Come before the Master.
If he turns from you
and faces the wall
he honors you.
If the Master enters your room
and you turn to the wall
you will deserve his stick.

As you cannot sit
in the Master’s seat
he may not sit in yours,
but all seats are one seat,
no wall is all walls
and neither of you
should give a damn.

A reflection on Case 56 of the Iron Flute Koans



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)


When the stick is raised
a truth hovers nearby,
will you accept it?

When the student is struck
does truth leave
the polished wood, sinking
into the student’s shoulder
or does it rise up
within the student
to meet the falling stick?

Sitting zazen do you ask
directions to the zendo?

A reflection on Case 43 of The Iron Flute (Tetteki tōsui)


SANSHO MEETS A STUDENT                               鐵笛倒吹 十二

One goes to the gate
to welcome the new student
and with a broad smile
turns his back
in silence, offering nothing.
Another will not leave
the Zendo, sitting in stillness
at the sound
of the bell at the gate
and offers silent
teaching and compassion.

Are Sansho and Koke
two or merely one?
How can you tell?


ZENGEN’S PAPER SCREEN                                         鐵笛倒吹 十三

If Zengen sits
behind a paper screen
will you enter
and what will you say.

Do not look surprised
for he has been there
merely a second
and from time before time.

If he picks up his bow
flee quickly
for his aim rarely
misses his mark.