When you sit before the master he will ask you a question. Consider your answer carefully then offer it to the master. He will simply say, “correct.” Later, when you sit before the master he will ask you the same question. Offer your answer to the master. He will simply say “incorrect.” If you ask him how your answer can be both correct and incorrect, the master will look through you, and simply smile and say “Correct”.
A reflection on case 31 of the Blue Cliff Record koans.
If you go walking one day and meet a person you think may be the Buddha, ask him what is the heart of all of the sutras. If he answers you with Dharma will you be certain this person is not the Buddha? If, on the other hand, he says nothing at all, and merely holds up a mirror, will you be certain you are seeing the Buddha? Decide before he crosses the river and is gone from sight.
A reflection on Case 1 of Bring Me the Rhinoceros (Koans)
Walking down this road I would like to see a rice field golden in the morning sun with a great mountain rising behind it just around the next bend. I would settle for a town its lone Temple quiet, awaiting the morning bell, the call to sit, with maybe a cat at the base of a statue the Bodhisattva. I am ready to bow deeply to the first monk I see this day, but my reverie is broken by the barely dodged wave thrown up by city bus running late and fast down the crowded street of this upstate New York city.
Origami cranes lumber into flight and lift into the sky over the small, back street Temple somewhere on the periphery of Shinjuku. They know their flight will be only temporary, that their wings will grow quickly tired, that the rustling sound of two thousand wings will soon fall silent as the breeze bids them a peaceful night, and the Temple bell announces the evening zazen.
It was inside Nara that it finally slipped away. Its tether had grown ever weaker, the first slip was decades before, a book, brief meetings an answerless question. It stretched further in Tokyo, basin incense under the watchful third eye and hung perilously by fewer and fewer threads until, with the monks’ gentle bow, it broke and I found home.