BUDDHA NATURE

A singe egret sits calmly
on the lowest branch of a long

barren tree, where hours from now
a thousand birds will arrive
for still another evening and night.

He stares at me as I am mindfully
vacuuming, watching carefully.

I pause and ask if by chance he
is a Buddha and he lifts his long neck
and peers around in all directions.

I repeat my question, and he
lifts one wing, which I know
to be his way of saying, “I,
like you, am imbued with Buddha
nature, and I with mother
nature as well, and if you doubt me
ask one of the countless
Bodhisattva who will arrive
in hours to study the Dharma
well into what will be a wet night.

Joshu Sees the Hermits 無門關 十一

Joshu’s single question
asked twice the same

two answers, two
raised fists
each time the same

Joshu responds to each fist
each response different
each the same
a single light

both seen and unseen
both blessed curse
and cursed blessing.


A reflection on Case 11 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate)

IN SEARCH

He’d been searching for ever,
or so often seemed, for no-self,
and he couldn’t fathom why it was so difficult
to attain simple absence, nothing
must be less than something, after all.
He knew, like Sisyphus, he would continue
to search until he succeeded, the gods
of his soul decreed it and you don’t fuck with them.
It was difficult recalling how much time
had been wasted in the search for mirrors
and when he found one, looked, there he was
selfsame, self-filled, and he imagined, selfish.
He took to always carrying a hand mirror
and when he thought he might have found it
he glanced at the polished surface in his hand
and there he’d still be, his endless self
older now, but there, very much still there.
One day, frustration getting the better of him
he wandered deep into a massive forest, hours later
sitting on a fallen trunk, he reached for his mirror, gone.
There was tree and sky and earth, that was all,
as night enveloped everything, even his no-self.

SEPPO’S SANCTITY 鐵笛倒吹 三十七

You claim to seek sanctity –
will you know it
if you find it along the way?

What if it sneaks up on you
when you are lost in reverie,
what if it reaches you
in a strike of the teacher’s stick,
will you jump in fear
and frighten it away,
or sit with it
in endless zazen?


A reflection on case 37 of the Iron Flute Koans

DYING TO MEET YOU

The single greatest problem
In writing about death
Is that everybody does it, dies
Sooner or later, so it’s hardly
All that special unless, like Twain,
it happens more than once.
But perhaps multiple deaths are not
All that uncommon, for Buddhists,
Among whom I count myself
It happens all the time, karma demands it.
And if I had any doubt, Google will confirm it.
I, for instance, died the seasoned lawyer
in Calgary in 2009, the trade I practice for 36 years,
And I ironically died on my birthday
In 2011 in Palm Beach Gardens, though
I’ll be damned if I felt 84 then, and
I kicked bucket in 1754 in Orbach, France
But I’ve never been a real fan of the French
although it is my next best language
And when the wine is good, it’s great.

PRAYER

We bow our heads
and utter words
not to the cicada
speaking through
a spring night
or the beetle
crawling slowly
across the leaf
searching for the edge.
We bid the crow
silent, the cat mewling
his hunger, just
to crawl under a porch
awaiting morning,
the child to sleep.
The stream flows
slowly by, carrying
a blade of grass
and the early fallen leaf.


First appeared in Albatross, Issue 13, (2001)

SANSHU’S BLINDNESS 正法眼蔵 四十

If you come forward
and ask no question
the master will
give you an answer,
but if you approach
with a question,
the master will
strike you with the stick.
It is only when
your eyes are blinded
that you can take up
the master’s staff
and all is clearly seen.