When you speak the words
of the Buddha you are lost.
Light is everywhere in silence
but the tongue must hide
in the dark of the mouth.
Buddha’s words are flowers
unfolding in the dawn
by the side of the still pond,
the eyes hear the song
and respond in silent chorus.
A reflection on case 39 of the Mumonkan (The Gateless Gate)
It was draped over the fence,
a bridge for squirrels who
would otherwise would go through the chain.
There’s a sadness to its needles, many
burying themselves in the accumulated snow,
cast off by the great Spruce as extraneous,
an old coneless branch, “that is the reason”
the trunk whispers in the wind
“why I am rid of it, why now
you are free to take up lopping shears
and make of it what you will
or just haul it to the curb, it is of no matter to me.”
There is a cynicism in the old tree’s voice,
as if saying, “Look, I was here before you, long
before any of this,” knowing it will go unchallenged.
But I remind it of the fate of the Austrian Pine
that one stood two dozen yards away
and the Spruce sheds another cone
and lapses into silence.
He’s heard the expression
“the silence is deafening”
and he could never understand it.
Today they studied his eyes,
he staring into the the equipment,
lights changing and flashing,
they sitting, repeating “Blink.”
Soon he understood what it was.
to be “blinded by the light”, and while
he waited for his eyes to undilate,
he imagined blindness, and
understood for the first time
in is life how a deaf person
might crave noise of any sort.
There is probably much that could be said,
a bit less that should be said, but I
I’m not the person to say it, and remain silent.
You are surprised by the silence — it is
not what you expect of me, and that
you find disconcerting and a bit unnerving.
If I asked you what you would have me say,
I doubt you could find anything in particular.
It is more the sound of my voice you expect,
not the words I choose to utter or retain.
It all comes down to words, doesn’t it?
And yet they fail us with such regularity,
we each must wonder why we speak at all.
There is something gentle about her,
a softness, as though she arrived
on a gentle breeze, was present before you
felt her on the back of your neck, a smile
that cast your shadow on the snowy walk.
She was often like this, as though knowing
she might be an antidote to the harshness
of winter, and the losses that piled up
as time eroded our lives.
We were never sure of what we should say,
and so often opted for silence, but she
seem to welcome that too, as though it
marked a change from something
we would never fully understand.
We never knew when we might see her,
auburn coat dappled by the sun
but we welcomed the doe, and she us,
and that was always sufficient.
Christmas is a day
that demands silence
and a certain solitude
that we no longer allow.
Some say you need
your inner child,
isn’t it at all
and maybe more
the problem, since
we all forget that
we celebrate an infant
and all infants know
On the road, you
will meet many.
Greet each with a silence
that speaks loudly.
All of the books
of the dharma
are contained in
a single gassho.
A reflection on Case 36 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) Koans