Saturday, April 24, 2004

R.H.Blyth and the Zen Classics

When I lived in London, I used to go to the Camden Library a lot. It was very well stocked, and at the Holborn branch they had a complete set of R.H.Blyth's Haiku books (the four seasons) as well as his Zen in English Literature book. Wonderful, dry witty stuff - not the new age approach to oriental culture.

On the Web, this seems to be the quote from him which is most often remembered:

"Thus we see that the all important thing is not killing or giving life, drinking or not drinking, living in the town or the country, being unlucky or lucky, winning or losing. It is how we win, how we lose, how we live or die, finally, how we choose."

So I'll stick in a bit of his translation, too:


There is nothing difficult about the Great Way,
But, avoid choosing!
Only when you neither love nor hate,
Does it appear in all clarity.

A hair's breadth of deviation from it,
And deep gulf is set between heaven and earth.
If you want to get hold of what it looks like,
Do not be anti- or pro- anything.

The conflict of longing and loathing, --
This is the disease of the mind.
Not knowing the profound meaning of things,
We disturb our peace of mind to no purpose.

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