There comes that one moment for each who lives when he steps out onto the silent stage, speaks such of the lines as he recalls, gives a half-intended bow, and in his rage
curses his lost youth like over-aged wine, that is now a shadow of its promise and he knows that somehow this is a sign not of what he was but what he now is.
In the evening mirror he doesn’t know the white bearded face that stares back at him, a far older man who hates the coming of night. He searches in vain for a way to show that the spark that once burned did not grow dim but holds even more tightly to the light.
Bow before a king and you may be rewarded but bow before a teacher and expect to be shunned. Which has something to offer? Ask the teacher why he shuns you and he will turn you away.
One offers a bit of gold, one offers a priceless gem. Gold can buy you many things but the gem is worthless to all but he to who it is given. Pick carefully, for here the fool and wise man walk separate paths.
Approach the master sitting on his seat. The fool will seek answers having slept through the lesson but the wise student will bow silently and retreat having learned all there is and knowing absolutely nothing.
A reflection on Case 44 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (The True Dharma Mind)
I used to think that the key to a great crepe was all in the wrist. That was before my wrist was fused by a doctor who explained that no motion was better than endless pain where motion ceased to practically matter. Now I realize that the forearm is capable of so much more that that for which it is given credit, that the elbow is a joint underappreciated, and that when the crepe slides off the pan and onto the plate, the forearm can take a silent bow, giving a wink to the crepe pan for its nominal contribution to the effort lying on the plate.
It was inside Nara that it finally slipped away. Its tether had grown ever weaker, the first slip was decades before, a book, brief meetings an answerless question. It stretched further in Tokyo, basin incense under the watchful third eye and hung perilously by fewer and fewer threads until, with the monks’ gentle bow, it broke and I found home.