ISAN’S SUMMONS 鐵笛倒吹 三十一

When the master
calls for a novice
do you answer?
When the inkin
bell is struck
do you begin
or end zazen?
As you follow your breath
when do you leave
your body, and who
returns when you next inhale?

Search instead
for an answer
that has no question.
Who is the novice now?

A reflection on case 31 of the Iron Flute Koans

SEPPO REJECTS A MONK 鐵笛倒吹 七十三

If you find the answer
and rush to tell your teacher
why are you surprised
when he turns away from you,
saying that is yesterday’s answer.

If you want to impress your teacher
paint the answer
on the surface
of the raging river
or accept scorn
with equanimity.


A reflection on case 73 of the Iron Flute Koans

YOKUSAN’S LECTURE 鐵笛倒吹 六十三

If you go to a lecture
and listen carefully
will you become wise?
If you go to a hundred lectures
are you a hundred times wiser?

Where did the teacher find wisdom,
did he sit in endless lectures.
Watch him most carefully
is he not wise with sleeping,
and when eating, when he walks
to the lectern and from it?
Watch in silence
and find his wisdom.


A reflection on case 63 of the Iron Flute Koans

ECHU EXPELS A DISCIPLE 鐵笛倒吹 語十三

If you come upon Echu napping
do not disturb him
but retreat to the zendo
or walk in the small garden
where enlightenment may be found.

If the search is successful
leave quickly, tell no one,
for it is very fragile
and the tongue
is sharper than the sword
and infinitely more deadly.


A reflection on case 53 of the Iron Flute Koans

3 TANKA

Antphonal songs
Mockingbirds greet the morning
Great Blue Herons stare
imagining their voices
night sweetly welcome the dawn
The great temple bell
awaits the morning, the monk,
its daily purpose
cast deep within the metal
always verging on release

Smoke of incense too
prostrates itself to Buddha
soon a morning breeze
promises enlightenment
or the freedom of the sky

SEPPO CUTS TREES 鐵笛倒吹 二十三

Will you spend
all of your time
sharpening the blade
or will you use it on the tree
and if you strike the pith
what will you say then?

To speak of the sap
flowing freely from
the wound of the axe
is utter foolishness
it has no taste on the finger
better to feel
the blow of the stick.


A reflection on Case 23 of the Iron Flute Koans

QUESTIONING THE BUDDHA 無門關 三十二

Sit in utter stillness,
turn away from words,
let non-words wash over you,
and give them no hold.

The shadow of the whip
will dance toward you
like a cloudless sky
blue and not blue –
take to hoof and gallop.


A reflection on case 32 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate)

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GENDER?

So why, pray tell, does my gender
even matter, it isn’t like we will ever.
meet, and let’s face it, there is
a fluidity now which calls binary
thinking absurd, so we’ll go with
whatever you choose, so long
as you realize I am all about
compassion and relieving
the world’s suffering – thought
that might color your opinion
a bit, good you got the yin of it

And let’s talk about the whole
name thing, I mean, sure, it changes
when you change languages, I’m
okay with that, I guess but if
you are going to use me in Japan
why not use my Japanese name,
I am particularly fond of Kannon,
I’m down with Guanyin, used
that one all over Asia, but seriously
do you really think I want to go
around these days as Avalokiteśvara,
I’m centuries old, so show me
A bit more compassion than that.


For Something Different, a new bird photo each day, visit my other blog:
Bird-of-the-day.com 

ISAN’S I HAVE EXHAUSTED MYSELF 正法眼蔵 四十四

Approach the master
sitting on his seat.
The fool will seek answers
having slept through the lesson
but the wise student will bow
silently and retreat
having learned all there is
and knowing absolutely nothing.


A reflection on case 44 of Dogen’s True Dharma Eye Koans

JOSHU INVESTIGATES AN OLD WOMAN 無門關 三十一

In searching for the path
to the holy mountain
you may ask directions
of the old tea lady
sitting still at its base
and she may point

but placing one foot
ahead of the other
stare closely at the tea leaves
for they, too, know the Way.


A reflection on Case 31 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) Koans