BOKUSHU’S BLOCKHEAD 鐵笛倒吹 語十語

Seeing your teacher on the road
if he says to you
Honorable Sir, what do you do?
You may turn, bow, and act the fool
or pass, eyes averted
without acknowledgement, silent
equally the fool.

Speak in silence,
face, bow without moving
greet him as you do yourself
in the morning mirror
and once past, offer gassho
and the fool is left on the path
dragging your shadow.

A reflection on Case 55 of the Iron Flute Koans

HYAKUJO’S SECOND VISIT 正法眼蔵 語十四

You may come asking questions,
and perhaps the teacher
will answer you with a discourse.
If you go deaf and hear nothing,
if the words flit
like so many mayflies
just as soon gone,
if no word finds purchase
you will have a grasp
the heart of the Dharma.

A reflection on Case 54 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (The True Dharma Eye)

GANTO’S MEAL 鐵笛倒吹 語十四

When you visit a teacher
inquire what he needs
and freely offer him a meal,
but ask nothing in return,
if you pester him
he will greet you
with a blow of the stick.

Come to him silently
with an open heart
and with empty hands
and the Dharma
will be transmitted.

A reflection on case 54 of the Iron Flute Koans

DOGO’S GREATEST DEPTH 鐵笛倒吹 六十六

If you walk into the room
and many are meditating
how will you know which
is the teacher, which the students?

If one sits on a higher platform
will you assume him teacher
and ask the depth of his Zen.
If he comes down to you
and says he has no depth to offer
do not think him a fool.
When you sit at the bottom
of the ocean and look down
the water beneath you is shallow
but the surface of the sea
cannot be seen.

A reflection on Case 66 of the Iron Flute Koans

SEPPO REJECTS A MONK 鐵笛倒吹 七十三

If you find the answer
and rush to tell your teacher
why are you surprised
when he turns away from you,
saying that is yesterday’s answer.

If you want to impress your teacher
paint the answer
on the surface
of the raging river
or accept scorn
with equanimity.


A reflection on case 73 of the Iron Flute Koans

YOKUSAN’S LECTURE 鐵笛倒吹 六十三

If you go to a lecture
and listen carefully
will you become wise?
If you go to a hundred lectures
are you a hundred times wiser?

Where did the teacher find wisdom,
did he sit in endless lectures.
Watch him most carefully
is he not wise with sleeping,
and when eating, when he walks
to the lectern and from it?
Watch in silence
and find his wisdom.


A reflection on case 63 of the Iron Flute Koans

RINZAI’S ENLIGHTENMENT 正法眼蔵 二十七

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)

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WAITING FOR TEACHER

It should come as no surprise, for both
Buddhism and Hinduism grew
out of the same fertile soil.
An older Hindu man said, “do not look
for your Guru. When you are ready,
your Guru will find you.” I knew
the Buddhist equivalent, and its corollary,
when the student is ready, the teacher
disappears. My poetry professor’s yin
couldn’t grasp my yang, and I am
still waiting patiently for my poetic Guru
but despite my growing age, he has yet
to appear, but my spirituality seems
on firm ground, so it may not really matter.
But during my weight, I have found
Oatley, Duval, Rose, Kirk, Cullen,
and though I have met none, and not
a one has found me, the Nirvana they place
in bottles at my disposal, that they willingly
a ship from Australia, makes me wonder
what other possible Guru I might need.

ISAN’S SUMMONS 鐵笛倒吹 三十一

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?

Search instead
for an answer
that has no question.
Who is the novice now?


A reflection on case 31 of the Iron Flute Koans

BLIND SEARCH

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.