Self Portrait

Self Portrait
“Trees and Rock Bank,” Shih t’ao (1641-c.1717)

My primordial nature has no liking for the life in the cities.
To be free from the noise I built a thatched cottage
Far away in the depth of the mountains.
Wandering here and there I carry no thought.
When spring comes I watch the birds;
In summer I bathe in the running stream;
In autumn I climb the highest peaks;
During the winter I am warming up in the sun.
This I enjoy the real flavor of the seasons.
Let the sun and moon revolve by themselves!
When I have time I read the sutras,
When I am tired I sleep on my straw bed.
If you ask me, “Whom do you see in your dreams?”
I would answer, “The Yellow Emperor.” *
It was he who transmitted the secret teaching to me,
Which I am forbidden to pass on to you.
I have worn the black robe now for decades.
The meaning of the teaching is profound and vast like the ocean.
When I reveal it in my brush-stroke, its merits are limitless.
Should I explain this secret teaching to you
The solid mountains, I am afraid, would blow away.

*The earliest Taoist ruler according to legend.

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