HUI CH’AO ASKS ABOUT BUDDHA

When you look in the mirror
do you hope to see yourself,
and who is that face that stares back?
If you turn out the light, are you
still there in the mirror, or has
the illusion of you disappeared?
If you crack the mirror, do you
feel the pain of the scar across your face?
You cannot hope to see yourself,
for if you did see you,
you would then cease to be,
and the mirror would stare and see nothing.
You cannot search for the Buddha,
for in looking you make finding impossible.
All this looking and so
very little being: so just be.



A reflection on Case 7 of the Hekiganroku

VERITAS

It is the promise of the grape
that lures us, that allows us
to imagine the glass stained purple,
or a deep golden yellow,
an alluring pink.
It may be accompanied by words
that suggest the approach
of a moment not to be forgotten,
deep, vibrant, tobacco, stone fruit,
a veritable catalog to entice us,
though meaning what we are not certain.
It is only on the tongue
that the grapes speak, and do so
in a voice that defies anything
as simple as language, for wine
sings to an instrument all its own.

MORNING, ATTENDANT

Morning would find him sitting
calmly, cross-legged, under the apple tree
that sat on the edge of the park,
staring up at a small branch
and carefully watching the bud
begin to open, ignoring all who passed.

Morning would find him sitting
calmly, cross-legged, under the apple tree
watching the fragile blossom open,
staring at its translucent pinkness,
ignoring all who passed.

Morning would find him sitting
calmly, cross-legged, under the apple tree,
watching the apple blossom dance down
onto his folded hands,
ignoring all who passed.

Morning would find him sitting,
calmly, cross-legged under the apple tree
watching the leaf slide free, falling
to rest on the ground beside him.
He turned to all who passed
and said “Come, watch Buddha with me.”

SHISHUANG’S THIS SIDE AND THAT SIDE

You like being here, but
you suspect you would like being there
as well, if not more than being here.
This puzzles you, for you fear
leaving here to go there, in case
when you arrive there you don’t like
being there and would rather be here.
You should sit and ponder which
is better for you, here or there,
even though you cannot be certain
just what is there, or what
there will be here if you go there.
But if you do go there, there will
then be here, and here will then be there.
Now consider why must here and there
be different, since there contains here,
and here is most all of there.
This question is a naked singularity
and deep within it lies
everywhere you ought to be.


A reflection on Case 89 of the Shobogenzo

HOLY QUEST

He says, “I have looked for God
or at least for signs of a holy presence
but I haven’t found any yet.”
She says, “How would you know
if you saw God, in a church
or in the checkout line at the grocers?”
He says, “That’s a good question, I suppose
he’d look something like me, but
there would be this holiness,
a presence that no one else
in the pews or store could even
hope to imitate, something just Godly.”
“What if God is a she,” she says,
“or looks like the cat I had as a child?
Being made in God’s image can’t be taken
all that literally, you know, after all
is God an overweight white male wearing coveralls
and driving a tractor, or Japanese,
or Somali, or Indian, though that one worked
for Buddha despite how the Chinese
and Japanese choose to draw him.”
He frowned, taking it all in, then said,
“So maybe, I’ll just stop looking.”
“And just maybe that way
you may find God,” she smiled.