Dongshan's Five Ranks (The Record of Dongshan, Ch. 114)

KOAN:

#1
It’s past midnight
The moon has not yet risen.
In the deep dark we see a face from long ago
But you don’t recognize her.
Don’t think that’s strange.

#2
You find yourself to be an old woman
You’re sleeping late.
When you wake up you come upon an ancient mirror
And you see your own face clearly.
Try not to lose sight of it again and go chasing shadows.

#3
You’re in the middle of nothing
There is a road that has no dust
Just don’t mention the names of sages and emperors
Then you’ll be more eloquent than they were in ancient times.

#4
Two swords are crossed.
There’s no way to retreat.
You’re a lotus in the fire
You can’t help it
You’re determined to go higher.

#5
Not deciding it is or it isn’t
Do you have the courage to be at peace with it?
Everyone wants to leave the endless changes
But when we finish bending and fitting our lives
We come and sit by the fire.

– from the Record of Dongshan, The Five Ranks (Chapter 114)

Text September 18, 2019

Dongshan’s Five Ranks: Poem 3

John Tarrant

So there’s something about where we’re located, which is in the middle of nothing, good to know, and then how do you manage there? And also something about expression being eloquent. So what is eloquence when you’re in the middle of nothing? And also something about not reaching for approval, categories, emperors, sages, psychologies, ideas, history, anything that’s not nothing. Okay, so here we are. 

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