When two students meet along the road, each acknowledges the other with the snap of fingers. When a student walks the Way to who does he snap his fingers and who passes with a small bow? If you happen across a teacher and ask him the meaning of this will you bow or snap and how will you respond to the silence that enfolds his answer.
A reflection on Case 87 of the Iron Flute Koans
Buddhism, Buddhist, Japan, Koan, meditation, mind, Philosophy, Photography, Poem, Religion, Travel, Zen
You sit before him
an axe in his hand. He asks a question and says if you answer I will cut off your right hand, if you do not respond I will sever your left.
There is no sound
from the clock in the corner as you silently grab his axe and he smiles in deeply shared knowledge.
A reflection on Case 82 of the Iron Flute Koans
Buddhist, Japan, Koan, language, meditation, mind, Philosophy, Poem, Religion, Uncategorized, Zen
If the student asks the teacher
for greater knowledge he will be met with a blow from the stick. If he asks again the teacher will respond I have nothing to give you. Will you recognize the greatest gift when it is offered to you or will you continue to pursue its shadow.
A reflection on Case 79 of the Iron Flute koans.
Buddhist, Cosmology, Japan, Koan, language, meditation, mind, Philosophy, Photography, Poem, Religion, Zen
If, sitting at your meal
you hear the song of a bird, what do you do? You may tap your chopstick rest, and perhaps he will answer and repeat his sweet song. If you tap a second time and there is only silence is the bird rejecting you or offering his song to another, flown from your window.
Perhaps you should tap again
and hear the sweeter song of silence that echoes over the garden and zendo. On a distant limb the small songbird smiles.
A reflection on Case 60 of the Iron Flute Koans.
birds, Food, Japan, Koan, meditation, mind, Nature, Philosophy, Poem, Religion, Zen
If Kyosei asks
from where I have come how will I answer him? If he asks where my teacher lives what will I tell him?
Such a fool I am
to wander from there to here from here to another place seeking a path on which I am always standing still. Thirty blows is the least I deserve. But Kyosei withdraws the stick.
A reflection on Case 64 of the Iron Flute Koans
It was easier
having no history of my own, borrowed histories are easily discarded.
After a while, you
begin to think of the adopted history as your own, and no one doubts you.
I have a history now
countries woven into my DNA, always present but never before seen.
It is mine, I passed it
along to my sons, and although it grows weaker it is a burden they cannot avoid
and one day, perhaps,
they will stop and consider from where they came, and not have to invent the answer.
You ask me if I remember
when we first kissed, and then add and what was it really like for me.
I know the answer you expect,
and I am reluctant to tell you otherwise, but I have to be honest.
It was moments after I left you
at your door on our first date, having found my car finally in the parking garage near the coffee house downtown.
I had just gotten in the car
to drive to my apartment in the distant suburbs, and turning on the ignition, I kissed you passionately on the lips, all eyes closed.
And, it was wonderful, though
the kiss we shared in reality later that month put it to shame.
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In entering, do you arrive
or are you leaving. In departing do you leave or are you arriving. Can the gate answer or does it choose to remain silent. The mountain shouts the answer but only the river can hear it.
A reflection on case 30 of the Dogen’s Shobogenzo (The True Dharma Eye)
When the master
calls for a novice do you answer? When the inkin bell is struck do you begin or end zazen? As you follow your breath when do you leave your body, and who returns when you next inhale?
for an answer that has no question. Who is the novice now?
A reflection on case 31 of the Iron Flute Koans
If you find the answer
and rush to tell your teacher
why are you surprised
when he turns away from you,
saying that is yesterday’s answer.
If you want to impress your teacher
paint the answer
on the surface
of the raging river
or accept scorn
A reflection on case 73 of the Iron Flute Koans