Blue Cliff Record: Zen Echoes by David Rothenberg (poet, philosopher, musician, and Contributing Editor to "Parabola" magazine) is a selection of one hundred classic Zen Buddhist koans originating in a 12th century Zen manuscript. Ancient, poetic ponderings meant to stimulate insight and deeper awareness fill this treasure store, aptly and meaningfully translated into English. "Take my hand and come circle the One Certain Mountain/We'll sadden ourselves not to death, but to life." Blue Cliff Record is a highly recommended addition to Buddhist Studies reading lists and reference collections.
The scholarly translations of the Blue Cliff Record (all that's been available until now) are dense with confusing imagery and obtuse commentary from another century. In this lovely and tasty version however, Rothenberg has found the meat and given it to us shorn of the accumulations of centuries, without throwing away any of the succulent parts! And it comes beautifully designed and illustrated to boot. Highly recommended! Here's one of my favorite ones:
Case 37: This Triple World
Don't wait around when lightning strikes
When thunder comes there's no time to hide
there are ghosts before you, they won't go away
Once the arrow leaves the bow, it will not come back.
The moonshadow strikes the archer at night.
There is nothing in the triple world
Nothing one, two, three times or more.
The white clouds are a ceiling.
the stream plays the world like a lute,
one pluck, three strings, no one sings along.
All the tones may be clear,
but when you hear them, you're mute.
When the rain has passed, the river is deep.
Dragging in mud, dripping in water,
run from the thunder, no time to sleep.
Eighty four thousand verses,
eighty four thousand to go.