ISAN’S EXPLORING SPIRITUAL POWERS

If you must
follow the Way, you
may read the Dharma
for hours on end
or you may brew
a pot of tea
for your teacher, or
bring your student
a towel and basin.
Which two steps
along the way
will you take?

A reflection on Case 61 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

HOFUKO’S POINT OF ATTAINMENT

You may ask many things
of any teacher you meet
but the wisest of them
will only offer you
unending questions.
When you look to them
to point you to the Way
they are doomed to failure
for your feet obscure
the Way, and it is only
by looking within
and down through your legs
and feet and toes
that you can see the way

A reflection on Case 63 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

UMMON’S MOUNT SUMERU

When you ask your teacher
what happens when you
stop thinking, allow
no new thoughts
what you expect him
to tell you?

The dead have no thoughts
but that is not the door
to Nirvana.

But if thoughts abandon you
without your effort, without
being asked to do so,
then the door you seek
will open before you.

A reflection on case 19 of the Book of Equanimity 従容錄, Shōyōroku

HOGAN’S HAIR’S-BREADTH

What is it you are looking for,
what you expect to find
and how will you know
if you find it?

You expected your teacher
to present it to you?

What would you do with it
if you did receive it?

You must first see that you
are both the searcher
and the teacher and
you already have
what you are searching for,
for you find things when
you stop looking for them.

A reflection on Case 17 of the Book of Equanimity (SHôYôROKU 従容錄)

JOSHU SEES THROUGH THE OLD WOMAN

When, on the path,
you com across a problem
you cannot solve
you may turn
to your teacher
and ask for
the solution.

Do not expect
an answer
for your teacher
has none, but
if you listen carefully
to his silent breath
in and out,
he will lead you
to the answer.

A reflection on Casew 10 of the Book of Equanimity (SHôYôROKU 従容錄)

The World-Honored One’s Intimate Speech 正法眼蔵 三十四

The wise one delivers
most knowledge
without opening his mouth.
The sagacious student
does not hide the wisdom
he inherits but offers it
in utter silence.
What is it
you wished to say
for I am ready
not to listen.

A reflection on Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans Case 34 (True Dharma Eye)

TOKUSANS’S THIRTY BLOWS 正法眼蔵 三十一

If I come before the teacher
he will give me thirty blows.
If I do not come before the teacher
he will give me thirty blows.
It is the same for everyone,
his arms never grow tired
but if I never see my teacher,
I give him thirty blows
and my arms are suddenly heavy.

A reflection on Case 31 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

THE FROG

I can still smell the formaldahyde,
see the frog pithed to the board
as I went about dissecting it,
taking copious notes on what
I found, identifying organs,
both of us hidden in a corner
of our fourth grade classroom
so the other students didn’t
feel like they had to vomit.

This Yom Kippur, even though
I no longer practice the faith
of my youth and early adulthood
I shall seek the forgiveness
of the frog who thought
he was giving his life
in the early training of a doctor,
not one who ended up practicing law,
and know he will probably
forgive me for even amphibians
have compassion for us,
despite our obvious shortcomings.

XIANGYAN’S GREAT ENLIGHTENMENT

Tell me, the master said
what did you know
of the world
before you first
had words.
If this perplexes you
ask the infant, newborn
in his tears and smiles
all of Dharma
is laid out
before you.

A reflection on Case 10 of the Shobogenzo Koans (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)

WHEN WE STOPPED

It was probably that moment
just after we sat down
at our new, huge or so
they seemed, desks
and the large person
in the front of the room
smiled at us and said
“I will teach you all
that you need to learn
this year so pay attention.”

Perhaps we stopped
thinking the year before
during kindergarten,
but I do think the first
day of first grade
truly marked the moment
of our mental subjugation.