You have heard that when
the student is ready the teacher appears,
and you believe you are ready,
but no teacher has appeared.
I can tell you that you are ready,
that you will never be ready,
that I am not the teacher,
that the teacher is here,
and that the teacher will never appear.
But the path you seek to find
with a teacher is all around you,
that there is not path to find.
If I give you a small bowl and you
stand by a lake of fresh water
just how much water can you hope to drink?

A reflection on Case 11 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)


Pause and consider why so many questions
require you, you feel, to consult your watch,
to call up a calendar, to appoint time.
Time has no appointments, time is not
an arrow, though we strive always to aim it,
to send it flying in our desired direction.
Time is a point in space, surrounded by
all ten directions, going toward none of them.
Ask why this moment is not enough, why you need
the next though it does not exist.
What are you trying to escape by searching
for tomorrow, lingering in yesterday?
Yesterday no longer exists, so why
do you assume tomorrow does, and what
of this moment, which exists only now,
and what of the red leaf sitting
in mid-air awaiting your awed attention?

A reflection on Case 6 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)


As you search for the source
of all wisdom, will you stop
along a beach and consider
that it can be found, fully
in a single grain of sand.
Be careful, for the beach
contains countless grains
of sand, so choose carefully.
If you are uncertain which one
contains the source of all wisdom
select one at random
and it will be the correct
bearer of wisdom, but only
if you look deeply within it,
and then cast it back
onto the beach, carried
on the gentle morning breeze.

A reflection on Case 19 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)


When you look in the mirror
do you hope to see yourself,
and who is that face that stares back?
If you turn out the light, are you
still there in the mirror, or has
the illusion of you disappeared?
If you crack the mirror, do you
feel the pain of the scar across your face?
You cannot hope to see yourself, for
you would then cease to be you,
and the mirror would stare and see nothing.
You cannot search for the Buddha
for in looking you make finding impossible.
All this looking and so
very little being, so just be.

A reflection on Case 7 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)


If you sit patiently enough,
and sit long enough, just perhaps
the teacher will acknowledge you.
If he holds out his arms and offers you
the heart of the Dharma, will you
grasp it and hold it closely?
If you try and grasp it
it will slip through your fingers,
disappear from sight, lost forever.
If you nod in appreciation,
hands in gassho and simply bow,
then turn and leave the room,
you will carry it with you
and no one will be able
to take it from you although
you are free to give it away.

A reflection on case 92 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)


The question is a simple one, really,
but not one you were expecting, which
is why you sit and grapple for an answer.
Ask yourself, what if no answer is needed,
what if there is no answer, can you
remain silent, or will you feel somehow
incomplete if you do not respond?
All answers are correct, but beware,
for all answers are incorrect as well.
Now consider the question again, carefully,
what do you respond when you are asked
once again, insistently, “who are you?”
Be very careful, for if you gaze
into a mirror you will see someone else,
and if you say that person is you,
you will most certainly disappear.

A reflection on Case 8 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)


You are certain the key
is to sit, for that is what
your teacher has told you, that
is the practice set out for you.
When you feel you have not attained
your goal on the path, you assume
it is because you have not sat
still enough, long enough, deeply enough.
A wise sage would tell you
that sitting is a step
along the path, but that you
can never be still in sitting, for
the place in which you sit
in this moment cannot be
the place in which you sat the last,
or the place you will sit the next.
So do not move and progress
along the path spread out before you.

A reflection on Case 17 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)


Life is joy and pain,
two sides, one coin –
death is caused by birth –
stop and consider this.

Look into the face
of the evening sun,
will it retreat
from your eyes
or linger in memory?
Look into the face
of the full midnight moon,
does she have
the sun’s face
only until morning?

A reflection on Case 3 of the Blue Cliff Record (碧巌録)



Walking in the room you
cast your eyes about, looking
for something, although you
cannot say what it is
that you look for, and you
cannot believe you will
not find it, for you think
you will know what it is
only when you see it.
The person who sees
an empty room and knows
in that moment that it
is full, that person
has found his teacher
and has learned the lesson.
The empty cup is full
and the full cup empty,
so listen to the silence
and learn well what it says.