Last poem of Hoshin

Hoshin dictated:

I came from brilliancy.
And return to brilliancy.
What is this?

The poem was one line short of the customary four, so the disciple said: “Master, we are one line short.”

Hoshin, with the roar of a conquering lion, shouted “Kaa!” and was gone.


Before I was born, there was nothing that distinguished me from the galaxy and after I die there will be nothing to distinguish me from it. But now there is something that separates us, but I don’t really know what it is.


Stephen Damon, a Soto Zen priest who leads a small Zen group in San Francisco writes:

“After settling into a daily home practice and attending monthly one-day sittings for a while I began to sense that the great question of life and death was my question. The question became my “center of gravity” around which the rest of my life—in the Zendo and out in the streets—revolved. Most important, I felt an urgency, not to find an answer but to become more intimate with question, until I became the question. In a very deep sense, I was no longer “Stephen” or “Korin” or a Buddhist, I was the question of what is life and death. Over the years this question has deepened and broadened to include everything. And every time I take my seat at home or in a zendo and every time I pick up a sutra or any book on Zen I am that question.

If a book does not offer a response to the question I file it away, but if it does offer something, or if it does open me up to a place in myself that can respond to the question I keep it close by to come back to often. I will keep Hoshin’s poem in my mind and heart always. While the three lines are powerful, what is even more powerful is the emptiness of the fourth line. Every Buddhist teaching is incomplete and must be completed in oneself. Hoshin’s poem, while eloquent in its succinctness was incomplete until he yelled “KAA!” Perhaps, a death poem should be only three lines to be completed by an expression of a person’s last moment. Some may yell out something, and some may gently and peacefully breathe out one last breath and watch it blend with the air around him or her—into the Great Silence behind everything.”

Spiritual knowledge is fresh


In the Buddhist lineage, knowledge is not handed down like an antique. One teacher experiences the truth of the teachings and hands it down as an inspiration to his students. That inspiration wakens the student who passes it on further. The teachings are seen as always up to date, they are not thought of as “ancient wisdom”.

It is like a recipe for bread. Each baker must apply his general knowledge of how to bake bread, but each time it is cooked completely fresh.

Jane Hope and Borin Van Loon
Introducing Buddha: A graphic guide



A man approached the Blessed One and wanted…

A man approached the Blessed One and wanted to have all his philosophical questions answered before
he would practice. In response, the Buddha said, “It is as if a man had been wounded by a poisoned
arrow and when attended to by a physician were to say, ‘I will not allow you to remove this arrow until I
have learned the caste, the age, the occupation, the birthplace, and the motivation of the person who
wounded me.’ That man would die before having learned all this. In exactly the same way, anyone who
should say, ‘I will not follow the teaching of the Blessed One until the Blessed One has explained all the
multiform truths of the world’ – that person would die before the Buddha had explained all this.”

Source: The Teachings of the Buddha by Jack Kornfield

The golden begging bowl

The great Buddhist saint Nagarjuna moved around naked except for a loincloth and, incongruously, a golden begging bowl gifted to him by the King, who was his disciple.

One night he was about to lie down to sleep among the ruins of an ancient monastery when he noticed a thief lurking behind one of the columns. “Here, take this,” said Nagarjuna, holding out the begging bowl. That way you won’t disturb me once I have fallen asleep.”

The thief eagerly grabbed the bowl and made off – only to return next morning with the bowl and a request. He said, “When you gave away this bowl so freely last night, you made me feel very poor. Teach me how to acquire the riches that make this kind of light-hearted detachment possible.”