Ryokan, Ryokan poetry, Buddhist, Buddhist poetry, Zen / Chan poetry,  poetry,  poetry Ryokan
Japan (1758 - 1831) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

Poems by Ryokan
Books - Links

Like Han-shan in China, Ryokan is loved in Japan as much for his antics as for his profound poetry.

Ryokan became a priest at age 18 and took to a life of wandering. He eventually met his teacher, Kokusen Roshi, and settled down to study Zen practice, ultimately becoming his most esteemed student. When Kokusen Roshi died, Ryokan inherited his temple. But the duties and regularity of being temple master didn't suit Ryokan, and he resumed his itinerant life.

He next settled in a small hut he called Gogo-an on Mt. Kugami, where he lived by begging.

Ryokan's love of children and animals is legendary. He often played games with the local children, as reflected in his own poetry.

His reputation for gentleness was sometimes carried to comical extremes. A tale is told that, one day when Ryokan returned to his hut he discovered a robber who had broken in and was in the process of stealing the impoverished monk's few possessions. In the thief's haste to leave, he left behind a cushion. Ryokan grabbed the cushion and ran after the thief to give it to him. This event prompted Ryokan to compose one of his best known poems:

The thief left it behind:
the moon
at my window.

When Ryokan was 70 and nearing the end of his life, he met a young nun and poet named Teishin. Though Teishin was only 28, they fell in love. They exchanged several beautiful love poems.

As Ryokan was dying, Teishin came to him and held him at his moment of death. It was Teishin who collected and published Ryokan's poetry after his death.

Poems by Ryokan

Recommended Books: Ryokan

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry Haiku Enlightenment: New Expanded Edition The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library) Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf: Zen Poems of Ryokan
The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy Between the Floating Mist: Poems of Ryokan One Robe, One Bowl: The Zen Poetry of Ryokan Great Fool: Zen Master Ryokan: Poems, Letters, and Other Writings Ryokan: Zen Monk-Poet of Japan
The Zen Fool Ryokan Between Two Souls: Conversations with Ryokan

Related Links


Several poems by Ryokan.

Poems of Ryokan

Many poems of Ryokan on-line.

Gogo-an: Ryokan's Hermit Hut

Article on Ryokan and how he viewed his life of simplicity as exemplefied by his hut.

Olympia Zen Center: The Priest Ryokan San

Brief biography of Ryokan