UNKO SENDS CLOTHES 鐵笛倒吹 七十八

If I receive warm under robes
to ease my winter meditation
I will refuse them.
If you ask me why, I will say
I was born with such robes as I need.
If you ask what I wore before birth
I shall remain silent.

In the deepest winter
there is no chill
that can reach
the empty mind
for it is full of a warmth
that cannot be replaced
and one needs no shelter,
for ashes know no temperature.


A reflection on Case 78 of the Iron Flute Koans

MORTALITY

Before you wish for immortality
carefully consider all the consequences.
It’s true you will avoid the fires of hell
and the lawyers and politicians who
make up a surprising portion of the populace,
but you’ll also never pass through the pearly gates,
to languish in the esteemed company
of poets and musicians who will,
at the drop of a request, regale you.
And those wars you so often decried,
you’ll have those of generations without end,
for the one skill mankind has mastered is war.
But worst of all, you must realize
that you will be subjected to an infinite
number of wait staffs gathered around
your table doing off-key but well intended
renditions of Happy Birthday to You
as other diners wish you had never been born.

SOMEWHERE

Somewhere in the world
at this very moment,
something remarkable
is being laid to ruin.
It is our nature to tear down
what we cannot understand,
what we hold different,
what does not comport
with our present view
of how things ought to be.
Somewhere in the world
at this very moment
something remarkable
is being born,
is being created,
is arising
out of an idea,
a thought, an emotion.
We are all
somewhere in the world
at this very moment.

TERMINAL

Birth, he said, is the first and only real terminal disease. You only realize that, of course, when it is far too late and there is nothing at all you can do about it. Cancer and all manner of diseases merely shift the timeline, but once you’re on the path, there is only one way off, and that is a step few are willing to take. For some, this is a source of terror, for others it is no more than a slow walk around the block, with the promise you’ll eventually arrive back at the place you began, although it is no longer the place you began but one from which you begin, not again but anew. Again. This is what the Buddha said 3000 years ago, more or less. He confirmed that the just the other day, outside the soup kitchen. “Hey,” Buddha said, “even the once or twice enlightened need to eat from time to time. Join me?”

FIFTY-EIGHT MINUTES, MORE OR LESS

In a bit less
than an hour
a new exhibit
will open
empty space will
be occupied
with moving
bodies of artist
and viewer,
universes will form
a thousand children
will be born
an old man in
a distant city
will slip away
a contented look
pressed into
his face
world leaders
will ask why
and have
no answers,
but all of that
is not now,
but in a bit
less than
an hour.

DAIZUI’S GREAT KALPA FIRE 正法眼蔵 二十四

All things are born and die
so if this world dies at the end
of its cycle of life and we
are here, do we die with this world
and which of us
will be first reborn.
Only when the mind collapses
is the world born
only when the mind collapses
does the world die.


A reflection on Case 24 of the True Dharma Eye (Shobogenzo)

FEAR

The old monk asked the young man
why he seemed so worried.
“Because, sensei, you are old and will die soon!”
“Why does that worry you?”
“Because, like everyone, I fear death.”
“Not everyone, certainly, I do not fear death.”
“How can you not fear death?”
“There is nothing to fear, I fear life.”
“Why do you fear life? This is hard.”
“No, this is easy, dying is hard
because dying is just the end of living.”
“So master, should I fear life?”
“Life is this moment and the next
and next until there is no next.”
And remember, you didn’t fear being born.”

TAIGEN FANS HIMSELF 正法眼蔵 三十二

When a leaf leaves the tree
it falls precisely where it should.
When a flower petal is carried
off on a strong wind it
comes to rest in the proper place.
When you smell the sweet aroma
of next summer’s roses
you must use the nose you had
before your parents were born.


A reflection on Case 32 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye)