Sky Above, Great Wind: The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan
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Sky Above, Great Wind: The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan

4.53 of 5 stars 4.53  ·  rating details  ·  74 ratings  ·  12 reviews
Ryokan (1758–1831) is, along with Dogen and Hakuin, one of the three giants of Zen in Japan. But unlike his two renowned colleagues, Ryokan was a societal dropout, living mostly as a hermit and a beggar. He was never head of a monastery or temple. He liked playing with children. He had no dharma heir. Even so, people recognized the depth of his realization, and he was soug...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published October 9th 2012 by Shambhala
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David Peirce
This book is a small collection of the reclusive, Japanese Zen monk Ryokan’s poetry. (Ryokan lived in the early 19th century. I won't go into his biography.) It is not just a compendium, however. The introduction to the book presents a biography of Ryokan. In the context of this linear look at his life, his poetry and calligraphy are also introduced. Ryokan studied and practiced Japanese poetry forms and calligraphy throughout his adult life. He became a master of both and developed his own voic...more
I had the wonderful good fortune of getting to know Kaz Tanahashi Sensei this past weekend when he taught a Brush workshop at my dojo. This book was a gift from him and without a doubt, there are treasures within its pages. It will be a pleasure to read.

The first read through of this lovely little book is done. Learned there are so many elements to reading Ryokan's poems (that must make it a huge challenge to translate into another language). The script is filled with nuances, breaks tha...more
The poems of Ryokan reflect an innocence that comes from the strength of spiritual experience. From one perspective (a modern, Western one, I suppose) Ryokan was so naive as to appear childish, and perhaps he was, but he wrote that way purposely, and with a purpose. The poems teach silently, surreptitiously, in the way of the best teachers. The anecdotes are amusing, but they seem to be a bit of a sideshow. Better to listen to Ryokan than to hear about him.
Katherine Davis
Master Ryokan's poetry is startling and moving. In fact, I made this purchase because when I read the title, I burst into tears. After reading the book front to back, I continue to reread poems here and there throughout my day. It amazes me how writing that is ~200 years old and translated into another language can hold so much power and create so much yearning.
Parrish Lantern
Within this serene snowfall - Master ( Taigu) Ryokan

Within this serene snowfall
one billion worlds
in each,
flurries come floating down.

In these few words, a fool, Zen master & philosopher, artist and child paints his world view. Ryokan is considered one of the giants of Zen, but he led no school, or left an heir to pass on his style. His poetry is up there with Issa, Buson & Basho as was his calligraphy and yet he gave it away to children, even the title of this collection came from...more
Excellent selection of Ryokan's poetry. Too bad more of his work is not translated into English. I also liked that the volume also contained some biography, anecdotes and critical analysis of Ryokan's calligraphy.
Larry Smith
Sky Above, Great Wind: The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan introduction and translation by Kazuaki Tanahashi is a real blessing. To have Kazuaki talk about the calligraphy, one Zen artist on another, is most helpful. And his translations have the easy flare of what I've always sensed about Ryokan. He has selected some of the best poems and provides a guide for reading them, never stooping to explain them. The book includes some of the best anecdotes on this renegade Zen monk as well as note...more
Another collection of beautiful poems by the Zen hermit-monk Ryokan. I only gave this one four stars because I found some of the poems, especially those from earlier in his life, somewhat weaker than the work he produced in the middle and towards the end.

One of the nice things about this book is that it includes some information on the life of the poet at the beginning, and at the end includes some amusing anecdotes about Ryokan, followed by a little explanation of the laborious work required t...more
Rebekah Anast
Can you say "Jackie Chan"! This book totally explained a lot of the humor and "simple" wisdom that earmarks so many Kungfu movies. It's interesting how Ryokan was an outcast from his own "religious" peers.
Feb 08, 2013 Liam rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
This book presents an overall wistful tone. The poet, Ryokan, was unknown to me before reading this. He lived in abject poverty and I felt great compassion for him. The poems are not all good, some are snide responses to those asking for a poem on demand. Others show a great understanding of the human condition. I learned as much about calligraphy as did any subject in the book. You could read this book in a single sitting, because the poems are kept one to a page. So many pages have a mere four...more
Dec 09, 2013 Mark rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry, zen
This is another book of Zen poetry that I truly enjoyed. Ryokan was a wandering Zen Master and poet of Japan. I posted my full review at Epinions.

Ryokan Sky Above, Great Wind The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan
so much simply doesn't come across. it all seem so mundane & unremarkable. translators are liars! ;)

the section at the end, however: "Ryokan's Poetic Forms" is alone worth the price of the book!
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Kazuaki Tanahashi, born and trained in Japan and active in the United States since 1977, has had solo exhibitions of his calligraphic paintings internationally. He has taught East Asian calligraphy at eight international conferences of calligraphy and lettering arts. Also a peace and environmental worker for decades, he is a Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science.
More about Kazuaki Tanahashi...
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