GATE GATE

The hardest thing of all
is that there is no one to entreat,
no one who has to sort the infinite
voices, note who requested what
so that delivery of the prayers, the few
that warrant granting, go
to the correct person, particularly
given that there is no system in place
to track the whims of the grantor.
Still, you take to the mat,
fold your legs, or tuck them
under the sitting bench, and unfocus
hoping those wishes will slip away
on a sea of intervening thoughts,
and there will be, just for a moment,
nothing at all, and that, you know,
would be as close as you get to everything.

KEEP THE NIRVANA

He was never one to go searching.
It took up too much time.
It certainly took far more effort
than the results usually warranted.
And there wasn’t anything in particular
he wanted to go in search of.
She said she was searching for ecstasy.
He said he could buy it downtown,
but it had grown rather pricey.
She said she meant that state of being,
that state of spiritual perfection.
He said you couldn’t buy that downtown,
though there were a couple of pastors
in the suburbs who claimed to be able,
for a proper donation, to provide it.
She said she couldn’t pay for what
was promised in the Bible,
she would simply search and wait.
She had faith.
He said he had searched
for faith once, and failed.
That, he said, was when
he gave up searching for things.

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)