It is incredibly difficult
to be a truly holy man, it isn’t
enough to inspire peace
with your words and presence,
you had better walk on water,
turn water into wine, heal
with the touch of a single finger.
You can’t simply stand up
for justice at the risk
of your own life and limb,
you have to wander around
a desert, carry tablets
down the side of a mountain.
You cannot be compassion,
you have to forsake everything
and be always available
for questions that have no answers.
It’s a real problem, since we
all seek to be holy, but no one
wants to do the hard work of it.

THREE CALLS 鐵笛倒吹 三十九

If your name is called
how do you answer?
If it is called again
and then again, will
your answer always
be exactly the same,
or will you grow angry
and deny even yourself?

Surely your teacher
knows who you are
but knowing yourself,
that is the highest mountain
you will be asked to climb.

A reflection on case 39 of the Iron Flute Koans


Standing at the foot
of the mountain,
what side do you see.
Standing atop the mountain,
what side do you not see.
Close your eyes
and you will see
that the mountain
has no sides.
Close your eyes
and you will find
that there is
no mountain.

A reflection on Case 26 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)


The hermit lives
in the shadow
of the great mountain
listening to the symphony
of the bluebird
and the wild Rose
engulfed by the sky,
the meandering stream
his constant companion.

I live in a city
in a sea of city dwellers
each of us prisoners
marching from cell
to cell, with passing nods
we hear only solitude
and are blind
to the ever shifting clouds.

Kuan Yin sits
in her temple
and whispers to all
who will stop and listen
that you cannot offer
compassion for others
until you granted it
to yourself.