A SMALL REQUEST

If those in the camps
knowing their fate,
the inevitability
of their impending death
could call up music,
for orchestras, play
or sing with
their final breaths,

is it too much
their ghosts silently
ask, for you
to pause and
remember us,
and sing
a dirge
for our souls.

Atop the Pole 無門關 四十六

Sitting atop a hundred foot pole
you are convinced there are
only two directions: pole and down.
Old Osho asks, how will you proceed
and you stare back at this lunatic.
How will you proceed, he repeats?

You release the pole
step slowly away, looking
at ten directions before you,
you move your feet, each one
touches the path of each
of the three worlds and Osho
gently touching your elbow
walks a bit by your side.

A reflection on case 46 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) Koans.

JUST PERHAPS

You want something. Tell me what it is. Don’t hedge, be open and honest. I may not give it to you. I may not have it to give. I may have it and give it freely. I may have and not want to part with it. I may not have, can get it and give it. Or not. You will not know until you ask for it. I may seek a reason you want it. I may not care. I may seek a reason while not caring. That is my prerogative. I don’t expect you to like that. I may or may not care whether you like it or not. But first you must tell me what it is. I will not guess but I will wait. I am very patient. Or perhaps I am not and you have already missed your opportunity. Life is difficult. You didn’t ask for it to be.

KANNON’S STATUE 鐵笛倒吹 語十八

If you meet the Bodhisattva
you don’t ask someone
to carve the image from your mind.
To the carver, she weighs but an ounce
and can be carried
on his fingertip
but try and lift her
and you will not be able
to move her from her place.

All Buddhas
are one Buddha
but his Buddha
will never be
your Buddha.

A reflection on Case 58 of the Iron Flute Koans.

MY REFLECTIONS

Each morning
I stare into the mirror
and see the same white hair
and wonder who I will be
today and what I was
on all of those other mornings.
I ask the mirror what life
has in store for me this day
but it only smirks, never answers
as if it knows something
I don’t and wouldn’t tell
if I asked.


First Appeared in Short Fuse, Issue 74, December 1998.

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

TOKUSAN’S LION 鐵笛倒吹 九十三

 

As you approach
the teacher, close the gate
ahead of you,
for an open one
is no gate at all.

If you ask,
he will open it,
but when he asks
who wishes entry
what do you say,
you are a mere cub.
If you bow to him
expect a gentle blow
from his stick.
Welcome to
your first lesson.


A reflection on Case 93 of the Iron Flute.

ABIDING

Do not look behind you
to see if the Emperor is following,
for if he is, he will not see you.
If he asks nothing, tell him
that there is no truth,
that everything is true.
He has no teacher and looks
at each passing person to find one.
You should not be worried because
he will not pause his search
even to look in the mirror,
where his teacher is waiting.