JIZO’S NOT KNOWING IS THE MOST INTIMATE

When you come
before your teacher
and he asks you
what is it exactly
that you are looking for,
what is it that you
expect finally to attain,
how will you answer him?
If you say you are seeking
enlightenment, he will laugh
and send you away,
but if you answer
that you do not know,
he will hand you
an empty bowl
and tell you to go fill it.

A reflection on Case 20 of the Book of Equanimity ( 従容錄, Shōyōroku)

CIRCLING

This morning as the bell
signaled the end of morning zazen
the whistling ducks took up
their song, circling the wetland
as if inviting me to photograph them.

They quickly grew bored waiting
and flew off to a place
I do not know, can not imagine.

Perhaps they will return
this afternoon, circle
in a duck like pose as I capture
them with the long lens, and this
will satisfy them for another day,
but perhaps they will not return
and punish me again
for my morning absence.

HIMAGAN’S PITCHFORK

If you go in search
of the way, you
may come across a sage.
He will ask you
why you seek it.
If you answer,
he will strike
a deadly blow,
if you do not answer
he will strike
a deadly blow.
Grasp his arms
and carry him
with you.

A reflection on Case 73 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye) Koans

JOSHU ROTATES THE CANON

If you ask me
to grasp the Dharma
I will read each word
as I unroll the scroll,
but that is but a small part
of grasping it.
The rolling up,
the placing back,
the bow and the return
to my waiting cushion,
each is a reverent grasping.

A reflection on Case 74 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye) Koans

GANTO’S SIT STILL

How can I bring
three worlds together?
Sitting still,
deep in silence,
I can carry the mountain
to the shore,
where the sea,
land and sky
merge in perfect
harmony.

A reflection on case 75 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye) Koans

DISCLOSING IS NOT AS GOOD AS PRACTICE

To speak of hours of practice
is not as good as 10 minutes
engaged in practice.
So, too, an hour speech
on practice pales
with even a moment of silence.
But to be silent and also
not practice is to turn
your back on the path
and blind yourself
with your stick.

A reflection on Case 77 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye) Koans

ONE FLAVOR ZEN

How far must you wander
to taste the pure essence,
hear the pure note,
see deeply into beauty,
smell the first flower of spring,
touch another heart.
Will you grow tired
from standing still
in total silence
contemplating this?

A reflection on Case 65 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (Trud Dharma Eye)

NANSEN’S CONTENT AND CONTAINER

Bring me your mind
but leave the body behind,
this is what you must do
to attain enlightenment.
You may sit where you are
in total silence, or
you may come over here
and sit quietly at my feet.
Both paths lead
deeply into the way.

A reflection on Case 64 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

TOZAN’S DISCLOSING MIND

Many would say
I think therefore I am
and it is only death
that takes away all thought
and so to walk deeply
along the Path, all
that is required
is to truly live the Way
by allowing
the mind to die.

A reflection on case 62 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)