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SONG OF TEN THOUSAND EMPTINESSES (EXCERPT)

by Baozhi (418 - 514, Southern Liang Dynasty)
English translation: Zhi Yue

Coming south, heading north,
walking west, going east,

Always seeing this transient life
as empty no matter what.

Heaven is emptiness, earth is emptiness,
our lives are indistinct within.

Sun is emptiness, moon is emptiness,
coming, going, coming, going,
where is the merit in this?

Fields are emptiness, houses are emptiness,
how many owners have they had?

Silver is emptiness, gold is emptiness,
are they ours to keep after death?

Marriage is emptiness, children are emptiness,
not meeting either on the way to Yellow Springs*.

The Tripitaka says emptiness is form,

The Prajna texts say form is emptiness.

Heading west in the morning,
heading east in the evening,
lives passing as that of a honeybee.

Gathering hundreds of flowers,
a transformation into honey,
in the end, finding our efforts in vain.

Deep in the night, nearing twelve,
hearing the sounds of the drum.

Waking up, unaware,
to the bells sounding at dawn.

Start off anew─carefully consider and see,
all is part of a grandeur** dream.

── from Zhigong Heshang Wan Kong Ge (Song of Ten Thousand Emptiness by Master Zhigong)

* A path that leads to the underworld after one physically dies.

** Refers to the dream of Nanke.