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.
Joshu’s single question
asked twice the same
two answers, two
each time the same
Joshu responds to each fist
each response different
each the same
a single light
both seen and unseen
both blessed curse
and cursed blessing.
A reflection on Case 11 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate)
He’d been searching for ever,
or so often seemed, for no-self,
and he couldn’t fathom why it was so difficult
to attain simple absence, nothing
must be less than something, after all.
He knew, like Sisyphus, he would continue
to search until he succeeded, the gods
of his soul decreed it and you don’t fuck with them.
It was difficult recalling how much time
had been wasted in the search for mirrors
and when he found one, looked, there he was
selfsame, self-filled, and he imagined, selfish.
He took to always carrying a hand mirror
and when he thought he might have found it
he glanced at the polished surface in his hand
and there he’d still be, his endless self
older now, but there, very much still there.
One day, frustration getting the better of him
he wandered deep into a massive forest, hours later
sitting on a fallen trunk, he reached for his mirror, gone.
There was tree and sky and earth, that was all,
as night enveloped everything, even his no-self.
You claim to seek sanctity –
will you know it
if you find it along the way?
What if it sneaks up on you
when you are lost in reverie,
what if it reaches you
in a strike of the teacher’s stick,
will you jump in fear
and frighten it away,
or sit with it
in endless zazen?
A reflection on case 37 of the Iron Flute Koans
If you come forward
and ask no question
the master will
give you an answer,
but if you approach
with a question,
the master will
strike you with the stick.
It is only when
your eyes are blinded
that you can take up
the master’s staff
and all is clearly seen.
Why seek the way?
Where is the way?
You are standing on it
Which way does it lead?
Ask your feet.
A reflection on case 19 of the Mumonkan (The Gateless Gate Koans)
I’ve been searching for a teacher
for such a long time but despite
every effort, the goal eludes me
They say that when the student is ready
the teacher appears, but i know
in my heart I am truly ready.
I looked in all of the likely
and a number of unlikely places,
to the point i now look everywhere.
I saw man stoop to pet a random dog
this morning and wondered, hoped, he
could be the teacher i am seeking
but then he attached the leash
and pulled the reluctant dog
into the waiting van, inpatient.
I thought that the barista
in my favorite coffee shop
might be the one, her smile
always gentle, inviting, and
clearly a yogini, but she had
too much goth skin art for my needs.
I’ll continue the search for I know
the teacher is there if only I wouldn’t run
into mirrors whenever I was getting close.