UNGAN’s NOT ANY SINGLE WORD

The youngest child,
her mind uncluttered,
can answer any question
unburdened by words,
her answers rebound
across the universe.
If you stop struggling
to hear her, let
the silence surround
you both, you cannot
escape the answers

A reflection on case 84 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

HOFUKU’s BLOCKING OF THE EYES

Do not pity the blind man
for he can see much,
and do not be sad for the deaf
for they can hear you.
Your eyes see nothing
your ears do not
discern the quietest sound.
Rest your mind and taste
the peace of blindness
and silence.

A reflection on Case 113 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye) 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.

YAKUSAN’S DISCOURSE

When the master takes his seat
what do you expect of him?
Do you watch his posture
or how his hands are set.
Do you stare at his lips
and what do you hear
when they move, but no sound
comes from his throat.
Listen carefully, for here
the dharma unfolds
like the first chrysanthemum.

A reflection on Case 79 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)

A LITTLE DRUMMER

It seems less than fair that as a child
I was Jewish to the core, adopted, yes,
but certainly fully Jewish and not merely
by maternal lineage which would suffice.

Christmas was alien to me then, even
when I left Judaism behind, a shadow
that would follow me closely into
my Buddhist practice and life.

But DNA made a liar of so many,
my birth mother, the adoption agency
and my adoptive parents, for I know
my Judaism was only half of me.

So now I can enjoy Christmas
and other holidays, listen anew
to “The Little Drummer Boy”
and relish the irony of my new life.

For I have aged, as has my wife,
and when they sing “Do you hear
what I hear?” she sadly says
“not any longer I don’t” and then,

“Do you see what I see?” and I
must admit I do so only barely
and the doctors assure me that
soon enough I may say no as well.

RECITAL

The keys didn’t frighten me. 88 of them, but I’d never use the majority, probably. And the ones I knew were generally well behaved, although they did defy me from time to time, and then said it was my fault, they didn’t respond to wishes, just fingers, And even the audience didn’t bother me, not even those who were still awake.. They were all parents like mine, and I knew no matter how I played the piece, well, badly, brilliantly, or disastrously, the composer would be silent and the audience full of compliments. My fellow pianists wouldn’t even hear it, heard nothing if they hadn’t yet played, kept replaying their piece in their head if they had.

JIZO’S BUDDHISM 鐵笛倒吹 四十八

In setting along the path
do you follow Hofuku
covering your eyes so as
not to see evil, ears so
as not to hear it
and close your mind
to wandering ideas
or is Jizo’s path
yours as well?

With eyes shut tight
the mind will still see,
with ears covered sound
will echo, growing louder
with no hope of escape.
With open eyes
light is reflected, with ears
open fully, sound passes
freely and flitters away
and the empty bowl
is filled with potential.

A reflection on Case 48 of the Iron Flute Koans.

ONE STEP TOO FAR

“As you get older,” he said,
“the body grows remarkably
adept at telling you when
you have done too much,
or done something you shouldn’t.”

What he didn’t say, the critical
piece of advice I wish I heard,
is that the body only speaks
well after the fact, a lecture
surely, but never a warning.

No one wants to go a step
short, to miss whatever mark
someone randomly established,
but the price of a step too far
is high and often long lasting.

My back sat me down this
morning , and with that smirk
told me the lifting yesterday
could be paid for over a week,
and my arthritic knees nodded.

THE QUESTION

If my mother was here
she would ask me what
I have to say for myself.
Just this once, I
would remain silent,
for there is nothing
that needs saying
and she would be certain
that if there were
she should be the one
to say it, but silence
would drive her mad.
So perhaps it is good
that she is not here,
that she did not ask,
though if there is a heaven
and hell, God or the devil
will need to tell her what
they have to say for themselves,
or they will never, ever
hope to hear the end of it.

BLESSING

There is a blessing in silence
that we so often deny ourselves,
unaware that it lies just beyond
the noise of our minds and lives.
We crave it, beg for it, and
hearing the beggar, shun him
for the noise he carries
like the skin he cannot molt.
Beethoven understood silence
in his later years and
filled with a music
none of us will pause to hear.