BODHIDHARMA’S “VAST AND VOID”

You want holy teachings
boiled down, synthesized
digestible in bites

so dine on the holes
nothing, emptiness
is sustenance
enough

look at me, at a window
as you do a mirror
no knowing,
a familiar face
but whose?

the face will depart
yours or his
you will awaken
to endless absence

learn no
thingness
overflowing void


A reflection on Case 1 of the Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku)

ONCE

It was the other evening,
the first of two this month, they say
This only happens once in a blue moon
or a couple times every two or three years
and often twice in the same year,
So once in a blue moon isn’t that long
but she said she could feel its pull,
everything threatening to topple over
and she moved very cautiously.
I have to admit I didn’t feel very much,
but I come from the people for who
the lunar cycle is the norm, so the moon
really proceeds as it should, it’s face
having little to do with my time or tide.
The moon will be full again later this month
and I will pay careful attention
to what I’m certain I will not feel then
but will affect me in so very many ways.

PATER INCOGNITA

He often comes to me in dreams.
In most he is faceless, but intently present,
speaking in a voice I instantly know,
nothing like mine and totally mine.
On occasion his face appears, blurred,
as if seen through a scrim, back-lit,
vague, an actor in some film I have seen,
but yet not that person, that character.
For a while I saw my own face, but I knew
that was just my wishful mind filling in a gap
which has yet to be filled, knowing
that it likely never will.

ONCE, ONCE

Once, not long ago,
a river meandered
through our town.
Actually, there was
never a river here,
and our town is really
a small and shrinking city.
But the wistful look
on your face when I
mentioned the river is
reason enough to have one.
So now I have to move
somewhere in Connecticut
or Massachusetts, or start
digging a large channel
through downtown.
Hand me a shovel,
I hate New England.

REFLECTIONS

You believe this is how, and where, it begins,
but that is only your conception of it.
You believe the mirror shows your face
each morning, but it is merely polished glass,
and you mind sees what it perceives to be you
in the glass, while the glass is empty.
It has no real beginning, at least not one
that you or I can hope to identify, it has
always been and it will never be, but we
will perceive it to be as it has been,
perceive it to have begun at some point
in time, but time is also a perception, a way
we can try to define our perceptions.
You may well doubt all of this, but know
that doubt is the beginning of understanding,
so you have begun to walk along the way,
which is where you are and have always been,
if you can only conceive of it that way.

JOSHU’S DWELLING 鐵笛倒吹 七十

 

If a poor man offers you
the finest diamond
do you take it, and what
of the gift of a crust of bread
from the wealthy man.
Each gift, in its way,
is worthy of rejection.

Once I grasped at great thoughts –
now I can forget my own name
and wonder whose face it is
that I see in the mirror.


A reflection on Case 70 of The Iron Flute (Tetteki tōsui).