tsurezuregusa: wisdom from an idle poet

november’s issue of bodhi mind, the vancouver buddhist church’s monthly newsletter, introduced me to the poet kenko. i was intrigued by his words that “there are seven undesirable things as friends,” among them “a strong person who has never been ill.”

wise words. although there are always exceptions (my friend april just told me about someone like that), most people who never met adversity find it difficult to relate to the suffering of others.

yoshida kenko, a buddhist priest who lived in japan from 1283 to 1352, spent some years of his life writing thoughts down on pieces of paper, which he then stuck to the wall of his room. after his death, they were collected into a book called “tsurezuregusa”, which is translated to the english as “essays in idleness”.

this idle man brings us many gems. here are a few:

all mistakes originate with people’s acting like experts thoroughly familiar with a subject, and looking down with an air of superiority on others.

the pleasantest of all diversions is to sit alone under the lamp, a book spread out before you, and to make friends with people of a distant past you have never known.

in everything, no matter what it may be, uniformity is undesirable. leaving something incomplete makes it interesting, and gives one the feeling that there is room for growth.

when i see the things people do in their struggle to get ahead, it reminds me of someone building a snowman on a spring day.

i wonder what feelings inspire a man to complain of “having nothing to do.” i am happiest when i have nothing to distract me and i am completely alone.

the moon that appears close to dawn after we have long waited for it moves us more profoundly than the full moon shining cloudless over a thousand leagues. and how incomparably lovely is the moon, almost greenish in its light, when seen through the tops of the cedars deep in the mountains, or when it hides for a moment behind clustering clouds during a sudden shower!

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