THE GIRL COMES OUT 無門關 四十二

She sits undisturbed
Shakyamuni by her side.
You can wave at her, she
will pay you no mind.

You cannot grasp her mind
and maintain a hold
on your own, you will grow
deaf from the chatter
but a child can curl
at her feet and she
will stroke his forehead
in perfect Samadhi.


A reflection on Case 42 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate)

KANNON WAITING

The hermit lives
in the shadow
of the great mountain
listening to the symphony
of the bluebird
and the wild Rose
engulfed by the sky,
the meandering stream
his constant companion.

I live in a city
in a sea of city dwellers
each of us prisoners
marching from cell
to cell, with passing nods
we hear only solitude
and are blind
to the ever shifting clouds.

Kuan Yin sits
in her temple
and whispers to all
who will stop and listen
that you cannot offer
compassion for others
until you granted it
to yourself.

AWAKENING

He could not hope to remember
how he got there, he had wandered
in search of nothing in particular,
save dinner as his hunger grew,
but in Shinjuku you needn’t read
Japanese since the menus sat
molded in plastic in the window
of even the smallest restaurants.
He began to look more intently
when he saw the path off the street,
a calico cat beckoning him,
so he entered, knew instantly
he was at a small Buddhist temple,
and bowed to the statue of Kannon
hidden amid the flock of cranes.
He felt the touch of the young monk,
followed him into the small zendo,
sat seiza at the monk’s nodding,
and as evening washed over them both,
time and hunger ceased to matter.
Interminably later, over a cup of tea,
the monk said in broken English, “you
carry me with you to home place,” pointing
to his heart, “and I keep you in Japan,”
repeating the gesture, and as he
regained his bearings, saw
the Metropolitan Center which
was his pole star for the hotel
he walked lightly back, forgetting
he hadn’t eaten since breakfast.

TOKYO

Walking the grounds
of Senso-ji Temple, I look
among the statues, half
expecting Buddha or
Kannon Bosatsu to appear,
but only a pigeon answers
my expectations.
Lighting a joss bundle
and placing it into the burner
I imagine for a moment
that I am zainichi,
but the giggles of a flock
of uniformed schoolgirls
reminds me cruelly
I am and always will be
no more than gaijin.