Buddhist poetry

Buddhist poetry is a genre of literature that forms a part of Buddhist discourse.

A statue of the Seated Buddha, Gandhara, 2nd century CE. Renouncing the status as a crown prince and family life, Siddhārtha Gautama set out on a perilous path through the jungle to seek release from the cycle of birth and death – the ever-perpetuating suffering of existence – and became a Buddha, "the Enlightened One" through his practice of askēsis and meditation.
Bhutanese painted thanka of Milarepa (1052-1135), Late 19th-early 20th Century, Dhodeydrag Gonpa, Thimphu, Bhutan
A thangka of Milarepa (1052-1135), a great yogi and poet of Tibet. His poetry is quite probably inspired by Indian Tantric Buddhist poetry, such as dohas by Mahasiddha Saraha, to mention one among many other examples.
Kūkai (774-835), the founder of the Japanese Shingon and compiler of the famous literary treatise Bunkyō hifuron 文鏡秘府論.
Fujiwara no Shunzei
Shunzei in his later days.
Hyakuninisshu 095
Jien, a famous Japanese Buddhist poet. The translation of this poem is offered here to the left.
Dōgen, the founder of the Japanese Sōtō Zen school and a celebrated poet.
Miyazawa Kenji
Miyazawa Kenji (1896-1933), a modern Japanese Buddhist poet.


The first examples of Buddhist poetry can be found in traditional scriptures such as the Dhammapada, according to which, Siddhārtha Gautama (the founder of Buddhism), upon his reaching enlightenment, proclaimed:

Through the round of many births I roamed
without reward,
    without rest,
seeking the house-builder.
Painful is birth
    again & again.
House-builder, you're seen!
You will not build a house again.
All your rafters broken,
the ridge pole destroyed,
gone to the Unformed, the mind
has come to the end of craving.[1]


Traditionally, most Buddhist sutras have a prose component supplemented by verses (known as gatha) that reiterate and poetically summarize the themes of preceding prose passages. Gatha functions as a mnemonic device helping the Buddhist practitioner commit to memory a certain doctrinal maxim. And in fact, the earliest extant forms of Buddhist discourse appear in verse, which is hardly surprising, considering that the texts were not originally written, but memorized. Linguistic analysis shows that the prose component of the sutras is likely to have been modified by later editing, while the poems often contain earlier forms of language. This view is confirmed by Japanese Buddhist scholar Hajime Nakamura, who states that the verse components of the Pali Canon actually predate the prose components, the former being a way of facilitating memorization, as the Pali Canon was transmitted orally for the first 300 or so years.

Current Buddhology generally maintains that even the liturgical scriptures are products of literary composition. Hence, the study of Buddhist text in general and Buddhist poetry in particular cannot be disengaged from the literary field. But for the sake of classification it is useful to distinguish between

  1. Buddhist poetry that is attributed to the Buddha himself, which forms a part of "Buddha Speech" (Sk. Buddhavacana), and
  2. Buddhist poetry written by Buddhists, which is not included in the sutras.

Buddhist poetry in Sanskrit

A significant number of Buddhist poets composed their works in Sanskrit. One of the first and best known is Aśvaghoṣa, of whom two complete "Great Poems" (mahākāvya) survive, i.e. the "Acts of the Buddha" (Buddhacarita.[2]) and "Handsome Nanda" (Saundarananda [3]). The first tells the life-story of Śākyamuni Buddha, while the second tells the story of Nanda, the Buddha's handsome cousin, who was guided towards liberation by turning his greatest weakness - desire - into a motivating factor for practice. Fragments of a drama called Śāriputraprakaraṇa ([4]) are also extant, and these may be some of the oldest, perhaps even the oldest example of Sanskrit drama. Aśvaghoṣa's verses are often simple yet very suggestive, casting key Buddhist teachings, such as impermanence, in evocatively paced similes:

vihagānāṁ yathā sāyaṁ

tatra tatra samāgamaḥ |

jātau jātau tathāśleṣo

janasya svajanasya ca || [5]

Like birds in the evening

May meet here or there,

So too from birth to birth

One embraces one’s kin.

Other verses of Aśvaghoṣa capture in vivid images human indecision, uncertainty and sorrow. The following verse describes Nanda at the door of his house, torn between the wish to remain with his beloved wife and the sense of respect that prompts him to leave and meet the Buddha to make amends for neglecting the Buddha's alms-round in front of his house:

taṅ gauravaṃ buddhagataṃ cakarṣa

bhāryānurāgaḥ punar ācakarṣa |

sa 'niścayān nāpi yayau na tasthau

turaṃs taraṅgeṣv iva rājahaṃsaḥ || [6]

Respect for the Buddha pulled him away

love for his wife pulled him back;

undecided, neither he went nor he stayed

like a swan-king pressed between waves. [7]

Sanskrit poetry is subdivided into three types: verse works (padya) prose works (gadya) and mixed works (campū); nowhere in the Indic tradition is versification taken as the distinguishing feature of literary diction, as all sorts of works, whether philosophical, medical, etc., were composed in verse, for ease of memorization. Several Buddhist authors specialized in mixed verse-prose compositions, often re-telling traditional stories about the Buddha's previous births (jātaka). Among the authors writing on the basis of the Jātakas, most prominent is perhaps Āryaśūra [8], [9], [10], [11], [12]; other beautiful collections of literary Jātakas are those of Haribhaṭṭa [13] and Gopadatta. Haribhaṭṭa's collection includes a concise version of the life story of Śākyamunibuddha; he describes Māra's dejection after understanding the Buddha's victory and superiority in the following verse:

evam ukte 'tha śākyendre

'dhomukhaḥ kusumāyudhaḥ |

hato 'ham iti kāṣṭhena

viṣasāda mahīṃ likhan ||

After the Lord of the Śākyas had said this,

the Flower-Arrows god, face downcast,

thinking "I am undone", sank down,

writing on the earth with a stick.

This is reminiscent of a famous verse from Kālidāsa's Kumārasaṁbhava [14], and the (probably intended) contrast between the two verses is itself suggestive.

evaṃ vādini devarṣau pārśve pitur adhomukhī |

līlākamalapatrāṇi gaṇayām āsa pārvatī || [15]

While the divine Sage was thus speaking,

at the side of her father, face downcast,

Pārvatī counted the lotus petals of her play.[16]

Kālidāsa celebrates the budding presence of the God of Love in Pārvatī’s mind, as she is thrilled to hear a discussion about her future husband; Haribhaṭṭa describes the Love God’s defeat at the time of the Buddha’s Awakening. Pārvatī is holding lotus-petals; Māra is holding a wooden stick.

Another important type of mixed verse/prose works is Sanskrit drama (nāṭaka), and here king Harṣadeva deserves special mention. The patron of the great Chinese monk Xuanzang composed the Nāgānanda [17], an outstanding drama based on the traditional story of Jīmūtavāhana, prince of the Vidyādharas. While perfectly at ease within the conventions of court poetry, including the depiction of love and attraction, Harṣadeva's Nāgānanda is suffused with Buddhist reflections on compassion and on the futility of hatred, and on impermanence and the inevitability of death. The following words are spoken by a brave Nāga boy to his mother, who is suffering from extreme sorrow as her child will soon be sacrificed to the voracious bird Garuḍa:

kroḍīkaroti prathamaṃ

yadā jātam anityatā |

dhātrīva jananī paścāt

tadā śokasya kaḥ kramaḥ ||

Impermanence embraces the new-born,

like a midwife, first,

and the mother, afterwards:

what proper place is there for sorrow?

Another genre where Buddhist poets excelled is the "good-sayings" (subhāṣita), collections of proverb-like verses often dealing with universally applicable principles not so specific to the Buddhist tradition. One such collection of verses is attributed to the Buddha himself, and preserved in different versions as the Udānavarga (Sanskrit) [18], Dhammapada (Pāli), Dharmapada (Prākr̥t and Gāndhārī). This collection often uses similes (upamā) to exemplify key Buddhist teachings:

nāsti kāmasamo hy ogho

nāsti doṣasamo grahaḥ |

nāsti mohasamaṁ jālaṁ

nāsti tṛṣṇāsamā nadī ||

There is no flood like desire,

There is no possession like hatred,

There is no net like delusion,

There is no river like craving.

Other significant collections are Ravigupta's Āryakośa, Vararuci's Gāthāśataka, Ratnamati's Prakaraṇa [19], and several others. One of the largest anthologies of good sayings extant in Sanskrit is by a Buddhist abbot, i.e. Vidyākara's Subhāṣitaratnakośa [20]. The Subhāṣita genre became also well-established in Tibet, one of the greatest examples being Sakya Paṇḍita, an early and influential master of the Sakyapa school, known to have been fluent in Sanskrit from an early age.

Ārya Śāntideva's "Entrance into the practice of the Bodhisattvas" (Bodhicaryāvatāra) [21] partly resembles a collection of good sayings, yet in many ways defies classification. It is written in a number of rather different literary registers, resembling court poetry in places, while being very dramatic in others; some verses are indeed "good-sayings", in both content and style, while an entire chapter is written in the confident and terse tone of a Madhyamaka philosophical text, with the usual alternation of objections and rebuttals. The work is a compendium of Mahāyāna practice, covering the six perfections (pāramitā) which may be said to function as its main structural guideline. The "Compendium of Perfections" by Āryaśūra is another such guide, containing numerous excellent verses and organized even more systematically in terms of the six perfections.

Other guides to Buddhist practices were written in the form of versified letters; among these, the "Letter to a Friend" (Suhr̥llekhā) and the "Garland of Gems" (Ratnāvalī [22]) of Nāgārjuna deserve special mention, not just for their content and style, but also for being very influential in India and Tibet; another remarkable epistle extant in Sanskrit is Candragomin's "Letter to a disciple" (śiṣyalekhā [23]), also outlining the Buddhist path for a disciple. These letters exemplify the friendly and respectful relationship between Buddhist masters and their patrons, who received advice on a number of different topics, both worldly and supramundane.

Buddhist poets wrote very many praises of the Buddha, Dharma and Saṅgha, and of Bodhisattvas and meditational deities [24]. The One Hundred and Fifty Verses of Mātr̥ceṭa seem to have been particularly popular; Nandipriya's extensive commentary on this work still survives in the Tibetan Tangyur (Śatapañcaśatkanāmastotraṭīkā, Brgya lṅa bcu pa źes bya ba’i bstod pa’i ’grel pa, Tg bstod tshogs ka 116a5-178a1.). Mātr̥ceṭa's verses use accessible language, with strong echoes from different types of Buddhist literature, and transmit a sense of great devotion all the more highlighted by the poet's restrained and measured diction:


cittaratnasya tasya te |

tvam eva vīra sārajño

dūre tasyetaro janaḥ || [25]

Seed of perfect awakening,

gem of your mind:

you, hero, know its essence,

others - are far.

Buddhist praises often have didactic purposes; some of them (like Nāgārjuna's Catuḥstava) expound philosophical ideas of specific schools, while praises of Bodhisattvas and meditational deities often facilitate readers/listeners in acquiring familiarity with important features that become the focus of recollection and or formal meditative contemplation.

Buddhist authors also wrote on prosody (chandas), offering their own poetic examples for different types of Sanskrit meter. Two notable works on Sanskrit poetry are the Chandoratnākara of Ratnākaraśānti [26] and the Vr̥ttamālāstuti of Jñānaśrīmitra [27], by two great contemporary Vikramaśīla masters who were active on several intellectual fronts and well-known exponents of Yogācāra thought. The Vr̥ttamālāstuti is particularly striking: it consists in verses of praise of the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Mañjuśrī, which at the same time offer information about the verse that is being exemplified, such as its name and the position of the caesura (yati). A simple example, for the śaraṇa meter:

prasīda bhagavan

vilokaya manāk |

jaḍaṁ janam imam

tvadekaśaraṇam ||[28]

Be well-disposed, Bhagavat!

Look a bit at this dull person,

whose only refuge is you.

Pāli poetry follows very similar patters as Sanskrit poetry, in terms of prosody, vocabulary, genres, and poetic conventions; indeed several Pāli authors were well conversant with Sanskrit and even composed works in that language (such as, for example, the Anuruddhaśataka). Sanskrit meters and poetic conventions were more broadly very influential throughout South-East Asia even in respect to vernacular languages (Thai, Burmese, etc.), also thanks to the popularity of literary aesthetic ideas from the tradition of Alaṁkāraśāstra ("The science of ornaments") regarding the purposes and nature of literature.

While discussing praises, literary praises of meditational deities have been briefly mentioned; this brings us into the fold of Buddhist Tantric poetry, which is esoteric in character and thus often laden with evocative symbols meant to be understood only thanks to one's relationship with a living master. Notable are the "Songs of Practice" (Caryāgīti [29]), written in Apabhraṁśa rather than Sanskrit, and including among their authors the "Great Accomplished Ones" (mahāsiddha), such as Saraha, Śāntipā, and many others.

Buddhist poetry in Asia

Buddhist poetry – like the bulk of the scriptures produced by Buddhists – is not limited to compositions in Pali and Sanskrit; it has flourished in practically every language that Buddhists speak.

  • Notable examples in the Tibetan tradition are works of Milarepa.[30]
  • Chinese Buddhist Tradition is particularly rich in poetic expression. In the poetry of Bai Juyi,[31] for instance,we see a tension between the secular and Buddhist poetic expression: many Buddhists considered poetry as an attachment and advocated against it, despite the fact that the scriptures revered by them were abundant in poetic forms. Bai is credited with the coinage of the expression kyōgen kigo (狂言綺語, lit. "deranged words and embellished language"), which, to his view, referred to futility of poetic expression in comparison to Buddhist practice. Perhaps, the most successful Chinese Buddhist poet to resolve this paradox was Jiao Ran 皎然 (730-799), who proposed treatment of poetry as an intellectual instrument of Buddhist practice.[32] Chan Buddhism (Ch. Chan; Jap. Zen) provided a rich ground for Buddhist poetry. Chan Buddhists created a complex language in which indirection, suggestion, ambiguity, paradox, and metaphor are prized over straightforward explanation. This complex language of Chan literature is also applied in Chan poetry. Chan Buddhists asserted that though enlightenment cannot be explained in ordinary terms, poetry, as a special language, can point the way. As the Chan monk Juefan Huihong (1071–1128) wrote, “The subtleties of the mind cannot be transmitted in words, but can be seen in words.” In Chan poetry, images as simple as the moon, clouds, boats, reflections in water, plum and lotus, bamboo and pine took on complex connotations based in Chan ideas, famous verbal exchanges, and Chan and Buddhist texts.[33]

To exemplify the use of specialized Buddhist metaphor, this well-known poem by Hanshan (Tang Dynasty) will suffice:


My mind is like the autumn moon,
As fresh and pure as a jade pond.
But nothing really compares with it –
Tell me, how can I explain?

  • Korean poets wrote mostly in Classical Chinese.[34]
  • Japanese poets also contributed to Buddhist poetic tradition in classical Chinese (e.g. the poetic genius of Kūkai inspired many poets of later generations.)[35] Kūkai, in turn was influenced by Jiao Ran's Shi shi 詩式, as the latter is included in Kūkai's magnum opus of poetics, the Bunkyō hifuron 文鏡秘府論.[36]

In medieval Japan, Buddhist poetry was accorded a special status of a separate genre within the corpus of the waka collections.

Japanese Buddhist Poetry

1. The earliest extant collection of the Japanese poetry, the Man'yōshū, contains a preface (Jp. jo 序 or daishi 題詞) to two poems on the love of parents towards their children: "Sakyamuni expounds truthfully from his golden mouth, 'I love all things equally, the way I love my child, Rahula.' He also teaches that 'no love is greater than the love for ones child.' Even the greatest of saints cherishes his child. Who, then, among the living creatures of this world could fail to love children claimed as one's own?"[37] There are several prefaces and poems in the Man'yōshū that mention the name of Buddha Śākyamuni (Jp. Shaka Nyorai 釋迦如来 /an honorific title of Siddhārtha Gautama), Buddhist temples (Jp. tera 寺), monks and nuns.[38]

2. Among the treasures of Yakushi-ji Temple in Nara there are stone blocks dating from the Nara period modeled as "the footsteps" of the Buddha (Jp. Bussokuseki 佛足石). These blocks contain poems in man'yōgana that may be considered the oldest Buddhist waka (Japanese language poems) known to date. These poems are usually referred to as bussokusekika (lit. "poems on stone imprints of Buddha's feet": 仏足石歌). Consider the following example:

misoji amari
futatsu no katachi
yasogusa to
sodareru hito no
fumishi atodokoro
mare ni mo aru ka mo

Rare indeed
are the footprints
where trod the man
who lacked none
of the thirty two marks
and the eighty signs [of Buddhahood].[39]

Both examples above have one trait in common. Namely, the focus on the physical characteristics of the Buddha is prominent: "the golden mouth" of the Buddha in the Man'yoshu and the "feet of the Buddha" in the stone inscriptions relate to the marks of perfection of the Buddha's body / speech (Skt. mahāpuruṣa, lit. [signs of] "a great person").[40]

In the Heian period, Buddhist poetry began to be anthologized in the Imperial Anthologies (Jp. chokusenshū 勅選集. Among the 21 Imperial Anthologies, 19 contain Buddhist tanka (lit. short waka) starting with the Shūi Wakashū, compiled between 1005 and 1007 C.E.

The first Imperial Anthology to treat Buddhist tanka as a separate genre, i.e. shakkyōka (lit. "Poems of Śākyamuni's Teaching": 釈教歌), is the Senzai Wakashū, which has an exclusive section dedicated to the Buddhist Poems in Volume 19 (第十九巻). Among the most famous poets who wrote shakkyōka are: Saigyō; Jakuren; Kamo no Chōmei; Fujiwara no Shunzei; Jien; Nōin; Dōgen, Ton'a, etc. Many of the so-called "Thirty-six Poetry Immortals" wrote Buddhist poetry.

Shakkyōka can be subdivided according to the ten following motifs:

  1. Buddhas and bodhisattvas;
  2. Eminent monks / nuns;
  3. A passage from a sutra;
  4. A passage from commentatorial corpus of the Buddhist canon;
  5. Buddhist Experience (meditative / devotional states);
  6. Mental states, such as delusion, passion, anger, etc. that are important in the Buddhist discourse;
  7. Religious deeds;
  8. Related to temples and shrines;
  9. Buddhist views of Nature;
  10. Natural phenomena alluding to Buddhist themes (e.g. transience of flowers blooming)[41]

These motifs are not mutually exclusive and are very often combined within a given poem.

One of the most famous collections of Japanese tanka of the Kamakura period, the Hyakunin Isshu contains several shakkyōka, for instance Poem 95, by Jien (also anthologized in the Senzai Wakashū: 巻十七, 雑中, No. 1137):


Unworthy though I am,
I cast my black robe of a monk
Upon this suffering world,
Living here
On the Mount of Timber.[42]

In later periods, as tanka was slowly being overshadowed by renga and haiku – the two poetic forms that derived from tanka – such famous poets as "the seven worthies of renga", (Jp. renga shichiken 連歌七賢) of the Muromachi period,[43] Sōgi, and still later, Matsuo Bashō, Kobayashi Issa, among many others, carried on the tradition of Buddhist poetry with their compositions.

菊の香や  Kiku no ka ya
奈良には古き Nara ni wa furuki
仏達  Hotoketachi

In the city of Nara
Fragrance of chrysanthemums;
Buddhas of yore.[44]


The nostalgic feeling of the ancient capital, Nara – interspersed with the scent of chrysanthemums (symbol of Japanese monarchy) and the old Buddha statues – captures well the aesthetic ideals of sabi and yūgen in this famous haiku. Although these three lines appear to be a mere utterance of almost prosaic quality, the imagery invoked is far from simplistic. Buddhas, emperors, passage of time, the ethereal beauty of flowers that presents itself obliquely, i.e., appealing to scent rather than sight – all suggest that the poet sought to use language as a medium of condensed imagery to map an immediate experience, whose richness can only be read in the blanks.

tsuyu no yo wa tsuyu no yo nagara sari nagara

This world of dew
is just a world of dew,
and yet...


Here the poet uses the image of evanescence of our world, the dewdrop – one of the classical allegories of the Buddhist teaching – to express grief caused by the death of his daughter. In theory, Buddhism teaches its followers to regard all the vicissitudes of life as transitory and ephemeral, akin to magic apparitions without substance or dewdrops soon to evaporate under the sun. Yet, a father's loss of his child is more than reason can counter.[45]

Buddhist poetry and modernity

As Japan reached the era of industrialized modernity, many of the poets of the Meiji period started to experiment with the European styles of poetic composition. Some poets, notably Miyazawa Kenji—a devout Buddhist who expressed his convictions in his poetry and fiction—often composed poems with Buddhist overtones. His Ame ni mo Makezu (雨ニモマケズ), known to practically every Japanese today,[46] takes its theme (Chapter 14: Peaceful and Joyous Deeds / Jp. Anrakugyō 安楽行) from the Lotus Sutra 妙法蓮華經, which Kenji revered.[47]

Another Buddhist poem that remains well known today, but for non-religious reasons, is the Iroha poem from the Heian period. Originally written in man'yōgana and attributed to Kūkai, this Buddhist poem contains every kana precisely once, and is learned in Japanese primary schools mainly for this reason. Many old-style Japanese dictionaries adhere to the Iroha order.

A modern Indian Sanskrit poet, Vanikavi Dr. Manomohan Acharya, wrote Sri Gautama Buddha Panchakam in simple and lucid Sanskrit through lyrical style.[48]


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  • E.U. Ramirez-Christensen and Shinkei. Heart's Flower : The Life and Poetry of Shinkei. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1994. ISBN 978-0-8047-2253-7
  • A. Skilton, "How the Nagas Were Pleased by Harsha and The Shattered Thighs by Bhasa". New York: New York University Press, 2009
  • D. Smith, "The Birth of Kumāra". New York: New York University Press, 2005.
  • J.S. Speyer, tr. "The Jātakamālā or Garland of Birth-Stories by Ārya-śūra." London: Oxford University Press, 1895.
  • P.L. Vaidya, ed., and Āryaśūra. "Jātakamālā". Darbhanga: Mithila Institute, 1959.
  • B. Watson, tr. Po Chü-i : selected poems. New York : Columbia University Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0-231-11839-2
  • B. Watson, "Buddhism in the Poetry of Po Chü-I." Eastern Buddhist 21, no. 1 (1988): 1-22.
  • Egan, Charles, and Charles Chu. "Clouds Thick, Whereabouts Unknown : Poems by Zen Monks of China." New York: Columbia University Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-231-15038-5


  1. ^ "House" = selfhood; house-builder = craving. Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Commentary to the Dhammapada, Verses 153-154. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-01-08. Retrieved 2008-11-22.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ Johnston (1998)
  3. ^ Johnston (1928)
  4. ^ Lüders (1911)
  5. ^ Johnston (1928: 106)
  6. ^ Johnston (1928: 28)
  7. ^ “Reverence for the Buddha drew him forward, love for his wife drew him back again; from irresolution he neither went away nor stood still, like a royal goose pressing forwards on the waves.” Johnston (1932 :24).
  8. ^ Kern (1891)
  9. ^ Vaidya (1959)
  10. ^ Speyer (1895)
  11. ^ Mukhopadhyaya (2007)
  12. ^ Hanish (2005)
  13. ^ Hahn (2011)
  14. ^ Kale (1917), Smith (2005)
  15. ^ Kale (1917: 133)
  16. ^ “While the sage was speaking thus, Párvatî, who was by her father’s side, counted the petals of her sportive lotus with a down-cast look.” Kale (1917 :47).
  17. ^ Skilton (2009)
  18. ^ Bernhard (1965)
  19. ^ Dimitrov (2016: 52-67)
  20. ^ Ingalls (1968)
  21. ^ Crosby & Skilton (1998)
  22. ^ Hahn (1992)
  23. ^ Hahn (2000)
  24. ^ Pandey (1994)
  25. ^ Pandey (1994: 22)
  26. ^ Hahn (1982)
  27. ^ Hahn et al. (2016)
  28. ^ Hahn et al. (2016: 39)
  29. ^ Kvaerne (1986). See especially pp. 7-8 for a discussion of the genre
  30. ^ Chang (2006).
  31. ^ B. Watson (1988, 2000).
  32. ^ Nienhauser (1985: 270-2).
  33. ^ Egan, Charles, and Charles Chu (2010).
  34. ^ I, Yon-suk (1986). "A Study: Aspects of Esoteric Buddhism in Ancient Korean Poetry". Journal of the Academic Association of Koreanology in Japan. 121: 87–118, 3.
  35. ^ Gibson and Murakami (2008).
  36. ^ More on Kukai's poetry, cf. R.Green: http://ww2.coastal.edu/rgreen/kukaipoetry.htm
  37. ^ Preface to MYS 806 tr. in Konishi & Miner (1984: 399).
  38. ^ E.g. MYS 3862, 3863; prefaces to MYS 155, 339, 394, 798, 806, 997, 1023, 1561-3, etc. Numbers of the Man'yōshū (MYS) poems follow the new system of the Shinpen Kokka taikan. "Shinpen Kokka Taikan" Henshū Iinkai (hensha). Tōkyō: Kadokawa Shoten, 1983-1992. (Shōwa 58 - Heisei 4). 新編国歌大観. 「新編国歌大観」編集委員会(編者). 東京: Kadokawa Shoten, 1983-1992. (昭和58 - 平成4).
  39. ^ Adapted from Mills (1960: 237).
  40. ^ for detailed information on the marks of the Buddha's body cf. http://studybuddhism.com/en/advanced-studies/lam-rim/refuge/the-32-major-marks-of-a-buddha-s-physical-body
  41. ^ Ishihara (1980: 20-1).
  42. ^ "Mount of Timber" refers to Mount Hiei. For an alternative translation, cf. Mostow (1996: 421) and U Virginia's project: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/japanese/hyakunin/frames/hyakuframes.html
  43. ^ Sōzei 宗砌(?-1455), Shinkei 心敬 (1406-75), Gyōjo 行助 (1405-69), Nōami 能阿弥 (1397-1471), Chiun 智蘊 (d. 1448), Senjun 専順 (1411-76) and Sō'i 宗伊/aka. Sugihara Katamori 杉原賢盛 (1418-85?) are "the seven worthies / sages of renga" popularized by Sōgi. Ramirez-Christensen (1994: 54-5).
  44. ^ For an alternative translation, see De Bary et al. (2001: 368).
  45. ^ Sakaki (1999: 72)
  46. ^ For an alternative translation of this poem, see this site.
  47. ^ An online translation of the Lotus Sutra is available at here Archived 2015-12-22 at the Wayback Machine.
  48. ^ http://www.itimes.com/users/iti499967/blog/_193081

External links

Allan Graham

Allan Graham, who sometimes uses the name Toadhouse, (born 1943 in San Francisco, California) is a contemporary American artist based in New Mexico. His work includes sculpture, painting, poetry, and video.

Graham studied at the San Francisco Art Institute and San Jose State University before moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of New Mexico (1967).His early paintings were wall-like grids which, in the mid to late 1970s, developed into more open compositions with sweeping arcs and herring-bone patterns.

In 1983, he abandoned conventionally shaped canvases in favor of eccentric forms and began leaving the stretcher bars exposed. By the mid-1980s this had evolved into a series of painting-sculpture hybrids, using wood, canvas, newspaper and book pages, which resembled certain African works. These were followed by near-monochromes on bent canvasses, sculptures made of books and irregularly circular paintings using book pages from sources such as a Navajo Bible and Dante's Inferno.

In the 1990s, he painted a series called "Cave of Generation", which consisted of steps leading into large monochrome and two-tone paintings. These were followed by a series titled "Pre-hung (for those who suffer form)" which consisted of single and double doors painted with a palette knife.

Andrew Schelling

Andrew Schelling (born January 14, 1953 in Washington D.C.), is an American poet and translator.

Bif Naked

Beth Torbert (born June 15, 1971) is an Indo-Canadian singer-songwriter, actress, and motivational speaker best known by her stage name Bif Naked.

Buddhist texts

Buddhist texts were initially passed on orally by monks, but were later written down and composed as manuscripts in various Indo-Aryan languages which were then translated into other local languages as Buddhism spread. They can be categorized in a number of ways. The Western terms "scripture" and "canonical" are applied to Buddhism in inconsistent ways by Western scholars: for example, one authority refers to "scriptures and other canonical texts", while another says that scriptures can be categorized into canonical, commentarial, and pseudo-canonical. Buddhist traditions have generally divided these texts with their own categories and divisions, such as that between buddhavacana "word of the Buddha," many of which are known as "sutras," and other texts, such as shastras (treatises) or Abhidharma.

These religious texts were written in many different languages and scripts but memorizing, reciting and copying the texts were of high value. Even after the development of printing, Buddhists preferred to keep to their original practices with these texts.


The Bussokuseki-kahi (仏足石歌碑) is a well-known monument in the Yakushi Temple in Nara, consisting of a traditional Buddha footprint inscribed with twenty-one poems, known as bussokusekika (also known as Bussokuseki no Uta).

Numbering twenty one poems in total, they are divided into two sections:

Seventeen poems praising the virtue of Buddha.

Four poems warn against the impermanence of life and preach the Buddhist path.Part of the stone monument has worn away making the eleventh poem of the first section and the fourth poem of the second section partially unreadable.

The Buddha Foot monument at Yakushi Temple was constructed in 753 and the poems are viewed as being composed around that time. The author is unknown.

The poems are written in Man'yōgana, a precursor to kana where Chinese characters are used for their phonetic value, and in Bussokuseki-style. Named after the poems, Bussokuseki-style is an archaic poetic device in which lines are written in a 5-7-5-7-7-7 mora pattern. It is seen during the Nara period but greatly diminishes by the Heian period. It is an early form of waka.

Dahuka boli

Dahuka boli (Odia: ଡାହୁକ ବୋଲି, also "Dahuka gita" (ଡାହୁକ ଗୀତ)) are poetic recitations which Dahukas (or Ratha bhanda), the charioteer who recite during the Rath Yatra in Puri, Odisha. Ratha Yatra being a symbolic expression of fertility and Life cycle, these "boli" sung by the Dahuka contain bawdy songs. It is believed that unless the Dahuka boli is sung 'Ratha' doesn't move. These songs are sung publicly without any kind of hold on the lyrics. Dahuka controls the movement of Ratha during the festival. This tradition is the remnant of Vajrayana Buddhism in Odisha and the lyrics bear the signature of the Vajrayana Buddhist poetry. The Dahukas are believed to be the descends of the famous 84 Mahasiddhas.

Daruma uta

Bodhidharma Song (達磨歌, daruma uta), lit. "a nonsense poem" – a pejorative term for Zen poetry. It seems that this term was coined in connection with the Zen kōan's "critical phrases" (話頭, Jp. wa tō; Ch. huà-tóu) that seemed like unintelligible riddles to ordinary people and other Buddhist schools.

This term was used by conservative waka poets to refer to the innovative style of Fujiwara no Teika (1162–1241), the compiler of the Hyakunin Isshu and Shin Kokin Wakashū, notwithstanding the fact that Teika himself had never been a Zen practitioner.

Daruma uta is not the same as the shakkyōka, which stands for Japanese Buddhist poetry in a general sense.

Edward Kamens

Edward Kamens (born 19 April 1952) is Sumitomo Professor of Japanese Literature at Yale University, where he has taught since 1986. His dissertation focused on the Buddhist setsuwa collection Sanbōe, and more recently he has written on allusive or intertextual language in premodern literature, particularly utamakura in waka. He was Master of Saybrook College and is now a fellow of the Whitney Humanities Center. Professor Kamens and his wife, art history professor and former Saybrook College Master and current Yale College Dean Mary Miller, are rumored to appear as extras in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, part of which was filmed at Yale.

Emeniano Acain Somoza Jr

Foremostly a poet, Emeniano Acain Somoza, Jr. is also a fictionist, an essayist and a playwright. He hails from Siquijor Island, an island in Central Visayas, south of the Philippine Archipelago.

Harold Stewart

Harold Frederick Stewart (14 December 1916 – 7 August 1995) was an Australian poet and oriental scholar. He is chiefly remembered alongside fellow poet James McAuley as a co-creator of the Ern Malley literary hoax.

Stewart's work has been associated with McAuley and A. D. Hope, belonging to a neo-classical or Augustian movement in poetry, but his choice of subject matter is different in that he concentrates on writing long metaphysical narrative poems, combining Eastern subject matter with his own metaphysical journey to shape the narrative.

He is usually described by critics as a traditionalist and conservative but described himself as a conservative anarchist. A witty and engaging letter writer, many examples have been retained by the National Library in Canberra. Leonie Kramer in The Oxford History of Australian Literature grades the literary quality of Ethel's (Malley's supposed elder sister) letters as equal to those of Patrick White, Peter Porter and Barry Humphries.

Isaline Blew Horner

Isaline Blew Horner OBE (30 March 1896 – 25 April 1981), usually cited as I. B. Horner, was an English Indologist, a leading scholar of Pali literature and late president of the Pali Text Society (1959–1981).

Japanese poetry

Japanese poetry is poetry of or typical of Japan, or written, spoken, or chanted in the Japanese language, which includes Old Japanese, Early Middle Japanese, Late Middle Japanese, and Modern Japanese, and some poetry in Japan which was written in the Chinese language or ryūka from the Okinawa Islands: it is possible to make a more accurate distinction between Japanese poetry written in Japan or by Japanese people in other languages versus that written in the Japanese language by speaking of Japanese-language poetry. Much of the literary record of Japanese poetry begins when Japanese poets encountered Chinese poetry during the Tang dynasty (although the Chinese classic anthology of poetry, Shijing, was well known by the literati of Japan by the 6th century). Under the influence of the Chinese poets of this era Japanese began to compose poetry in Chinese kanshi); and, as part of this tradition, poetry in Japan tended to be intimately associated with pictorial painting, partly because of the influence of Chinese arts, and the tradition of the use of ink and brush for both writing and drawing. It took several hundred years to digest the foreign impact and make it an integral part of Japanese culture and to merge this kanshi poetry into a Japanese language literary tradition, and then later to develop the diversity of unique poetic forms of native poetry, such as waka, haikai, and other more Japanese poetic specialties. For example, in the Tale of Genji both kanshi and waka are frequently mentioned. The history of Japanese poetry goes from an early semi-historical/mythological phase, through the early Old Japanese literature inclusions, just before the Nara period, the Nara period itself (710 to 794), the Heian period (794 to 1185), the Kamakura period (1185 to 1333), and so on, up through the poetically important Edo period (1603 and 1867, also known as "Tokugawa") and modern times; however, the history of poetry often is different from socio-political history.


Jien (慈円, 17 May 1155 in Kyoto –28 October 1225 in Omi) was a Japanese poet, historian, and Buddhist monk.

Kuruvita Rala

Kuruvita Rala (also spelled Kuruwita Rala, also known as Antonio Barreto) was a Sri Lankan rebel leader and prince of Uva. He was also the guardian of the sons of Dona Catherina, Queen of Kandy.

Martin Wickramasinghe

Lama Hewage Don Martin Wickramasinghe commonly Martin Wickramasinghe, MBE (Sinhala: මාර්ටින් වික්‍රමසිංහ) (29 May 1890 – 23 July 1976) was a Sri Lankan novelist. His books have been translated into several languages.The search for roots is a central theme in Wickramasinghe's writings on the culture and life of the people of Sri Lanka. His work explored and applied modern knowledge in natural and social sciences, literature, linguistics, the arts, philosophy, education, Buddhism and comparative religion. Wickramasinghe is often acclaimed as the father of modern Sinhala literature.

Sutta Piṭaka

The Sutta Pitaka (suttapiṭaka; or Suttanta Pitaka;

Basket of Discourse; cf Sanskrit सूत्र पिटक Sūtra Piṭaka) is the second of the three divisions of the Tripitaka or Pali Canon, the Pali collection of Buddhist writings of Theravada Buddhism. The other two parts of the Tripiṭaka are the Vinaya Piṭaka and the Abhidharma Piṭaka (Sanskrit; Pali: Abhidhamma Piṭaka). The Sutta Pitaka contains more than 10,000 suttas (teachings) attributed to the Buddha or his close companions.

The other two collections are the Vinaya Pitaka and the Abhidhamma Pitaka.


Thero (commonly appearing in the masculine and feminine forms thera and therī respectively) is an honorific term in Pali for senior bhikkhus and bhikkhunis (Buddhist monks and nuns) in the Buddhist monastic order. The word literally means "elder". These terms, appearing at the end of a monastic's given name, are used to distinguish those who have at least 10 years since their upasampada (higher ordination). The name of an important collection of very early Buddhist poetry is called the Therigatha, "verses of the therīs".

The terms mahāthera and mahātherī (the prefix mahā meaning 'great' in both Sanskrit and Pali} are used to refer to very distinguished elderly and venerable monks and nuns considered to have reached a higher level of spiritual development.

Usage of these terms varies according to the Buddhist tradition and culture. In Sri Lanka, these terms are widely used.

Some prominent theras and therīs:

Ananda thera

Mahapajapati Gotami therī

Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Thero

Kiribathgoda Gnanananda Thero

Ayya Tathaaloka therī

Gangodawila Soma Thero

Nyanaponika Thera

Nanavira Thera

Tsering Wangmo Dhompa

Tsering Wangmo Dhompa (born 1969) is the first Tibetan female poet to be published in English. She was raised in India and Nepal. Tsering received her BA from Lady Sri Sram College, Delhi University. She pursued her MA from University of Massachusetts Amherst and her MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. She is currently a Ph.D candidate in Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her first book of poems, Rules of the House, published by Apogee Press in 2002, was a finalist for the Asian American Literary Awards in 2003. Other publications include My Rice Tastes Like the Lake (Apogee Press 2011), In the Absent Everyday (also from Apogee Press), and two chapbooks: In Writing the Names (A.bacus, Poets & Poets Press) and Recurring Gestures (Tangram Press). In Letter For Love she delivered her first short story. In 2013, Penguin India published Tsering's first full-length book, A Home in Tibet, in which she chronicles her successive journeys to Tibet and provides ethnographic details of ordinary Tibetans inside Tibet.

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