SOZAN’S FALLING AND RISING 正法眼蔵 三十三

When you fall
earth on one side
sky the other.
When you rise,
earth on one side
sky the other.
When there is no falling,
no sky, no earth,
when there is no rising
no earth, no sky.
Sky and earth
do not stand still.

A reflection on Case 33 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye) Koans

PANDEMIC

How many today? Fewer
that is a good sign
but don’t get overly excited,
we’ve been down this road
before and we got lost
each time we did.

And while you are out there,
don’t be sure that you
can see where you are going,
for vision is iffy, and like
side view mirrors, things
appear closer than they are.

Don’t be despondent, you
are better off than many,
but better is a comparative
and that can turn to sheer
ice when you least expect it.

So go on, but go carefully,
your next fall might,
just might, kill you.

THE WAVES

We, so far out at sea,
see only the waves passing,
the rise and fall, the rhythm,
and cannot imagine
it could be otherwise,

You, on the shore
cannot perceive the waves
we do, torn by the reef
that leaves you only
imagining what you think
the waves might be.

We cannot imagine
the silence, the isolation
you must feel in your
waveless world with
only memory of voices
to shape the shards
of sounds you hear.

COUPLING

Walking through the art gallery,
she frequently pauses to look
at paintings of couples in a bar
or a cafe, engaged in conversation.

I tell her they seem sad, as though
whatever romance they had
has waned, they having grown
apart, this a parting of sorts.

She laughs and says that I mistake
wistfulness for sadness, men
so often do, and adds they are
lovers falling ever deeper in.

She takes my hand gently, with
a look I might have deemed sad,
but knowing better. I realize
that I, too, am continuing my fall.

ROSHI

To arise from the earth
is simple, too fall back
the more difficult, for
that is a journey we all
seem to fear, though
with no arising, there
can be no falling back.
When I finally admitted
that I feared dying and
didn’t want to be drafted
to fight in that war
Roshi asked me if I
feared being born.
“Fear,” he said, “takes
up all of your energy
and there is never
time enough for that.”

AUDIENS CAVE

I just want you to know
that the Old Man set me up,
and I’ll admit that, cagey as I am,
I never saw it coming.

I mean I knew he was capable
of anything, but he always adopted
this holier than thou persona so why
would I imagine He’d do this?

And it wasn’t like He clued
me in on it, how was I to know
that one was somehow different,
and weren’t they the smart ones?

So I take the fall, and you can bet it
will be an eternity of distrust, if not fear
or hatred, and I have to say, the damned
apple wasn’t all that tasty anyway.

WALKING

Walking on ice is easy, although
you must be careful not to slip
for the fall can be damaging, but
walking on water is impossible
unless you are not you, and he
has returned in your body
which we all find highly unlikely,
although the difference between
you is a simple state of matter.
The question, then, is do you
see any real difference
between the two of you
and if not, he may well smile
as you together disappear
into a thick cloud of steam.

ULTIMATE TRUTH 鐵笛倒吹 四十三

When the stick is raised
a truth hovers nearby,
will you accept it?

When the student is struck
does truth leave
the polished wood, sinking
into the student’s shoulder
or does it rise up
within the student
to meet the falling stick?

Sitting zazen do you ask
directions to the zendo?


A reflection on Case 43 of The Iron Flute (Tetteki tōsui)