WHERE WISDOM CANNOT REACH 正法眼蔵 語十七

The wealthy man
has an ornate cup,
the working man
a very simple one.
The poor farmer,
nurturing the tea plants,
has no cup and all,
but for each of them
the tea is the same.
What is it
that you taste?


A reflection on Case 57 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dhama Eye)

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JOSHU INVESTIGATES AN OLD WOMAN 無門關 三十一

In searching for the path
to the holy mountain
you may ask directions
of the old tea lady
sitting still at its base
and she may point

but placing one foot
ahead of the other
stare closely at the tea leaves
for they, too, know the Way.


A reflection on Case 31 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) Koans

THE WORLD HONORED ONE ASCENDS

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.

AWAKENING

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.

PARSINGS

The old monk sits
cross legged
on a grass mat,
a faint smile
dances across his lips.
He invites me to sit,
our meeting, he says,
is notable.

I sit, legs
folded as best
I can, and
begin to ask
but he silences me,
“First tea.” 
He sets the cups
down on the hardpack
dirt floor, there
is no table.

He asks me
to listen to
the conversation
 of passing birds,
to hear the silence
of the sun.
I ask him
to tell me
how I can find

enlightenment,
but he

is not able.