FINALS

It was approaching the end
of another too long semester
and the sign-up sheet for office hours
was getting fuller with names
I didn’t recognize, or did and not
in a way that would please the student.
It was always like this, the two weeks
after it was too late to do anything,
when the pleading would begin.
I remember being in that position
almost fifty years ago, making my
supplication for relief of some kind
to a professor I had ignored all term,
and he, genial and gentle, taking out
pictures of the rice paddies
and saying to me, you stand
a far better chance in the Air Force.
There are no wars now that I can offer,
and so I tell them the bad news,
but add that Starbucks can
be a career of sorts, with benefits.


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ISAN’S I HAVE EXHAUSTED MYSELF 正法眼蔵 四十四

Approach the master
sitting on his seat.
The fool will seek answers
having slept through the lesson
but the wise student will bow
silently and retreat
having learned all there is
and knowing absolutely nothing.


A reflection on case 44 of Dogen’s True Dharma Eye Koans

WAITING FOR TEACHER

It should come as no surprise, for both
Buddhism and Hinduism grew
out of the same fertile soil.
An older Hindu man said, “do not look
for your Guru. When you are ready,
your Guru will find you.” I knew
the Buddhist equivalent, and its corollary,
when the student is ready, the teacher
disappears. My poetry professor’s yin
couldn’t grasp my yang, and I am
still waiting patiently for my poetic Guru
but despite my growing age, he has yet
to appear, but my spirituality seems
on firm ground, so it may not really matter.
But during my weight, I have found
Oatley, Duval, Rose, Kirk, Cullen,
and though I have met none, and not
a one has found me, the Nirvana they place
in bottles at my disposal, that they willingly
a ship from Australia, makes me wonder
what other possible Guru I might need.

ISAN’S SUMMONS 鐵笛倒吹 三十一

When the master
calls for a novice
do you answer?
When the inkin
bell is struck
do you begin
or end zazen?
As you follow your breath
when do you leave
your body, and who
returns when you next inhale?

Search instead
for an answer
that has no question.
Who is the novice now?


A reflection on case 31 of the Iron Flute Koans

ISAN’S I HAVE EXHAUSTED MYSELF 正法眼蔵 四十四

Approach the master
sitting on his seat.
The fool will seek answers
having slept through the lesson
but the wise student will bow
silently and retreat
having learned all there is
and knowing absolutely nothing.


A reflection on Case 44 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (The True Dharma Mind)

SANSHU’S BLINDNESS 正法眼蔵 四十

If you come forward
and ask no question
the master will
give you an answer,
but if you approach
with a question,
the master will
strike you with the stick.
It is only when
your eyes are blinded
that you can take up
the master’s staff
and all is clearly seen.

I’M LOOKING, SHOW YOURSELF

I’ve been searching for a teacher
for such a long time but despite
every effort, the goal eludes me

They say that when the student is ready
the teacher appears, but i know
in my heart I am truly ready.

I looked in all of the likely
and a number of unlikely places,
to the point i now look everywhere.

I saw man stoop to pet a random dog
this morning and wondered, hoped, he
could be the teacher i am seeking

but then he attached the leash
and pulled the reluctant dog
into the waiting van, inpatient.

I thought that the barista
in my favorite coffee shop
might be the one, her smile

always gentle, inviting, and
clearly a yogini, but she had
too much goth skin art for my needs.

I’ll continue the search for I know
the teacher is there if only I wouldn’t run
into mirrors whenever I was getting close.

ETUDE

Today was perfectly ordinary
which is how I would have my days
and how they so seldom agreed to be.
I did pause and look at the Yamaha keyboard
and remembered that when the Court
of the Empress Theresa rejected Mozart,
he attended the symphonies of Haydn
as a form of consolation.
That reminds me that I, once,
played the piano not particularly well,
but with what my teacher said
was a great depth of feeling.
Haydn, who I love to this day,
had nothing to do with my quitting,
it was Handel and his Largo
from his opera Xerxes that was
my undoing, a burden to large
for my smallish hands to bear.
I did find a recording of the Largo
and listening, gazed at my hands,
and for a moment I wondered
if they might just have finally
grown sufficiently large.

ROSO FACES THE WALL

Come before the Master.
If he turns from you
and faces the wall
he honors you.
If the Master enters your room
and you turn to the wall
you will deserve his stick.

As you cannot sit
in the Master’s seat
he may not sit in yours,
but all seats are one seat,
no wall is all walls
and neither of you
should give a damn.


A reflection on Case 56 of the Iron Flute Koans

DESHAN’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 The True Dharma Eye (Shobogenzo)