DHARMA GATE

He sits, suited in black, with 88
keys at his command, and we fall silent.
He opens the lock of joy,
the lock of sadness,
the lock of elation,
the lock of tears,
the lock of laughter,
the lock of darkness,
the lock of light,
the lock of surprise,
the lock of compassion,
the lock of love,
and we peer through each door,
unable to enter fairly
unable to turn away.
As we walk out, we know
we have tasted Buddha’s promised truth
and we go off in search
63,999 remaining Dharma doors.

IMPENDING DEPARTURE

I will be going soon
and this is what I would leave you:
I would leave you my dreams
of a world at peace, where compassion
comes as an expectation not a surprise,
a place where the arrival
of the sun is a source of joy
for with it and the rains,
you, no one, will ever want for food,
centers where all can learn
and knowledge, like the universe
which we inhabit will
continue to expand,
but my dreams may
not be gift enough unless we
turn from those who care
to leave no dreams, taking
only for themselves in this moment,
for who tomorrow will always be
someone else’s problem.

HARMONY

Lao Tse, venerable one
you would be pleased
as I sit here
drawing closer
to the center
quested for my Buddhahood
be not seeking it
amid the rain of fire
from the hills
above the blood
congealing in the streets.
I know not to ask
and am unseen
by the child and mother
running through the street
and untouched by
the hail of ammunition
biting at their heels.
I smell the lotus
mixed with the cordite
giving scent to the morning
and in the clouds
see the approach
of understanding.

SATORI

The empty wine bottle
nestling the foot
of the postal box
wants nothing more
that to speak its mind
but it is forsworn
to silence, and stares
into the old Maytag box
tucked in the alley
next to the dumpster.
The bedraggled man
sits against the wall
and debates the meaning
of knowledge with
the Buddha lying
in a fetal ball
on the soggy asphalt.

LETTING GO

Roshi left last week
sitting in the garden
of the Zen Center, there
then not there, as though
he let go his 91 year grasp
knowing somehow, it was
the right moment.
He left so quietly
those around him
did not hear him depart.
Half a lifetime ago I sat
at his feet, unable to frame
the simplest of questions.
Watching my struggle, he smiled,
gently touched my shoulder,
whispered “the only guarantee
we get with life is death –
did you fear your birth?”
Standing under the gray sky
letting go of the flower
it falls on your coffin, Roshi,
you are sensei yet again.

KANNON WAITING

The hermit lives
in the shadow
of the great mountain
listening to the symphony
of the bluebird
and the wild Rose
engulfed by the sky,
the meandering stream
his constant companion.

I live in a city
in a sea of city dwellers
each of us prisoners
marching from cell
to cell, with passing nods
we hear only solitude
and are blind
to the ever shifting clouds.

Kuan Yin sits
in her temple
and whispers to all
who will stop and listen
that you cannot offer
compassion for others
until you granted it
to yourself.