Tozan’s Sixty Blows 無門關 十語

When you arrive
only questions, each
a finely honed blade.

Will you parry and dance
avoiding the wounding tip
and perhaps taste the sword

or risk all and counter-
thrust, attack from
ten directions
and willingly receive
sixty blows from the stick
standing in one place.

A reflection on Case 15 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) Koans

WASH YOUR BOWL 無門關 七

There is no stick, no shout
we go uninstructed
on a full stomach.

We do not see water
in the midst of an ocean.

We are given a sink
full of breakfast bowls, plates,
cups and spoons.

Handlessly we perform
our task and sit
to lunch with Joshu.

A reflection on Case 4 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate Koans)

NANSEN CUTS THE CAT 無門關 十四

Thirty blows of the stick
if right, thirty blows
if wrong, or Namsen’s sword
and a severed cat

a half to each
a whole to none

Be thankful you
didn’t argue about a man
for with a shoe
on the head, your feet
may touch the sky.

A reflection on Case 14 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate Koans)

TOKUSAN’S ULTIMATE TEACHING 鐵笛倒吹 七十九

If the student asks the teacher
for greater knowledge
he will be met
with a blow from the stick.
If he asks again
the teacher will respond
I have nothing to give you.

Will you recognize
the greatest gift
when it is offered to you
or will you continue
to pursue its shadow.

A reflection on Case 79 of the Iron Flute koans.

KYOSEI’S STICK 鐵笛倒吹 六十四

If Kyosei asks
from where I have come
how will I answer him?
If he asks where
my teacher lives
what will I tell him?

Such a fool I am
to wander from there to here
from here to another place
seeking a path
on which I
am always standing still.
Thirty blows is
the least I deserve.
But Kyosei withdraws
the stick.

A reflection on Case 64 of the Iron Flute Koans

GICHU PREACHES 鐵笛倒吹 語十

If called before the Master
will you walk from east to west
to the Master’s Smile, or 
west to east, to a sudden frown.
Will you approach the Master
bowing with words of gratitude
only to receive a blow of the stick
or seeking instruction in your failure
to an equal blow of the stick.

Ponder this carefully:
what is the answer?
I leave you the stick
to reach a conclusion.

A reflection on Case 50 of the Iron Flute Koans

GANTO’S MEAL 鐵笛倒吹 語十四

When you visit a teacher
inquire what he needs
and freely offer him a meal,
but ask nothing in return,
if you pester him
he will greet you
with a blow of the stick.

Come to him silently
with an open heart
and with empty hands
and the Dharma
will be transmitted.

A reflection on case 54 of the Iron Flute Koans

SEPPO SEES HIS NATURE 鐵笛倒吹 三十四

Do not imagine yourself
Shravaka or Boddhisatva
nor ask the Master
if his reflection is
the fullest moon or bright sun.

Both stick and slap
awaken you
and clear your sight.

The Master’s eyes
are blind to you
and your reflection
can only be seen
by looking within.

A reflection on case 34 of the Iron Flute Koans.