MA KU CARRYING HIS RING-STAFF

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.

SEKITO’S ASK THE PILLAR 正法眼蔵 四十一

If you want an answer
do not ask a question –
your answer cannot be mine
nor can mine be yours.
Instead, ask the stone wall,
it has nothing to say
and in its perfect silence
all questions are asked
and all answers are found.


A reflection on Case 41 of the Shobogenzo, Dogen’s True Dharma Eye

THE LAST TIME

The last time we spoke
you asked me when the end was coming.
I didn’t have a good answer for you,
wasn’t even quite sure what you meant
by the question, the end of what? Of time,
of your life or mine, or merely the end
of a conversation we had been
carrying on for as long
as either of us could remember.
That was some time ago
and I have thought about
your question quite frequently
and seeing you today,
you walking by me
without acknowledging me,
I realize the answer
should have been
and most certainly now is
that the end came
the moment you
started your question.

GOING AND RETURNING 鐵笛倒吹 三十八

 

Only the fool
will wander
from teacher to teacher
seeking answers.
They will offer only questions.

The wise one returns
to the question again
and again for she may find
many answers within,
just as the apple tree
bears many ripe fruit
if carefully tended,
each with the seeds
of a new tree.
Pick carefully.


A reflection on case 38 of the Iron Flute Koans

ANGUO’S “THE MASTER’S FLESH IS STILL WARM”

If you are asked “who are you?”
how will you reply, and who
is the person asking the question?
If you answer, you are blind
if you say nothing you speak loudly.
The sage will tell you
that there is no you and if
you doubt him he will hold up
a mirror and ask what you see.
If you answer “I see myself”
he will laugh because no one
can see themselves unless
they see everyone, for you
are both the reader
and the writer
of these poor words.


A reflection on case 131 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye)

MOTHER

 

I called my mother the other day
and she did not answer, which
she would always do when I called.
The dead, I concluded, no longer
play by the rules they did
when they were still alive.
Of course she will call me soon,
disrupting my sleep, and chastise
me for not trying again.
But she will quickly slip into
reading the list of what
she expects from me, for
either living or dead,
mother’s expectations must
always be met, no matter what.