CAT’S GAME

The cat is sleeping on the lanai, on the plant table among the bromeliads. The cat spends hours sleeping on the lanai when she isn’t walking on tables. There are tables on the lanai she walks on regularly. Walking on tables is forbidden we repeatedly tell her and we know she understands, but the cat reminds us that forbidden in a transitory term when you are a cat. Cats, she says, must go where they want, consequences be damned. And, she adds, I know you will always forgive me.

TOZAN’S DISCLOSING MIND

Many would say
I think therefore I am
and it is only death
that takes away all thought
and so to walk deeply
along the Path, all
that is required
is to truly live the Way
by allowing
the mind to die.

A reflection on case 62 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

ONLY A BUDDHA AND A BUDDHA

We walk forward
to try and see
where we are going,
always wanting
but never seeing
where we have been.
Is it better to
walk backward
seeing clearly
where we will not go
without idea
of a destination.
Look down and decide.

A reflection on Case 92 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)

TRY LOOKING

He loved walking around the small lake. He could make a circuit in just under 40 minutes. If. If he didn’t stop to marvel at or photograph some bird along the shore. The runners flashing by him gave him strange looks, likely because they didn’t see the beauty in this bird’s feathers, how the light played off that bird’s beak. He was a runner once, until his knees gave out. But he can’t remember much of the paths he ran, just moment after moment of what was on the ground in front of him.

ABYSMAL

At the edge of the abyss,
teetering on the precipice
you need not tell us not
to jump, need not tell us
the horrid details that
would befall us if we did,
blood and gore in
infinitesimal detail.

It is more than enough
that you point out to us
the sheer height at which
we stand, the cragged
floor of the canyon
awaiting those who
imagine they can fly.

We will walk away calmly,
never considering flight
into the too well known,
and leave you to ponder
why you are again alone.

MAYOKU THUMPS HIS STAFF

If as you walk
along the way
you come across
a small bird’s nest
fallen to the ground
its eggs intact,
you place it
back on the branch
without a thought.

If as you walk on
and come across
another small bird’s nest
fallen to the ground
its eggs intact
you place it
back on the branch
because it pleases you.

One right thought
and right action,
one wrong thought
and wrong action,
how can you
tell them apart?

A reflection on Case 15 of the Book of Equanimity SHôYôROKU 従容錄

SUNDAY MORNING

Every Sunday morning my parents,
usually my father at mother’s direction
would drive me the four blocks
to attend Sunday school.

I could easily have walked, a long
block and a half by cutting through yards,
but they were afraid of I have
absolutely no idea what.

My friends that weren’t there with me
were probably in church so
it wasn’t like I had anywhere else
I might go, anything else I could do.

I never asked why my parents were
so insistant I attend the school, they
knew I’d be Bar Mitzvahed with or
without the Sunday mornings,

and they were Jews only in the loosest
secular sense, and I was in those
awkward years and the only thing
else that came to mind, fed by

my father’s not so well hidden stash
of Playboy’s was too grim to imagine
and given how little they liked to be
around one another, could be rejected.

JOSHU SEES THROUGH THE OLD WOMAN

When, on the path,
you com across a problem
you cannot solve
you may turn
to your teacher
and ask for
the solution.

Do not expect
an answer
for your teacher
has none, but
if you listen carefully
to his silent breath
in and out,
he will lead you
to the answer.

A reflection on Casew 10 of the Book of Equanimity (SHôYôROKU 従容錄)

ENO DOESN’T UNDERSTAND 正法眼蔵 語十九

You ask me
if I understand
the precepts
and follow them.
You frown when
I say I do not.
Remember well
that the young child
has no understanding
of the precepts
and walks easily
along the Way.


A reflection on case 59 of the Shobogenzo Koans (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)