When we’re exhausted, though the work remains,
when we’ve labored, yet had punishment,
when all that we had built ignites and burns
and only ashes, smoldering, are left –
then those with faith in gods might duly turn
to them for consolation – while the ones
without such faith might see a deeper truth,
and realize that gain and loss – reward and
punishment – are waves upon the sea,
but he or she, who dives beneath, can find
an understanding and a vision deep
that’s often lost to those who ride the waves.
There’szen, in which we see it all at once,
as still expounded by the Japanese,
and gyan, which can’t be gathered instantly,
as Indians have known for centuries,
and then there’s chan, which scholars learn about
when they've read what's written in Chinese –
yet strangely these are all the very same,
and even in the West, there’s knowledge and
there’s wisdom – which are linked, yet different.
On being served a sentence that is long,
we might not comprehend it fully yet,
but when we’ve worked that sentence partly through,
we then might start to sense its import more,
and finally, when we’ve labored to its end,
we might perceive, in whole, what’s truly meant –
or figure out the sentence made no sense,
and so regret the wasted time we spent.
So when you’re standing in the dock, beware –
there’s more to it than words the judge might speak,
yet bear in mind your future’s being parsed,
but what that sentence was, you’ll only know –
when, if fortunate, you’ve been released.
Our stanzas shorten as we reach our ends,
and yet enlightenment remains "afar",
for “seeing” might mean one of many things,
and so “extinguish” can, as well.
When flights of fancy and achievements end,
we’re back to where we started – there to dwell.