KOTEI STRIKES A MONK 鐵笛倒吹 八十一

Bow before a king
and you may be rewarded
but bow before a teacher
and expect to be shunned.
Which has something to offer?
Ask the teacher why he shuns you
and he will turn you away.

One offers a bit of gold,
one offers a priceless gem.
Gold can buy you many things
but the gem is worthless
to all but he to who it is given.
Pick carefully, for here
the fool and wise man
walk separate paths.

A reflection on Case 81 of the Iron Flute Koans

YAKUSAN SOLVES A PROBLEM 鐵笛倒吹 三十三

If you want to ask
of the path, do so,
only without breaking
the silence of the zendo.
Seek the answer
in a library without books,
take sustenance
from an empty bowl.

Bodhi is a glittering gem
that cannot be seen
that cannot be held—
do not stumble over it.


A reflection on Case 33 of the Iron Flute Koans

TOZAN’S ADVICE 鐵笛倒吹 七十七

If I tell you there is
a still more precious gem
will you ask “what is it?”
If I respond “it is not a diamond:
what will you do then?

The wealthy fool
will throw off his rings
and begin a futile search.
Are you such a fool,
or do you look inside
secure in knowing
the greatest gem
lies waiting within.


A reflection on Case 77 of the Iron Flute Koans

ELEGY

I am a Yao gem
inferior to jade
but awaiting the sorceress.
Will she wear me
in her ear, or prefer
the pendant?
I am a branch
broken from the tree
to dry on the ground
my fruit shriveled
into stones.
Carry me in your dance
inhale the fragrance
and raise me from the ashes
to come down
to the foothills
and dip my feet
in the slowly flowing waters.