AS IT SHOULD BE

Day gives way to night.
Life gives way to death.
Truth gives way to truth
and falsity to falsity.
Nothing moves, nothing
cedes, all is constant.
This is enso, one stroke,
complete and incomplete
and this is mu.
You may enter freely,
but will never leave, and
once captured you have
never been here
and cannot enter.
If this seems confusing,
it is precisely what
it should be and you
have seen clearly.
Welcome! Now leave.

AROUND IT

It is remarkably simple, really,
a single circular brush stroke
in a monochrome black on rice paper,
always nearly perfectly round,
never is the circle complete,
always some small thing left wanting.
You stare at it, more
at the small gap, imagining
it filled, hoping it cannot be
for it holds out the promise
that this moment is all
that matters, that you are,
at any moment, where you
ought to be on your path,
that thoughts of tomorrow
is no more than an illusion ,
nothing other than 
the enso’s blank space.

ENSO IT GOES

I spent much of yesterday
trying to draw perfect enso.
You would think it easy to draw
the simple circle, one easy stroke,
but my efforts suggest otherwise.
It is my Western mind, my teacher
once suggested, always linear, this
moment next to that, and then
the one that must naturally follow.
If not a straight line, a line nonetheless.
I tried to tell him that was not it,
I am not as linear as he imagines,
but all he said was “mu,” rang
his bell and called for the next student.
Anyway, he said as I departed, “keep trying,
giving up your monkey mind can occur
in that moment, in every moment,”
and I want to believe him, certainly,
but my ill drawn circle calls him a liar.

GENSHA’S BLANK PAPER 鐵笛倒吹 四十九

If you ask me
to write on paper all
that I know of zen
I will hand to you
three empty sheets.
Study them carefully
for upon them
the Dharma waits
to be seen.

I will draw you a circle
almost complete
a bounded space
having neither inside
nor outside, another
gateless gate.


A reflection on Case 49 of the Iron Flute (Tetteki Tosui)