Out the plane window
a lake or a sea of clouds
Why does it matter?
during an eye blink
the butterfly spreads its wings
Cats curl in furred sleep
the moon crawls across the sky
a monk awakens
leaves cling to the trees
the rivers flow more slowly
the stone is unmoved
A man may own
may volumes of great knowledge
and never have time to read.
An illiterate may take such books
and fashion a stool
on which to sit in meditation.
Which of these is truly wise
which the greatest fool.
Wipe your mouth
with this page
at the conclusion
of the meal.
A reflection on Case 75 of the Iron Flute.
They sat on the bench in the park
looking out on the small lake,
two ducks swimming slowly in circles.
“Dawn is the most beautiful moment
of the day, the sun chasing the moon
and setting the sky ablaze,
orange, crimson, flame, there
is simply nothing,” he said,
“in the world quite like it.”
“It is that, but it pales compared
to the beauty of dusk
and the setting sun retreating,
the clouds painted by the master
in orchid, fuchsia, and a depth
of pink only the sun and clouds know,”
she replied, “and each day is different.
An old monk walking by bowed,
nodded and softly said, “but look
to the sky on a cloudless night,
see the moon reflect all the sun
has to offer, all the colors
in the spectrum are there if you
only close your eyes and see them.”
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?
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 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.”
The old monk asked the young man
why he seemed so worried.
“Because, sensei, you are old and will die soon!”
“Why does that worry you?”
“Because, like everyone, I fear death.”
“Not everyone, certainly, I do not fear death.”
“How can you not fear death?”
“There is nothing to fear, I fear life.”
“Why do you fear life? This is hard.”
“No, this is easy, dying is hard
because dying is just the end of living.”
“So master, should I fear life?”
“Life is this moment and the next
and next until there is no next.”
And remember, you didn’t fear being born.”
The old monk, leaning on his cane
smiled at the man prostrating himself
before the great Buddha repeatedly.
The monk gently interrupted the man,
“what is it you hope to achieve
by all of these prostrations, you clearly
are seeking something, you clearly
have not found what you are seeking.”
“I am seeking the wisdom that only
the great Buddha can provide,”
the man said, looking into the eyes
of the old monk, who only smiled.
The monk reached within his robe,
pulled out a mirror and held it
in front of the man, who stared
deeply into it, smiled and walked away.
The monk prostrated himself three times
to the great Golden Buddha, who smiled.
A reflection on Case 11 of the Shobogenzo