JOSHU’S DWELLING 鐵笛倒吹 七十

 

If a poor man offers you
the finest diamond
do you take it, and what
of the gift of a crust of bread
from the wealthy man.
Each gift, in its way,
is worthy of rejection.

Once I grasped at great thoughts –
now I can forget my own name
and wonder whose face it is
that I see in the mirror.


A reflection on Case 70 of The Iron Flute (Tetteki tōsui).

MU MONKAN

Walking on the road
today, I didn’t see
the Buddha and thus
had no need to kill him.
I did find what I thought
to be a dog’s Buddha nature,
but it proved to be nothing-
ness, so I walked on
through the gate that led
exactly nowhere.
This evening it rained
and I picked up each drop
and when I had the last,
threw them into the sky.

TIPPING POINT

 

The hardest thing is knowing that this
precise moment, this precise place
is the tipping point, and things could
go either way from here, although the Buddha
would suggest that there are ten directions
in which everything always can go.
You cannot pause and reflect on this,
for this precise moment, this precise place
is also a tipping point, as is this one
and this one, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.
But if you don’t know this, then just
perhaps, all ten directions are open to you.

NANSEN’S REJECTIONS 鐵笛倒吹 四十四

 

If you come before Master Nansen,
will you come holding the posture
of a monk or a lay person,
and when Nansen turns you away,
how will you exit the room?

Nested hands
and gassho hands –
both are so easily manacled –
why leave the room at all?


A reflection on case 44 of the Iron Flute (Tetteki tōsui 鐵笛倒吹)

SOZAN’S FOUR DON’TS 鐵笛倒吹 九十二

You may seek to follow
the path of the dove –
a fool knows many roads.
You may wrap yourself
in fine linen – an infant
wears only his skin,
and knows this moment
is already gone.

Think long before you speak
of how to walk
along the path, of where it leads.
The baby says nothing,
will not speak
of where he has been,
where he is going, for him
there is only here,
and silence
is descriptive enough.


A reflection on case 92 of the Iron Flute.