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Summary

Ryokan (1758-1831) is, along with Dogen and Hakuin, one of the three giants of Zen in Japan. But unlike his two renowned colleagues, Ryokan was a societal dropout, living mostly as a hermit and a beggar. He was never head of a monastery or temple. He liked playing with children. He had no dharma heir. Even so, people recognized the depth of his realization, and he was sought out by people of all walks of life for the teaching to be experienced in just being around him. His poetry and art were wildly popular even in his lifetime. He is now regarded as one of the greatest poets of the Edo Period, along with Basho, Buson, and Issa. He was also a master artist-calligrapher with a very distinctive style, due mostly to his unique and irrepressible spirit, but also because he was so poor he didn't usually have materials: His distinctive thin line was due to the fact that he often used twigs rather than the brushes he couldn't afford. He was said to practice his brushwork with his fingers in the air when he didn't have any paper. There are hilarious stories about how people tried to trick him into doing art for them, and about how he frustrated their attempts. As an old man, he fell in love with a young Zen nun who also became his student. His affection for her colors the mature poems of his late period. This collection contains more than 140 of Ryokan's poems, with selections of his art, and of the very funny anecdotes about him.

©2012 Kazuaki Tanahashi (P)2014 Audible Inc.

What members say

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Jason
  • CAPE TOWN South Africa
  • 26-10-15

More a book for reading than listening to.

What disappointed you about Sky Above, Great Wind?

A goo dportion of the book was describing Ryokan's calligraphy. Clearly, the points made were lost when you cannot see the text in front of you. A bit like commentating on a kite flying competition over the radio. The voice artist did his best, but it was pretty tedious

What was most disappointing about Kazuaki Tanahashi’s story?

I was expecting lots of Ryokan's poetry. There was some, sure, but much of the book was about his calligraphy or a sketchy biography of his life.

What aspect of Brian Nishii’s performance might you have changed?

He did a good job with limited material

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

It was alright, but I was expecting more. Disappointment, I suppose, as I am such a fan of Ryokan's work.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Autumn

After 2 hrs and 19 mins I am amazed at how many leaves remain on the autumn trees.

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  • Susie
  • 03-03-15

The Great Fool

Ryokan, "The Great Fool," is, perhaps, the scruffiest of the great Zen Master poets. His writings, and in particular, Kazuaki Tanahashi's translation, convey the experiences of a breathing person, irreverent and humorous while holding deep sorrow, loneliness, and wisdom. He portrays a universe playing tricks on us all.

Brian Nishii is a fantastic narrator. He is clear, has a good sense of timing and his enthusiasm for the reading is evident.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Douglas
  • 23-05-16

A Warm And Loving Portrait...

of the great zen master and his writings. Read it along with his wonderful poetry.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Troy
  • 11-08-15

Simple, Thoughtful

This 2 1/2 hour audiobook is bookended with an hour long biography of Zen Master Ryokan and 15 minutes of anecdotes. In between are his simple Zen "poems that are not poems." Ryokan was a Buddhist monk, a Shinto temple keeper, and by most accounts a very unkempt and dirty individual. You'd never know it by his poetry. This is the sort of thing that makes me wish I could experience it in its original form, understanding the original language, and admiring the original calligraphy. An audiobook just doesn't do it justice, but for those of us who aren't multilingual, it's acceptable enough to let us know just how much we might be missing.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • taryn kj collins
  • 08-05-18

Lovely

Funny and insightful. Full of important, beautiful, and playful notions. I listen to it over and over♥️

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  • Ron
  • 25-02-18

I’m glad I bought this book

I will listen to it again. I would buy it again. Rich in imagery, thought, expression of one’s own life, a way of thinking, a way of life. Thank you for translating this book and to whomever recorded it.

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  • Lord Kinbote
  • 13-08-17

Wonderful book

If you want Zen explained to you buy books by D.T. Suzuki. If you want to see it through the eyes of someone that lived it, this is the book

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  • Rose Akers
  • 27-07-16

Excellent

Would you listen to Sky Above, Great Wind again? Why?

I'd listen to it a 100 times.

What other book might you compare Sky Above, Great Wind to and why?

The poetry is fresh, accessible and fun. But it is full Zen too… The audacity of the author is impossible to compare.

Which scene was your favorite?

There were several great scenes…such as picking lice off his clothes and affectionately putting them back again. I liked the poetic "romance" of the old man with the younger female which was mischievous, maddeningly austere, and just what you would think.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, I did it in a sitting. Of course, two or three would be better. It IS poetry.

Any additional comments?

Get it.

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  • Thom Thomas
  • 01-09-15

Wonderful

I do wish that there were more of a vocal cue when a poem began/ended.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • judy
  • 04-06-15

Tenderly Beautiful

This is a fine way to be introduced to the thoughtful spiritually of Japanese culture.
Intelligently introduced by the narrator.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Lance C. Lape
  • 19-05-16

Fun and informative.

Well worth a listen. It is well edited and read. The anecdotes portion is memorable.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful