JOSHU PLANS A VISIT 鐵笛倒吹 十九

If Joshu asks you
which is the true eye
will you climb to the top
of the mountain
in search for it?
There are a thousand mountains
where Manjushri may dwell
staring out at the world—
how will you know which one?
A cloud may
reflect your sight
simplifying all.

A reflection on case 19 of the Iron Flute Koans

GANTO’S MEAL 鐵笛倒吹 語十四

When you visit a teacher
inquire what he needs
and freely offer him a meal,
but ask nothing in return,
if you pester him
he will greet you
with a blow of the stick.

Come to him silently
with an open heart
and with empty hands
and the Dharma
will be transmitted.

A reflection on case 54 of the Iron Flute Koans

NAMASTE

There was a time, still within
memory’s ever more tenuous grasp
that I imagined myself, at this age,
as a monk in a Buddhist temple
in Kyoto, that I had assumed a silence
imposed by lack of language, not faith.

I am certain that the Japanese
are pleased that I let that dream
pass unfulfilled, that I confine
my practice to that American form
of Zen, softened and gently bleached
from its shogun watered roots.

I recall my visits to Senso-ji, Todaii-ji
and countless other small temples
where I would often find a zafu and sit,
but only the youngest monks I met
could understand that it was there,
among them, that I felt spiritually at home.

SEPPO SEES HIS NATURE 鐵笛倒吹 三十四

Do not imagine yourself
Shravaka or Boddhisatva
nor ask the Master
if his reflection is
the fullest moon or bright sun.

Both stick and slap
awaken you
and clear your sight.

The Master’s eyes
are blind to you
and your reflection
can only be seen
by looking within.

A reflection on case 34 of the Iron Flute Koans.

I SPEND THE EMPTY HOURS

I spend considerable time thinking
about what it is that I am, what is I,
whether Descartes’ God or Spinoza’s
could possibly exist, or must if I can have
meaning beyond self-reflection, needing
a godly mirror, and image reflected.
Cogito, on what basis can I draw that conclusion
what logical proof, carefully constructed will
not fall under the weight of the axiom, cogito cogito
but of what? Keys that spit words that fade
under a misplaced finger, she caught in the web
twisting, unable to pull free, staring at
an approaching holiday of praying forgiveness
Vidui, as though to posit God is to validate
emotions, control impulses which leap synapses
and flit and fade, I have sinned and transgressed
I have violated laws and statutes and I beg
forgiveness that I might live, this I, this cogito
who has no external reference save God
which makes all things real, all illusion.
It is comforting knowing in death the soul is
carried on, thought lingers, or does it cease
such that I am not for I think not, yet why should
I fear, for when it is done, I will not have been
save as a reference point, a linchpin from which
may hang ornaments of a life, a tidy sum.

Publsihed in These Lines, Fall 2020
https://theselines.org/these-lines-1.1-fall-2020.pdf

FORKED TONGUE

I can’t tell you how long
it’s been since I’ve seen
a snake around here, mostly
because my sense of time
has limits of a decade.

I read that they are plentiful
in the Everglades, hunted
as an invasive species, which
probably stands to reason
since our hatred is by now

of Biblical proportions, and we
have learned to love goats,
so, it is the snake that now
is consigned to be the source
of all our errors and failings.

And were that not enough,
you cannot trust what a snake
says for obvious reasons, but you
must ignore that the hummingbird
beloved by all, also has a forked tongue.

GENSHA’S BLANK LETTER 正法眼蔵 四十八

If you wish to find the Way
follow the signs that read
“This Is Not the Path” or
at least some of them.
If you ask me directions
I will hand you a blank sheet
and ask you what
does it contain.
You may say it is void
and you would be correct,
or you may say it
is a thousand dharma texts
and you would be correct.

A reflection on Case 48 of The True Dharma Eye (Shobogenzo)

THE GIRL COMES OUT 無門關 四十二

She sits undisturbed
Shakyamuni by her side.
You can wave at her, she
will pay you no mind.

You cannot grasp her mind
and maintain a hold
on your own, you will grow
deaf from the chatter
but a child can curl
at her feet and she
will stroke his forehead
in perfect Samadhi.

A reflection on case 42 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) koans.