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.

THIRD EYE, NEEDING GLASSES

You ask me what is the first thing
I can remember, and seem surprised
when I tell you memory is much like
a Buddhist river, never the same twice.
Memory is a stage and I am one to forget
my lines, today it’s the window
in the back of a Miami Beach bus
amazed at the sweeping curve
facade of the grandest of hotels,
or the cast iron of the radiator
with its almost rusting pipes, standing
on the small square white tiles, outlined
like the walls in black, the bit of my hair
stuck in the valve knob, a bit of blood
on the floor beneath where the rag
wouldn’t reach when we got back
from the hospital, my toddler head
beneath a bandage, the floor where
my father would fall three months later.
The problem is childhood doesn’t come
with stage directions and my lines
are associated with places and things
and a child cannot read a script
and memories drown and float to the surface
and are carried downstream to a sea
replete with  things I have long since forgotten,
like the face of my mother before
they took me to the foster home
and she returned, again barren,
to her own river of a life.

ATOP THE POLE 無門關 四十六

Sitting atop a hundred foot pole
you are convinced there are
only two directions: pole and down.
Old Osho asks: “How will you proceed?”
and you stare back at this lunatic.
“How will you proceed?” he repeats.

You release the pole and
step slowly away, looking
in all ten directions
before you, only then do you
you move your feet, and each one
touches the path of each
of the three worlds.
Osho gently touches your elbow
and walks a bit by your side.


Reflecting on Case 46 of the Mumonkan

HARMONY

A young woman steps
from the shower and wraps
herself in a large blue towel.
“I don’t want you to see me,”
she says, to the young man
standing in the door of the small
bathroom, “look away for now.”
He reminds her they are married.
She says, “One thing has nothing
to do with the other, and
a husband must know his wife
by the contour of her chin,
the curve of her hip, the smell
of her slowly drying hair,
and the sound of her lips pursing.”
She says, “When you can do
all of this with your eyes closed,
what need is there for sight,
and if you cannot, you
could have a thousand eyes
and still be blind.”