KEMBO’S ONE ROAD 鐵笛倒吹 八十四

As you walk along a road
do you know where it begins
or where it will end
and what lies along it.

Perhaps the road
is a twisted loop
with neither beginning
or ending,
but if asked
where you are
on the road
you are always
here.


A reflection on Case 84 of The Iron Flute (Tetteki tōsui)

USER’S MANUAL

In my dreams last night
I thought I came across the Buddha
while off wandering somewhere
I could not recognize.
I thought long and hard
about following Linji’s proscription
and killing the Buddha,
but while lost in contemplation
the Buddha took up his keisaku,
said “if you cannot follow
the simplest of directions,
if you are so lost in thought
you can never attain buddhahood”
and with one significant blow
instantly killed my dream
and allowed me to finally see.

PURE DHARMA BODY 正法眼蔵 二十六

Standing at the foot
of the mountain,
what side do you see.
Standing atop the mountain,
what side do you not see.
Close your eyes
and you will see
that the mountain
has no sides.
Close your eyes
and you will find
that there is
no mountain.


A reflection on Case 26 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)

JIZO PLANTS THE FIELD

If you truly want to walk
in the footsteps of the Buddha
stand perfectly still and unmoving.
If you truly want to comprehend
the whole of the Dharma
put down all of your books and scrolls,
roll up your sleeves
and plant the barren fields,
clearing away rocks and stones.
If you want to taste enlightenment
dip your hands into
a free running stream
and drink of its waters.
If you feel you must move
along the Way, simply sit
and allow the Way to move beneath you.


A reflection on Case 12 of The Book of Equanimity (SHôYôROKU)

ONLY NOW

Tomorrow, in all likelihood,
the park will still be there,
we will still be walking there,
the Austrian Pines will still
stare down at us on the path,
and the cardinal will flash by,
his cry for attention in a red blaze.
Tomorrow all this will likely happen
as it did yesterday and last week,
and yet nothing will be the same,
nothing, nothing at all.

ISAN’S QUESTION 鐵笛倒吹 二十九

Gather each single leaf
from the stones of the garden
and place it neatly in a bushel.
It will take weeks or months
to gather them all
even if you have windless days,
but this is important work.
When the last leaf is gathered
take up the bushel
and throw the leaves
into the garden,
this is important work.

If you tie a gold ribbon
carefully around your neck
it is nonetheless a leash.


A reflection on case 29 of the Iron Flute (Tetteki Tōsui)