‘Chisoku’ means ‘I know my lot.' Or 'In possession of enough'. In other words, 'I do not lament unfulfilled desire; I know, and rejoice in living according to the necessities of life’. There is no end to the things you can desire, so be content in your current situation and experience the happiness that comes from freeing yourself of want. 

At Ryōanji temple in Kyoto there is a famous tsukubai known as ‘The Chisoku Tsukubai’. There are 4 raised kanji in the surface of the tsukubai (fresh water basin) that read: 'ware tada taru koto o shiru’ 吾 唯 足 知 



矢 □ 隹

 ̄|止| ̄


The 4 kanji share the square in the middle of the tsukubai to complete the square part of their stroke composition. This square also doubles as the basin that contains the water.

Image: MichaelMaggs (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons



Phenomena that moves you, or gives you a glipse of ‘yūgen’ (yūgen is a Chinese concept that refers to the aesthetic experience of profundity: feeling the trascendental, and being moved by the deepest truth of things - truth that cannot be captured in words).

Image: @minenomatsu



 憶 = to reminisce 昔 = the past. Ikujyaku is the name of a National Treasure teahouse in the building ‘Hiunkaku’ on the precincts of Nishi Hongan-ji or 'Western Temple of the Original Vow', the head temple of Jōdo Shinshū Pure Land Buddhism in Kyoto. 

The teahouse Ikujyaku was originally built on the precinct of Jyurakudai in Kyoto. Jyurakudai was Chief Advisor to the Emperor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s centre of power.

Temple Bell 

Resonating Dawn




暁 = first light 鐘 = temple bell. ‘Gyōshō’ is the sound of a temple bell resounding at first light. It is a word also used metaphorically to mean the beginning of a new era.

Image: @minenomatsu



雲 = cloud 遊 = frolic雲 ‘un’ means cloud and is often used to refer to monks . Clouds travel across the sky with no attachment, and monks travel across this existence with no attachment. Unyū is a monk making pilgrimages around Japan, not settling at one place.

Image: @minenomatsu

Ichiyō raifuku


The longest night of the year is the winter solstice which falls around the 22nd of December (21st June in the Southern Hemisphere). The solstice is the height of yin days, and at the same time it hails the return of yang energy, called ‘ichi yō’. From this day the length of daylight, and yang energy, gradually increases. It is a day to celebrate the coming of Spring.

In zen practice, the winter solstice is marked with a period of zazen called ‘tōji tōya’. In the usual runnings of temple life, monks that break rules are punished with ‘san jyū san bō’, or 33 strikes of a wooden stick. Only on the day of the winter solstice, this punishment is lifted. The strict rules of temple life are relaxed as the oncoming Spring, and increase in yang energy are celebrated.

After the long winter nights and hardship, welcoming the joy of increased light and activity is ‘raifuku’. 'Ichiyō raifuku' is therefore a celebration of the moment the world shifts into a greater yang balance, and the hope for prosperity it suggests.




Nature is the most fundamental thing of all. Humans are but one small part of Nature. As we humans cannot live without Nature, as we humans are sustained only by the blessing of Nature, Nature is the great source of compassion towards which we must direct our reverent hearts. 

Image: Ivan Kovac

Capping Phrases

Capping phrases are use in kōan practice, mostly in the Rinzai Sect of Zen. I think they are also suitable for use as poetic names for chashaku, though must be used with great discernment and consideration of your guests.  The capping phrases presented here are all from the masterful work 'Zen Sand - The Book of Capping Phrases for Kōan Practice' by Victor Sōgen Hori. A truly excellent piece of scholarship.

Light has no front nor back. 


Kōmyō haimen nashi

- from the Shinsan Zengoshu

It's like turning over brocade:

Both front and back are flowers.



Tatoeba kinki o hirugaesu ga gotashi, Haimen tomo ni kore hana - Shinsan Zengoshū 10.264

The entire world is now clearer than a mirror


Shikai ima kagami yori kiyoshi - Shinsan Zengoshū


When the stone man nods his head, the wooden post claps it's hands

石人㸃頭 露柱拍手 

sekijin tentō sureba, rochū te o haku su - #8.145 from the Shinsan Zengoshū.


Today we students have made small progress, but we have had a great encounter

學人今日 小出大遇

gakuin konnichi shōshutsu taigū - Shinsan Zengoshū


A single blossom opens and the world is in Spring.


ikka hiraite tenka haru nari - Shinsan Zengoshū

I love to live amid the white clouds and crimson trees,

And sing with you the songs of great peace.




Yoshi hakuun kōju no uchi ni jū shite, Kimi to onajiku tonau taihei no uta - Shinsan Zengoshu 14.625

The body you received at birth from your parents 

Immediately testifies to the status of your great enlightenment.

父母所生身 速證大覺位


Fubo shoshō no mi Sumiyaka ni daikaku kurai o shō su - Shinsan Zengo shū 10.352