Hanging by strings from the branches of the trees were rectangular, blue plastic placards, swaying in the breeze. Buddhist homilies had been painted in gilt lettering on the placards: Thai on one side, English on the other. Two of the homilies struck me at the time, so I wrote them down on a piece of paper, in case they might come in handy. "A wise man always tames his restless mind." "A well-guarded mind brings about happiness."
I am not a practitioner of Buddhism. However, for many years I have been drawn to it as a philosophy. It keeps returning to me, often through Chinese and Japanese poetry. It sees things as they are, in a common-sense, down-to-earth fashion. We do need to tame our restless mind. A well-guarded mind, although it may not bring about happiness, may bring about a measure of serenity.
Hence: if you should ever come upon unexpected messages swaying in the wind amongst flowering tree branches, take heed!
Geoffrey Rhoades, "Winter Afternoon, Chalk Farm" (1935)
One can arrive at these timeless and placeless truths from any number of directions.
What needest thou? -- a few brief hours of rest
Wherein to seek thyself in thine own breast;
A transient silence wherein truth could say
Such was thy constant hope, and this thy way? --
O burden of life that is
A livelong tangle of perplexities!
What seekest thou? -- a truce from that thou art;
Some steadfast refuge from a fickle heart;
Still to be thou, and yet no thing of scorn,
To find no stay here, and yet not forlorn? --
O riddle of life that is
An endless war 'twixt contrarieties.
Leave this vain questioning. Is not sweet the rose?
Sings not the wild bird ere to rest he goes?
Hath not in miracle brave June returned?
Burns not her beauty as of old it burned?
O foolish one to roam
So far in thine own mind away from home!
Where blooms the flower when her petals fade,
Where sleepeth echo by earth's music made,
Where all things transient to the changeless win,
There waits the peace thy spirit dwelleth in.
Walter de la Mare, Motley and Other Poems (1918).
In some parts of the world more words are needed than in others. For instance, might not the essence of de la Mare's poem be boiled down to this?
A chestnut leaf sinks
Through the clear water.
Shohaku (1443-1527) (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 3: Summer-Autumn (Hokuseido 1952), page 231.
A clear waterfall;
Into the ripples
Fall green pine-needles.
Basho (translated by R. H. Blyth), Ibid, page 90.
Charles Cundall, "Temeside, Ludlow" (1923)
Returning to the other side of the world, we find a similar brevity and wisdom.
Dwell in some decent corner of your being,
Where plates are orderly set and talk is quiet,
Not in its devious crooked corridors
Nor in its halls of riot.
James Reeves, The Questioning Tiger (Heinemann 1964).
It is all one and the same, isn't it? Location is mere happenstance. Centuries are of no moment.
Charles Frederick Dawson, "Accrington from My Window" (1932)