BUDDHA NATURE

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.

A WINTER MEDITATION

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.

GROVE

Living in a bamboo grove, she said,
is very much like living in an old house.

Look up at noon, into the canopy
and imagine you see rays of light
piercing the ill-thatched roof.

Listen to the growing winds or autumn
and hear the ghosts of the old house
making their way up creaking stairs.

And when you truly find the silence
imagine the Buddha sitting nearby
the morning breeze his breath
slowly drawing you into the day.

A MISTAKE IN SPEAKING

When you speak the words
of the Buddha you are lost.
Light is everywhere in silence
but the tongue must hide
in the dark of the mouth.

Buddha’s words are flowers
unfolding in the dawn
by the side of the still pond,
the eyes hear the song
and respond in silent chorus.


A reflection on Case 39 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate Koans)

TOZAN’S NO GRASS

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