GOING AND RETURNING 鐵笛倒吹 三十八

 

Only the fool
will wander
from teacher to teacher
seeking answers.
They will offer only questions.

The wise one returns
to the question again
and again for she may find
many answers within,
just as the apple tree
bears many ripe fruit
if carefully tended,
each with the seeds
of a new tree.
Pick carefully.


A reflection on case 38 of the Iron Flute Koans

SEPPO’S TURNING THE WHEEL 正法眼蔵 三十八

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 the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye)

SEPPO’S WOODEN BALL 鐵笛倒吹 八十九

The teacher rolls
a wooden ball
past the students seated
around his feet.
Will you pick it up
and return it to him?

The teacher rolls
a wooden ball
past the students seated
around his feet.
I sit still
and let it pass.

Which of us
deserves the stick,
which a silent smile.
Buddha is killed
by a student
along the road
as both are enlightened.


A reflection on Case 89 of The Iron Flute koans.

NOTHING, AND LESS

The hardest thing, he said
to his teacher, both sitting
on their mats, is not
not thinking, but what to do
when the thoughts come anyway.
I can’t seem to get rid of them
no matter how hard I try.”
“Do not try to do anything,”
the Sensei said, “for anything
you do introduces another thought,
and soon enough you have an onion
of thoughts to peel, layer by layer.
When a thought comes, look at it
with the mind’s eye, say, with
the mind’s voice, look a thought,
and do nothing more, and before
you know it the thought
will be gone and the next
in line will enter your mind.”

GYOZAN DRAWS A LINE 鐵笛倒吹 八十三

At the end
of a long day of discourse
the teacher may ask the student
what have you learned.
How should the student respond.

The student may raise a finger
and trace a line
in the air of a fading day.
Which, I ask you
is the teacher
and which
is the student?


A reflection on Case 83 of The Iron Flute

 

PRACTICE

It always seems odd that the teacher
asks me to think about my practice
when the heart of my practice is learning
how not to always think about things.
But the heart of practice is exactly
these oddities, for nothing is exact.
In the fourth vow I strive to attain
the great way of Buddha, but I know,
as the Heart Sutra reminds me, that
there is “not even wisdom to attain,
attainment, too, is emptiness.”
And so I sit in confusion each day,
and bits of delusion fall away,
like the hair on my ever balding scalp.

NANQUAN’S SICKLE

If you ask the teacher
where you can find the key
to enlightenment, what
do you do when the teacher
stares back at you in silence.

If the teacher asks you
where he can find the key
to enlightenment, do you
tell him that he possesses it,
and if you do, will he
simply stare back in silence.

Stop and consider,
have you both answered correctly,
or is the silence the key?


A reflection on case 164 of The True Dharma Eye (Shobogenzo)