GATE GATE

The hardest thing of all
is that there is no one to entreat,
no one who has to sort the infinite
voices, note who requested what
so that delivery of the prayers, the few
that warrant granting, go
to the correct person, particularly
given that there is no system in place
to track the whims of the grantor.
Still, you take to the mat,
fold your legs, or tuck them
under the sitting bench, and unfocus
hoping those wishes will slip away
on a sea of intervening thoughts,
and there will be, just for a moment,
nothing at all, and that, you know,
would be as close as you get to everything.

TS’UI YEN’S EYEBROWS

The question is a simple one, really,
but not one you were expecting, which
is why you sit and grapple for an answer.
Ask yourself, what if no answer is needed,
what if there is no answer, can you
remain silent, or will you feel somehow
incomplete if you do not respond?
All answers are correct, but beware,
for all answers are incorrect as well.
Now consider the question again, carefully,
what do you respond when you are asked
once again, insistently, “who are you?”
Be very careful for if you gaze
into a mirror you will see someone else
and if you say that person is you,
you will most certainly disappear.

YAKUSAN’S LAKE 鐵笛倒吹 八十八

When you travel from home
and are asked if the lake
on the shore of which you live
is now full, what
can you say.
Will you speak of the rains
that soaked your fields
and what of the herd
of water buffalo
come to graze
since you have left.

The eye sees only now
the mind sees history
and the wise man
sees nothing.


A reflection on Case 88 of the Iron Flute koans.

USER’S MANUAL

In my dreams last night
I thought I came across the Buddha
while off wandering somewhere
I could not recognize.
I thought long and hard
about following Linji’s proscription
and killing the Buddha,
but while lost in contemplation
the Buddha took up his keisaku,
said “if you cannot follow
the simplest of directions,
if you are so lost in thought
you can never attain buddhahood”
and with one significant blow
instantly killed my dream
and allowed me to finally see.

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)

JOSHU’S DWELLING 鐵笛倒吹 七十

 

If a poor man offers you
the finest diamond
do you take it, and what
of the gift of a crust of bread
from the wealthy man.
Each gift, in its way,
is worthy of rejection.

Once I grasped at great thoughts –
now I can forget my own name
and wonder whose face it is
that I see in the mirror.


A reflection on Case 70 of The Iron Flute (Tetteki tōsui).