Category Archives: Teachings

Cannot Be Given or Stolen

Ryokan, it is said, returned to his hut late one evening to find a thief there. He took this calmly – it was clear to both of them that there wasn’t anything worth robbing in his hut.  Ryokan was troubled because he didn’t want the man to leave empty-handed having walked up the mountain to see him. So he took all his cloths off and gave them to the thief. The thief took them and slunk off down the mountain…..

After he had left Ryokan mused, ‘Poor fellow, I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon’. Ryokan sitting naked gazing at the moon wrote the following poem.

The thief left it behind:
the moon
at my window.

Thanks to Mark for the beautiful photograph of the moon, apparently taken a short time before, or was it after, I made my last post.

No Finger No Moon!

I have been sitting with this small piece by Zen Master Ryokan. I love it. It has been a long time since I ventured into his work. However the other day, while passing though the library, a book as good as fell off the shelf.  And here I am – sitting with Ryokan again.

You see the moon by pointing your finger.
You recognize the finger by the moon.
The moon and the finger
are not different, not the same.
In order to guide a beginner,
this analogy is temporarily used.
When you have realized this,
there is no moon, no finger.

We must not allow ourselves to imagine that the moon and the finger are abandoned. Ever! However tempting it might be to think, or say, Oh yes, I know that, no finger no moon. Truth is we both do and don’t know, at the same time! I guess that’s why I’ve been sitting with this poem. Join me.

Take Heed


Iain’s bequest:
to point us in
the right direction, yet
you really have to
look them out
before they’ll
invite you in.
A perfect posture:
not bending
over backwards
to gratify you –
rather bending
towards you,
to meet you
Even sunlight,
brought to its knees,
only half-illumines
such a purpling
of the blues.
No impulsive gusts
can fluster
the playful attitude
of bowed heads.
It may seem that
all is easy
as gazing
off a mossy log,
but, take heed,
or all you will see
is flowers.

June 2015
Paul Taylor

In memory of the late Iain Robinson, who showed Paul this wood in Garstang.

Not Crying Over Spilled Milk

poured forth
ran out
flowed out
scattered about.
Spillage, SPILLAGE!

It was double cream to be exact.
flipped off the kitchen counter
landed upside down
white liquid flowing
under the kitchen unit
there to go sour
and smell.

Did my best
mopped and wiped
wiped and mopped
Sheet after sheet of
newspaper, turning translucent
sheet after sheet
into the bin, into the bin.

Degrease with dish soap
AKA washing-up liquid
water – rinse, more water-rinse
dry, dryer, more dry
rubbish wrapped, new liner
in the bin. Cry? Not likely
Rubbish to the outside bin.
No use crying over spilled cream

Or spilled anything for that matter.

That was yesterday while visiting an elderly woman and when about to pour the lovely white liquid on a piece of apple pie. No, no good crying over spilled milk or spilled anything for that matter. I’d have taken a photograph but I was standing in the puddle! Bare foot.

Keen To Lern!

When I wrote my first letter applying for a job I was unschooled and innocent (ignorant). Not only was I applying for a job I wasn’t qualified for (no, I didn’t have a driving licence, no, not (yet) 21 years old and no (save for amateur tinkering about) experience as a photographer). However, I wrote, I am keen to lern. Apparently my spelling learn wrongly got me an interview because the employer liked the spirit behind my writing – and I also shared my first name with his daughter! Anyway I got the job. I did learn a great deal and became almost a member of the family. Early learning, (I was probably 17 years old at the time) stays deeply embedded in ones self (body/mind) and I’m still at the point where I could probably  print black and white prints at speed, perhaps with my eyes closed!

Like most children I learned to ride a bicycle which when I started seemed completely impossible. But I persisted, fell off, climbed back on again until I could steer a steady course across the lawn. And in no time I was tooling up and down the main road and riding no hands down the local hill, on a minor road. Riding a bike is complex learning and to make the point a chap illustrates in this video how difficult it is to unlearn and then relearn riding a modified bike. His learning looks as difficult as that old childhood trick of rubbing your tummy while tapping the top of your head. That’s had many a youngster engaged, or distracted, while practicing something which is essentially useless!

But, or however, I’ve remained keen to learn and over the years my unschooled state has changed to something resembling ‘educated’. Not in a traditional sense probably. My point, and there is one, is that the brain can learn to do new things, it can and does change itself fundamentally.  And what we call the self, isn’t what we think!