Can you teach me to look?

- through Fabrice Groult

Published on

Zen poetry and contemplation of the world.

As a child, maybe you had the chance, like me, to discover the ocean. You have certainly glued your ear to a seashell to hear the swell blowing. This breath where the heartbeats of dolphins, seals and whales vibrate. The photographer Édouard Boubat has collected our happy memories in an image, that of Rémi listening to the sea. Read the zen poetry, maybe that's it: listening to the breath of the living world in which our own breath is included.

Feel the intertwining

"Osmanthus flowers fall in the peace of the world
Quiet is the night, empty the mountain of spring.
Mountain birds are frightened by the rising moon
Across the valleys, their intermittent cries answer each other…”
Wang Wei (701-760)

The poetic word relates what happens. Then it melts into the silence from which it comes. No projection of personal feelings onto external objects. The time of reading or listening, the words give to feel. The clarity of the poetic image matters more than anything. It bears the trace of a moment in the world, the breadth and fullness of which we taste. We see with the poet the fall of fragrant flowers. We feel the peace of the world and the calm of the night. The image compresses time and space in the immediacy of vision. And yet, we feel its duration. The scene comes to us as if it lasted forever. The poetic image is visible time, suspended time. The cries of the birds respond to each other like scents, colors and sounds (1). We commune with the gaze of the poet. Our gazes intertwine beyond time. In a short moment, we are absorbed in its own stillness.

Do not enter anything

“Water, like a white satin ribbon,
Here blends into the sky
My desire, under the clear moon,
Get in a wine boat, go look at the flowers »
Li Po (699-762)

Reading Zen poetry is perhaps this: listening to the breath of the living world in which our own breath is included.

The poet lets himself be absorbed by the landscape as water mixes with the sky. Li Po does not wish to touch the flowers, much less pick them. Just watch them. Contemplation is sufficient unto itself. It reveals the flavor of the poetic state. From where we are, the attitude might surprise you. We come from a culture of “having” and ownership. Many Western poets evoke the picking of flowers (2). Few among us are those who have received an education in contemplation from early childhood. This is why the reading of landscape poetry (3) takes on a profoundly pedagogical dimension for us. We are going with Li Po to open ourselves to the beauty of life. Just welcome the presence of beings whose existence has as much value as ours. Step by step, we develop a sense of relationship, communion and a feeling of affection for the living world. From then on, there is no longer any sharp distinction between the human world and the other worlds. The sense of responsibility and respect flourishes: taking care of the living, not damaging anything, preserving life.

Become transparent

" Under the snow
Gone are the grasses of winter
A white heron
Hide his body
In the shadow of whiteness »
Dogen (1200-1253)

We listen or read in a state of nudity: no knowledge to acquire, nothing to defend, free from activity, free from memory… We become available to something being born within us. Feeling of winter silence, observation of the whiteness that erases all difference, abandonment to tranquility and humility. The poetry of the Japanese master joins the stripping of the Daruma in meditation by the painter Konoe Nobutada (1565-1614). Simply to suggest the evidence of presence, to calm the activity of the mind, to favor the contemplative experience. Welcoming the infinitely other than ourselves and at the same time discovering it within ourselves, in the place of our person. In another register, it is the whole point of non-knowing and non-desire in Meister Eckhart, and of the dialectic of Todo and Nada (All and Nothing) of Saint John of the Cross: “To achieve being everything, do not seek to be nothing at all. »

In the middle of the din of the world, let Zen poetry perfume our spirit to find in us this Rémi listening to the sea. Let us taste the unlimited and positive expansion of consciousness that accompanies this sovereign well-being, the "ocean feeling" (4).

photo of author

Fabrice Groult

Fabrice Groult is an adventurer, photographer and Buddhist who has traveled the world since a young age. After studying Buddhism in India, he embarked on an eighteen-month journey through Asia that took him to the Himalayas, where he discovered his passion for photography. Since then, he has traveled the world capturing images of Buddhist beauty and wisdom. He was a guide for ten years, and is now a journalist with Buddhist News.

Leave comments