A HELL OF A CHOICE

But what if Heaven operates
like a restaurant, closed
each Monday, so you had
better die on Sunday, but
that doesn’t work because
God is resting and there
is no getting in on the sabbath.

That leaves you five days
from which to choose
to die, but God also is
the ultimate physician,
so Wednesdays the office
is closed, so that day
is out unless you can
arrange to die on a golf course.

Given the limitations
it is probably best
to become a Tibetan
Buddhist, do your stint
in the Bardo and be
reincarnated, hopefully
as a house cat, that
is the next best thing to heaven.

First Published in Half Hour to Kill, August 2022
https://halfhourtokill.com/home/a-hell-of-a-choice-by-louis-faber

SIN

A poet suggested that sin
was created by the Christians,
wrong, of course, but perhaps
just being politically correct
in not naming the Jews as
its creator, or at least
giving it a name and rulebook.

And on the point of accuracy
the poet might have noted
that the Jews created
the Christians, for Jesus
was one of them, a reformer
before Judaism would allow
anything beyond orthodoxy.

All of which is a long way
of explaining why I am
now a practicing Buddhist.

CHATTER

The cat tells me that
long after we have gone
to bed for the night she
hears the arguments
of the authors of the books
lining our living room shelves.

The poets, she says, quibble
over rhyme and meter, claim
this one is academic, that
one merely skilled in doggerel.

And don’t, she adds, get her
started on the Buddhist
authors, who argue endlessly
over their solution to this
koan or that one, each
certain of his own wisdom.

So do me a favor, the cat
concludes, and mix them up,
for they will quickly drive
each other to utter silence,
as the short story writers
dominate the conversation.

BUDDHA AND HILLEL DINE TOGETHER

The meeting occurred by chance,
two old men sitting in the same park
staring at the same empty chess board
as the waves of the Stygian Sea
lapped against the break wall,
the ferryman now at the helm
of the great cargo ship.
“So,” said Hillel, “you come here often?”
Old, bent Buddha paused
“as far as I know, I have
always been here, or perhaps
I am not here now, never have been.”
“I know the feeling” the ancient Rabbi said
“I’ve been here so long, I too
have begun to doubt my very existence.”
Buddha rubbed his great girth
and smiled placidly as a black bird
alighted on his shoulder.
The Rabbi stroked his beard
the stood on one foot,
only to have two bluejays
land, one on each arm.
“Would you care to join me,”
he asked, “for a meal at Ming’s
or if you prefer, we can do take out
from the Dragon Palace,
whatever suits your mood,
in any event, my treat this time.”
The saffron robed old man
unfolded himself, and erect
and bowing, said
“It would honor me to dine with you
but if you wouldn’t mind
I’d much prefer a bowl
of chicken soup with kreplach
and a pastrami on rye.”

First appeared here April 24, 2016

DON’T MIND

Both the great ape and the chimpanzee
say they have been horribly maligned
by Buddhist teachers of all people.

They point out that they have been
meditating since the Buddha sat
beneath the bodhi tree and was enlightened.

They are capable of deep thought,
are clearly as sentient as people, 
they claim with some evidence in support.

Why is it, they ask, that we refer 
to the unsettled state of the mind 
when sitting in zazen as monkey mind

when it is plainly apparent to all, 
human and simian that the obstacle
in zazen is actually a case of human mind.

TOZAN’S GOING BEYOND BUDDHA

The greatest speech
is given only
when the mouth
falls shut.
To talk of peace
is to be
at war with peace,
to speak of war
is to be at war.
When listening disappears
peace reemerges,
when peace emerges
the listener appears.

A reflection on Case 12 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (The True Dharma Eye)

ROADS

The problem with roads
is that they all must lead
somewhere, and if lucky, with
other theres along the way.

I prefer roads that have
no beginnings or ends,
that go where they will
and change direction on a whim.

On my roads you never
arrive late because there
is no point at which to arrive,
so you are always timely.

Friends laugh when I say this,
say such roads cannot exist
at least until I point out
that life is just such a road.

HOGEN’S DRIP OF WATER 鐵笛倒吹 九十一

What are words
of wisdom
from the mouth
of the ancient ones.
I tell you
these are such words.
You may accept
or reject them
as you will.
Better still, tear
this page from its binding
crumple it
and cast it
to the four winds.
Let it be carried
off in ten directions.

A reflection on case 91 of the Iron Flute Koans