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)

SEPPO’S TURNING THE WHEEL

The wisest of men
when asked at what time
it is best to pursue the Way
will answer when a thousand stars
have made their presence known.
The wisest student will say
when cleaning myself
by bathing in the mud.
This will become clear
when the frog
consumes the dragon.


A reflection on Case 38 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo

HARYO’S SECRET TRANSMISSION


When you are puzzled by
the words of old masters
you may seek answers
from your teachers.
Will this one or that one know?

The answer cannot come
from the tongue of your teacher,
a shelved book cannot speak
words have no magic.
But all is not lost
for the question
always contains its answer
when the searching stops.


A reflection on Case 22 of the Iron Flute Koans

UMMON’S FAMILY TRADITION 鐵笛倒吹 七十一

The greatest teacher
is one who offers nothing
and shouts it silently
once the student has departed.

You cannot know
what the blind man sees
for you cannot see
through his eyes
and the deaf woman
may hear a symphony
in a flower.

When asked what is
your practice
do you answer: life?


A reflection on case 71 of the Iron Flute Koans

PROBLEM

Stuck in traffic yet again
my mind wanders, unimpinged
by the need to pay careful attention
to the car on front also frozen in place.
I am back in school listening carefully
as the teacher explains the problem:
“You are at point B and I am at point A.
The points are 100 miles apart and we
each leave for the other point
at exactly the same time, 10:00 A.M., you
driving at a constant 40 mile per hour,
I at a constant 30 miles per hour.
At exactly what time will we
be able to wave to one another?”
The car in front begins to move,
ending my revery, so I cannot
tell the teacher that we’ll never
wave to each other because
I am far too young to drive.

TOKUSAN SPEAKS OF TEACHERS 鐵笛倒吹 二十

Why do you seek old Masters,
they have no special gift.
Your lineage is
the surface of the sea
never still, all waves.
Your teacher has no answers,
his silence instructs
close your ears and listen,
is that his breath you hear
or only your own?
In is out, out is in
depending on where you sit.


A reflection on case 20 of the Iron Flute Koans.