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Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto
Only in the cloister
Could such a garden thrive, a soil where nature
    Flowers in spiritual dryness,
Drawing an interior nurture
    From sand and rock.

Where the labyrinth of illusion
    No longer entangles the senses
Enmeshing vision in delusive lusters;
Where the lust of the eyes is silenced
And desire of forms, and names of forms,
    Move to no visible end.

Those who planted here
Sowed no ephemeral seed
For the seasonal tempests to scatter,
But the silent root that ripens in detachment,
    Flowers in renunciation.

Gardeners of eternity,
Those who planted here
    Framed the garden in the image of a desert
    And the desert in the image of a sea --
Then shrunk the seas to the mind's salt and, tasting,
    Dissolved all thought away.

On these rocks no water breaks. Without attrition
Tides and currents in this ocean rest and revolve
    In a void of sound, vortex of sand; perpetual
Circles enmesh and paralyzed sea and air:
The effigy of time and measure
    Purged of time and measure

Becalmed on this dead sea of being
No wave moves, no wind of desire
    Flexes the indolent sail.
But focussing its single eye
On dreamless immobility
The gulf like a burnished mirror
    Regards the empty void.

In this dead sea of vision the surges
Merge without movement; the tides
Indifferent to flood and ebb
    Freeze in a flux of haste.
The seagull without motion
Broods on the changeless waste,
Then sinks, his feathers frozen,
    In a sand ocean.

Frail caravels who sail
This subtle gulf, morte mer,
Who stir with urgent keel
The fossil waters of the Great Mirage,
    Or steer by lodestone to delusive ports:

In this calm beyond stasis, dead calm,
No compass points to the land,
    No magnet of attachment
    Guides the helmsman's hand
Through fifteen naked rocks in raked and rhythmic sand.

Here is no sea for the admirals,
The whalers, the merchants of cargoes --
    Those finite venturers for the temporal haven.
These depths are destination,
And naufrage sweeter than harbor.
    Shipwreck is haven on this inland sea.

  John M. Steadman
  20th Century

©1996-2002, Robert Cheetham; ©2015 Japanese Garden Research Network, Inc.
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