Thirty Verses on Koans, II

These verses are responses to koans in three 13th-century Chinese koan collections. To locate the koan to which the verse pertains, see: Gateless Gate (aka Mumonkan or Wumenguan) HERE; Blue Cliff Record (aka Hekiganroku or Biyan Lu) HERE; Book of Serenity (aka Shoyoroku or Congrong Lu) HERE.

Blue Cliff Record #52
Clop, clop, clop, crossing the bridge,
All us beasts of burden treading on
Always crossing, never crossed,
Or always already crossed, and still crossing
From things to no-things, no-things to things
One step, one stone, one step, one stone.
2017 Mar

Blue Cliff Record #45
The touch my lover brings, breeze in the pines,
That email to answer, moon rising over a winter lake,
A bowl of oatmeal, the prick of a pin,
The fluttering fall of a red maple leaf,
My friend's sweater, a moment's fear,
The raising and lowering of the teacher's eyebrows,
Flowers among the grass, playground sounds,
And the riverbank talks of the waters of March --
Everywhere, oneness never stops reducing.
2017 Mar

Blue Cliff Record #41, Book of Serenity #63
After the ecstasy, the laundry.
What is on the other side of death
Was always here on this side
Waiting, like the daylight and the laundry.
2017 Mar

Blue Cliff Record #30
Soil and tending and the grace of waters
Make a radish.
Conditions and conditions and the whole universe pouring through them --
Make one large radish.
2017 Feb

Blue Cliff Record #9
Coming in, or going out, or coming out, or going in,
Sunlit, moonlit, or unlit,
Thou and I are always stepping over the threshold of four gates,
As if our names were "The World."
2017 Feb

Blue Cliff Record #2
Snow in the branches, on the roofs. Geese
In the sky. A gibbous moon.
Choosing is not to be found.
Disliking choosing is not to be found.
2017 Feb

Gateless Gate #37, Book of Serenity #47
Down, down go the roots; out, out go the branches --
In the winter, standing bare; in the spring, clad in fresh leaves:
The reason and meaning of all that you ask.
2017 Feb

Gateless Gate #11
Two hermits -- what is the difference?
Their sameness is their difference.
Dissolving the illusion of "sameness" and "difference"
Into just this! just fist! just thist.
2017 Jan

Book of Serenity #79
Down from the pole of emptiness.
Then down from the pole of ordinariness.
Stepping to one's death over and over,
Ah, that's the life.
2016 Dec

Blue Cliff Record #36
"Eventually all things merge into one, and a river runs through it." (Norman Maclean)
By the river, eternal, flowing,
A gate.
At the gate, the conversation, the meeting:
Master and administrator.
oneness and multiplicity,
going and returning,
rising scents and falling flowers,
spring and autumn.
2016 Dec

Book of Serenity #37
Fully manifesting the entire universe of karma right where you are.
Fully manifesting the entire universe of karma right where everything is.
Tossed in interdependent co-origination, caught in webs of causality:
There is no escape. The daffodil blossom does not escape
its stem, nor the stem the earth:
Fully manifesting the entire universe of karma right where it is.
2016 Nov

Book of Serenity #15
Those old questions:
Where have I come from? What am I? What should I do?
A field, a hoe, and a moving toward those who labor.
What else is needed? What else is possible?
2016 Nov

Blue Cliff Record #4
The bundle carried, the haughty dismissal, the second try --
The formal clothes, the shout, the departure --
The lonely mountain hermitage, the frost on the snow --
Such profligate generosity! So superfluous, so unnecessary --
And so absolutely essential.
2016 Oct

Book of Serenity #86
What is the great meaning of the Buddha-dharma?
Where else did you think the answer lay?
In the moonlight on the birch tree?
2016 Oct

Book of Serenity #7
Yaoshan gives a dharma talk like the pines do --
And those who are hungry consume it.
With eyes to hear and ears to see --
Nothing is left unsaid.
2016 Sep

Blue Cliff Record #81
Die when it is time to die.
Come alive when it is time to come alive.
Coming alive and not running away,
The great deer is of no concern.
2016 Sep

Book of Serenity #23
Face the wall of years, centuries, kalpas.
Face the wall of time and eternity.
When these illusions lift, the wall you face is always right now --
Also without substance.
Facing facing facing.
2016 Sep

Book of Serenity #93
The treasury is your heart wondering what the treasury is.
The treasury is your heart moving on from wondering what the treasury is.
Summer breezes turn to autumn gusts
The budding peach blossom is already the fallen fruit.
2016 Sep

Book of Serenity #69
The three phases:
There is a mountain; there is not a mountain; there is a mountain.
There is knowing;
there is the further knowing that knocks out the former knowing;
there is the sublime not-knowing of the Buddhas of the three worlds.
2016 Sep

Blue Cliff Record #69
Say something? Not me.
"Then let's go back," I'd say
Shouldering my knapsack
And continuing toward the National Teacher.
2016 Aug

Blue Cliff Record #40, Book of Serenity #91
You can't pretend there is no flower there.
There clearly is!
You can't pretend there is a flower there.
There clearly isn't!
2016 Aug

Blue Cliff Record #32, Book of Serenity #16
Sometimes you're affirmed, sometimes scolded.
You get judged. It happens. The teachers recommend equanimity.
Beyond that, though.
Judging aside. Equanimity, or lack of, aside.
There is just the fact
That what you just did,
And the time before that, and the time before that,
And now, and next time,
Was, is, and will be
Entirely right and completely wrong.
2016 Aug

Gateless Gate #34
Buddha, Dao, knowing, mind.
Not a one of them is another.
Mind is only mind. Buddha is only Buddha. This is only this.
So how could you be somewhere else?
2016 Aug

Blue Cliff Record #28
You can't step in the same river twice, can't preach a dharma the same as what's been heard before.
Also, there's nothing you can preach that can't be preached (so, as Roshi John Lennon said, all you need is love.)
And here is Nanquan saying (preaching?) "it's not mind, it's not buddha, it's not things."
If he's preaching it, then it's preachable, so he must be not-preaching it.
I stepped into the Chattahoochee River once. Then stepped into it again.
I do that kind of thing all day every day -- entering what is the same, yet different,
Preaching what is unpreachable.
84,000 not-preachings per second.
I am like this. How about you?
2016 Jul

Gateless Gate #27
Preaching comes down the chimney with presents wrapped in quote marks.
For you, "mind," "Buddha," and "beings." How to unwrap them?
Explanations cover the package with more shiny paper and sticky tape.
Wanting to live disquotationally puts your life into a gift-wrapped "disquotationally" box.
Merry Christmas.
2016 Jul

Gateless Gate #19
To a mind simultaneously ordinary and boggled
The world's very banality is its profound, wondrous mystery.
Only let the unnecessary fall away --
By attending to its necessity.
2016 Jul

Blue Cliff Record #64
Those monks swimming in mud,
Zhaozhou swimming in a clear brook, with the current --
How dear to me are they all!
Not by our efforts does the mud clear to pure water,
Nor without effort.
2016 Jun

Blue Cliff Record #63
What cruel murders do you commit
With your concept-clinging arguments?
Cut it in two. Cut it in one.
Present your delusions. Present essential nature.
2016 Jun

Blue Cliff Record #75
Sticky sticks are scripts:
The bit is in your mouth, directing your course.
Sticks washed of stickiness are playthings:
Total freedom is enacted before our eyes.
2016 Jun

Book of Serenity #72
"Inside there is a monkey."
Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.
"If someone calls, 'monkey,' it responds."
Right, right, right, right.
2016 Jun

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