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Ryokan

Taigu Ryokan (1758-1831) (nicknamed Great Fool) lives on as one of Japan’s best loved poets, the wise fool who wrote of his humble life with such directness. Ryokan had no disciples, ran no temple,and in the eyes of the world was a penniless monk who spent his life in the snow country of Mount Kugami.He admired most the Soto Zen teachings of Dogen Zenji and the unconventional life and poetry of Zen mountain poet Han-shan. He repeatedly refused to be honored or confined as a”professional” either as a Buddhist priest or a poet.

“Who says my poems are poems?
These poems are not poems.
When you can understand this,
then we can begin to speak of poetry”.

Ryokan never published a collection of verse while alive. His practice consisted of sitting in zazen meditation, walking in thewoods,playing with children,making his daily begging rounds, reading and writing poetry, doing calligraphy, and on occasion drinking wine with friends.

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