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from the December 2010 issue

A Monk with No Name

Today seems another good day
for spreading barley or wheat to dry.
He was always smiling.
One of his front teeth was missing.
Even alone
he was always smiling.

On and on he walked.
Walking on and on was his way of study.

The road was his study room.

The birds went flying above,
he walked on along the road.

Twenty, thirty miles a day
murmuring to himself was all his prayers and chanting,
walking with lips tightly shut
was his meditation.

On and on he walked.
Grinning brightly, on he walked.
He seemed to think
he was smiling like Kasyapa.
As he walked
he’d beg a white radish
from a farmer and eat it.
Given a sweet potato
he’d scrape off the earth and eat it raw.

He’d stop at any temple to spend the night.
Once, told there was no room,
those being hard times,
he spent the night
sitting on the floor in the temple hall.

At 3 in the morning
he packed that temple’s Buddha statue in his bag
and set out under a drizzle:
Buddha, don’t stay in a temple like this.
I’ll take you to a proper temple.
Naturally enough,
there was no morning chanting in that temple.

On and on he walked.
After he’d walked twenty miles,
he installed the statue in another temple
and left again.
Still grinning.

Sometimes people asked his Buddhist name.
Sometimes people asked his civilian name.
He just smiled,
gave no answer.

Today seems a very good day
for drying beans.

each one of these beans
is a bean plant
with sixteen
bean-pods hanging in clusters
and in each pod
the beans packed tight.

No doubt next year’s bean harvest will be a fine one, too.

From Maninbo [Ten Thousand Lives],volume 30. Copyright Ko Un. Translation copyright 2010 by Brother Anthony and Lee Sang-Wha. All rights reserved.

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