Soen Nakagawa Roshi (1907-1984)

In his "Preface" to Endless Vow: The Zen Path of Soen Nakagawa (presented with an Introduction by Eido Tai Shimano, Shambhala 1996) Kazuaki Tanahashi writes: "Zen Master Soen Nakagawa was a key figure in the transmission of Zen Buddhism from Japan to the Western world. As abbot of the historic Ryutaku Monastery, he trained monks and lay practitioners. Among them were Robert Aitken and Philip Kapleau, who later became two of the first Westerners to teach Zen in the United States . . . Soen Nakagawa was also an extraordinary poet. In Japan his haiku are renowned, even though no substantial collection of his work has been made available to the general public." 

Endless Vow moves me every time I open it (I used to have three copies of this book, one by my pillow, one in my office, and one in my truck). I will be updating this page.

tears melting into
mountain snow
March 11, 1931 


How solemn
each patch of grass
illumined by the moon
Autumn 1932


Having entered monastery
I now know
my life is less than a dewdrop

Autumn 1932

Splendid affinity
sun's great halo
green leaves

May 5, 1933


Straw sandals tossed aside
approaching distant mountain slopes
Spring 1935


Bowing to Hakuin's Stupa at Ryutaku-ji in Mishima

Endless is my vow
under the azure sky
boundless autumn

Autumn 1937


May this maple leaf
from Hakuin's stupa
cross the ocean
Autumn 1937


On the occasion of the Death of Inido Sensei

One note of the shakuhaci
resounds endlessly
piercing the winter clouds

Winter 1938


A nun has come to visit
now in the moonlight
how bright the icicles!

Winter 1938


snow on mountain peak
unfurls a rainbow
April 1938

Spring approaches
the Pacific Ocean
will be my sitting mat

March 1949

Vast emptiness
as the year comes to a close
I re-enter the mountain

December 1949


Your slightest sorrow --
how dense the summer forest! --
my sorrow deepens
Summer 1949

Wisteria blossoms
saha world

Spring 1953


Step by step
a new-born lamb
eternal spring
Spring 1955

calligraphy by Soen Nakagawa Roshi

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