DOING THOUGHT TIME

 

 

The hardest prison to escape
is the one whose walls are built
by the mind in fear and trepidation.
It is like the open gate you dare
not enter fearing that you are leaving
and will not be allowed to return.
Atop a pole there are
an infinite number of directions
in which you can go and only one
is straight down, but you fear
selecting any, for gravity
is a fear as great as death,
yet you can feel neither.
The prison of the mind
is impregnable, for there
fear and pain live in conflict
and you are a small boat
on an angry sea staring
always at the roiling waves.

NANSEN’S REJECTIONS 鐵笛倒吹 四十四

 

If you come before Master Nansen,
will you come holding the posture
of a monk or a lay person,
and when Nansen turns you away,
how will you exit the room?

Nested hands
and gassho hands –
both are so easily manacled –
why leave the room at all?


A reflection on case 44 of the Iron Flute (Tetteki tōsui 鐵笛倒吹)

THE TRICKSTER RESPONDS

The man liked to cry out into the night,
asking questions for which he knew
there could be no answers, or if
there were, they would be things
he would never wish to hear.
The coyotes in the hills would listen
to his pleas, his entreaties, his
moaning, and they would remember
the spirits of the old ones gone,
and yet back in their now-animal forms.
One night a trickster sat on the mesa,
and when the man began his questions,
the trickster, orange eyes aflame
spoke clearly, loudly, telling the man
that the answer to each of his questions
lay within himself, and he need only
look there, if he had the courage,
which the coyote knew, he lacked.

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)