She sits undisturbed
Shakyamuni by her side.
You can wave at her, she
will pay you no mind.

You cannot grasp her mind
and maintain a hold
on your own, you will grow
deaf from the chatter
but a child can curl
at her feet and she
will stroke his forehead
in perfect Samadhi.

A reflection on Case 42 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate)


The Buddha died peacefully in his sleep last night
in the Emergency Room of Cook County Hospital,
his passing was noted by a surgical resident
passing by the partially drawn curtain
en route to the Doctor’s Lounge after two hours
of meatball surgery on a young man
with multiple gunshot wounds
who bled out anyway despite efforts to save him.
The nurse thought it odd that the old man
was draped in a saffron gown, not the usual green
put on patients who linger past initial triage,
but she tossed it in the hamper with the others
and gathered his few belongings into the plastic bag
which would accompany his body to the morgue.
The orderly found nothing odd in the man
on the gurney wrapped in a fresh, almost white sheet
except that he was remarkably heavy and yet
the gurney flowed across the tile floor as though
it held merely feathers cast off by a bird startled into flight.
The morgue attendant paused for a moment
logging in the new body, looking carefully
at a face, clearly Hispanic, and copying
the name from the wrist tag, Gautama, but then
he shrugged and thought perhaps he was Mexican
for his name was one he never heard in his Puerto Rico.

I met the Buddha this morning
on the corner of Michigan and Ontario
standing against the corner of Saks Fifth Avenue.
He was dressed in an ill-fitting ochre shirt
which seemed somehow lighter against his ebony skin,
in the guise of a blind man, white cane against his hip.
He leaned forward as I approached, proffered the paper
advocating justice, peace and harmony, and said
“you are near to the path”, although his lips never moved.
Most passers-by arched around him, as though he might
step forward and compel them to take his flyer,
many diverting their eyes lest they look into his and find
whatever it was that they feared at the moment.
A few looked for a cup or hat into which to pitch
the coins they had plucked from their pockets, purses,
but there was none to be found and they walked on, puzzled.
I stopped for a moment, dipped my head
and said “thank you master”.
He bowed slowly from the waist, back stiff
and smiled.



 Like Manjushri, stand still

outside the gate

and listen for the call

of Buddha from within.


When he calls, answer

but is Buddha inside

and you without?

There is nothing at all

to see, and the gate

has fallen from its hinges

so answer yourself carefully.






When you assume Lo-Shan’s seat

think of all the words

you might speak.

Put on your robe and sit

until the hall is full.


Open your mouth fully

and speak profoundly

the sole word “farewell.”

Leave yourself in the seat

and retreat to your room

but always with a smile.





Carry a large stone inside

does it lie down

or stand up, and can you

consider carving it into a Buddha

or do not carve it,

if Buddha is inside

will it matter what tools you employ,

have you the strength

to crawl within the stone

and will you stand

or lie down?




S:         What are you doing, for heaven sake?

H:        Isn’t it obvious, I’m searching

for Nirvana, for enlightenment.

S:         You silly fool, it’s right behind you!

H:        (turning suddenly) It is not,

I would certainly see it.

S:         You might think so, but

it is still right behind you!

H:        But why, tell me, can’t I see it?

S:         Because you’re looking for it

always peering outward,

but if you look inward

behind your eyes, you

won’t be able to miss it.