En route to Buddhism, I must admit
I stopped at numerous philosophical
way-stations, none quite as equipped as I
would desire and so I moved on.
Buddhism was my solution, no demands
other than I be present, knowing
I had no real choice but to do so,
all in the recognition of that fact.
I did consider other faiths and -isms,
and each but one had something
to beckon me, but each was incomplete
and I was looking for a full solution.
The easiest to reject was nihilism,
for while it was the simplest to adopt,
asking, no demanding, nothing from me,
assuring me all was nothing in the end,
I knew it would fail me in the most
essential way, for I discovered there
were no great nihilist poets, how do you
write when there is nothing real to say?
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Standing outside the Temple
there is much to see.
Enter the Temple zendo
prostrate three times before
the golden Buddha
what do you see?
Can you see nothing?
Outside the Temple, Buddha
inside the Temple, Buddha
but only when you see nothing.
Outside the mind, nothing,
inside the mind, nothing.
A reflection on case 51 of the Iron Flute Koans.
This morning I plucked
a thread of silence
from the dawn, watched,
carefully by a cardinal
who knew not to break
the purity of the moment.
I do this as often as I can
sometimes grabbing one
from the moon, as it sits
overhead, holding out
its promise of quietude
as people retreat into homes.
From these threads
I have begun to weave
a shawl, which, when done
I will drape over my shoulders
as I sit on the zafu
and welcome nothingness
into a space I create
from everything around me.
We listen carefully
certain we can hear it
if and when it appears.
We hear nothing, but we
are used to not hearing,
but faith is a far more patient
than it is given credit for
and we have nothing to do
in any event, other than
to abide an event
we cannot predict
is a skill we have refined
since we were evicted
from the garden, apple in hand.
What can you teach
in not mind
find no thing.
A reflection on Case 27 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate)
I do some
of my best thinking
when I think
of nothing at all.
Did you know
that if not
for the Babylonians
would be cubes.
In fact they were
It’s like sex
it’s best when
you are celibate.
But then again
are no longer
and taro is best
First appeared in the May 2019 Issue of The Broadkill Review
Nothing unexpected happened today.
That, in itself, was entirely unexpected.
On this and certain other days,
you have to expect the unexpected.
When that doesn’t happen you are left
to ponder why what was logically expected
went so unexpectedly wrong.
Nothing unexpected should happen tomorrow.
At least anything unexpected happening
would be a truly unexpected event.
But as our parents always told us,
we should always expect the unexpected.
Or so was their perpetual expectation.
This morning absolutely nothing happened. The newswires were silent, or repeated old stories. The sports wires had nothing of note to say, save repeating yesterday’s scores. Even the gossip news was absent, as though a Saturday night passed without embarrassment. I did not mind the quiet, the almost silence, able to listen to the Mockingbird’s song. But I did wonder how the wrecking ball in Washington so badly overslept.
She stares at you, unwavering.
You find this strange, wanting to see
something more in her looks,
but you get nothing from her,
as you have gotten nothing
from so many others before her.
You know men are as capable
of such stares as she, but you
don’t tend to see them, your own
gender blindness perhaps, or just
that men are less interesting
and more seldom seen
in these surroundings, usually
standing, posing, looking away.
You want to know what she
is thinking in this moment, what
she sees in your face, transfixed,
but the artist didn’t reveal that,
and so she will stare as well
at the next viewer throughout
the gallery’s open hours.
If you go walking one day
and meet a person you think
may be the Buddha, ask him
what is the heart of all of the sutras.
If he answers you with Dharma
will you be certain this person
is not the Buddha?
If, on the other hand,
he says nothing at all,
and merely holds up a mirror,
will you be certain you
are seeing the Buddha?
Decide before he crosses
the river and is gone from sight.
A reflection on Case 1 of Bring Me the Rhinoceros (Koans)