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)

KEMBO’S TRANSMIGRATION 鐵笛倒吹 六十七

 

Awakening in the morning
when you first see the sun
and the dew resting on thee leaf
which eye are you using.
When you stare into the mirror
through what eye do you see,
and what eyes stare back at you.

When you see the deer
lying in the road
which eye do you use.
In a nightmare, when you slip
into the deeper, darker world,
what eye is used then.
When a friend fades into death,
what eye sees his departure.
Think carefully on this
for only one eye can see
the answer lying within.


A reflection on case 67 of The Iron Flute (Tetteki Tōsui)

OLD MONK

The old monk stooped carefully,
gingerly picking each browning leaf
from the dry garden and gently
placing it in the sack he carried.
With each leaf he would increase
his count, always certain that it
fully fell into the sack.
When the last leaf was picked
and even the autumn tree
dared not drop another this day,
the monk dumped the leaves
onto the stone of the garden
and stooped carefully,
gingerly picking each browning leaf.
A watching visitor asked the abbot
if the monk had dementia,
but the abbot smiled and said,
“He is the sanest one among us,
watch how he wholly engages his practice.”

TAIGEN FANS HIMSELF 正法眼蔵 三十二

When a leaf leaves the tree
it falls precisely where it should.
When a flower petal is carried
off on a strong wind it
comes to rest in the proper place.
When you smell the sweet aroma
of next summer’s roses
you must use the nose you had
before your parents were born.


A reflection on Case 32 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye)

PROGRESSION

It is between the pushing away in the pulling back that it happens. It is there that the seasons progress, one to the next. Winter cedes to spring and is, ever reluctantly, replaced by summer. It is there, as well, that the leaf emerges from the bud and reaches into the sky. And feeling the taste of the sun, unfurls, welcoming rain, which it channels into the earth, the earth where it will, all too soon, fall, there to decompose, only to repeat the cycle at some unimaginable point in the future. We see none of this.