If I tell you there is
a still more precious gem
will you ask “what is it?”
If I respond “it is not a diamond:
what will you do then?
The wealthy fool
will throw off his rings
and begin a futile search.
Are you such a fool,
or do you look inside
secure in knowing
the greatest gem
lies waiting within.
A reflection on Case 77 of the Iron Flute Koans
He cannot be certain when he lost it. He isn’t even sure where he lost it. He knew he had it, had it for years, and then, once when he looked for it, it was nowhere to be found. He wasn’t all that upset at the loss. It was more that it was familiar, that he was accustomed to it, not that it had in intrinsic or extrinsic value. In fact, he had already replaced it the moment he noticed it was missing. Still he couldn’t help but wonder where it had gone, and why he hadn’t noticed its loss at the moment it occurred. Or had he? But ego could be like that, and it was comforting to know the replacements were stacked up and waiting.
Somewhere in here there is
a hidden irony, not irony really,
but a close enough approximation.
We are creatures of softness, we
relish textures that yield to our touch,
would rather be swaddled than armored,
vastly prefer the kitten or puppy
to the armadillo or porcupine.
It’s all about softness really.
And despite this primal desire
for pillows and down filled duvets,
when it comes to measuring value
we’re all about corners and hardness,
about solidifying our financial position.
And while we crave bills and coins,
our ultimate measure of success
are those crystals formed over eons,
made hard by pressure and time,
for those are the jewels of our existence.
“Every once in a while,” he says
and the screeching in my head
drowns out what follows. I know
what he means of course, that is
the easy part, but the gulf between
meaning and saying is so broad
I can stop and count the traffic
of ideas floating by, each seeking
its own purchase, each finding none.
It could be worse, I know, he
could have said “each and every
once in a while, and he does that
as well, though not in a while,”
but even the once was enough.
I notice he is gone, and I wonder
how much life flowed by
while I was otherwise engaged.
If I receive warm under robes
to ease my winter meditation
I will refuse them.
If you ask me why, I will say
I was born with such robes as I need.
If you ask what I wore before birth
I shall remain silent.
In the deepest winter
there is no chill
that can reach
the empty mind
for it is full of a warmth
that cannot be replaced
and one needs no shelter,
for ashes know no temperature.
A reflection on Case 78 of the Iron Flute 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)
Set aside for a moment
the sheer insanity of it all.
Pretend that this is not
your concern, it is merely
something that you inherited,
never wanted, would gladly
part with on the simplest
of requests you doubt
will ever be forthcoming.
Is this why you treasure it
and cling to it so tightly
or is there still the slightest
but of the magic that once
attracted you, that you thought
you had put aside, knowing
full well you never could.