It wasn’t until I hit middle age, which on my scale will allow me to live past 100, that I discovered that cats are Celtic deep in their hearts. Our cat, she who adopted me and forced her then owner to marry me, like it or not, was in love with the tin whistle and the uilleann pipes playing had her in my lap, unmoving. But she had her Buddhist side as well, sitting zazen for hours, longer if accompanied by shakuhachi flutes. She said that cats were discerning, were connoisseurs of music loved cello, viola and violin but barely tolerated the bass. It was why, she said, all the great composers wrote for the higher strings. And, she would add, as for dogs, well they loved country music most, reason enough for pity.
The real question, the true heart of the matter, is whether this is the first day of a new year, as she believes, or merely the day after the last day of the year, as he would have it. They have this discussion once each year, and they never resolve it for eventually they grow tired, and the day is gone before they do. They promise to conclude the next time around, but by then they will have forgotten most of their history and will grasp the novelty of the old argument anew.
If you go walking one day and meet a person you think may be the Buddha, ask him what is the heart of all of the sutras. If he answers you with Dharma will you be certain this person is not the Buddha? If, on the other hand, he says nothing at all, and merely holds up a mirror, will you be certain you are seeing the Buddha? Decide before he crosses the river and is gone from sight.
A reflection on Case 1 of Bring Me the Rhinoceros (Koans)
It’s all a question of knowing where to look for one, but ask what would you do if you stumbled across it. It’s not a simple decision, nor should it be. The better question still is how you will know when you finally find it, for it is marked only deep within your heart.
The work of the bow is done when the arrow takes flight, when the vibration of its string is recurved into stillness. But what of the archer now having let go, can only await the fletched arrival. If the target falls will the bow know the pain, will the archer, will the fingers hold the string of the bow or the heart of the fallen?
How far must you wander to taste the pure essence, hear the pure note, see deeply into beauty, smell the first flower of spring, touch another heart? Will you grow tired from standing still in total silence contemplating this?
A reflection on Shobogenzo Case 65 (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)
I will, or may see something today that may surprise me. It may reveal itself in aquiet moment, it may be nothing more than a fleeting thought or an image, I am certain. It won’t be brought by Magi nor even magic, though on reflection, it may seem somehow magical. I suspect most will miss its occurrence.
So I will sit and stare into the wall, into my heart, into the universe, trying to find something which is nothing, which is the center, which is everything.
It is this time each night that I think of you lying in bed, your head pressed deep into your pillow your chest rising and falling to an unheard beat. I reach out for you and grasp the blanket of the hotel bed and imagine it is your back as I trace my finger down the spine of sleep.