Yesterday a small dog, walking its master down the block stopped and stared at you, as you stood on your porch. You stared back at the dog, eyes locked on each other, while the master fidgeted on the sidewalk, afraid or too bored to look at either of you. You realized this was just the dog’s way of teaching his master patience, or perhaps of simply delaying you from what it was that brought you to your porch that you forgot in engaging the dog. Eventually the dog dragged its master on, and you returned to the house, having done nothing but stare at a dog. It was clear in that moment that a dog must have Buddha nature but yours was deeply in question.
A singe egret sits calmly
on the lowest branch of a long barren tree, where hours from now a thousand birds will arrive for still another evening and night.
He stares at me as I am mindfully vacuuming, watching carefully.
I pause and ask if by chance he is a Buddha and he lifts his long neck and peers around in all directions.
I repeat my question, and he lifts one wing, which I know to be his way of saying, “I, like you, am imbued with Buddha nature, and I with mother nature as well, and if you doubt me ask one of the countless Bodhisattva who will arrive in hours to study the Dharma well into what will be a wet night.
I have given up on winter, which is to say that I have fled its iron grip, but the memories I have linger painfully in the rods the surgeon carefully screwed onto my spine.
It wasn’t the cold, though it was far from pleasant, but the snow that demanded but also defied being shoveled.
I grudgingly face the job, moving the snow from walk and driveway to lawn and street, and on occasion I’d heed Buddha’s advice and treat the exercise as a meditation.
But even then I’d recall the tale of the monk told to clear the garden of leaves before a great master’s visit, who completed the job and proudly showed the abbot, who agreed, but said there was more thing needed, and dumped all of the collected leaves back on the garden, then said it perfect, and I knew the wind and weather would soon play the abbot’s role.
As the seasons change I will stand with one foot on the highest peak and the other at the bottom of the deepest sea. But do not ask that I stand in a place where there is no Buddha, or my feet and legs shall fall away into the void.
A reflection on Case 68 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye) Koans