If your name is called
how do you answer?
If it is called again
and then again, will
your answer always
be exactly the same,
or will you grow angry
and deny even yourself?
Surely your teacher
knows who you are
but knowing yourself,
that is the highest mountain
you will be asked to climb.
A reflection on case 39 of the Iron Flute Koans
“Be in the moment,” he says
repeatedly, imagining this
is what the teacher should say.
I want to tell him there is
no other possible moment
I could be in, but having to try
to find the words
instantly takes me out of this
and every other possible moment.
It is said that when the student
is ready, the teacher will appear.
I now seriously hope
the inverse is true, so I can
return to simply being in the moment
free of seeking what I know
cannot be found.
The search will be endless
the answer at once obvious
and incapable of being found.
You seek direction to it,
certain the right teacher
holds the key
to the critical gate,
inside which all of the Dharma
sits waiting for you.
If the teacher asks you
how many people live
in a distant city you
have never visited,
how will you respond.
The answer is the key and you
already hold it in hand.
A reflection on Case 5 of the Book of Equanimity
The Buddha said
when the student is ready
the teacher appears.
My Rabbi used to say
when you are ready
the Lord will appear.
But you may not recognize
God, that’s okay.
Both Buddha and my Rabbi
might have said
that when you are ready
you will appear
and it is then
you will no longer
If you ask your question
you will find an answer
but ask another and the stick
will respond each time.
If you seek another teacher
will you change the question
or the answer, and does it matter.
Take up the stick, who
will you strike, your teacher
or yourself, and is there
any real difference?
A reflection on Case 27 of the Shobogenzo – Dogen’s True Dharma Eye
If you truly believe that you
will soon enough meet your teacher
you must gather together all
of your questions concerning the Dharma.
Carry them with you at all times
in a satchel thrown over your shoulder,
for you will be allowed
only a single meeting with the master.
When you meet the master, pull out
all of your questions for each
is a stick with which you will be hit.
When you meet the master, throw
your questions into the windy sky
and gather the answers
like leaves scattered at your feet.
A reflection on case 11 of the Book of Equanimity (Shōyōroku 從容錄)
I spent much of yesterday
trying to draw perfect enso.
You would think it easy to draw
the simple circle, one easy stroke,
but my efforts suggest otherwise.
It is my Western mind, my teacher
once suggested, always linear, this
moment next to that, and then
the one that must naturally follow.
If not a straight line, a line nonetheless.
I tried to tell him that was not it,
I am not as linear as he imagines,
but all he said was “mu,” rang
his bell and called for the next student.
Anyway, he said as I departed, “keep trying,
giving up your monkey mind can occur
in that moment, in every moment,”
and I want to believe him, certainly,
but my ill drawn circle calls him a liar.