concern is with self-effected departure when life is no longer feasible to continue.

Do you have any Buddhist pointers on that score?

I have been thinking very seriously about taking an actively personal charge of my own demise.

When I get to be too old and sickly to pursue any use for myself and for others who mean something to me, I would like to be able to turn off the switch of life for myself.

The method must be painless, quick, and certain. It must be economical and neat. Of course I will have to put my affairs in order, making sure that I would not occasion any conflicts to any parties with my departure; but everyone will at peace with everyone else from the disposition of my material goods.

Here is what I think I will do:

Arrange a good time ahead with the undertaker for the details of my simple wake and burial. When the time comes I will drive over to the funeral parlor, and contact him by cellphone to come over to my car in the parking lot, while he is on the way I effect my termination; and the undertaker arriving will realize what has happened, and carry on as per prepaid for wake and burial; he will notify my family and they will keep the matter discreet.


We have no say in coming to this world; I believe it is our serious responsibility and right and privilege and unique opportunity to arrange and execute the final passage of our biological existence. Then everything will be better done, than if we are at present being taken away by nature and chance, at the mercy of doctors and family and society for the duration of the passage, and the disposition of our carnal remnants.


Susma Rio Sep
 

Vajradhara

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Susma Rio Sep said:
My concern is with self-effected departure when life is no longer feasible to continue.

Do you have any Buddhist pointers on that score?

I have been thinking very seriously about taking an actively personal charge of my own demise.


Susma Rio Sep

Namaste Susma,

it sounds like you are asking if there is a Buddhist position regarding suicide, is that correct?

naturally, we don't endorse any type of harm to any sentient being and as such, these ethics apply to all our normal conduct.

now... if what you are asking is the position on Buddhism with regards to the so called "mercy killing" of a terminally ill and chronically pained person, i will have to think on it further.
 

Susma Rio Sep

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Suicide a bad name

Vajradhara said:
Namaste Susma,

it sounds like you are asking if there is a Buddhist position regarding suicide, is that correct?

naturally, we don't endorse any type of harm to any sentient being and as such, these ethics apply to all our normal conduct.

now... if what you are asking is the position on Buddhism with regards to the so called "mercy killing" of a terminally ill and chronically pained person, i will have to think on it further.

Suicide is a bad name. I think self-managed departure should be a neutral term for the act.

Of course the suicide is usually understood as a person who could not face further life owing to emotional or social distress having a pronounced nuance of insuperable shame or the doom of material loss.

The self-decided candidate for self-managed departure is not afraid to face life when life is still physically and morally inviting, notwithstanding whatever moral shame or material loss; his situation is different, he sees further continuance to be protracted obsolescence of no beneficial purpose to any party, himself and others.

I think the best term is self-euthanasia in regard to the aspect of liberation from agony senectude or terminal disease.

Susma Rio Sep
 

Tariki

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Vaj,

Hi, "tariki" here..........or "dookie" or whatever! Just reading through a couple of threads and this one caught my eye.......

A story from "After the Ecstasy, the Laundry" came to mind.............

Zen teacher Dainan Katagiri Roshi was diagnosed with terminal cancer........many students came to help, but they were also frightened and confused at the thought that their teacher was subject to ordinary human frailty. One day he called his students to his bedside. "I see you are watching me closely. You want to see how a Zen Master dies. I'll show you." He kicked his legs and flailed his arms with alarm, crying out, "I don't want to die, I don't want to die!" Then he stopped and looked at them. "I don't know how I will die. Maybe I will die in fear or in pain. Remember, there is no right way."

As Jack Kornfield comments......."here is a teacher who did not separate himself from the life of others, who knew that the moment brings what it brings"

(I must admit that "death poems" seem a little artificial to my mind...............)

Derek
 

Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine

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Zdrastvuitsye, hola, shalom, salaam, Dia dhuit, namastar ji, hej, konnichiwa, squeak, meow, :wave:, Tariki.

Vajradhara, one question: is there anything like the Zen death poems in your school of Buddhism or in any of the others? I know. Stupid question.

Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine
 

Vajradhara

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Tariki said:
Vaj,

Hi, "tariki" here..........or "dookie" or whatever! Just reading through a couple of threads and this one caught my eye.......

A story from "After the Ecstasy, the Laundry" came to mind.............

Zen teacher Dainan Katagiri Roshi was diagnosed with terminal cancer........many students came to help, but they were also frightened and confused at the thought that their teacher was subject to ordinary human frailty. One day he called his students to his bedside. "I see you are watching me closely. You want to see how a Zen Master dies. I'll show you." He kicked his legs and flailed his arms with alarm, crying out, "I don't want to die, I don't want to die!" Then he stopped and looked at them. "I don't know how I will die. Maybe I will die in fear or in pain. Remember, there is no right way."

As Jack Kornfield comments......."here is a teacher who did not separate himself from the life of others, who knew that the moment brings what it brings"

(I must admit that "death poems" seem a little artificial to my mind...............)

Derek

Namaste Derek,

welcome to the forum :)

thank you for the post.

apparantely, the Zennists found some benefit in leaving behind an inspiring poem for their students. who can say if it benefited them directly or not and in which way?
 

Susma Rio Sep

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How to die by oneself

Forgive me for the deviation from the main thrust of this thread.

Religion, and Buddhism not excluded, has a lot to do with death and the realm beyond.

Now, we have Zen masters giving verses about living Buddhist life in their death moments.

What I am curious about and interested in is whether we have some pointers on the care of the dying from Buddhist mentors past and present.

Going beyond the care of the dying is the management of the dying process. I am for my own part inclined to manage my own dying process.

Do the Buddhist doctrinaires here have any suggestions how they are to be managed in their dying moments, I mean the physical aspects of being comfortable or at least not in any kind of agony and indignity, and dying consciously to the last moment, lapsing through the edge of life into death

My inclination is to do a DIY dying passage.

Religion like Christianity is more concerned with the spiritual preparation for the passage, to make sure that the death candidate get to the destiny his religion has mapped out for him. But the dying process, how to make it comfortable, yes comfortable, and economical, and dignified, and even joyful... There seems to be a glaring neglect or disconcern here.

To our Buddhist friends here, do you have any Zen masters’ death verses celebrating the death passage? And very important, also giving instructions how they would want to be treated during the process. And going beyond that, how they would wish they could be in charge to the very last moment, and effect the process themselves?

Susma Rio Sep
 

Vajradhara

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Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine said:
Zdrastvuitsye, hola, shalom, salaam, Dia dhuit, namastar ji, hej, konnichiwa, squeak, meow, :wave:, Tariki.

Vajradhara, one question: is there anything like the Zen death poems in your school of Buddhism or in any of the others? I know. Stupid question.

Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine

Namaste Phyllis,

hmm... well.. not really for my school. there is a famous yogin named Milarepa that taught the Dharma via song.. well, not exclusively, but enough so that he's well known for it.

as for the other schools... well... there is a tradition of poetry, though not specifically "death poetry".

in a sense, the Zen death poetry is a reflection of the cultural climate of Japan and given that hiakyu and other arts were considered to be quite important to the educated noble. these things were given more emphasis than you might find in other cultures where Ch'an or Zen teachings were practiced.
 

Vajradhara

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Namaste susma,

perhaps this would be a good topic for a new thread?


Susma Rio Sep said:
Forgive me for the deviation from the main thrust of this thread.

Religion, and Buddhism not excluded, has a lot to do with death and the realm beyond.

Now, we have Zen masters giving verses about living Buddhist life in their death moments.

What I am curious about and interested in is whether we have some pointers on the care of the dying from Buddhist mentors past and present.

hmm... well... i would have to say "yes". though there are variations amongst the various schools in this regard.

Do the Buddhist doctrinaires here have any suggestions how they are to be managed in their dying moments, I mean the physical aspects of being comfortable or at least not in any kind of agony and indignity, and dying consciously to the last moment, lapsing through the edge of life into death

yes, there are things that one should do, if possible to help with the death process. if it's possible, the best way to die is to die whilst in meditation, especially in the Lion's Pose, which is the position that the Buddha took when he entered Paranirvana, the Final Nirvana.

now.. this will vary by school and tradition, so please bear in mind that i present information as generally as possible and when i'm specific it is with information from my school.

i'll give a quick example.

the Theravedans, for instance, believe that rebirth takes place the moment your body dies. there are no intermediate steps. by contrast, the Vajrayana school holds that there are intermediate steps, called "bardos" that one passes through before rebirth.

To our Buddhist friends here, do you have any Zen masters’ death verses celebrating the death passage? And very important, also giving instructions how they would want to be treated during the process. And going beyond that, how they would wish they could be in charge to the very last moment, and effect the process themselves?

Susma Rio Sep

well.. if possible, they would prefer to be in meditation when death occurs.... other than that... i'm not really sure what you are asking in this paragraph.
 

Zenda71

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Susma Rio Sep:

I have had the fortune of sitting with several people as they are dying. If I am understanding your questions, which I am interpreting as how to ease someone's passing, I can give you some resources and my personal experience. Hospice is a wonderful system that allows the person to die relatively inexpensively at home. The Zen Hospice Project (http://www.zenhospice.org/) is available in some places. Another interesting source is Stephen Levine's book "Who Dies? An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying." My experience with death is that a person, Buddhist or not, become ready to die. In all of my experiences (with Christians) someone visits them either in a dream or if they are medicated in their "awake" stake. It is usually someone who's gone before them that they trust ... almost a guide to the afterlife. I also found people to get very calm before they go. In all cases, the person had the chance to see almost all (if not all) of their loved ones before submitting to death. Presence is the most powerful thing you can give anyone about to die. And giving them permission to let go. My mother did that for her mother, who was suffering dreadfully. (It is a scene that I will never forget. It showed me so clearly that our lives are self-willed ...).

Another odd phenomenon for me anyway ... those who have died have visited me on the night of their death. Real or imagined? I don't know. The common myth from my culture is that the dead hang around for 40 days after their death to visit their relations and close old business.

Interesting stuff ...

With metta,
ZW

p.s. I like this one best ...

"Life as we
Find it - death too.
A parting poem?
Why insist?"

-Ta-hui Tsung-kao
 

17th Angel

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Have you seen the little piggies crawling in the d
Inhale, exhale
Forward, back
Living, dying;
Arrows let flown each to each
Meet midway and slice
The void in aimless flight
Thus I reurn to the source..

- Gesshu Soko.

Empty-handed I entered the world
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going
Two simple happenings.
That got entangled.

- Kozan Ichikyo.

(this one is for snoopy and Ciel.)

O

- Shinsui


For the Samurai to learn.
There's only one thing,
One last thing -
To face death unflinchingly.

- Tsukahara Bokuden.
(not his death poem but still nice... lol)
 
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