You have heard that when the student is ready the teacher appears, and you believe you are ready, but no teacher has appeared. I can tell you that you are ready, that you will never be ready, that I am not the teacher, that the teacher is here, and that the teacher will never appear. But the path you seek to find with a teacher is all around you, that there is not path to find. If I give you a small bowl and you stand by a lake of fresh water just how much water can you hope to drink?
A reflection on Case 11 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)
The sun slowly climbs up onto the mountain’s minaret and announces the call to prayer. The waves in the quiet Lake dip their heads watching trees with the reverence reserved for morning. The loon sits on the altar and intones the sermon, the waves stilling for a moment, then ebbing into the day.
Coyote no longer inhabits the hill south of our city. Yet we know he is there, staring down at the lake, watching the grape clusters fatten on the vines. We cannot see the orange-red orbs of his eyes on a still winter night. We know he sees us. Coyote cannot be found, no carcasses attest to his presence. Coyote is everywhere, walking among us, living in parks, living in plain sight, knowing he is invisible. We see his tricks, know we were once again outsmarted, know we can outsmart him. Coyote no longer inhabits the hills here, for he has morphed, and we are coyote.
The river ignores us for yet another day, flowing despite our presence, knowing the lake awaits. As the rain lets up, the sun appears and sets the water ablaze demanding our attention and we gladly give it. As our jacket shed the last of the cloudy gifts, the wind reminds us that this moment is one we will not ever see again.
The night wraps us in the faint light of the glowing moon. The snow falls, reflected in the street light’s glow, and settles on the snow fields of recent days that obscure the earth that suffers beneath. We will flee tomorrow and leave the snow in our wake, hoping that on our return a week hence, some if not all of it will have washed into the lake, and we, having borne the brunt of the sun, will remember what summer will eventually offer us.