Clambering into emerald hills
above the city’s boiling dust
green pines and scarlet maples –
Nature’s own intrinsic shapes;
a fabric of splendid silk brocade
blanketing the mountainsides
revealing the infinite virtues
of the cosmic Buddha body.
(Baisaō a.k.a. Gekkai Genshō a.k.a. Kō Yūgai, 1675-1763)
Greetings Good Travelers and Wayfarers.
The verses above come down to us from one of the most compelling figures in the Japanese branch of the Wayfaring lineage. Baisaō - “The Old Tea Seller.”
He’s significant for a number of reasons, not the least of which is his unique expression of “going his own way,” in the spiritual sense, but also his role as an innovator in the practice of Tea as a way-within-the-Way. Add to this his love of Nature, his embodiment of the Wayfaring life principle of simplicity, and the precision of his flowing brush in the realms of poetry and prose, and it made him a much beloved “rascal” to numerous artists, tea practitioners, and Zen-minded folk in 18th-century Kyoto.
He is also a pivotal example of a Wayfarer who — despite many years of formal Zen training in a monastic setting, like his Chinese counterpart before him – Jia Dao (779–843) — ultimately elected to leave the monastic life behind to dwell within the red dust of the world and, quite literally, serve those with whom he crossed paths.
Pour yourself a steamy cup of sencha (loose-leaf green tea) and let’s journey for a time into the different life phases and verses of Baisaō - the “Old Tea Seller”.
SOUNDWORLD OF EPISODE
BOOK MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE
Baisaō - The Old Tea Seller: Life and Zen Poetry in 18th Century Kyoto, translated by Norman Waddell
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