Sep 03 2021

Dogen – midnight – no waves, no wind

Published by at 8:02 am under Books,Poetry,Poetry Chaikhana Misc.

midnight — no waves, no wind
by Eihei Dogen

English version by Adjei Agyei-Baah & Gabriel Rosenstock

midnight — no waves, no wind
empty boat
flooded with moonlight

— from The Awakened One: Buddha-Themed Haiku from Around the World, Edited by Adjei Agyei-Baah / Edited by Gabriel Rosenstock


/ Image by Osman Rana /

We don’t have to hand this haiku over to the intellect to immediately understand its implications, do we? Let’s briefly sketch it out.

Midnight. A still lake, an empty boat filled with moonlight.

No activity. The mind is at rest. Emotions are calm, the will is content. In this quiet moment what we normally think of as ourselves is found to be empty, spacious, egoless. But the emptiness is not empty, it is filled with with the light of awareness. More than filled, flooded. And what does a flooded boat do? It sinks. It gives itself to the embrace of the illuminated water. Only the light and the quiet lake remain.

Or perhaps it is just a moment in time. It is what it is and nothing more: Midnight. A still lake, an empty boat filled with moonlight.

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Eihei Dogen, sometimes respectfully referred to as Dogen Zenji, was a key figure in the development of Japanese Zen practice and the founder of the Soto Zen sect.

Dogen was born in about 1200 in Kyoto, Japan. At the age of 17, he was formally ordained as a Buddhist monk. Considering the Japanese Buddhism of the time to be corrupt and influenced by secular power struggles, Dogen traveled to China to discover the heart of the Dharma by studying Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism at several ancient monasteries.

Much of the Ch’an Buddhism he explored utilized koans and “encounter dialogues” to startle the consciousness into enlightenment, but Dogen was critical of this practice. Instead, he was drawn to the teachings of silent meditation.

Dogen returned to Japan in 1236. He left the politicized environment of Kyoto and settled in the mountains and snow country of remote Echizen Province, where he established his own school of Zen, the Soto school.

While he proved to be a talented writer and poet, the core of Dogen’s teaching was to transcend the mind’s addiction to language and form in order to become fully present and recognize one’s inherent enlightenment.

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Hurricane Ida and its aftermath are very much in my thoughts. And the fires in California and elsewhere around the globe.

The earth speaks, sometimes we listen.

I hope you are all safe and well.

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The Awakened One

The Awakened One
Buddha-Themed Haiku from Around the World
Edited by Adjei Agyei-Baah and Gabriel Rosenstock

$8.95 / £6.50 / €7.60

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I am still playing catching up with the release of the Poetry Chaikhana’s new publication, The Awakened One: Buddha-Themed Haiku from Around the World, edited by Adjei Agyei-Baah and Gabriel Rosenstock. Initial sales have been solid, but I am still investigating the best ways to ship copies to readers (and some of the haiku writers!) in countries such as Nigeria, Croatia, and Japan. The Poetry Chaikhana website itself is patiently waiting for me to add a new page highlighting The Awakened One. A lot of work goes into a little book!

The Awakened One is a beautiful book, a good gift to yourself and one to share with friends. Purchasing a copy is also an excellent way to support the Poetry Chaikhana. It makes a perfect companion to Gabriel Rosenstock’s explorations of haiku and awareness in Haiku Enlightenment.

May you be flooded with moonlight!


Recommended Books: Eihei Dogen

Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter Haiku Enlightenment: New Expanded Edition The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library) The Zen Poetry of Dogen: Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace The Soul is Here for its Own Joy: Sacred Poems from Many Cultures
More Books >>


Eihei Dogen, Eihei Dogen poetry, Buddhist poetry Eihei Dogen

Japan (1200 – 1253) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

Eihei Dogen, sometimes respectfully referred to as Dogen Zenji, was a key figure in the development of Japanese Zen practice and the founder of the Soto Zen sect.

Dogen was born in about 1200 in Kyoto, Japan. At the age of 17, he was formally ordained as a Buddhist monk. Considering the Japanese Buddhism of the time to be corrupt and influenced by secular power struggles, Dogen traveled to China to discover the heart of the Dharma by studying Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism at several ancient monasteries.

Much of the Ch’an Buddhism he explored utilized koans and “encounter dialogues” to startle the consciousness into enlightenment, but Dogen was critical of this practice. Instead, he was drawn to the teachings of silent meditation.

Dogen returned to Japan in 1236. He left the politicized environment of Kyoto and settled in the mountains and snow country of remote Echizen Province, where he established his own school of Zen, the Soto school.

While he proved to be a talented writer and poet, the core of Dogen’s teaching was to transcend the mind’s addiction to language and form in order to become fully present and recognize one’s inherent enlightenment.

More poetry by Eihei Dogen

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2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Dogen – midnight – no waves, no wind”

  1. Anna M.on 03 Sep 2021 at 8:52 am

    Ha! Aha…

    My spontaneous feeling and perception
    of this beautiful haiku from first reading:

    no,no, there is no waves, neither wind,
    nor a boat…and the lake only reflects the dance
    of moonlight…

    ”only the light and the quiet lake remain”

    or may be even there is no lake,
    neither midnight…in timelessness…

    as T.S.Eliot said:

    Where past and future are gathered.
    Neither movement from nor towards,

    Neither ascent nor decline.
    Except for the point, the still point,

    There would be no dance,
    and there is only the dance.

    =

    Yes, we all are concerning what the Earth speaks…
    I was thinking today about the great gifts we humans have:

    Love, kindness, compassion, empathy…

    We must to remind these gifts every day and
    never go in amnesia again…

  2. Carolon 04 Sep 2021 at 3:59 am

    Dogen’s words are so beautiful. I have had another of his quotes on my refrigerator
    probably for years now: ‘The world? Moonlit drops shaken from the crane’s bill’.
    Brings me peace. . . So looking forward to The Awakened One. Thank you Ivan

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