JOSHU’S FOUR GATES 正法眼蔵 四十六

If you ask who I am
I will have you close your eyes
and walk behind you,
or I may step to your left
and take your right hand.
If you are perplexed,
I will ask you, do the four
gates open into the city
or out to the world beyond,
and if I stand still sideways
under a gate
in which direction
am I headed?


A reflection on case 46 of Dogen’s True Dharma Eye (Shobogenzo).

ORDINARY MIND IS THE WAY

If you are truly looking for the way
why do you insist on using your eyes.
Any teacher will tell you that your eyes
see nothing, they are only lenses through which
a delusion is created in the mind.
The mind has no eyes, but it is all
that enables you to see anything.
So abandon the eyes that see nothing,
and the mind that only thinks it sees.
Settle on the cushion until you
and the earth and the sky are one,
indistinguishable from each other,
and everything, which is nothing,
will appear before you if only
you refuse to acknowledge it.


A reflection on Case 4 of the Bring Me the Rhinoceros koans.

GULL TIME

Along the river this morning, the gulls
stood on fence stanchions watching
the parade of walkers, runners, bikers
like them ignoring the river, intent
on logging the daily miles, oblivious
to the panorama that lies just beyond
our closely focussed eyes.
The gulls offer a piercing commentary,
and that is something we notice,
and so unlike the Egyptian Geese
of our Florida home, who chatter
incessantly along our walks,
like so many old men sitting
much of the day in Riverside Park
staring out over the Hudson River
trying to clear phlegmy throats.

BORDER

He wants to know why
we draw a distinction
between dreams and what
we like to call reality,
as if the former is
somehow less than real.
We want to laugh at him,
but we listen anyway.
If all my senses end up
in my mind then all
that is real is real
only in my mind.
But my dreams exist
in my mind as well,
so they are just as real
as my daytime reality.
And, he added, with
a smirk, nothing is real
at all, but both dreams
and reality are equally real,
and with that, he
closed his eyes and we
all ceased to exist.

GHOST SITTING

I sat with the ghost again
this morning, the one who inhabits
the body that was once my father.
Ghosts find it difficult to speak
from within living bodies, so mostly
it squeezed my hand and offered
an occasional weak smile or nod,
said I looked good, but ghosts do have
trouble seeing out of human eyes.
He slept quite a bit, curled up
the better to contain himself
against the lights and prodding,
for ghosts want only silence and peace.

A MISTAKE IN SPEAKING 無門關 三十九

When you speak the words
of the Buddha you are lost.
Light is everywhere in silence
but the tongue must hide
in the dark of the mouth.

Buddha’s words are flowers
unfolding in the dawn
by the side of the still pond,
the eyes hear the song
and respond in silent chorus.


A reflection on case 39 of the Mumonkan (The Gateless Gate)