If you go walking one day
and meet a person you think
may be the Buddha, ask him
what is the heart of all of the sutras.
If he answers you with Dharma
will you be certain this person
is not the Buddha?
If, on the other hand,
he says nothing at all,
and merely holds up a mirror,
will you be certain you
are seeing the Buddha?
Decide before he crosses
the river and is gone from sight.
A reflection on Case 1 of Bring Me the Rhinoceros (Koans)
A river may polish
a stone until
the morning sun.
A jeweler may polish it
and facet it
until it shatters the light
in ten directions.
A wise man will claim
it is still
the same stone.
A reflection on Case 117 of the Shobogenzo, Dogen’s True Dharma Eye
I haven’t the time
to stop and measure the day
to insure that it is as short
as promised, that the sun
which will refuse to appear
would minimize its visit if it did.
That is a task I leave
willingly to others.
I increasingly operate
on faith, that I will wake
tomorrow, that tomorrow will
be longer than today,
that spring will arrive
in due course
if never soon enough.
I ought to be concerned
with all of these things,
but I know that time
is elastic and every look
in the morning mirror says
it is contracting far faster
than I would like.
You believe this is how, and where, it begins,
but that is only your conception of it.
You believe the mirror shows your face
each morning, but it is merely polished glass,
and you mind sees what it perceives to be you
in the glass, while the glass is empty.
It has no real beginning, at least not one
that you or I can hope to identify, it has
always been and it will never be, but we
will perceive it to be as it has been,
perceive it to have begun at some point
in time, but time is also a perception, a way
we can try to define our perceptions.
You may well doubt all of this, but know
that doubt is the beginning of understanding,
so you have begun to walk along the way,
which is where you are and have always been,
if you can only conceive of it that way.
He imagined what it must have been like
in the garden, before the snake, before
the damned apple, though certainly not
before the missing rib, that was a complete
and utter bore, and yes beauty can be
infinitely boring given half a chance.
But to be blissfully ignorant, without
the burden of knowledge, the taste
of the apple on the tongue, to just
be in the middle of perfection, and be
perfection itself, that had to be something.
But no, there would have been no mirrors,
and who knows if it would have seemed
the least bit beautiful, since there
would have been nothing to compare it to.
Maybe we should honor the snake.
He spends considerable time
looking in the mirror
trying hard to see what is there,
to see inside himself, to truly
see himself as he imagines others see him.
The mirror denies him a static image,
it is always shifting, and try
though he might to grasp one single image
he finds it impossible and always
gives up in frustration. Still
he tries again the next day,
and the next after that, never
attaining his desired objective.
Ask yourself, what is his failure?
If he would become the mirror,
then, and only then, he might see himself,
rather than a mere image on glass.
A reflection on case 125 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye)
Once I was
six foot four
with long blond hair
I woke up.
Now in the mirror
five foot six,
middle aged man
only to return
to the me
of my dreams.