UMMON’S MOUNT SUMERU

When you ask your teacher
what happens when you
stop thinking, allow
no new thoughts
what you expect him
to tell you?

The dead have no thoughts
but that is not the door
to Nirvana.

But if thoughts abandon you
without your effort, without
being asked to do so,
then the door you seek
will open before you.

A reflection on Case 19 of the Book of Equanimity (従容錄, Shōyōroku)

HOGAN’S HAIR’S-BREADTH

What is it you are looking for,
what you expect to find
and how will you know
if you find it?

You expected your teacher
to present it to you?

What would you do with it
if you did receive it?

You must first see that you
are both the searcher
and the teacher and
you already have
what you are searching for,
for you find things when
you stop looking for them.

A reflection on Case 17 of the Book of Equanimity (SHôYôROKU 従容錄)

MAYOKU THUMPS HIS STAFF

If as you walk
along the way
you come across
a small bird’s nest
fallen to the ground
its eggs intact,
you place it
back on the branch
without a thought.

If as you walk on
and come across
another small bird’s nest
fallen to the ground
its eggs intact
you place it
back on the branch
because it pleases you.

One right thought
and right action,
one wrong thought
and wrong action,
how can you
tell them apart?

A reflection on Case 15 of the Book of Equanimity SHôYôROKU 従容錄

LOOKING FOR WORDS

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Perhaps so, but many pictures don’t travel in verbose company, and there are pictures worth far, far less, although some will search until the magic thousand are found. In Japan a story can be told in seventeen syllables, a picture painted with a single brushstroke. In the zendo the whole of dharma can be heard in the silence if you stop and listen.

KYOZAN PLANTS HIS MATTOCK

In your endless search
for enlightenment,
the best course, the only course
is to stop looking.

It may strike you,
unexpected or it may
arise without your seeing
as you continue your practice.

You say there are many Buddhas
and you are correct, but I say
there is but one Buddha and I
am also correct, and you are
that one Buddha and I am
that one Buddha as well.

A reflection on case 14 of the Book of Equanimity (SHôYôROKU  従容錄)

SIN

A poet suggested that sin
was created by the Christians,
wrong, of course, but perhaps
just being politically correct
in not naming the Jews as
its creator, or at least
giving it a name and rulebook.

And on the point of accuracy
the poet might have noted
that the Jews created
the Christians, for Jesus
was one of them, a reformer
before Judaism would allow
anything beyond orthodoxy.

All of which is a long way
of explaining why I am
now a practicing Buddhist.

RINZAI’S BLIND DONKEY

When your teacher
hands you the dharma
what do you find in your hands?

What will you do
with the dharma you are given,
where will you keep it,
or will you give it away
in silence, and in such
giving have it with you
at all times and places.

A reflection on Case 13 of the Book of Equanimity (従容錄, Shōyōroku)

JIZO PLANTS THE FIELD

As you search
through the Dharma
what is it you hope to find?

When you ask your teacher
to explain the Dharma, what
do you expect him to tell you?

Do you cling to Dharma
because it is there, unchanging,
a guide to the end of your search?

Better to live the precepts
fully, present in every moment,
waking, working, eating
and even sleeping for then
the path rolls out before you.

A reflection on Case 12 of the Book of Equanimity (従容錄, Shōyōroku)

ALL THAT JAZZ

The magic of jazz
is not what you think,
there is nothing random
even in the wildest, in
the acidest of solos.

Cacophony is randomness
and the key to jazz
is to see the
invisible logic,
read the mind,
be the mind
of the musician.

It is zen, but only
if you stop searching
and just be in its
moment.