Poems of Bai Juyi
Frosted grass, a lonely grey. Insects chirping low.
In all the village, North and South, travellers are home.
Out alone, before the gates, I gaze on night's dark fields.
Bright, the moon, and here below, barley flowers like snow.
Bai Juyi was a student of Chan (禅, later Zen) Buddhism. Chan is said to have come to China with Bodhidharma, who brought his practice from India in the 5th Century. We know that Bai Juyi lived from 772 to 846. His teacher, Foguang Ruman (佛光 如滿) lived from around 752 until 842. If the time of their first meeting is known, I can't find it. We do know they were also contemporaries of Linji Yixuan (临济 义玄 or Rinzai) who died in 866. So we can only speculate on what kind of Chan Bai Juyi's Chan was.
People come to things like Chan because it fits what they already are. The thing they come to gives them a framework for developing what they are. Early Chan, like the Daoism influencing it in China, was more about awareness than emptiness. And Bai Juyi is full of awareness. In 村夜, he is aware of the frost, the grass, the bugs, the moon, and the barley. But he is also aware of himself, his loneliness, and his standing and looking at the world.
Chan and its precepts are one thing. But Bai Juyi, like Layman Pang and Bankei, was bigger than Chan. You can't squeeze the individual out of the only world because he belongs there, just like the grass and the bugs. Bai Juyi is the first Chan poet. And as "The God of Poetry," he is the measure of all Zen poetry. He stands, fully aware, in the middle of his poetry. His individuality is always there, as it should be. Bai Juyi shows us there is absolutely more to what we are than the impermanent self. And look at how long this real individuality lasts -- forever.