SEPPO’S PUNCTUALITY 鐵笛倒吹 二十六

You ask me how
I know when to begin my sitting
so it will be the right time.
It is easy to watch the sun and stars
for they clearly know.

You ask what I do
when the sky is black
with impenetrable clouds,
it is easy to watch the clouds.

Water from the stream
or water from the sky
both slake my thirst.


A reflection on cse 26 of the Iron Flute Koans.

YANG YIN THERE

It’s the difference between anthracite and lignite
he said with his sort of all-knowing smirk.

Quite to the contrary, she snapped back,
it’s the difference between pahoehoe and aa.

He clearly wasn’t pleased, those examples are
like night and day and you’re in the dark.

Only you can’t begin to tell between makai
and mauka, but I love you despite it all.

And I you, so what if you couldn’t hope
to distinguish between a fastball and a knuckler.

You’re really going to hang a curveball like that?
Even a girl like me will take that one downtown.

He laughed, that’s why we are so good together
we agree on so very little most of the time.

She giggled, I can’t believe you said that,
although on that one, narrow point I must agree.

KEMBO’S TRANSMIGRATION 鐵笛倒吹 六十七

Awakening in the morning
when you first see the sun
and the dew resting on the leaf
which eye are you using.
When you stare into the mirror
through what eye do you see,
and what eyes stare back at you.

When you see the deer
lying in the road
which eye do you use.
In a nightmare, when you slip
into the deeper, darker world,
what eye is used then.
When you fade into death
what eye sees your departure.
Think carefully on this
for only one eye can see
the answer lying within.


A reflection on case 67 of the Iron Flute Koans

MOST WONDERFUL THING 鐵笛倒吹 六十語

Which is more beautiful,
the fragile flower
or the stone set in the road?
And which is the uglier?
The stone, washed in a stream
may shine like a diamond,
the flower picked
soon withers to dust.

Each contains beauty
each contains ugliness.
When you see this
you may smile
until you feel
the blow of the stick
and your eyes are forced shut
blind for that moment.


A reflection on Case 65 of the Iron Flute Koans

HOFUKU’S TEMPLE 鐵笛倒吹 語十一

Standing outside the Temple
there is much to see.
Enter the Temple zendo
prostrate three times before
the golden Buddha
what do you see?
Can you see nothing?
Outside the Temple, Buddha
inside the Temple, Buddha
but only when you see nothing.
Outside the mind, nothing,
inside the mind, nothing.
All Buddha.


A reflection on case 51 of the Iron Flute Koans.

TOZAN’S THREE BASKETS 鐵笛倒吹 四十一

Tozan said
the whole of knowledge
can be expressed
in a single letter.
Hakuun, the great Master
set to writing verse.

You, who hold the brush
with shaking hand,
what will you write
in answer to Tozan.
Think carefully
of each stroke
and imagine
Joshu’s endless smile.


A reflection on case 41 of the Iron Flute Koans

ISAN’S SUMMONS 鐵笛倒吹 三十一

When the master
calls for a novice
do you answer?
When the inkin
bell is struck
do you begin
or end zazen?
As you follow your breath
when do you leave
your body, and who
returns when you next inhale?

Search instead
for an answer
that has no question.
Who is the novice now?


A reflection on case 31 of the Iron Flute Koans