Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Ryokan 良寛大愚

(Ryōkan Taigu,“The Great Fool”)

1758 – 1758 CE

One of the most popular personalities in all of Japanese history, neither priest or lay person, “unthinkably kind” but strict practitioner, saturated with enlightenment yet calling himself “The Great Fool;” Ryōkan was a scholar, calligrapher, and poet yet spent his time with ordinary people. He took no disciples, gave no sermons, took no positions, and spent his time begging, playing with village children, writing and speaking some of the East’s best poems that bridge the gap between understanding the words and understanding the sense. Non-sectarian, a critic of institutional power and professionalism, and startlingly honest, today Ryōkan is a true Japanese national hero familiar to almost every child and respected by young and old, rich and poor, powerful and humble.


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Quotes by Ryokan (16 quotes)

“Because of the finger you can point to the moon. Because of the moon you can understand the finger. The moon and the finger are neither different nor the same… Once you’e really seen things as they are, there’s no more moon, no more finger.”

Chapters: 64. Ordinary Mind

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“Buddha is a conception of your mind, The Way isn’t anything that is made… If to reach the south you point your cart north, when can you ever hope to arrive?”

Chapters: 38. Fruit Over Flowers

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“Delusion and enlightenment produce one another… You get rid of this, then grab hold of that. Don’t you see how stupid it is!”

Chapters: 19. All Methods Become Obstacles

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“I’ve never bothered about getting ahead… What use is there in fame and fortune? In my hut, I listen to the evening rain and stretch my legs without a care in the world.”

Chapters: 44. Fame and Fortune

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“The more they talk, the more wrong they go. It’s like pouring on oil to put out a fire - just foolishness and nothing else.”

Chapters: 56. One with the Dust

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“Those who laugh together become like the waves of the sea… They are no more separate than are two waves.”

Chapters: 42. Children of the Way

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“When a thief came to rob Ryokan, there was nothing to steel so Royokan offered him his clothes. When the thief slunk away, Ryokan sat naked, watching the moon. ‘Poor fellow,’ he mused, ‘I wish I could give him this beautiful moon.’”

from Shasekishū (Sand and Pebbles)

Chapters: 50. Claws and Swords

Themes: Moon Beauty

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“When you understand that my poems aren’t really poems, then we can talk poetry together.”

Chapters: 2. The Wordless Teachings

Themes: Poetry

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“Wherever I happen to be is home.”

Chapters: 47. Effortless Success

Themes: Travel

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“In all ten directions of the universe, there is only one truth. When we see clearly, the great teachings are the same.”

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“What can ever be lost? What can be attained? If we attain something, it was there from the beginning of time. If we lose something, it is hiding somewhere near us.”

Themes: Wu Wei

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“Time is forgotten, the hours fly. People passing by point at me and laugh: 'Why are you acting like such a fool?' Do you want to know what's in my heart? From the beginning of time: just this! just this!”

Themes: Crazy Wisdom

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“You can't prevent time passing. When something has passed, why do thoughts still loiter?”

Chapters: 5. Christmas Trees

Themes: Non-Thought

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“Unfettered like a wafting mist, I give myself up to where the wind wants be to be.”

Themes: No Trace

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“In this dream world
We dose
And talk of dreams—
Dream, dream on,
As much as you wish.”

Themes: Dream

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“You must rise above
The gloomy clouds
Covering the mountaintop
Otherwise, how will you
Ever see the brightness?”

Themes: Perseverance

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Quotes about Ryokan (0 quotes)

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