NARA

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.

DESHAN’S “NEITHER ASKING NOR NOT ASKING”

If you very much want something
you must ask for it clearly, but
if you ask for it, it will be denied to you.
If you do not ask for it, you
may be certain you will not get it
no matter how much you want it.
If you sit and think about this,
you will miss out on living.
It is only when you don’t want it,
when you allow the silence without
question, without need or desire,
that you will discover that you
have had it all along, right beside you.

WALKING

He has been walking
for hours, or, perhaps
for days, it doesn’t matter
since he is precisely
where he should be
at this moment.
He is tired, so he
sits in seiza and watches
a colony of ants
working away in a crack
in the path, each
doing his assigned task.
He knows ants have
Buddha nature for when
they walk, they just walk,
like he does, and when
they eat they just eat
and he has never seen
a solitary ant wobble.

QIANFENG’S “THREE TYPES OF SICKNESS”

 

When you assume the mat
and gaze at the wall,
what is it you see?
If you see nothing,
what do you think?
If you are certain
that you see nothing,
that is what you think.
Do not see, do not think,
and let the cushion
fall away until the moment
you no longer exist,
but let the moment
fall away as well
and there is only
the emptiness of peace.


A reflection on case 17 of the Entangling Vines Koans

YUN MEN’S THE BODY EXPOSED, THE GOLDEN WIND

How long have you searched
for the ultimate truth, the key
that will unlock
the door to enlightenment?.
Would you know such a key
if it were handed to you?
You go about asking teachers
if they would give you the key,
but the wisest of the sages
would gladly tell you
that you need no key,
for the door you seek
so very hard to enter
does not keep you outside
of the place where your truth
can be found, for it is always
with you if you would just
give up searching and see it.


A reflection on Case 27 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)

THE DAY AFTER*

Today we only speak silently
and know everyone hears.
Today we cry only dry tears,
and others gently wipe our eyes.
Today we mourn what we fear is lost
and together vow to retain it.
Today the sun shines less brightly
and we know the dark cloud
will eventually pass.
Today we hug, each
to all the others, though
we sit alone as a sangha.
This is but a single moment
and we sit with and within it,
breathing in and breathing out.


In this case, a Sangha meeting the day after the shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, but as easily the day after any tragedy of which there are too many.

NOT

Today I will hope to master,
if only for a brief moment, not

not being attached to thoughts,
but recognizing them and letting them pass,
since the thought of recognition must
replace the thought that was recognized,

not trying for anything on the cushion
including not trying to not try
for anything for that is the only way
that you can find nothing, which
is what you were trying for in the first place,

not putting into words concepts
which must by their nature defy language
but rather assuming the position
and just let things