UMMON’S TWO SICKNESSES

 

If you truly believe that you
will soon enough meet your teacher
you must gather together all
of your questions concerning the Dharma.
Carry them with you at all times
in a satchel thrown over your shoulder,
for you will be allowed
only a single meeting with the master.
When you meet the master, pull out
all of your questions for each
is a stick with which you will be hit.
When you meet the master, throw
your questions into the windy sky
and gather the answers
like leaves scattered at your feet.


A reflection on case 11 of the Book of Equanimity (Shōyōroku 從容錄)

THE TRICKSTER RESPONDS

The man liked to cry out into the night,
asking questions for which he knew
there could be no answers, or if
there were, they would be things
he would never wish to hear.
The coyotes in the hills would listen
to his pleas, his entreaties, his
moaning, and they would remember
the spirits of the old ones gone,
and yet back in their now-animal forms.
One night a trickster sat on the mesa,
and when the man began his questions,
the trickster, orange eyes aflame
spoke clearly, loudly, telling the man
that the answer to each of his questions
lay within himself, and he need only
look there, if he had the courage,
which the coyote knew, he lacked.

HYAKUJO’S SECOND VISIT 正法眼蔵 語十四

You may come asking questions,
and perhaps the teacher
will answer you with a discourse.
If you go deaf and hear nothing,
if the words flit
like so many mayflies
just as soon gone,
if no word finds purchase,
you will have grasped
the heart of the Dharma.


A reflection on case 54 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)

PARSINGS

The old monk sits
cross legged
on a grass mat,
a faint smile
dances across his lips.
He invites me to sit,
our meeting, he says,
is notable.

I sit, legs
folded as best
I can, and
begin to ask
but he silences me,
“First tea.” 
He sets the cups
down on the hardpack
dirt floor, there
is no table.

He asks me
to listen to
the conversation
 of passing birds,
to hear the silence
of the sun.
I ask him
to tell me
how I can find

enlightenment,
but he

is not able.