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

ECHU EXPELS A DISCIPLE 鐵笛倒吹 語十三

If you come upon Echu napping
do not disturb him
but retreat to the zendo
or walk in the small garden
where enlightenment may be found.

If the search is successful
leave quickly, tell no one,
for it is very fragile
and the tongue
is sharper than the sword
and infinitely more deadly.


A reflection on case 53 of the Iron Flute Koans

THE GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL 鐵笛倒吹 六十九

Standing at the window
looking down on the street
is the passing man enlightened?
Call out this question to him.
If he looks upward and says yes
what do you know of his enlightenment?

Looking at a flower
is it different than its seed.
If you hold a seed in your hand
what can you say of the flower
that may some day appear.


A reflection on Case 69 of the Iron Flute Koans.

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ISAN’S I HAVE EXHAUSTED MYSELF 正法眼蔵 四十四

Approach the master
sitting on his seat.
The fool will seek answers
having slept through the lesson
but the wise student will bow
silently and retreat
having learned all there is
and knowing absolutely nothing.


A reflection on Case 44 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (The True Dharma Mind)

A MOVING MIND 無門關 二十九

Do not be a foolish monk
stare up at the sky
is that could moving?

The leaves dance
on the morning breeze,
is the wind moving?

take a picture of the tree
a moment of time frozen

There is no motion
of the tree, none
of the wind

only the mind moves.


A reflection on Case 29 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate Koans)

The spider wandered around
the corner of the ceiling and wall
of the bathroom, one she called
a daddy longlegs, although most
spiders of my acquaintance have
rather long legs using my proportions
as a basis for comparison, and it was
my task to deal with it.

It was harmless, as are most
of his species, and I searched
for a way to give him and give us
our freedom, here perhaps,
a reality, since it is no colder
without than within, although the birds
in our wetlands might have other
ideas about the spider’s impermanence.

I paused, considered the options,
and knew this koan would not
be answered this day, and I bid
my octoped friend farewell, but
suggested he consider not
trying to bring me into his web.

UNSEEN

“There is an art,” the old monk said, his samu-e belted tightly, “to spreading peanut butter. Consider this carefully for it is a matter of gravest importance. Spreading peanut butter requires care just as meditation does. You wouldn’t think so, but try it in your robes and see how unruly your sleeve can be. It is like raking the sand in a dry garden. It seems easy enough to do, but you know how hard it is to ensure that your presence is unseen and unfelt when the job is done.”

TOZAN’S NO GRASS

As the seasons change
I will stand
with one foot
on the highest peak
and the other
at the bottom
of the deepest sea.
But do not ask
that I stand
in a place where
there is no Buddha,
or my feet and legs
shall fall away
into the void.


A reflection on Case 68 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye) Koans

THREADS

This morning I plucked
a thread of silence
from the dawn, watched,
carefully by a cardinal
who knew not to break
the purity of the moment.
I do this as often as I can
sometimes grabbing one
from the moon, as it sits
overhead, holding out
its promise of quietude
as people retreat into homes.
From these threads
I have begun to weave
a shawl, which, when done
I will drape over my shoulders
as I sit on the zafu
and welcome nothingness
into a space I create
from everything around me.

BETWEEN

Between now and then,
between yesterday to and today,
between night and day,
between birth and death,
between good and evil,
between heaven and hell,
between light and dark,
between joy and sadness,
our lives occur
and we are so
seldom there
to see it happen,
lost in dreams
of what never will be,
never was.