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Twice each year, on March 21st and September 21st,  this crazy world of ours stands upright, balanced evenly in the heavens posed for equal doses of sun rays and moon dust.

Equinox from Wilson's Almanac (click image)

Here in Japan these two days are set aside for reflection on our lives and reverence to our ancestors.

Antique painting by Kaoku Nobei - from Davidson Galleries (click image)

For over a millennium, Japanese have taken time on these two  mild weather days to celebrate Ohigan (彼岸) by evaluating their lives, and renewing their struggle for enlightenment.

Ohigan means “the distant bank of the Sanzu River,” a euphemism for enlightenment. To cross the Sanzu is to cross from the shore of ignorance and suffering to the opposite shore of enlightenment and peace. A Mahayana mantra describes this journey:

Gone, gone, gone beyond, everyone gone beyond

DD - Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto - 1982

The muse of the Buddha must have been with me the day I visited Ryoanji in 1982.  Unimpressed with the temple’s  famous rock garden, I spied a view at the back of the temple that inspired me to write this poem, unwittingly echoing the ancient mantra:

Beyond, ever beyond, there lies a pond

Beyond, ever beyond, we try anon

Beyond, ever beyond, we barely hear

Beyond, never beyond, the pond is here

DD  – 1982

© Dane Degenhardt, Monde Dane, 2010

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