UMMON’S TWO SICKNESSES

As you wander
your path, what is it
that you search for?

When you seek
instruction from a master
what is it you expect
him to provide you?

When you sit
still on the cushion
you may find a moment
of kensho, but
labeling that moment
destroys it.

Enlightenment cannot
be described
for attaching words
brings it to the ground
as rubble around
your feet.

A reflection on Case 11 of the Book of Equanimity (SHôYôROKU 従容錄)

BASO’S WHITE AND BLACK

I know you have
a single question for which
an answer will enlighten you.
Neither Baso, Chizo nor Kai
are here so you are asking me.

The answer is simple:
cover your ears tightly
and listen while I speak
with closed mouth,
watch my feet dance
in joy as they do not move.
If the answer is not apparent,
ask Chizo, Baso and Kai
to speak from beyond the grave.

A reflection on case 6 of the Book of Equanimity Koans

SITTING WATCHING

Of course when we lived
up north we wouldn’t
have imagined this, sitting
on our lanai watching the sun
set the patchy sky ablaze
sipping small glasses of port
and wondering if a light
jacket might be in order,
as the beaver moon
of November waxes slowly.

The cat, curled at our feet
cannot imagine the icy wind
howling down the street,
the foreboding clouds offering
their first flakes, knowing
this is a small taste of what
nature will bring forth
before we could again sit
in shirtsleeves on our porch.

THE WORLD-HONORED ONE POINTS TO THE EARTH

As you wander around
looking for a place
to build a temple,
looking for eden,
looking for nirvana,
stop and simply sit,
listen to the breeze
teaching you the Dharma,
the clouds chanting
the sutras in a harmony
beyond your hearing.
Look down for you
are in your temple,
sitting in eden
nirvana at your feet.

A reflection on case 4 of the Book of Equanimity Koans

Atop the Pole 無門關 四十六

Sitting atop a hundred foot pole
you are convinced there are
only two directions: pole and down.
Old Osho asks, how will you proceed
and you stare back at this lunatic.
How will you proceed, he repeats?

You release the pole
step slowly away, looking
at ten directions before you,
you move your feet, each one
touches the path of each
of the three worlds and Osho
gently touching your elbow
walks a bit by your side.

A reflection on case 46 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) Koans.

SEIGAN’S COST OF RICE

You may wander

endlessly in search

of the true dharma.

It is not under that rock,

not in those bushes,

not around the next bend.

Look down and ask

yourself where

are you standing

in this moment,

then gently lift 

your feet off

of the heart

of the dharma

A reflection on case 5 of the Book of Equanimity koans. 

CHŌSHA’S RETURNING TO MOUNTAINS

When you see a mountain
why must you climb it
with your eyes.
When you hear
a mighty river why
must you ford it
with your ears,
when you feel the earth
why must you touch
it with your feet?
Are you
not the mountain
does the river run
through you, as you
run through it, are
you not the earth?

A reflection on Case 16 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye) koans.

BALLET OF THE GODS

Once they pierced your heels
to hobble you, bound up
feet and ankles to lash
you to the earth, there weren’t
angels then, no wings, just the pain
of toes crushed inward,
the silent agony of motion,
a cruel joke played by gods
starved for entertainment.
But Terpsichore, hearing
Erato’s song, set them free
brought them to a pointe,
allowed them to take wingless
flight, and toes became a platform
from which their joy rose up
spinning, whirling, slashing
until even the most jaded
of the gods fell silent in awe.

First Published in AGON Journal, Issue 0, 2021

NANSEN CUTS THE CAT 無門關 十四

Thirty blows of the stick
if right, thirty blows
if wrong, or Namsen’s sword
and a severed cat

a half to each
a whole to none

Be thankful you
didn’t argue about a man
for with a shoe
on the head, your feet
may touch the sky.

A reflection on Case 14 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate Koans)