Endless Vow:
The Zen Path of Soen Nakagawa

First published in Woodnotes #30, Autumn 1996, page 49.

Endless Vow: The Zen Path of Soen Nakagawa, translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi and Roko Sherry Chayat. Shambhala, 1996, 180 pages, paperback, 5½ by 8½ inches. $13.00 in bookstores. Many haiku poets have visited Dai Bosatsu Zendo at Beecher Lake, New York, where the presence of Soen Nakagawa Roshi is keenly felt. In this definitive and reverent book of Soen’s haiku and journal entries, the compilers and translators have indeed “captured the spirit of this eccentric and genuine Zen person,” as the prefaces suggests. The book is divided into four biographical sections of Soen’s journals, each peppered with numerous haiku revealing the master’s spiritual wanderings and keen observations from 1931 to 1984. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in Zen, and a pleasant surprise for its abundance of haiku. Haiku was indeed an integral part of Soen’s daily way. In a portrait of Soen that follows the preface, Soen’s closest disciple and principal Dharma successor Eido Tai Shimano Roshi writes of his teacher: “His vow was truly profound. The intensity of it was remarkable; one felt it immediately. Standing in front of Hakuin’s grave at Ryutaku-ji when he first visited it, he composed this haiku:”

Endless is my vow

under the azure sky

boundless autumn