ISAN’S I HAVE EXHAUSTED MYSELF 正法眼蔵 四十四

Approach the master
sitting on his seat.
The fool will seek answers
having slept through the lesson
but the wise student will bow
silently and retreat
having learned all there is
and knowing absolutely nothing.


A reflection on case 44 of Dogen’s True Dharma Eye Koans

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

ISAN’S QUESTION 鐵笛倒吹 二十九

Gather each single leaf
from the stones of the garden
and place it neatly in a bushel.
It will take weeks or months
to gather them all
even if you have windless days,
but this is important work.
When the last leaf is gathered
take up the bushel
and throw the leaves
into the garden,
this is important work.

If you tie a gold ribbon
carefully around your neck
it is nonetheless a leash.


A reflection on case 29 of the Iron Flute (Tetteki Tōsui)

ISAN’S TIME 鐵笛倒吹 十六

A cold day —
how many other winters
can you remember,
how many future winters
can your mind grasp?

Can you hold yesterday
in the palm of your hand
can you wrap tomorrow
around your thumb?

Between the palms
in gassho
lies all life and being.


A reflection on case 10 of the Iron Flute.

A FLUTE PLAYED BACKWARD : THREE CASES (100 – 98) FROM TETTEKI TŌSUI

ISAN’S TEN FOOT SQUARE 鐵笛倒吹 百

Ten thousand words
what do they mean –
with which
will you compose a poem
for the wall of your room.

Leave the room,
does the poem remain?
Enter the room
is this the same poem?
Write them
on the wind
with a pointed leaf,
that is a fine poem.

 

DAITEN’S AGE 鐵笛倒吹 九十九

Do not ask
how long your teacher
has been as student.
he may show his mala
and ask you to count
the beads by day
and again by night.
By day, 108
by night, 108
you may say,
but is the first bead
of morning the first
of night as well.
No two beads
are exactly alike
so keep counting.

 

KYUJO USES THE GAME 鐵笛倒吹 九十八

On a work day
half will work
within the building
and half outside
in the gardens.
Do not ask
what task is assigned
to Manjushri
for in your coming
and going at labor
his wise smile
illuminates your path
if you only look.
Is there more difficult
work than this?