Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Erin Riordan's Work

Erin Riordan is a young poet I met at Marlboro College when I was asked to be her outside thesis advisor in her senior year. I remembered her well not only for her interesting thesis but because of her presence. I was not surprised to read later that she won the most compassionate person award or somethign like that. Since graduating from Marlboro, she is currently at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center--with it's legacy of many fine poet practitioners.  She is a writer and does marvelous ink washes. I thought she might like a bottle of our homemade Black Walnut ink (which we are sending her). I asked her to send some work to post on the blog and this is what she sent based on her studies. The ink washes are her own original work--Jacqueline Gens, 2014

Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma
Book 61

Song of the Dragon
       Once a monk asked the Chan Master Ciji of Mt. Touzi from Shuzhou, “Is there the song of the dragon in the driedtree?”
      The master said, “I say there’s the roar of the lion in the skull.”1
            Talk of “dried trees and dead ashes” is originally a teaching of the alien ways.  Nevertheless, there should be a big difference between the “dried tree” spoken of by the alien ways and the “dried tree” spoken of by the buddhas and ancestors.  While the alien ways talk of “dried trees,” they do not know “dried trees,” much less do they hear “the song of the dragon.”  The alien paths think that the “dried tree” is a rotted tree; they study that it cannot “meet the spring.”2
            The “dried trees” that the buddhas and ancestors speak of is the study of “the ocean drying up.”  The ocean drying up is the tree drying out; the tree drying out is “meeting the spring.”  The tree not moving is “dried.”  The present mountain trees, ocean trees, sky trees, and the rest—these are the “dried tree.”  The “germination of a sprout” is the “song of the dragon in the dried tree”; though it may be a hundred, thousand, myriad in circumference, it is the progeny of the dried tree.  The mark, nature, substance, and power of “dried” is “a dried post” and “not a dried post,” spoken of by the buddhas and ancestors.  There are trees of mountains and valleys; there are trees of paddies and villages.  The trees of mountains and valleys are known in the world as pines and cypress; the trees of paddies and villages are known in the world as humans and devas.  “The leaves are spread based on the root”:  this is called the buddhas and ancestors; “root and branch return to the source”:  this is our study.  Being like this is the dried tree’s long dharma body, the dried tree’s short dharma body.  One who is not a dried tree does not make the song of the dragon; one who is not a dried tree does not lose the song of the dragon.  “How many springs has it met without changing its mind?”—this is the song of the dragon entirely dried.  Though it may not be versed in the notes of the scale, the notes of the scale are the second or third sons of the song of the dragon.3
            Nevertheless, this monk’s saying, “is there the song of the dragon in the dried tree?” is the first appearance of the question in countless æons; it is the appearance of a topic.  Touzi’s saying, “I say there’s the roar of the lion in the skull” is “what’s been concealed?”  It is “never ceasing to subdue oneself and promote others”; it is “skulls fill the fields.”4
      A monk once asked the Great Master Xideng of Xiangyan zi, “What is the way?”
      The master said, “The dragon song in the dried tree.”
      The monk said, “I don’t understand.”
      The master said, “The eyeball in the skull.”
      Later, a monk asked Shishuang, “What is the dragon song in the dried tree?”
      Shuang said, “Still harboring joy.”
      The monk said, “What is the eyeball in skull?”
      Shuang said, “Still harboring consciousness.”
      Again, a monk asked Caoshan, “What is the dragon song in the dried tree?”
      Shan said, “The blood vessel not severed.”
      The monk said, “What is the eyeball in the skull?”
      Shan said, “Not entirely dried up.”
      The monk said, “Well, can anyone hear it?”
      Shan said, “On the whole earth, there isn’t one who can’t hear it.”
      The monk said, “Well, what passage does the dragon sing?”
      Shan said, “I don’t know what passage it is.  Everyone who hears it loses his life.”5
            The hearer and singer spoken of here are not equal to the singer of the dragon’s song; this tune is the dragon’s singing.”  “In the dried tree,” “in the skull”—these are not about inside or outside, not about self or other; they are the present and the past.  “Still harboring joy” is a further “horn growing on the head”; “still harboring consciousness” is “skin entirely shed.”6
            Caoshan’s saying, “the blood vessel not severed,” is speaking without avoidance; it is “turning the body in the stream of words.”  “Not entirely dried up” is “when the ocean dries up, it does not entirely [dry] to the bottom.”  Since “not entirely” is “drying up,” there is “drying up” beyond “drying up.”  His saying, “can anyone hear it?” is like saying, “is there anyone who can’t?”  7

About “on the whole earth, there isn’t one who can’t hear it,” we should ask further:  leaving aside “there isn’t one who can’t hear it,” when there isn’t any whole earth, where is the song of the dragon?  Speak!  Speak!  “Well, what passage does the dragon cry?” should be made a question.  The crying dragon is itself raising its voice and bringing it up within the mud, is breathing it out within its nostrils.  “I don’t know what passage it is” is a dragon within the passage.  “Everyone who hears it loses his life”:  what a pity!

            This song of the dragon of Xiangyan, Shishuang, and Caoshan forms clouds and forms water.  It does not talk about the way; it does not talk about the eyeball or skull:  it is just a thousand tunes, ten thousand tunes of the song of the dragon.  “Still harboring joy” is “the croaking of frogs”; “still harboring consciousness” is “the murmuring of worms.”  By these, “the blood vessel is not severed,” “the bottle gourd succeeds the bottle gourd.”  Since it is “not entirely dried up,” the columns conceive and give birth, the lanterns face the lanterns.8

Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma
The Song of the Dragon
Book 61
Presented to the assembly twenty-fifth day of the twelfth month of the first year of Kangen (mizunoto-u), beneath Yamashibu, in the domain of Etsu9
Copied this on the fifth day of the third month of the second year of Kōan, at Eiheiji10

The story is based on the koan Ryugin, or Dragon Song by Dogen.You can find a translation of it here: Original ink washes by Erin Riordan

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