LINJI WAS(N’T) HERE

I very strongly doubt
that Linji ever walked
along this path, given
that it wasn’t even here
fifty years ago.
He never saw the egret
staring back across the pond,
or the flock of ibis doing
what seem like prostrations.
He did not see any of this,
which saddens me a great deal,
but taking careful steps,
and following my breath,
I walk gently
in his footsteps.

Q AND A: SOMEWHERE

Somewhere deep within
complete uncertainty
lies the answer to the question
we are reluctant or
unwilling to ask.
The only problem
is that in peeling back
the fear and trepidation
we risk reopening wounds
we have long forgotten,
that are scarred over.
Is it the answer we fear
or the question, or
the inability to decide which?

HYAKUJO’S SECOND VISIT 正法眼蔵 語十四

You may come asking questions,
and perhaps the teacher
will answer you with a discourse.
If you go deaf and hear nothing,
if the words flit
like so many mayflies
just as soon gone,
if no word finds purchase,
you will have grasped
the heart of the Dharma.


A reflection on case 54 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)

THE MESSENGER TIRES

He says, in a quiet aside he hopes
no one will overhear, that he
has grown tired of being an angel.
And not for the reason we might think,
he adds with a wry smile.
The work is not all that difficult,
in fact there seems to be less of it
week by week, but he has grown patient.
The real problem is sleeping,
there’s too much time for it now,
but have you ever tried sleeping
with a set of wings on your back,
talk about shoulder pain, and don’t
think of rolling over, that
is always a bumpy ride to the floor.
I tried being birdlike, of course,
but even the saints had to laugh
as I kept falling out of the trees.

Basho’s Staff 無門關 四十四

Do you have old Basho
hidden away in your home?
If you do, I will gladly
give him to you, but if he
is not within your walls, you
should produce him immediately.

If you need to cross the river
walk carefully on his back
on a moonless night.
If there is a moon, walk
along a darkened road,
hand him your shippei
and he will light your path.
If there is a pouring rain
you will both be soaked.


A reflection on Case 44 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate)