Sunday, January 21, 2018

Passage of the Years

Early February flowers in Morningside Park last winter

I received a poem in my email a little while ago, written by a Buddhist Monshu centuries ago.  

Yesterday is Spent
Summer and fall slip away; the months and years go by; yesterday is spent, and today draws to a close.
Little did I know that I would grow old before I knew it, with the unnoticed passage of the years.
On occasion during that time, I must have known the beauty of flowers and birds, of the breeze and the moon; I must also have met with the joy and sorrow of pleasure and pain.
But now there is not even a single instance that I remember in detail.
How sad it is to have grown gray with age, having done no more than pass my nights and days to no purpose!
When I deeply reflect on the apparent soundness of my own existence, not yet been called away by the relentless wind of impermanence, it seems like a dream, like an illusion.
As for now, there is nothing left but to aspire to the one way out of birth and death.
—Rennyo Shonin

I used to think that I didn't like poetry (or, at the very least, didn't understand it). But I have really enjoyed reading some of these Buddhist poems lately. The second line, about growing old and letting the years pass by, so beautifully speaks to my soul. I am still decades from having grown gray with age (though last night I counted at least 4 silver hairs), but I hope I am living my life with purpose, with awareness, and with love.