Realizing the Futility of Life, by Bai Juyi
[Written on the walls of a priest's cell, ca. 828]
Ever since the time when I was a lusty boy
Down till now when I am ill and old
The things I have cared for have been different at different times
But my being busy, that has never changed.
Then, on the shore, building sandcastles;
Now, at Court, covered with tinkling jade.
This and that--equally childish games.
Things whose substance passes in a moment of time!
While the hands are busy, the heart cannot understand;
When there are no Scriptures, then Doctrine is sound.
Even should one zealously strive to learn the Way,
That very striving will make one's error more.
Translated by Arthur Waley.
From Zen Poems, edited by Peter Harris.
Photo by Nicole Bratt. Yay Flickr and Creative Commons.