He knew, the minute he stepped off, that it wasn’t going to end well. He should have realized it two steps earlier, but hindsight was of little use to him now. He knew he had to keep looking up, to focus on the sky. He knew he had to hope it would be like entering a black hole, where the end is certain but time slows and almost seems to stop. And, he remembered, the laws of physics break down inside the event horizon. What he knew he could not do was look down and see the ground rushing up at him. Even when you are 11, walking off the garage roof was not a really bright thing to do, the dare by your friends notwithstanding.
It is simply a matter
Of putting one foot
In front of the other
It all follows from that.
But which foot goes first,
He asked, I’d hate
To get off on the wrong one?
I know I should find a river
and just sit on its banks
and stare at the water flowing
I don’t have to step in it once
to know I couldn’t step in twice
if I wanted, so that problem’s solved.
And with dry feet, I can walk
along its banks with a bit more
jaunt in my step, which should
please the river, for I know that
it has long been watching me
as I frequently visit, and I would
like to think we are old friends,
at least that is what the lake
said during my last visit there.
Ummon might say
a pile of cow dung
in the road – this
may be the Buddha.
Will you step in
or walk around?
A reflection on case 21 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate)
All singularities are naked
and it is only
when we clothe them
that they crumble away.
You step into this river only once
but it is this water
which will wet your feet
when you step in
the next and the next.
A reflection on Case 91 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)
Standing on the edge of the precipice
with your eyes closed, what will you do?
If I turn you around, where is the edge
and where is the land from which you approached?
If I say you must take a step, do you
gently place your toe out and seek
to feel the earth, seek to know where air is,
or do you step out boldly, certain
that you will not fall into the abyss?
From your position on the mat,
the mind is an abyss is all around you,
so you may step out of your thoughts
without care, for all four gates
are open to the ungrasping mind.
And you just might meet Chao Chou
on the path on which you choose to tread.
A reflection on case 9 of the Hekiganroku (The Blue Cliff Record)