When the cup is half full
what more can be added?
In the garden, the moon
can exist in a full cup
or one only half full.
It is the empty cup
that can hold
infinite in capacity.
A reflection on Case 1 of the Shasekishu (Sand and Pebbles)
The student may comment,
“Hillel was asked to sum up all
of the teaching while standing
on one foot and did so.”
If this student asks
the teacher to provide
the essential nature of Dharma
in one sitting, what
choice does the teacher have
but to rise and leave the room.
The teacher may comment,
“Can you see the treasure
I have left for you,
and what will you do with it?”
Hillel, hearing this,
bows to the teacher
and both smile over a cup of tea.
He could not hope to remember
how he got there, he had wandered
in search of nothing in particular,
save dinner as his hunger grew,
but in Shinjuku you needn’t read
Japanese since the menus sat
molded in plastic in the window
of even the smallest restaurants.
He began to look more intently
when he saw the path off the street,
a calico cat beckoning him,
so he entered, knew instantly
he was at a small Buddhist temple,
and bowed to the statue of Kannon
hidden amid the flock of cranes.
He felt the touch of the young monk,
followed him into the small zendo,
sat seiza at the monk’s nodding,
and as evening washed over them both,
time and hunger ceased to matter.
Interminably later, over a cup of tea,
the monk said in broken English, “you
carry me with you to home place,” pointing
to his heart, “and I keep you in Japan,”
repeating the gesture, and as he
regained his bearings, saw
the Metropolitan Center which
was his pole star for the hotel
he walked lightly back, forgetting
he hadn’t eaten since breakfast.
The old monk sits
on a grass mat,
a faint smile
dances across his lips.
He invites me to sit,
our meeting, he says,
I sit, legs
folded as best
I can, and
begin to ask
but he silences me,
He sets the cups
down on the hardpack
dirt floor, there
is no table.
He asks me
to listen to
of passing birds,
to hear the silence
of the sun.
I ask him
to tell me
how I can find
is not able.