After the rich fare of John and Sunday Reed and the Nicolson family, a nice little palate-cleanser. Bill Porter, “Red Pine”, published Zen Baggage in 2009. He is a translator and interpreter of Chinese literature. This account of his pilgrimage to China, to sites associated with the first six patriarchs of Zen, is written with clarity and humour. It’s about Buddhism, people he meets along the way, letters from home, food, drink, life… Here’s a taste:
As I went back to my room to collect my gear, I heard someone strike the gong outside the meditation hall announcing the beginning of a meditation period for all those not engaged in planting trees or other monastery work. The whole monastery was ordered around such sounds: time to get up, time to meditate, time to chant, time to eat, time to work, time to sleep. A person could live out his life and never say a word. It was a land beyond language. And it was time for me to leave.
And a small poem by Hui-k’o which also speaks to Red Pine’s journey.
Past lake and swamps I journeyed
with the moon on my shoulders I reached Ssukung
where a cloud patch holds my robe together
and the snow fills me up when I’m hungry.