MORTALITY

Before you wish for immortality
carefully consider all the consequences.
It’s true you will avoid the fires of hell
and the lawyers and politicians who
make up a surprising portion of the populace,
but you’ll also never pass through the pearly gates,
to languish in the esteemed company
of poets and musicians who will,
at the drop of a request, regale you.
And those wars you so often decried,
you’ll have those of generations without end,
for the one skill mankind has mastered is war.
But worst of all, you must realize
that you will be subjected to an infinite
number of wait staffs gathered around
your table doing off-key but well intended
renditions of Happy Birthday to You
as other diners wish you had never been born.

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.

THE THING OF IT

The thing he wants most
is to experience life and all it offers.
By that he means he wants to see
what is there, to smell it, to engage
it with all of his senses, for
those are what he trusts, they
provide him reality, without them
his mind could not frame the moment.
The thing she wants most
is to be in life, an integral
part of what is offered, to
be indistinguishable from life,
so that they eyes cannot see it,
the nose cannot smell it,
the mind cannot frame anything,
for she is that thing
and that moment and there is
nothing else, except perhaps him
staring, sniffing and cataloging
his own illusory world.

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)

NOTHING, AND LESS

The hardest thing, he said
to his teacher, both sitting
on their mats, is not
not thinking, but what to do
when the thoughts come anyway.
I can’t seem to get rid of them
no matter how hard I try.”
“Do not try to do anything,”
the Sensei said, “for anything
you do introduces another thought,
and soon enough you have an onion
of thoughts to peel, layer by layer.
When a thought comes, look at it
with the mind’s eye, say, with
the mind’s voice, look a thought,
and do nothing more, and before
you know it the thought
will be gone and the next
in line will enter your mind.”