Three Monks Named Mu ~ A poem on emptiness for children

Via on Aug 1, 2011

This is the story of three little monks. Three little monks named Mu.
Three little monks stuck in a rut. Three little monks with nothing to do.
Backs so sore and feet asleep, robes a-tattered and minds still meek.
Three little monks left the temple. Three little monks who knew no better.

Up the way and around the bend, all routes taken without end.
Streets and alleys, paths and roads. Thoughts and feelings bear a heavy load.
Thoughts, feelings, forms and things. Staffs with rings! Oh these heavy things!
Footprints in snow. Where to go? Three little monks still did not know.

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When one little monk, a monk named Mu, suddenly knew what to do.
She picked up her staff of oak, a battered straw hat and just like that
raised her small voice in song. Discursive and sweet, she kept the beat,
To the sound of a heart unbound. Rapturous and joyful was the sound!

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The other two monks, both named Mu, were still at a loss of what to do.
This girl. This wisp. This flap of the breeze! While they could only cough or wheeze.
But another monk (named Mu by the way) thought he could also save the day.
By breathing deep, aloof and alone. This monk let out a low sorrowful moan…

The song of the sky! The moan of the deep! Into the last monk the song did seep!
Breathing in scent of airy sky and salty deep, one last heart picked up the beat!
With little to do or to say, this monk realized why he came out that day.
Not for money, food or alms in a basket. Not for smiles, bows or chants over a casket.

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The last monk, a monk named Mu, picked up some wood to beat the measure
Clap! Clap! Clap! Each sound a breath, each beat a life, each clap a pleasure.
This last little monk joined the rest. This last little monk too passed the test!
With sweet song and mournful sound, and the steady earthy beat of the ground.

Somewhere in the windows above, came the cooing of a dove
At closer look, a different form it took and a deva’s voice the ground shook.
From hells far and wide, demons did adibe and sat silent, calming their mind.
At the graveyard nearby, a hungry ghost did sigh, her hunger, for once, silent inside.

From up-on-high and down below, from mountains grand and valleys low,
Hungry ghost and nosy neighbor, woodworker and unconcerned creator
Large and small and all in the middle. All gathered together to hear this riddle.
This sound. This song. This co-nun-o-drum. Was this the reason for all to come?

The reason was not a feeling of bliss, clarity of mind or even to just pass the time
The reason they were here became very clear. The answer. Oh! So very near.
Neither joy or pain, sunshine or rain. Or snow covering roads newly lain.
One to sing, one to mourn, one clap the beat, change soon accompanied such a feat…

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The first monk, her song so fleeting, sprouted wings and flew off tweeting.
The second monk, his voice almost a growl, sprouted fur and began to howl.
The third monk, steady as a clock, sank to the earth as a moss covered rock.
A rock, a bird and mangy dog! No names, no fancy dress, all embody emptiness.

Each monk heard the song of Mu and then knew exactly what to do.
Three little monks with minds awake, singing Mu for benefit’s sake.
Do you know what to do when the song of Mu comes for you?
Beat sticks, sing a song or let out a mournful howl just as long?

So ends the vague tale of the monks with nothing to do.
To tell the tale sure was fun but I hope you didn’t plan on re-so-lu-tion.
Answers here , questions there, the sound of Mu floats everywhere.
When a bird visits a window’s ledge, a dog sniffs your garden’s hedge
Or when a rock’s jagged face brakes a brook’s gurgling pace.
Take a breath and say a prayer
Because the Song of Mu hangs dense in the air.

All images used with permission from LawrenceBarrow’s flickr account.

About John Pappas

John Pappas is a struggling Zen practitioner with a slight Vajrayana palate (but he won't admit it) stumbling between the relative and absolute through the Buddhist Purgatory otherwise known as the Great Plains of South Dakota. Emerging writer, librarian and aspiring hungry ghost, John spews his skewed perception of the dharma all over his personal blog, Subtle Dharma Mouth Punch as well as on the ephemeral Elephant Journal and occasionally (while having no artistic ability to speak of) on Dharma/Arte. John also loves tacos, homebrew, yoginis and obscure Cthulhu references. You can follow him on twitter under the handle @zendustzendirt

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