IN SEARCH

En route to Buddhism, I must admit
I stopped at numerous philosophical
way-stations, none quite as equipped as I
would desire and so I moved on.

Buddhism was my solution, no demands
other than I be present, knowing
I had no real choice but to do so,
all in the recognition of that fact.

I did consider other faiths and -isms,
and each but one had something
to beckon me, but each was incomplete
and I was looking for a full solution.

The easiest to reject was nihilism,
for while it was the simplest to adopt,
asking, no demanding, nothing from me,
assuring me all was nothing in the end,

I knew it would fail me in the most
essential way, for I discovered there
were no great nihilist poets, how do you
write when there is nothing real to say?


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SHUZAN’S SHIPPEI 無門關 四十三

Osho holds up a staff
and cradles a small
long haired dog. What
do you call these, he asks
the gathered assembly
in both fact and reality?

A chattering din brings
the hall to silence,
until the ghost of Joshu
unfolds himself, strides
to the zendo door, and
while bowing, shouts
MU!


A reflection on Case43 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate)

 

JOSHU INVESTIGATES AN OLD WOMAN 無門關 三十一

In searching for the path
to the holy mountain
you may ask directions
of the old tea lady
sitting still at its base
and she may point

but placing one foot
ahead of the other
stare closely at the tea leaves
for they, too, know the Way.


A reflection on Case 31 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) Koans

THE GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL 鐵笛倒吹 六十九

Standing at the window
looking down on the street
is the passing man enlightened?
Call out this question to him.
If he looks upward and says yes
what do you know of his enlightenment?

Looking at a flower
is it different than its seed.
If you hold a seed in your hand
what can you say of the flower
that may some day appear.


A reflection on Case 69 of the Iron Flute Koans.

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THAT LOOK

She stares at the menu,
her eyes incandesce brighter
than an eight year old’s should be able.
And I can eat everything
on the menu, she says to herself,
her smile broadening, as she thinks
and they may enjoy it too, and I
can move them one more step
in the right direction.
She has been a vegetarian
for six months, since the day
she declared to the waiter
that she would never again
eat a dead animal, and she
has held to it without fail since.
She says her father is almost
a pescatarian, and she whispers
in an aside that close to vegetarian
and an easy move once you are there.
Her four year old brother laughs
and says today I’m vegetarian too,
and the waitress laughs and thinks
in a vegan restaurant,
that is a universal truth.

BELIEF

He will tell you he’s agnostic,
once he would’ve set atheist, but put
to the test, he knows he couldn’t disprove
the existence of that which could not be seen.
He believes it will, must, get better eventually,
he has infinite faith that it will,
he says to anyone who will listen,
in faith is something, he notes, you
cannot ever have in overabundance.

It does not strike him in the least bit odd
that a man of no belief in God places his future
in the hands of faith, although he would tell you
he has no idea what it is, exactly, he has faith in.

ABRIDGED STORY

On our first visit to Prague
it was almost hard to imagine that this bridge
was built to ferry people and traffic across the River.
Now it is jammed with tourists and those
for whom tourists are a ubiquitous market,
and anyone needing to expeditiously cross
the cranky water that every now and again must
indulge the bridge, or use the less interesting bridges adjacent.
There is a veneer of age about this ancient
the statuary darkened by time and weather
replaced when the waters get truly petulant
and carry off statues they deem an affront.
Motion on the bridge is slow and can tend
toward gridlock, to the joy of those
selling art and tchotchkes, and tchotchke arts
that won’t be truly regretted by the buyer until
it is hung on the wall next to the waterglobe
miniatures of St. Matthias church and
the parliament buildings Budapest.