138 Poems on Death
Written in Graveyard Hermitage of Calcutta


Chinese original, English translation and
Chinese calligraphy by the Buddhist Yogi C. M. Chen

Entering into the Hermitage in Graveyard

Why need I wait for one hundred years?
Right now is time to sleep with graves near!
Although the lamp of Chan is so clear,
My heart in ashes wouldn't burn up with tears!

Forbidding Myself to Talk with Others

Worldly affairs are more or less the same.
Not many people have great wealth or fame.
Silence kept as my conversations end.
Lest dead peoples' faults be brought up by men!

Thanks to the Protectors

Sunny Spring day is so bright and hot.
A cloud in the blue sky there is not.
Wind and rain suddenly clean the spot,
Dragon king's protection is my lot!

Laments in General (Six Poems)

I.Between two rows of tombs some space saved aside,
For their sons to stop by with incense alight.
The holy day of the dead comes once a year,
Then only dry leaves and faded flowers abide.

II.Either ugly or pretty face,
Either of strong or feeble race,
After death everyone's corpse,
Could occupy the same little space!

III.From our country to India it's not near.
Just wanted to be buried no need to choose here.
Back home there are same blue hills and green grasses.
India may be closer to Pureland, my dear!

IV.Like a glimpse, it is quite easy to pass!
Time runs directly to graveyard with moss.
No matter how often you were lucky,
At last, this place you have to come across!

V.Could I convert stones to nod whose head so high?
Or cut my flesh to patch up the skulls so nigh?
To help the dead ones wake up now I would like.
Let all worldlings learn of death before they die!

VI.Alone I step in graveyard at sunset,
Wondering when I'll repay the Dharmic debt.
The living beings are still not converted yet.
Even more so are souls in dark and wet.

Laments in Particular (Three Poems)

I. For the Scholars or Poets

Surely his talent and writings were so nice!
Being the laureate of his age he is so wise!
After his death only a few strokes of his name
Are engraved on a stone plate once but not twice!

II. For the Beautiful Stars

Being so pretty she was loved by men.
Her face was like flowers in demand.
Now that she's been buried in cement,
How could we smell again her sweet scent?!

III. For the Wanderer

Wine and roses made him a wanderer.
He left home for wild love of strangers.
Folks do not know his regrets in death,
Near his tomb they still plant wild flowers!

Advising the Boy Servant

Weathered yellow leaves fall down a plenty.
The sunset's sending crows nest a pretty.
I advise my boy to have great sympathy,
Don't throw faded flowers to the dead party.

Night Prayers (Three Poems)

I.Ghosts' energy seems to run through the palm trees.
Lights of phosphorus or firefly there would be.
A puff of chilly wind passes in front of me.
Have you arrived the Pureland and become free?

II.The cool moon sheds light upon the graves.
Unutterable is the ghosts' deep grief.
I ring my vajra bell so loudly.
Dogs bark one by one for some ghost's leave!

III.The cool pool reflects the crescent like an eyebrow.
During the night for the ghosts I do pray and bow.
Winds send the phosphorus lights back toward the West.
Twinkling stars and floating fireflies are in peace now.

Gift of Incantations

After the holy day for ghosts, who would come here?
Do not stick by your dry bones for many a year!
I present to you some Buddhist incantations.
Take your lotus seat in the West and have no fear!

Feeling Sorrow for the Living Beings

Among the graves some spaces saved already,
Some of the living beings here will be buried.
May I ask to see if you know to rest now?
Why those people in China-town are so hurry?

Coming out of Hermitage

Like floating clouds I've made my home one in all.
I've shared your wind and sands in this graveyard-hall!
Now I take leave from you before the Spring ends.
I could not bear to see all the flowers fall!

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