Monday, January 19, 2009

764. To the master Dōen Zenji - Robert Gray

Dōgen came in and sat on the wood platform,
all the people had gathered
like birds upon the lake.

After years, he'd come back from China,
and had brought no scriptures—he showed them
empty hands.

This was in Kyoto
at someone-else's temple. He said, All that's important
is the ordinary things.

Making the fire
to boil some bathwater, pounding rice, pulling the weeds
and knocking dirt from their roots,

or pouring tea—those blown scarves,
a moment, more beautiful than the drapery
in paintings by a Master.

—'It is this world of the dharmas
(the atoms)
which is the Diamond.'


Dōgen received, they say, his first insight
from an old cook at some monastery
in China,

who was hanging about on the jetty
where they docked—who had come down
to buy mushrooms,

among the rolled-up straw sails,
the fish-nets and brocade litters,
the geese in baskets.

High sea-going junk,
shuffling and dipping
like an official.

Dōgen could see
and empty shoreline, the pinewood plank of the beach,
the mountains

and dusty. Standing about
with his new smooth skull.

The horses' lumpy hooves clumped on the planks
of that jetty—they arched their necks
and dipped their heads like swans

manes blown about
like the white threads from off
the falling breakers:;

holding up their hooves as though they were tender,
the sea grabbing at
the timber below.

And the two Buddhists in all the shuffle got to bow,
The old man told him, Up there,
that place—

the monastery a cliff-face
in one of the shadowy hills—
My study is cooking;

no not devotion, not
any of your sacred books (meaning Buddhism). And Dōgen,

he must have thought
who is his old prick, so ignorant
of the Law,

and it must have shown.
Son, I regret
that you haven't caught on

to where it is one discovers
the Original Nature
of the mind and things


Dōgen said, Ideas
from reading, from people, from a personal bias,
toss them all out—

You shall only discover by looking in
this momentary mind,'

And said, 'The Soto school
isn't one
of the many entities in buddhism,

you should not even use that name',
It is just sitting in mediation;
an awareness, with no

clinging to,
no working on, the mind.
It is a floating. Ever-moving. 'Marvellous emptiness.'

'Such zazen began a long time
before Buddha,
and will continue for ever.'

And upon this leaf one shall cross over
the stormy sea,
among the dragon-like waves.