In the past, when I began to study Zen,
it was all a mistake.

Wandering through numberless
mountains and rivers,
I wanted to find
something to know.

(It’s all clear in hindsight.)

It is hard to understand it
because talk about “no-mind”
just brings more confusion.

The teacher has pointed out
the ancient mirror
and I see in it
the time before I was born of my parents.

Having learned this,
what do I have?

Release a crow into the night
and it flies
flecked with snow.


A rag-robed chewer of vegetables,
my heart is like the clear autumn moon
through and through.

Ask me where I’m from,
all I can say is
blue waters, blue mountains.

Tettsu Gikai

Everyone bound by karma,
speaking of a Buddha-mind “within”.

Tied up by this
I couldn’t find it.

Finally tracked it down,
showing itself as me.


The sacred place is not remote;
No special road leads to it.
If one proceeds where a guide has pointed
He will find only a slippery, moss-covered bridge.


The followers of Buddha are extolled in every quarter
The disciples of Confucius are praised throughout the world
I sit on a rock among vines and creepers

Now and then watching the drifting clouds

That pass before my eyes.

Jenny Allen

Breathing in, I wash the dishes,
Aware of their usefulness in holding
Nourishing meals that have sustained my family for many years.
I wonder why it is always, always me doing the dishes
By myself,
And whether, interconnected as all human beings are,
This may be the one exception.
Breathing out, I release my feelings into the universe, ever hopeful that someone, somewhere,
Will sense my need,
And offer to help.
I open my heart to the possibility of this miracle.

(From a collection in the New Yorker)


Returning home from a day of begging;
Sage has covered my door.
Now, a bunch of leaves burns with the brushwood.
Silently I read the poems of Han-shan,
Accompanied by the autumn wind rustling through the reeds.
I stretch out both feet and lie down.
What is there to fret over?
What is there to doubt?

Shuho Myocho

Having once penetrated the cloud barrier,
The living road opens out north, east, south, and west.
In the evening resting, in the morning roaming, neither host nor guest.
At every step the pure wind rises.