Thoughts on life from a venerable sage

January 29, 2007

Here’s something I just translated. This is a typical buddhist verse of exhortation. very cheerful…

A verse on this doleful world from a venerable sage:
“To think of the things already gone,
Is but endless anxiety.
Those who were so dear and intimate to us
Have all turned into a handful of earth.

The golden palace of the Emperor of Han
Is now buried in dust,
And only lonesome water now flows
In the golden valley of an ancient man of wealth.

Time flies and morning is already evening,
We see green plants of spring, then it is already autumn.
If you have not done even a tiny bit of good in this life,
What would you expect to have in return in the nether world?”

Have a nice day all! 🙂



  1. Hello,

    Sorry son, but I disagree with the verse.

    I chooose to remember the memory of my past relatives and their deeds. I draw strength and direction from them.

    Remember, those who choose to ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Close quote if not dead on.

    Our memories from the past plus free will form our future actions.

    Have a great day.


  2. Thanks very much for the comment, Dad, and certainly no need for apologies. I put this poem up not necessarily as an endorsement, so much as just a scrapbook entry of what I was working on. I found it so stark and brutal in some ways, and so, my sarcasm about it being “cheerful.” But actually, i don’t think that you and the poem are necessary so far apart.

    The author is indeed aware of and even in awe of the past and history. He is certainly humbled by the story it tells him about the power of time to lay waste to all we hold dear. It is precisely because he cannot ignore the lessons of history that he’s been so deeply affected. To translate into Christian terms, where we use “fearing” in the phrase God-fearing, to mean, overcome by the immense power and goodness of God such that one straightens one’s life out, I’d say the author is “History-fearing”. This is what leads to the final stanza where he warns us to get with the program, or else.

    Regarding the memories of loved ones, I’m sad to say that the implication that the author would also give up his memories of his loved ones is due entirely to my failed translation. In fact, the first stanza really stuck in my craw for a while and I wasn’t happy with the result. So, I’m glad you brought this up.

    The “things” of the first sentence are definitely not the “loved ones” of the second. The “things” would be all that stuff from the past that we need to remind ourself not to get vexed over, because there is nothing that can be done about it now, the “water under the bridge” stuff. In this case, impermanence serves to take away the meanings we impute to trivial things.

    The loved ones, on the other hand, are indeed never forgotten. Rather, the impermanence here implores us to not forsake those dear to us, not to act as if they won’t some day, maybe soon and without warning, be gone from our lives. Here, impermanence urges us to place more meaning on those whom we take for granted.

    My translation really fails to pick up the contrasting ways he’s reflecting on the meaning of impermanence, so I’m very thankful for your comment.

    As for the author, he too chooses to remember his past loved ones and their deeds as well… In fact, as I go through more and more of his poems, he’s a most forlorn fellow, always lamenting the “masters of the past” had been so accomplished and how much his entire life must be seen as a quest to repay the debt he owes to them.

    Also, your last line…”Our memories from the past plus free will form our future actions.”

    Just last night during my language exchange, my friend asked me, do you believe in fate or free will?” I said, “fate is the context in which our free will can take place, and this in turn helps create our next round of fate.” I think I could interpret this to mean something quite similar to what you are saying here.

    Have a great day~ time’s a wastin’~

  3. Just looking around on Google and came across another “Paul Weghaupt.” Never thought it would happen.

    Rhinelander WI

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