Two Naikan Poems of Morikawa Riu
Translated and Interpreted by
D. K. Reynolds and R. Omaki
Song of the Way
The path you walk today is a new path.
It is a path you cannot take back and walk again.
When you run away from suffering
you put yourself further from life's joys, too.
Everyone should have a grateful heart, should make one.
One who wins is strong, but one who gives way is even stronger.
In human life one must travel many steep paths.
When you are proud of your strengths they become weak points.
When you acknowledge your weak points they become strengths.
Don't be pushy, be dependable.
You can't hide your foolishness no matter what excuses you offer.
We don't do what we can,
and we keep worrying about what we can't do.
Knowing it all along we tend to forget our debt to our parents.
We don't recognize our good fortune though it is right beside us.
The past creates the present.
The present creates the future.
Let's look and learn from our suffering while in the midst of it.
There is no one who causes us suffering like ourselves.
Even if you don't understand difficult topics
you will do well to avoid speaking evil of others.
Don't get angry.
Don't overdo it.
When you are angry your life contracts.
One who troubles others troubles himself.
We quickly notice the faults of others
and lose sight of their goodness and strengths.
We all have light shining in our hearts.
We're good at making detailed plans,
but our failure to carry them out is a flaw in those gems.
Lots of people are happy to hear praise,
but few people use criticism for reflection and improvement.
Kindness keeps on coming.
Our debt continues.
This process doesn't occur randomly.
If you gladly do unpleasant work
it changes into pleasant work.
Even when you are good at serving others
It is difficult to avoid thinking they owe you for your service.
The true path is neither to right nor left.
One's work, too, becomes one's body and soul.
Money is valuable; it can be used for holy purposes.
But some people use it to hurt themselves.
It's not that you prosper so that you can bestow your abundance on others.
Giving yourself away is prospering.
A smiling greeting in the morning,
A sense of gratitude at bedtime,
Accumulating days of hope and thanks and reflection--
These provide deep significance to life.
The Path Toward Paradise
If you wholeheartedly follow this path
Right to your skin and bones
Even if you are hurt your heart bears no scars.
Greet a stranger as a saint,
Even though he be a devil,
Accept him in the now.
Don't behave badly when people aren't around.
Don't panic about the future.
You can't take today back.
We consider what is borrowed to be ours
We lose sight of our true heart.
I am bad, without good.
Furthermore, I'm greedy and short sighted.
I am stained by the errors of my past.
They follow me no matter how I seek to expel them.
We cannot flee.
We are bound by the rope of fate.
We must fall into the boundless depths of hell.
While hearing that salvation is possible
We go along without listening.
And regret the moment.
From afar we seek the joyful face, the chariot of heaven.
And feel tormented.
The toppled bamboo will someday grow tall again.
The crushing snow will someday disappear.
Those without troubles in this world
Will be troubled by their egos and accumulated desires.
We can't keep our hearts still.
Joy becomes pain.
Pain becomes joy.
In this world we lose what is ours.
Even our bodies return to the earth.
Wars come from humans and kill people.
If people are attacked they become angry.
If we tackle ourselves the anger disappears.
The lower the wisteria descends the more people respect it.
Breath from our mouths blows out flames and starts them, too.
Blessed with the strength to carry our desires
Hugging today's joys to us we move forward.
Without complaints, without doubts.
Close to heaven
Are the strong roots of diligent Naikan.
When we clasp our hands in prayer our egos are gone.
When the ego is gone I turn into everyone.
It becomes easy to defeat a million adversaries.
And the final victory is over that big ego.
Rather than chatting with others, first work on yourself.
Fit yourself to time and place.
Without focusing on yesterday or tomorrow,
Can you fit yourself to the present moment?
We make no time to
Accept the present
Accept the past
Accept the future.
We have no time to light the lamp in our hearts.
If we menace those who walk the Path in faith
We'll be menaced in the future.
In the darkness that conceals surrounding heaven's light
Although a hundred thousand lamps shine out
There is only one lamp waiting for me.
Poems by David K. Reynolds
(see Creative Commons License at Bottom)
Sequins are not Mirrors
Showy humility is twisted pride.
Showy service is stealing.
Showy gift giving takes as it gives.
Showy efficiency misses the purpose.
Feigned attention is inattention.
Overdone praise is degrading.
Automatic thanks is ingratitude.
Naikan posturing is gaikan.
Who deserves to be shink of the month?
Only the plain vanilla shink.
We're all full of secrets and slip ups.
Dependent on fresh moments for salvation.
Give up and keep rowing.
We are all fools with oars
In a gulf with cross currents
And no shore in sight.
We call out in the fog
And lash our boats together
Seeking balance in exchange for one oar.
Yet all there is is rowing.
We spoke of concern today
Of stars and dreams and possibilities.
In that heady air we floated up on words.
I strolled behind the meeting lodge
And sat on rubble.
Trash sluttered the ground
Littered words evaporate in air.
Trash must be cleared away by hands.
I attended workshops and seminars
Where words floated like rosy clouds.
But Reality kept reminding me of firm ground
And the way to walk with balanced tread.
The stream bucked and skipped
And poured itself on itself over and over in infinite mixture,
Absorbing changes from dissolving rocks
And melding leaves
And tumbling acorns.
Nourished by diversity.
On Being Out of Time
Tears of grief hold the instant for ransom.
The frosty heat at the tip of love pricks age's mesh.
In dreams I wade through syrupy time fleeing in fear.
But I never check my watch when I'm laughing.
We two, three, millions, one
By saxophone or samisen
In moccasins or boots
Caged, exalted t.v. idols or asylumed veteran
All perched precariously on picards of perception.
All publicly pressured to appear as perfected persons.
As we are.
As am I.
None escapes the search for cues
Defining who he is, we are, I am.
None is above the terror of formlessness.
Though some turn eyes upward/inward
To concealed rhythms of self reference.
We silhouette our selves
As they are, I am, you have been.
Kings are born, too.
Helpless, dragged into the world
From warm safety.
They don't know of the splendor that awaits them.
They squall and resist their entrance on a stage they own.
They reject the birthright that makes no sense to them
Because they're too infantile to understand it.
Wet, wrinkled, dumbfounded by it all
King babies don't foresee the royal years.
They think only of the harsh lights, the chill, the unfamiliar sounds.
They touch sudden cold, hard, rough, and sharp.
And they wonder, "Is anything worth this misery?"
We, too, are royalty and the children of royalty.
Do we understand our circumstances better?
Can we accept discomfort now for the realm we possess?
Poor little kings and queens!
Babes of Reality, Watched over by What Is,
Nurtured by the Now,
Cradled by the Here
Of all our subjects' hands.
Dad, you went so quietly
You hardly made a stir.
Years have passed and still the letters come to you
From banks and life insurance companies and AARP.
Not many ripples, Dad.
The water closed and left no mark.
But you raised the level of the water
By being the man you were.
I splash around more than you, Dad.
I stir the water up.
People know I'm in the pool.
But when I sink below the surface
Will the level have been raised?
Situation is Self
What needs doing?
Spare is flat?
What needs doing?
What needs doing?
Defined by doing,
Enlightened by existence,
I become the circumstance.
Situation is self.
The sudden silence when the refrigerator motor cuts off.
My father is dead.
Tires on wet pavement
Rain in L.A.
Forcing my legs to climb the stairs
Pausing for breath at the top
I've come a long way
I'm sliding into the slot in the next lane over
Slipping into the flow.
The traffic picks (me) up.
Driving Through America
Driving from ocean to ocean
Passing through multitudes of small towns.
I don't remember their names.
The meals fixed for me,
the beds made for me,
the gas pumped for me
And I don't even remember their names.
On this highway, coast to coast
were they all just scenery for me?
Were they just blurs as I pressed the pedal to the metal
and raced toward that ultimate destination
thinking only of my own itinerary?
If I drew a map of where I've been
You might recognize the big cities,
But the small towns got me home.
Trail Haiku, 1972
Cold and wet plodding
Now capturing my mind's eye
The tip of my nose.
Rustling melting snow
Slides and shivers from branches
Seeks fusion with earth.
Sharp ringing silence.
Footsteps approaching up trail.
Sun behind a cloud.
Packing out again
Only my tracks in the snow.
I was there alone.
Supple pine needles
Flaked and rippled pine tree trunk.
A rest at trailside.
How could I forget myself
when there is already "I" forgetting "myself"?
Here "I" am twice.
So giving up happens.
"I" don't give up.
Rather, writing appears and takes over.
Or putting on shoes
or taking laundry off the line.
"I" act only in retrospect, on reflection.
It's an uphill climb
Choices appear limited and unenticing.
Not the least of them my feelings.
My ruminations continue in good times and bad.
Reality entertains me.
Who can go beyond self-imposed limits
And see clearly?
This here-now is worth admiration.
While thoughts float around,
While words drift with feeling breezes,
While panic shoves and bullies,
Alone i walk this path with attention
Reminding myself of the principles of CL.
Feelings rise and fade.
Thoughts tint the scene with idiosyncrasy.
Song of Freedom
On the Umpqua River logs drift and jam and drift again.
They float along beneath the moon.
Reports come that there may be a better grade lumber elsewhere.
Then the logs jam and back up.
But the river keeps flowing toward its destination.
Believe it or not the jostling logs are pleased
Moving toward the sea.
Though lumberjacks may not be.
The banks of the Umpqua River murmer appreciation
Velvety with green moss, dripping wet and slippery.
Morning fog has lifted, the logs slide along.
Will you ride them?
All the way to the sea?
Greet the logs, the River, the banks
While remaining amused by your impertinence.
Where's the rush?
The logs won't sink, though waterlogged.
Get the picture?
Scenic postcard view, carefully selected for the folks back home.
What can I write them about the trip?
All the seasons are fine for a visit.
Always something to do.
Exhausted, i drift into sleep
To ride more logs.
I'm a virus
trying to plant myself in your mind
and rework your program.
How am I doing?
Poems by David K. Reynolds Following Research at the Big Thompson Canyon Disaster in Colorado:
Old man with a shotgun
Keeping people off your land,
What can I give you?
Can you make it on your own?
Cook with anger in your kitchen?
Sleep with fool pride in your bedroom?
Hide the sorrow in your woodpile?
May I have a cup of coffee?
May I come in? It's so cold here.
Thanks, old pioneer man.
In rough times, too
You need to give.
So I shall take.
We'll both ignore
It's for your sake.
After the Flood, No More Again
Where do I start now?
Who am I
When ev'rythin's gone?
Gravel in return.
House and barn are
Today is tomorrow
Future promise faintly fading
Start all over?
Start from where then?
Start, perhaps, when?
Who can do it?
How pursue it?
Why create despair again?
Water squeezed out by dark sky fists
Growling coolness enlivening the world
Spends itself in fresh wet exhaustion.
Dew Drop Inn
Drifting, drifting hotel room night.
Flicker bulb and Gideon.
Body fits another mattress.
What number for the wake up call?
TV screen implodes to zero.
Another day devoured.
Post Disaster Tragedy
Bulldozers came and the house went down.
Tumble over, rumble over
Dust rose, bricks fell
Steel scavengers devoured both wounded and dead.
Rubble crews cleared away intact sprinkling systems,
standing retaining walls, undamaged propane tanks.
Proving that we humans can outperform a flood
With our ordered destructiveness.
And, unthinking, heap anger at man atop anger at Nature.
Grief? Time out!
Shock? King's X!
Decisions must be made.
Applications, investigations, allegations, preparations.
Tears are measured in days.
Losses are bounded by lines of print on Schedule C.
Lives are contained by the "regs" of Phase One.
I know you're upset
But the Manual says you must decide, Now.
Tomorrow the choice will be trashed with today's calendar sheet.
After all, a lot of people are waiting on you.
How is Constructive Living (CL) different from typical Western psychotherapies?
CL is education. The goal is to teach a more realistic perspective rather than attempting to fix the student’s presenting problems directly. A side benefit may well be a decrease in the troubling problems that the student brings to sessions. Of course, Western psychotherapies have educational aspects, but CL focuses on education overtly and primarily.
Compared with Western therapies, CL has more focus on the student’s doing assignments and less on talking about the student’s problems. After an initial evaluation the student of CL is discouraged from complaining, from going over and over life difficulties. The past cannot be altered, so there is more emphasis on action in the present. When the past is reviewed it is in the context of Naikan rather than trauma experiences. Next we look at similarities and differences among CL and Morita Therapy and Naikan.
Similarities between Morita Therapy and Constructive Living
Feelings are natural; resistance to them are a key to neurosis.
Constant joy, life without anxiety is unrealistic.
Both blur the boundaries between neurotic and normal living.
Both value attention to concrete, specific realistic detail rather than abstract theoretical conceptual discussion.
An educational model is implied in Morita's choice of words that his method was "re-education (saikyoiku)."
Actions are relatively controllable directly by will.
Feelings can be influenced by action.
Feelings contain information and shouldn't be ignored.
Shinks are unrealistic.
Active, positive, goal-directed behavior is good.
Enforced boredom will lead to activity.
Shinks are capable of discovering what needs doing.
Shinks are capable of understanding their neurosis.
Habits of thought and action can change.
Suffering is caused by unrealistic thinking and effort.
Complaining can focus attention on suffering and delay cure.
Thoughts don't affect reality directly.
Action brings a response from reality.
Education is necessary for overcoming neurosis.
Intellectual understanding alone is insufficient for overcoming neurosis.
Neurosis involves a fixation, improperly focused mind.
We are born to accomplish purposes.
Differences between Morita Therapy and Constructive Living
CL emphasizes momentary change (such as neurotic shinky moments) vs. static diagnostic categories
Practice of positive behaviors is permitted in CL, not in early MT
Assigned tasks were less valued in early MT compared with discovered tasks, but assignments are common in CL. The best experiential learning comes naturally in everyday life. However, in Japanese Moritist hospitals patients are sometimes given assigned tasks such as cleaning the garden or heating the bath. We give detailed assignments to our students in the same spirit
Reality gives information about what needs doing, and CL instructors are merely one of reality’s representatives. Therapists have special status in MT, and the therapist-patient relationship is seen to be most important.
CL emphasizes that no one knows why anyone does what he/she does.
CL holds that outcomes are uncontrollable, though some MT leaders hold that positive behaviors will result in desired outcomes. However. CL holds that proper action increases the likelihood of success and decreased life problems, but emphasizes that “effort is good fortune”, as did Morita.
CL is willing to utilize other therapy modes. Early MT didn’t, but modern MT sometimes does.
CL is practiced by mostly non-medical instructors. Modern MT is still controlled by physicians.
Certification procedures have long existed for CL, but only relatively recently for MT.
Naikan theory and practice were included in CL from the start, but only recently adopted by a few in MT
MT emphasizes the connection between MT and Japanese culture; CL emphasizes our common human elements and de-emphasizes cultural limitations.
CL is very careful about the use of realistic language (Morita, for example, used “dekinai” meaning “cannot” in a way not permitted in CL).
Too much focus on the self is a key to suffering, magnified in Western cultures.
CL emphasizes the loss of self in Morita's method, tying Moritist thought to Zen Buddhism.
Preferred assignments in Constructive Living are specified to be feasible and specific and verifiable.
CL considers the MT “sei no yokubo” concept to be a circular definition, like the concept of personality, and not explanatory.
MT emphasizes self confidence. CL emphasizes reality confidence.
Although Morita said that the purpose of MT is not cure but to become a fine human being, MT as a medical practice must emphasize cure. CL emphasizes educated, realistic effort.
Differences between Naikan and Constructive Living
Intensive Naikan (a week of isolated Naikan meditation) is not part of CL
CL Naikan reflection is about seeing reality, about recognizing truth. It may result in feelings such as gratitude and guilt, but those are not the goal. Feelings change, gratitude included.
After doing CL Naikan the student’s behavior must change in ways that reflect service to people and things or the student hasn’t done proper Naikan.
"Lies and stealing" is not part of reflection as is sometimes done in Japanese Naikan practice because there is no chance to win the game, no possibility of balancing what is received and what is returned.
The order of Naikan in our Constructive Living Naikan reflection often begins with daily Naikan on people whose names and faces we know rather than on the mother as is traditional in Japanese Naikan practice.
From a CL perspective the purpose of Naikan is to become more realistic. The purpose is not to cure neurosis or heal the body. To produce decreased anxiety or pain, as is claimed by some Japanese Naikan specialists, is a side benefit.
CL Naikan may or may not result in increased self esteem, but the result is likely to be increased reality esteem, a concept not presented in Japanese Naikan.
CL Naikan includes Naikan-like assignments such as writing letters of thanks, doing secret services, calculating amounts of money spent by parents and money given to parents over a set period of time, and thanking tools for their service when putting them away.
Morita Therapy and Naikan Similarities as seen by Constructive Living
Both lead to the door of religion
Both value the student's judgment
Both demolish the narrow self concept
Both require specific, concrete details, not abstract words alone
Both see neurosis as unrealistic and point to reality
Both see the instructor as an experiential guide
Both may use intensive seclusion to pull the student into deep reflection in Japanese styles, but they limit their applicability to daily life by such seclusion.
Differences between Morita Therapy and Naikan as seen by Constructive Living
Morita saw humans as basically good, but in need of education because they are sometimes misguided.
Yoshimoto saw humans as not basically good, but able to show moments of goodness, but those moments are gifts, too.
Morita saw humans as beings created to accomplish purposes.
Yoshimoto saw humans as beings created to do Naikan.
Both saw self knowledge as very important, but Morita didn't want to look too closely at the negative side.
Morita therapy is basically a “jiriki” or self-power practice, Zen Buddhist psychology based.
Naikan is basically a “tariki” or other-power practice, Jodo Shinshu Buddhist psychology based.
Both Morita and Yoshimoto could see the common basis for both “jiriki” and “tariki”.
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