Who Is The Greatest Living Master

The lady at the supermarket check-out

The mother screaming at her kid

The kid screaming back

Every little breeze that whispers “Louise”

The tall pine next to the house

The house

The woman who lives there

Her dog

The guy in the mirror

The mirror

 

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Without End

After midnight, no one will hear
the subtle sighs of my lover as she
leaves my bed to wander, moon-like,
through lit clouds, wreathed in the
perfume of transience, soaring
away in the dream time.

At the pond,
not a ripple will stir.

On her way,
perhaps she’ll stop
to tend the fire, roasting
cinders of wry intelligibility
with unconcealed delight as words,
names, and forms that rose from nowhere
curl back again like smoke from where they came.

When we meet again in our glad embrace
there’ll be no place where Love
leaves off and something
less slinks in.

In light and shadow, twining, mindless,
blissful sighs of “Yes, Yes, Yes” welcome
us to the fragrant jasmine petal heart of this
moment, drenched in that deathlessness,
ruby glimmer in green floating worlds,
white flowering worlds, all spiraling
blessing, both given and taken,
empty and full, all life
without end –

Amen.

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Poured Through

Ah, Friends, Hearts of Faith —
a moment, please:

We have been checked into these drab motels
of restlessness and discontent for so long now
that we have begun to think of them as
our actual forwarding address.

We are driven hither and thither
by a little imaginary machine
percolating under our skin,
so that we never rest.

In the fervor of our archaeology,
we gather pieces of broken glass
and hold them high above our heads,
crowing about our latest treasures,
yet in solitary moods of desperation,
there lurks the secret craving for that
of which we’ve long despaired –
some taste of blessed certainty.

At this Ghost Festival,
I have spirit money to burn,
but the Law of Balance allows
for no exceptions.

Luck and misfortune are intertwined —
and though I’ve played with these dice
my whole life, they are useless
to me now, as is any certainty.

It is said that someone who
doesn’t make flowers makes thorns.

“If we’re not building a home
where love and wisdom can thrive,
we’re only building a prison.”

Truly, the slightest hint of arrogance and conceit
can pull us inside those prison gates, where
only the most heart-felt humility
can finally release us.

Wherever we walk, the monkey
is surely not far behind.

Perhaps this is why
the King of Masks remarked:

“The dragon in the shallows
is toyed with by the shrimp.”

Yes, this world can seem to be a cold place,
but we can bring warmth to it.

What better purpose can there be in life,
but to lighten others’ burdens?

What greater enjoyment, than for
hearts to pour into each other?

A drop of Compassion
brings wellsprings of Gratitude.

Make it personal, however,
and it’s no longer true Compassion.

Even tiny eyes
can see immense things.

What are you looking for?

Is there truly free will, or
is life pre-determined?

Is the mind in the body,
Or the body in the mind?

When such questions are posed,
my eyes drift skyward.

I stare, still somehow disbelieving,
at the charred ruins of my own boat.

How swiftly the fire, once ignited,
showed me there is nothing we can own.

You ask from whence I come.
I answer, “Here”.

These ashes made a womb, and somehow
a living sprout has pushed up
through the mud.

Deep gratitude for light!

Whichever way I turn in the mirror
of this vastness, my own light
reflects back at me.

What’s awake is awake in darkness,
as well as in the light.

It’s the light within both, the light
in which both light and darkness
appear and disappear.

We create the world from our own light,
yet we are not that luminous world, nor
anything with a name or form.

To the mind, the light appears as darkness,
known only by its reflections – this world
afloat in a sea of light.

All is seen in the light, the light
behind the mind, except
the light itself.

To itself, is it even light?

There’s a light we shine to illuminate
the parts of us that still resist the night,
and all that lingers within our darkness.

Shine on, Dear Light!

I’ve heard it said that,
within the dark night of despair,
there still awaits a hidden joy.

And yet within that joy itself,
there is a desolate, crumbling ruin
of a palace, stripped of any regal treasure,
rain freely entering, gently soaking
the remnant ashes from which I’ve come,
quietly washing them down my cheeks
like tears shed for no one, nothing –

not a sorrow, not joy, not anything
but rain mixed with ash with
no place to land.

Now I stagger, blinded, from
The Tavern of the Drunken Idiots,
my limp more evident now,
but the tricks of the monkey
are wasted on me in my condition.

The gods take pity on fools such as I.

I hold you here where we both are
blended with eternity, where something quiet
lets me hear the whole world sigh in relief.

I sit astride the toenail
of the Goddess of Infinite Qualities,
yet without any qualities found in myself.

Where She roams, a percussion of thunder
echoes from Her footsteps, and yet
I hear only the glad murmur of reception
from the earth on which She treads.

They say that the heart acts as a translator
between mystery and intelligence;
that it has its own ancient dwellers
who do not speak with those who are
merely passing through, but I ask:

“Who is there on this shining floor
not spellbound by Her Dancing Feet?”

The Beloved arrives on a boat of Kindness,
while all along the river banks the intoxicating
perfumes of Jasmine and Honeysuckle
run riot through the senses.

Spring’s first Buttercups
are enough to quiet all dispute,
just as Autumn reveals the destiny
of our own dreamy appearance.

Yes, no, maybe so –
in this blissful garden of perfect souls,
what use are such distinctions, except
to fuel a game of wry charades?

When life is this dear, can we not feel
the One who summons us Home,
even now, even Now?

Don’t stop anywhere!

Not until we finally fail and fall
can we know where we truly stand.

After this death, we will remember what we are,
and in that remembrance, be able to forgive the dream
with all its poignant masquerades.

Here, I have emptied out my pockets –
there is nothing in them anymore.

If you throw your arms around me,
what you embrace is only air.

Whatever appears in mind, body, or emotions,
I just observe and let it go, like an old man
watching children at play.

One after another, each will cross over
in their own time, and these words, like
forgotten toys, will be scattered through
playgrounds of cities long abandoned.

But please forgive my indulgence here –
my sand has now poured through.

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Chat Noir Cabaret

Intangible exoticism of the Gymnopedie
as a subtle saraband of piquant, melancholic
harmony gleaned in an orb-curved heart-cage,
birth and death in a day mirage at the edge of
a sea-streaming dream, with reverence for all
jewel-blood glints in the lifespan of a mayfly,
swept into a frequency of sun-colored carp
rising to feed on remains of a night, timed
to the rhythm of the drift, the lifting tide,
light-mind untied from any memories,
rippling more stillness over stillness,
water in a leaking bucket, dripping
sweet silence everywhere.

Master Xuyun: “Mental speech arises from the mind, so the mind is the origin of speech; thought arises from the mind, so the mind is the origin of thought. The mind gives birth to everything and it is the origin of everything. In fact, the origin of speech is the origin of thought. The place before thought is the mind.”

The buttercup party dazzling the springtime hillsides
reveals the dynamic union of heaven and earth, all
smiling faces contemplating the mutual permeation
of the known and unknown within the sphere
of the sacred nuptial room beneath
the dome of the nebularium.

Master Xuyun: “To put it straightforwardly, where a thought is not yet to arise is the origin of speech. Thus we know the observation of the origin of speech is the observation of the mind. The original face before our birth is the mind. And to see the original face before our birth is to observe the mind.”

When original wishing,
which is only water seeking
itself, surveys this water world
with clear moon eyes of recognition,
every molecule responds by appearing
just as it does, is, the elemental moisture
maybe pregnant with wild things, like
the perpetual combustion of galaxies
invisible to the day eye, not a thing
thought, a trick in time, a child’s
nursery rhyme, empty and full
of any wish – reflected moon
in a dish of rain water, left
out before the rain.

Master Xuyun: “And so the final problem the practitioner faces is actually to enter the Void that beginning students like to theorize about. He must attain ‘no-mind’. Instead of proceeding in any one direction, he has to expand in all directions, or as Han Shan (Cold Mountain) would say, ‘into infinity’. In Chan we also call this “letting go of the hundred-foot pole.”

It sprawls in perfection in all directions!

Now gone the grab, the stab’s gone on
to pierce itself full through, whittled
down to the diamond tip of itself,
the masthead of momentum,
balancing on a flame tip,
pulsing in the ashes,
spilling out in
echo –

now open your mouth
and try to say it,

see if your tongue
will move.

Master Xuyun: “[The practitioner] has discovered what it means to be egoless, but now he must live out the results of that discovery. His actions can’t be deliberate and contrived. And so he achieves spontaneity and becomes one with reality. No need to struggle further.”

Standing here where the river
merges with the sea, all flowing
motion has halted, and only some
soft-winged wordless sound still lingers
in the motionless air, an echoing memory
of a great sea bird hovering, changeless, in
a still-life pose above the frozen tidal scene.

I open my mouth to speak, but
not a word comes forth.

If you wander this strip of beach someday,
you may find me standing still, rooted
in a primal, timeless scene, and if
you listen without ears, you
may hear a certain sound –

the breathless sound
of this poem,
breathing.

100 foot pole

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Bonfire in the Snow

Cramped knees crunched into
my hunched-up chest, shivering, I
bend like a pine bough in the gravity
of late winter’s oncoming storm.

So simple now, a sound gone silent –
I’ve used up all my snow words,
yet snowfall’s barely begun.

Some autumn sap still flows
in these winterized veins, the refrain
of an elegy read postmortem over this
bed of fading embers and cooling ashes.

All along, my search for happiness
obscured the very happiness I sought.

When Love’s match was struck,
the masks melted off, my life
peeled open, and I was
left raw and willing.

My illusions are the fuel.

What breathed that tinder into fire
breathed into me – one breath,
one being, breathing,
being breathed.

This heart became an invitation,
the invocation of a consuming flame.

When all options of experience,
of grasping and aversion, were exhausted,
what remained was waiting just to burn.

Since it’s snowing now in earnest,
I’ll say no more about all that.

At best, my words
will point beyond themselves,
spontaneously igniting the kindling
of any lingering judgment or affectation.

Just so, there is no need
for any extended engagement
of this clueless clown’s juggling act –

I could just split the seams
of my carnival clothing and leap
once and for all through the flaming hoop
of any fixed identity derived from hope or fear.

While the snow outside is piling higher,
I don’t want to ramble on about the things
I should have done — I just want to run naked
in a skin of blinding light, drawn closer and closer
to the blaze of Love’s furnace, and lose myself
completely in the searing heat of That.

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Witness

Stream sound below,
and here above the tree line –

swift drifts of silent mist
caress these wild wet hillsides,
their complementary moistures
redolent with the sublime scents
of no reference, all self-evident,
not this, not this, just this:

standing before a burning pile
of scrap wood, so much yet to burn,
lost now in that wind-streaming sound,
black as space, rouge-faced mind-fruit
nightly falling, gently pulled down past
the head room for the sake of waking
a random heart’s true bloom.

Flicker, shine, spiraling high,
whys collide inside midflight, lithe
daylily sprites arise for rites of spring,
startled light brightens into cool black lacquer,
into lovers leaving sun-burst kiss-bites so subtle,
the blood spills sanguine language, leaves
vermillion, millions, billions of holy
mouths crimson-cooing back
the night, obsidian
in witness.

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Camellia Blossoms

Circumstances and expectations
rarely coincide — if and when they do,
you can be sure that it will be but briefly.

Like passing clouds, conditions are always
forming, changing, and dissolving –
a perpetual round of water
cycling through space.

Efforts to discern the meaning of it all,
if indeed there even is one, finally collapsed
when I chose to just let things reveal themselves
for what they are, without the addition
of second-hand interpretations
and borrowed opinions.

It’s not that difficult to enjoy our life
when we give up trying to make things happen
and instead relax and appreciate it all as it is.

True acceptance is a garden
where wisdom can bloom and thrive.

Just so, this light breeze tonight
has laid claim to my flowering senses!

Garlanded in a hundred, a thousand fragrances,
memory tosses and tumbles the jumbled particles
of perception around and around inside my soul
while these camellia blossoms swarm over and
over each other, lost in the gentle touch
of petal tip to finger tip, finger tip
to petal tip, each transmitting
to the other its own
essential likeness
in love’s
light.

Crazy with delight,
wild blossom and madman
commune beyond thought, spin motionless
in fertile space, sprouting from the same
transcendental mind, drifting airily from
nothing to nowhere, trailing a scent
that lingers, intoxicating, before
evaporating back into the
welcoming sky of
Mind.

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