THE LAST TIME

The last time we spoke
you asked me when the end was coming.
I didn’t have a good answer for you,
wasn’t even quite sure what you meant
by the question, the end of what? Of time,
of your life or mine, or merely the end
of a conversation we had been
carrying on for as long
as either of us could remember.
That was some time ago
and I have thought about
your question quite frequently
and seeing you today,
you walking by me
without acknowledging me,
I realize the answer
should have been
and most certainly now is
that the end came
the moment you
started your question.

GOING AND RETURNING 鐵笛倒吹 三十八

 

Only the fool
will wander
from teacher to teacher
seeking answers.
They will offer only questions.

The wise one returns
to the question again
and again for she may find
many answers within,
just as the apple tree
bears many ripe fruit
if carefully tended,
each with the seeds
of a new tree.
Pick carefully.


A reflection on case 38 of the Iron Flute Koans

ANGUO’S “THE MASTER’S FLESH IS STILL WARM”

If you are asked “who are you?”
how will you reply, and who
is the person asking the question?
If you answer, you are blind
if you say nothing you speak loudly.
The sage will tell you
that there is no you and if
you doubt him he will hold up
a mirror and ask what you see.
If you answer “I see myself”
he will laugh because no one
can see themselves unless
they see everyone, for you
are both the reader
and the writer
of these poor words.


A reflection on case 131 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye)

INTO THE DESERT

His is six and deeply confused,
and asks questions to end that state.
He wants to know if Adam and Eve
had two sons, and one killed the other,
where did all of the people come from?
Ask your father seems and easy answer,
but one he cannot accept, too easy
for a mind that needs timely response.
I stumble around, try to deflect,
and finally admit I don’t know but
that some stories cannot be taken literally.
He knows what that word means, and it
is a sufficient explanation for now.
In a week we’ll have the conversation
once again, this time not Adam, not Eve,
but Shem, Ham and Japheth, and how
the three sons of Noah repopulated
the entire planet, and I will once again
admit to my sad lack of knowledge,
and silently curse the Religious School
for creating the abyss into which
my grandson is all to pleased to lead me.

THIS WAY?!

The young man asked the old Buddhist monk,
“If there are 64,000 gates, how will
I know through which I should enter.”
The monk paused, considered
the question, then smiled broadly.
“Why would you want to enter any gate?”
the monk said with a wink.
The young man replied, “because they
are the gates that lead to the dharma,
and that will lead to enlightenment,
so of course I want to enter the right one!”
“That is your mistake,” the monk
gently added, for there is no right gate,
they are all right gates, but your problem
is you want to go in through the gate,
but you must go out from where you are,
for that is how you enter the dharma.”

RUYGE’S ULTIMATE STAGE鐵笛倒吹 二十八

 

If you answer the question
I will ask you another
each more difficult.

If you enter a room
and catalog its contents
there will always be a door
leading to yet another room,
another inventory to be taken
to determine what is there
and what is missing.

It is only when you enter
an empty room,
that you will find all things.


A reflection on case 28 of the Iron Flute Koans