GENSHA’S BLANK LETTER 正法眼蔵 四十八

If you wish to find the Way
follow the signs that read
“This Is Not the Path” or
at least some of them.
If you ask me directions
I will hand you a blank sheet
and ask you what
does it contain.
You may say it is void
and you would be correct,
or you may say it
is a thousand dharma texts
and you would be correct.

A reflection on Case 48 of The True Dharma Eye (Shobogenzo)

MELODY

I sing a shattered song
of someone else’s youth
the melody forgotten
the words faded into odd
syllables heard in my dreams.
The coyote stands at the edge
of a gully staring at me
and wondering why I slip
from the hogan through
the hole punched
in the back wall
slinking away
in the encroaching dark.
The priest, his saffron robes
pulled tight around his legs
in the morning chill,
stares as I run my hands
across the giant brass bell
feeling its resonance.
I hear the dirge
as sleep nips at the edge
of my consciousness
grabbing the frayed
margins of life

Published in These Lines, Fall 2020
https://theselines.org/these-lines-1.1-fall-2020.pdf

THE GIRL COMES OUT 無門關 四十二

She sits undisturbed
Shakyamuni by her side.
You can wave at her, she
will pay you no mind.

You cannot grasp her mind
and maintain a hold
on your own, you will grow
deaf from the chatter
but a child can curl
at her feet and she
will stroke his forehead
in perfect Samadhi.

A reflection on case 42 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) koans.

MIRROR IMAGE

Each morning when I look
into the mirror I imagine
I see me, but of course that
is impossible, for in that moment
only the mirror sees me
and I see the mirror.

How deluded I must be
to assume that I look at all
like the mirror, but it is,
I know, just such delusions
that enable my sense of self,
and that is the grandest illusion.

A morning will come when I
look into the glass and nothing
is there or a face I have never
before seen and the mirror
will laugh, as will I, at this
game we have played for years.

HOGEN’S DRIP OF WATER 鐵笛倒吹 九十一

What are words
of wisdom
from the mouth
of the ancient ones.
I tell you
these are such words.
You may accept
or reject them
as you will.
Better still, tear
this page from its binding
crumple it
and cast it
to the four winds.
Let it be carried
off in ten directions.

A reflection on case 91 of the Iron Flute Koans

DOGO’S GREATEST DEPTH 鐵笛倒吹 六十六

If you walk into the room
and many are meditating
how will you know which
is the teacher, which the students?

If one sits on a higher platform
will you assume him teacher
and ask the depth of his Zen.
If he comes down to you
and says he has no depth to offer
do not think him a fool.
When you sit at the bottom
of the ocean and look down
the water beneath you is shallow
but the surface of the sea
cannot be seen.

A reflection on Case 66 of the Iron Flute Koans

MEOW

Again today I am inside this so called
box, unchanged perhaps, but who
is to say, not you, still Schrodinger’s cat.

Don’t bother to ask if I am dead
or alive, for like the Master Daowu, you
can bet that I won’t say, so there.

And do not assume I know what I am,
for if I were dead, I’d hardly know it
and what guarantee is there that

I’m actually alive merely because
I think I am, or is it that I think
I think that I am, it’s all so Descartean

that I’m never quite certain, so let’s just
assume that old Schrodinger was right,
I’m alive and dead, and leave it at that.

SPACED OUT

The question you must answer,
and the one question I am certain
you cannot answer correctly is this:

Does space define us
or do we define space?

Hints, of course, abound but we,
myself included, fail or choose
not to see them or outright deny them.

We are all comfortable at home,
the adventurous among us declare
that wherever they are is home.

The sane ones among is say this is
nothing more than self-sophistry
or bullshit dressed in elegant cliche,

We want not only to limit space,
for then the cliche might have
more than a small kernel of truth,

but we need to declare it mine
so that it cannot be yours as well,
get your own damn space if you want.

Do you see the answer now, is it
clear to you once and for all, are
you willing to admit to the world

that space defines you
just as you define space

for it is on this evanescent foundation
on which your whole sense of self
resides and your ego dwells.

UTEKI ASKS BUDDHA 鐵笛倒吹 四十語

While out for a walk
on a sun filled Spring day
if you happen across the Buddha
how will you recognize him?

If you offer gassho
to Buddha surely
it will be returned, but
is it he or merely
your reflection off
the surface of a still pond?
Does this matter to you?

A reflection on case 45 of the Iron Flute Koans