ISAN’S SUMMONS 鐵笛倒吹 三十一

When the master
calls for a novice
do you answer?
When the inkin
bell is struck
do you begin
or end zazen?
As you follow your breath
when do you leave
your body, and who
returns when you next inhale?

Search instead
for an answer
that has no question.
Who is the novice now?


A reflection on case 31 of the Iron Flute Koans

SEPPO’S SANCTITY 鐵笛倒吹 三十七

You claim to seek sanctity –
will you know it
if you find it along the way?

What if it sneaks up on you
when you are lost in reverie,
what if it reaches you
in a strike of the teacher’s stick,
will you jump in fear
and frighten it away,
or sit with it
in endless zazen?


A reflection on case 37 of the Iron Flute Koans

HOJU TURNS HIS BACK 鐵笛倒吹 七十二

If a beggar approaches
do you turn away from him.
If a rich man calls to you,
do you receive him openly.
How do you tell them apart?

If a poor thief in fine, stolen silks
stands before you
what do you offer in welcome,
and what for his battered victim
now wearing the thief’s discards.
The fool finds an easy answer,
the wise man awaits the stick.


A reflection on case 72 of the Iron Flute Koans

RINZAI PLANTS A PINE 鐵笛倒吹 十八

If you have a seed
in your pocket
what will you do with it?
Even a small seed
planted carefully
in the middle of a forest
may take hold and grow.

Tamp the soil with your toe
three time, three times again
secure in knowing
this tree will never
provide you shade.


A reflection on Case 18 of the Iron Flute Koans