NOT TWICE

It is said that you can never go home again
presuming, of course, that you have left at some point.
The fallacy of this statement is apparent,
for there is often nothing preventing your return.
What would make the statement accurate
is that you can never go home again
to exactly the same home you left
for your leaving alters the place and your return
creates only a new status quo, it can’t restore the old one.
It is like this with rivers, the Buddhist knows,
you never step into the same river twice
for each steps has you greeting new water
and even the rock upon which you step
has microscopically eroded.
So feel free to go home again, for there is
much to be gained from returning to a place
that is so familiar, and yet which you have
never before actually visited.

SEPPO REJECTS A MONK 鐵笛倒吹 七十三

If you find the answer
and rush to tell your teacher
why are you surprised
when he turns away from you,
saying that is yesterday’s answer.

If you want to impress your teacher
paint the answer
on the surface
of the raging river
or accept scorn
with equanimity.


A reflection on case 73 of the Iron Flute Koans

YOKUSAN’S LECTURE 鐵笛倒吹 六十三

If you go to a lecture
and listen carefully
will you become wise?
If you go to a hundred lectures
are you a hundred times wiser?

Where did the teacher find wisdom,
did he sit in endless lectures.
Watch him most carefully
is he not wise with sleeping,
and when eating, when he walks
to the lectern and from it?
Watch in silence
and find his wisdom.


A reflection on case 63 of the Iron Flute Koans

ECHU EXPELS A DISCIPLE 鐵笛倒吹 語十三

If you come upon Echu napping
do not disturb him
but retreat to the zendo
or walk in the small garden
where enlightenment may be found.

If the search is successful
leave quickly, tell no one,
for it is very fragile
and the tongue
is sharper than the sword
and infinitely more deadly.


A reflection on case 53 of the Iron Flute Koans

YAKUSAN SOLVES A PROBLEM 鐵笛倒吹 三十三

If you want to ask
of the path, do so,
only without breaking
the silence of the zendo.
Seek the answer
in a library without books,
take sustenance
from an empty bowl.

Bodhi is a glittering gem
that cannot be seen
that cannot be held—
do not stumble over it.


A reflection on Case 33 of the Iron Flute Koans

KEEPING FOCUS

It is of little surprise that we find
this a dizzying world, for we always
try to look forward, but since the future
is often vague, we try and keep one eye
on the past to understand what
our other eye is poorly seeing.

The mind does not care to be
pulled in two directions at once,
objects with stabbing pains, and
when that fails to correct us,
a weariness we cannot overcome.

The Buddha would tell you
it is best to keep both eyes
in the present, to focus softly
and see what is there without
judgement or preconception, to simply

be, assured that all senses are
merely crude tools to shape what
is amorphous into something we
can grasp and file, but time itself knows
there is nothing more than now, ever.


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THE GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL 鐵笛倒吹 六十九

Standing at the window
looking down on the street
is the passing man enlightened?
Call out this question to him.
If he looks upward and says yes
what do you know of his enlightenment?

Looking at a flower
is it different than its seed.
If you hold a seed in your hand
what can you say of the flower
that may some day appear.


A reflection on Case 69 of the Iron Flute Koans.

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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