THE LAST TIME

The last time we spoke
you asked me when the end was coming.
I didn’t have a good answer for you,
wasn’t even quite sure what you meant
by the question, the end of what? Of time,
of your life or mine, or merely the end
of a conversation we had been
carrying on for as long
as either of us could remember.
That was some time ago
and I have thought about
your question quite frequently
and seeing you today,
you walking by me
without acknowledging me,
I realize the answer
should have been
and most certainly now is
that the end came
the moment you
started your question.

TUNG SHAN’S NO COLD OR HEAT

You say all you seek is moderation,
simply finding a middle way, though
nothing at all would suffice for you,
no pleasure, no pain, no loss or gain,
you would willingly attach to nothing at all.
This is not the path the Buddha would tell you,
for the place you claim to seek
cannot ever exist, and if you wander
in search of it you will not find it,
but you most certainly will lose yourself.
Do not wish for death while you are living,
for the state of not living now is death
and it will find you without effort on your part.
And what is heat and cold, anyway?



A reflection on Case 48 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)

DESHAN’S “NEITHER ASKING NOR NOT ASKING”

If you very much want something
you must ask for it clearly, but
if you ask for it, it will be denied to you.
If you do not ask for it, you
may be certain you will not get it
no matter how much you want it.
If you sit and think about this,
you will miss out on living.
It is only when you don’t want it,
when you allow the silence without
question, without need or desire,
that you will discover that you
have had it all along, right beside you.

THE THING OF IT

The thing he wants most
is to experience life and all it offers.
By that he means he wants to see
what is there, to smell it, to engage
it with all of his senses, for
those are what he trusts, they
provide him reality, without them
his mind could not frame the moment.
The thing she wants most
is to be in life, an integral
part of what is offered, to
be indistinguishable from life,
so that they eyes cannot see it,
the nose cannot smell it,
the mind cannot frame anything,
for she is that thing
and that moment and there is
nothing else, except perhaps him
staring, sniffing and cataloging
his own illusory world.

IMPENDING DEPARTURE

I will be going soon
and this is what I would leave you:
I would leave you my dreams
of a world at peace, where compassion
comes as an expectation not a surprise,
a place where the arrival
of the sun is a source of joy
for with it and the rains,
you, no one, will ever want for food,
centers where all can learn
and knowledge, like the universe
which we inhabit will
continue to expand,
but my dreams may
not be gift enough unless we
turn from those who care
to leave no dreams, taking
only for themselves in this moment,
for who tomorrow will always be
someone else’s problem.

QIANFENG’S “THREE TYPES OF SICKNESS”

 

When you assume the mat
and gaze at the wall,
what is it you see?
If you see nothing,
what do you think?
If you are certain
that you see nothing,
that is what you think.
Do not see, do not think,
and let the cushion
fall away until the moment
you no longer exist,
but let the moment
fall away as well
and there is only
the emptiness of peace.


A reflection on case 17 of the Entangling Vines Koans

THE DAY AFTER*

Today we only speak silently
and know everyone hears.
Today we cry only dry tears,
and others gently wipe our eyes.
Today we mourn what we fear is lost
and together vow to retain it.
Today the sun shines less brightly
and we know the dark cloud
will eventually pass.
Today we hug, each
to all the others, though
we sit alone as a sangha.
This is but a single moment
and we sit with and within it,
breathing in and breathing out.


In this case, a Sangha meeting the day after the shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, but as easily the day after any tragedy of which there are too many.