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Poetic Impermanence

Just a short post for today, but just a few words can hold a deep meaning. This is a short poem attributed to Li Bai, an 8th century Chinese poet, and expresses the Buddhist idea of impermanence perfectly. Just a reminder, zazen is a form of meditation where one just sits silently.

“Zazen on Ching-t’ing Mountain”:

The birds have vanished down the sky.
Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me,
until only the mountain remains.

9 comments to Poetic Impermanence

  • And, one day, the mountain, too, will join the rest of us.

  • Bob P.

    as a poet, i am quite taken by the simplicity yet deeply profound menaing in this short work.

    it reminds me also of a mindfullness meditation of Jon Kabat-Zinn, where you imagine the mountain and then bring the mountain into yourself and then allow the mountain to teach you its lessons.

    thank you for sharing ~

  • Poetic impermanence? Is that like writing haiku in the sand below the high tide line?

  • Joel F.

    This reminds me of what my meditation teacher said: “You are a mountain, and your thoughts are passing clouds.” Lovely poem.

  • Jami

    Li Bai was first mentioned to me by a friend from China. Her husband was scholar of Buddhism. She often spoke about Shandong and its Mountains.

    Birds, sky, cloud, mountain are the lasting images-the real images- of this poem. The ‘I’ appears, fleetingly, if somewhat shyly, as if to declare its surrender to non-existence.

  • ZenYen

    I will have to find more poems by Li Bai. Thank you.

  • Kage Kuma

    often times her name is spelled Li Po. just so you know in looking her up…

  • sean

    What a wonderful poem, i love it!! I also really appreciated the comment from one poster “you are a mountain, and your thoughts are passing clouds” that one phrase has just given me hope with my meditation, i have a busy mind and meditation is very hard for me. Thank you.

  • Steve

    The words show the classic dichotomy of thinking in the beginning stages of the meditation process as well as point towards the passing of time and our own transience. Beautiful; I have found similar examples in ‘The Poetry of Zen’ Sam Hamill Translate and editing which I read sometimes before I go to bed.