Everything that arises from conditions will cease
when those conditions come to an end

But from where did those conditions arise?
From previous conditions, of course

Then how about the first condition –
where does it come from?

When you arrive here, words fail you
thinking is simply no use

I brought all this to the old woman
who’s my neighbour to the east
But the old woman didn’t like it at all

So I told it to the old man
who’s my neighbour to the west
and the old man just frowned and walked away

I tried writing it down on a rice cake
and feeding it to a dog
But even the dog wouldn’t take it

My choice of words must be bad, I thought
My language must be a bit confused

So I rolled arising and ceasing into one big whole
And gave it to the skeleton lying in the field

Instantly, the skeleton stood up
And started to sing and dance for me

Its song went on and on, resonating through the past
the present, the future
Its dance’s subtleties revealed
all the realms of sentient life

Three times the song was repeated
three times the dance performed

And then it stopped

The moon had sunk below the horizon
tolling in the city of Ch’ang-an

-Taigu Ryokan (1758-1831). Based on the translation by Ryuichi Abe and Peter Haskel

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