RYOKAN, GREAT FOOL or The Teachings of the Non-Dual

Nov. 6, 2010 - Posted by in: Blog - 2 Comments

Ever since quitting the temple

My life has been resolutely carefree

My staff is always at my side

My robe is completely threadbare

At night in my hut, through the lonely window

I hear the falling rain

On spring days when the flowers riot in bloom

I’m playing ball out on the street

If anyone asks what I’m doing, I say:

“The most useless man there ever was.”


There’s no question but that our fascination with Ryokan is that he fully lives the teachings, no holds barred.

We’re familiar with the tenth stage of the Ox Herder Journey, where the ox herder enters the marketplace, chest bare, having nothing to protect.

With Ryokan, what we get is an up-close-and-personal account of what it’s like to be that open, on a day-to-day level.

He shows us how to be intimate with experience – to be human – first and foremost. And this includes suffering.

So here are a few questions we’ll be considering as we read his poetry and get to know him a little more:

*When he says he’s the most useless man there ever was, is this a put-down or a compliment?

*What makes his begging for his daily food, even at a time of war and famine, a Buddha activity?

*In what way is his aloneness a measure of his connectedness to all beings?

*In his suffering from loneliness, cold and hunger – his lovesickness – the same as an ordinary man’s or not?

*How do his words affect you as you take them in? What accounts for his growing appeal both East and West?


Join me at the Zendo this Weds (Nov 10) at 7:15pm as we explore the spiritual power of this extraordinary teacher who never once preached a sermon.

  1. 2 Responses to “RYOKAN, GREAT FOOL or The Teachings of the Non-Dual”

  2. I think he was a boundless mind, his mind was not only limitted to the walls of a temple but to the entire creation surrounding him. He just felt one with the whole.

    By Luis on Nov 9, 2010

  3. Luis, beautifully put. Thank you!

    By Joshin on Nov 10, 2010

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