THE CLIMB

Life should be a like a mountain
although truth be told, we
prefer it more like a prairie
or at best a gentle, rolling hill.

There is a challenge to climbing,
hell maintaining a grip halfway
up most mountains, and
there are no maps, no
well worn paths, you just
go up until you cannot
go up higher then you
figure out how to come down.

Down is the hard part,
and you don’t want it to go
quickly for that is a prescription
for the undertaker, and when
you do finally get down, you
want to say I did it all,
there is nothig left
that I still need to do.

THREE WORDS ARE MIND

If you stare
at a large stone
and call it a mountain
the ant will agree with you.
If you gaze on a mountain
and call it a stone
there can be no argument.
If I call that tree
a toothpick
clean your teeth carefully.

A reflection on Case 112 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye) Koans

CHŌSHA’S RETURNING TO MOUNTAINS

When you see a mountain
why must you climb it
with your eyes.
When you hear
a mighty river why
must you ford it
with your ears,
when you feel the earth
why must you touch
it with your feet?
Are you
not the mountain
does the river run
through you, as you
run through it, are
you not the earth?

A reflection on Case 16 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye) koans.

TODAI-JI

The snow capped mountain
stares at the December sky
shredding laughing clouds.
I sit by the fire dreaming
of the slow approach of spring.

There is a moment
when all is only silence
the zendo in stillness.
In that moment I can hear
the entirety of Dharma

The temple bell tolls,
the deer assume their posture,
afternoon zazen,
I walk around Todai-ji
in futile search of Buddha.

A CAPPING VERSE

Snow always seemed so right
capping the summit of Fujiyama,
not dulled by the windows
of the Shinkansen to Osaka.

You barely noticed the rice fields
fanning out from its base
wanted to reach out and touch it
for that is what you do with icons.

Mount Hood had the same effect
but the chill along the Willamette
urged you to retreat quickly back
to the wine bar for a Cabernet.

JOSHU INVESTIGATES AN OLD WOMAN 無門關 三十一

In searching for the path
to the holy mountain
you may ask directions
of the old tea lady
sitting still at its base
and she may point

but placing one foot
ahead of the other
stare closely at the tea leaves
for they, too, know the Way.


A reflection on Case 31 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) Koans

RISHO’S POEM 鐵笛倒吹 三十語

Have you been here –
who will know?
The sun and moon
record your journey.

What you release
gathers joyously around you,
what you cling to
flies off on the slightest breeze,
mountain and cloud
enfold each other.
Will you join them?


A reflection on case 35 of the Iron Flute Koans

TOZAN’S NO GRASS

As the seasons change
I will stand
with one foot
on the highest peak
and the other
at the bottom
of the deepest sea.
But do not ask
that I stand
in a place where
there is no Buddha,
or my feet and legs
shall fall away
into the void.


A reflection on Case 68 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye) Koans