When you visit the Southern Mountain
what will you say
of its Northern brother?
Returning northward what words
will best describe the Southern peak?
Answer carefully after much thought
or remain silent, both choices
are yours to select, as both
mountains caress the passing clouds
and reach out for the sun
which neither may grasp.
A reflection on case 42 of the Iron Flute Koans
There is a reason for all things
and therefore there is a reason for this
although we cannot begin to fathom
what that reason could possibly be,
which may be reason enough,
for reason has a twisted soul —
now playful, now angry, now vengeful
in irregular turns without warnings.
The problem with seeking the reason
for things is deeply hidden, and not
as some imagine, that it is difficult; no,
the problem is that the search for the reason
has its own reason needing to be discovered
and so recursively back to the Big Bang
which still, to this day, has
the ultimate undiscovered reason.
Before life there is death,
before death there is life.
In life there is death,
in death there is life,
a worm cut in two,
each half moves,
in each a new worm
or is there one worm.
This I ask you, but
answer or no answer
both are full
of Buddha nature.
A reflection on Case 20 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)
When you are puzzled by
the words of old masters
you may seek answers
from your teachers.
Will this one or that one know?
The answer cannot come
from the tongue of your teacher,
a shelved book cannot speak
words have no magic.
But all is not lost
for the question
always contains its answer
when the searching stops.
A reflection on Case 22 of the Iron Flute Koans
You assume you know the answer,
and wait patiently for the question
which is not forthcoming.
This becomes your dilemma.
You have acquired a catalog
of answers, all awaiting questions
that never come forth.
Of course it isn’t fair, you
know that full well,
but that, too, is an answer that must
await a question for which
there is no questioner, so you must
ask yourself why
you accumulate answers,
and that is one question
for which you have found
absolutely no answers.
The difference between love
and lust is as thin as the blade
of a fine razor, as broad as
the Rio Grande Canyon outside Taos,
so how can you tell one from the other?
Some will say it is an impossible task
others will take the “I know it when
I see it” route leading nowhere.
There is no easy answer, certainly,
but those who have tasted love
will tell you the difference is
monumental and elemental.
I have wanted a woman deeply,
cared for her, missed her in her absence
but when my love, my lover, is
not here I am incomplete, and
that is an abyss into which I dread falling.
When you sit before the master
he will ask you a question.
Consider your answer carefully
then offer it to the master.
He will simply say, “correct.”
Later, when you sit before the master
he will ask you the same question.
Offer your answer to the master.
He will simply say “incorrect.”
If you ask him how your answer
can be both correct and incorrect,
the master will look through you,
and simply smile and say “Correct”.
A reflection on case 31 of the Blue Cliff Record koans.