Ch’an (China’s Zen tradition) and Zen have long found expression through poetry. The poets whose understanding has been left to us (and we owe a great debt of gratitude to all those who have preserved the work and those who have translated it into other languages) have long inspired me through their great expressions of spirit and nature. Foremost among those (in my opinion) is the 18/19th century hermit monk Ryōkan but others have also written great work. Here I offer some examples of these that are available on the internet from both historical poets and modern writers.
Shitou Xiqian (700-790)
Shitou Xiqian was an eighth century Ch’an monk and teacher. He studied under the sixth patriarch, Huineng, and wrote the still used liturgy, The Identity of Relative and Absolute (Sandokai).
Hanshan (Cold Mountain) (9th century)
Eihei Dōgen (1200-1253)
Eihei Dōgen was a Japanese Zen monk who established the Sōtō Zen school. He studied with Chinese teacher Ruijing and founded Eiheiji Monastery that still exists today. In addition to his numerous writings he was an excellent poet.
Matsuo Bashō (1644 – 1694)
Bashō is remembered for reinvigorating the Japanese haiku (hokku) tradition and as the master of that form. He practiced Zen meditation but was probably not as realised as the poets who come before him on this page. His work, however, conveys a great understanding of nature and the world.
Gary Snyder (1930-)
Jane Hirshfield (1953-)