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?
for an answer
that has no question.
Who is the novice now?
A reflection on case 31 of the Iron Flute Koans
She wants to know where to look
and thinks it must be either without or within,
she assumes a Christian looks outward,
a Buddhist within, and every other faith
either aligns with one or plumbs the middle.
She is searching for the answer
to the inevitable question, the question
that cannot be answered.
She asks where you find a teacher,
for teachers have answers.
I want to tell her there is no answer
and every answer is correct
and every answer is incorrect
and the only way to look is
to close your eyes, to stop looking
to stop seeking, and for once,
just once, to simply be.
She no doubt thinks me crazy
as she walks away continuing her search
for that which cannot be found.
because she is that and that
is everywhere and everything
she imagines she senses.
A wise Buddhist teacher
once told me that anything you do,
if you do it mindfully, can be
a form of meditation, and I have
taken this into my practice,
albeit with mixed success, but that
is one reason they call it practice.
Walking silently, following
your breath in and out, aware
of your feet, the earth, the sky
is definitely meditative.
Chopping onions, carefully drawing
the knife thorough the layers
creating neatly incised bits
is certainly meditative.
Sitting by a pond watching
the sun slowly set it ablaze
as the breeze ruffles the surface
is absolutely meditative.
But folding laundry, no matter
how mindfully I approach the task
always and quickly morphs into
a mindless search for the missing sock.
You claim to seek sanctity –
will you know it
if you find it along the way?
What if it sneaks up on you
when you are lost in reverie,
what if it reaches you
in a strike of the teacher’s stick,
will you jump in fear
and frighten it away,
or sit with it
in endless zazen?
A reflection on case 37 of the Iron Flute Koans
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.
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.
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)