Temple of Eternal Light

by Muso Soseki

English version by W. S. Merwin
Original Language Japanese

The mountain range
     the stones in the water
          all are strange and rare
The beautiful landscape
     as we know
          belongs to those who are like it
The upper worlds
     the lower worlds
          originally are one thing
There is not a bit of dust
     there is only this still and full
          perfect enlightenment

-- from Sun at Midnight: Muso Soseki - Poems and Sermons, Translated by W. S. Merwin / Translated by Soiku Shigematsu

<<Previous Poem | More Poems by Muso Soseki | Next Poem >>


/ Image by sagefille20 /


View All Poems by Muso Soseki

Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

It has been a couple of years since I last featured something by Muso Soseki.

The mountain range
     the stones in the water
          all are strange and rare


Considering Soseki's role as father of Zen gardening practice, whenever he says anything about the natural world, we should pause and pay special attention.

When he describes the mountain range and river stones as "strange and rare," he is not shrugging his shoulders at something unusual or interesting. He sees something unique, utterly specific, a now-ness only truly recognized when we ourselves are present and genuinely seeing.

The beautiful landscape
     as we know
          belongs to those who are like it


We only ever perceive what we already are. We may all look and see the same lines and colors of a mountain range, but to actually see it and, on a deep level, recognize what it is, something within ourselves must recognize a shared being with the mountain range.

True seeing is about relationship. It is about inter-being.

This is how we lead into his next statement:

The upper worlds
     the lower worlds
          originally are one thing


When we settle into the original state, we perceive as part of an inherent oneness. We may still see a mountain range or individual stones in a river, but they are not truly separate from us or from each other. There really are not separate objects in the world, there is, in truth, just one thing with a variety of surfaces and vantage points.

From this perspective, there are no objects, nothing that can be separated out as its own self-existing thing, not even something as small as a mote of dust--

There is not a bit of dust
     there is only this still and full
          perfect enlightenment


--just this beautiful moment of living awareness we all are.

Have a beautiful day!



PS- I was devastated to hear about the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka. Always more reason to cultivate awareness, understanding, and healing within our hearts and within our societies.



Recommended Books: Muso Soseki

Sun at Midnight: Muso Soseki - Poems and Sermons East Window: Poems from Asia Roaring Stream: A New Zen Reader





Temple of Eternal