A MONK IN MEDITATION 鐵笛倒吹 七十語

A man may own
may volumes of great knowledge
and never have time to read.
An illiterate may take such books
and fashion a stool
on which to sit in meditation.

Which of these is truly wise
which the greatest fool.
Wipe your mouth
with this page
at the conclusion
of the meal.


A reflection on Case 75 of the Iron Flute.

THIRD EYE

He’s all of three
but stare into his eyes and they say
I’m so much more, if
you dare go there.
Of course I do.
As we enter the path
to the rock garden
his small hand in mine
I point to the sign, say
do you know what grows
in a rock garden?
He looks, I can see
the faint hint of the knowing smile
He holds his finger to his forehead,
looks up questioningly,
and states clearly and precisely
“weeds” with a following giggle.

ETA

I can assure you I will be there
one week from the date I
was supposed to arrive, not a day
sooner and only possibly a day later.
If, by any strange chance I am not
please feel free to contact me
immediately at the number
I have not given you and won’t.
And if you cannot remember when
I was supposed to arrive, that is
perhaps because I have never told you,
but rest assured I will do so
immediately upon my arrival.

MINISTER PEIXIU SEES A PORTRAIT

You are perpetually searching,
but what is it you seek?
If you say it is wisdom,
how will you know it
if it finds you?
You may look
in a thousand mirrors
and no mind
will be seen
in none of them.
You are an oyster,
where is the pearl?


A reflection on Case 9 of the Shobogenzo, the True Dharma Eye

SOZAN’S FOUR DON’TS 鐵笛倒吹 九十二

You may seek to follow
the path of the dove –
a fool knows many roads.
You may wrap yourself
in fine linen – an infant
wears only his skin,
and knows this moment
is already gone.

Think long before you speak
of how to walk
along the path, of where it leads.
The baby says nothing,
will not speak
of where he has been,
where he is going, for him
there is only here,
and silence
is descriptive enough.


A reflection on case 92 of the Iron Flute. 

NOW LISTEN UP

I read a poem
today, about a cat
and it reminded me,
actually the memory
of my last cat came to mind,
that cats
have an innate sense
of people, that people
utterly lack.
It may be that cats
are completely unfooled
by the masks we wear,
or simply that
they could care less
how we see ourselves,
and only measure us
by what we offer them.
In that sense, of course,
they are people, too.

GENSHA’S BLANK PAPER 鐵笛倒吹 四十九

If you ask me
to write on paper all
that I know of zen
I will hand to you
three empty sheets.
Study them carefully
for upon them
the Dharma waits
to be seen.

I will draw you a circle
almost complete
a bounded space
having neither inside
nor outside, another
gateless gate.


A reflection on Case 49 of the Iron Flute (Tetteki Tosui)