"How long has it been since the teaching of the pure essence was swept away? Students are caught up with the written word and Buddhist priests are stubbornly obsessed with doctrine. It's a shame that for a thousand years no one has spoken seriously of this essence. Better to follow the children and bounce a ball on these spring days."--Ryokan (1758-1831)

_ _ _

Shakyamuni held up a flower.

Mahakasyapa smiled.


Bodhidharma wandered

rebuffed an emperor

sat in front of a cave wall for nine years.


Dazu cut off his own arm to apprehend the Dharma.

Seven hundred moons later, he was put to death.

He had become the body of the Dharma itself.


Jianzhi stayed to the mountains

avoided all things worldly

combined Buddha and Tao.


Daoxin cut through everything with "Mind and Buddha are one."


Farong the Hermit lived on wildflowers

that small birds brought to him

and dropped into his lap.

When he became a buddha,

the birds moved on.


Hongren the Old managed to plot his own rebirth.

Upon his return, Hongren the Second

looked up Daoxin the Old

so he could continue studying The Way

with his beloved teacher.


Shitou of the Stones

simmered down the Great Matter

into a broth.

When you drink it, you hear him say all over again:

"Neither stained, nor pure,

Heart-Mind stands outside

of birth and death."


Hui-Neng pounded grain with a stone

then cracked open the minds of the masters

with a single poem.

His One Practice Way

set every common task

as a means toward the lantern-lit mind…

so stop delaying your chores

and putting off the laundry.


Mazu roared like a lion

to help us all walk like one.


Liangjie caught it while crossing a stream.

He had sought it from others his whole life,

but his own face gave it back to him.


We're the same exact way.


Even our own bloodstream

is trying to show us our place

in the great fold of churning stars.


Enjoy your time in the mirror tomorrow morning

but be sure to stop and ask: 

Who is it really that is looking back?

Who is it really that is looking back?


(c) 2017 / Frank LaRue Owen / purelandpoetry.com

To learn more about the work of Santa Fe-based ambient composer Michael Stearns, visit his site at: Michael Stearns

This poem appears in The School of Soft-Attention, now available for order from Homebound Publications or Amazon.com