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

FIVE HAIKU

The dawn cedes slowly
to the impinging sunlight
birds greet the new day

The great egret lifts
her wings embracing the cloud
the winter sun smiles

on the barren branch
the red-shouldered hawk awaits
her mate and the sun

sandhill cranes wander
along the shore of the lake
looking for nothing

the moon is a cup
waiting for night to fill it
venus sits empty

JOSHU’S DOG

My teacher once asked me
“what do you have
to say for yourself,” and I
answered “absolutely nothing,”
or did I smile and remain silent?

You assume the teacher would
be upset with the silent student
and in most cases you would
be perfectly correct.

But if this occurred
in a zendo, having nothing
to say is a step toward no-self
and you can be
in that moment,
Joshu’s dog.

A reflection on Case 18 of the Book of Equanimity (従容錄, Shōyōroku)

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)

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)