JIZO PLANTS THE FIELD

As you search
through the Dharma
what is it you hope to find?

When you ask your teacher
to explain the Dharma, what
do you expect him to tell you?

Do you cling to Dharma
because it is there, unchanging,
a guide to the end of your search?

Better to live the precepts
fully, present in every moment,
waking, working, eating
and even sleeping for then
the path rolls out before you.

A reflection on Case 12 of the Book of Equanimity (従容錄, Shōyōroku)

SENSO-JI

They crowd the stalls, searching
amid what the Japanese would have to call
tchotchkes if they were Jewish.

Few bother to see the great Buddha
peereing out of the Buddha hall
questioning their judgment.

They could buy their fortunes
for a mere hundred yen coin, but they
believe it better spent here,

This the marketplace forms
a phalanx that makes a visit
to Senso-ji a forced march

through waves of humanity who
have no need of jizo, those are for
the cats and children who parade

through the gate, hand in hand,
and stare up at the statues of Kannon
still teaching and offering compassion.

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.

BLOSSOM

I remember the cherry trees
along the reflecting pool, though
except in April they mostly reflected
a partially clouded sky promising rain.

Their pinkness was a tone I have
searched for since, and came
closest in Tokyo, jealous of the emperor
and his gardens so carefully tended.

It is that time again, and this year
as in so many past, I will not see
my reflection in the city of my birth,
nor the pink rain that falls slowly

in April’s first strong breeze, I
will not scoop up a handful of pink
and cast it into the sky, only to fall
yet again, to the joy of a nearby child.

I will dream of Tokyo, of the two trees
In a corner of Senso-ji, alight in pink
under the always watchful eye
of Buddha and the smiling jizos.

MEMORIAL

This woman approaches
the stone, carefully places
sake and cherry blossoms
and leans a sotoba against it,
before bowing and walking away.
It is what you do for a son,
she says, looking at the bibbed Jizo
hoping she can protect
the child who lies beneath.

That woman approaches
the headstone,
gently places the flowers
and leans a prayer card
against its polished surface,
kneels briefly, looking up
at the statue of the Son
who also died for our sins,
begs him to protect.
the child who lies beneath.

A DRY GARDEN LAUGHING

In the heart of Nara Park
there is a five story pagoda.
Deer appear, standing sentinel
along the lantern lined walk.
Up the unseen hill
the Temple bell announces
the full arrival of morning
as the Golden Buddha awakens.
Young children can see
all of this through eyes
unlensed, and fetter free.
They watch clouds
release a cascade
of tiny maple leaves
which flow over sitting monks,
a stream washing spring
into the waiting valley.
I sit with my granddaughter
in the center of a dry garden.
The Jizo will watch us.
The three of us throw
leaves into the air
as the wrens echo our laughter
in a five tiered cacophony