on the don't know mind

here is a poem presented to master ryotan tokuda on my monk ordination day some twenty years ago in france. after a number of years of studying buddhism, meeting and following my teacher was a pivotal experience, asking to become monk came then quite naturally. i developed a deep sense of love and admiration for this unique man and extraordiany teacher who thought me both through words and silent co-responding many essential things. even if he is not present in my life today, through his absence he continues to teach me, for time, space and distance are not obstacles on the way of a heart that loves purely, that is, loves without expectation of reward. to love without any return or any reward is what the greeks call agapé. in other words, apapé means to be freed from the need of love through the grace of love.

in the zen tradition it is common to present your teacher with poems about significant events such as on your ordination day, telling him how it is that you have come to wish to become a monk, or a death poem, trying to put into as few words and as close to silence as possible what sense you have made of this fleeting existence of yours and how wayfaring on the path has shaped your understanding of that.

went to his room and handed it to him on the morning of that fateful day. he unfolded the paper, slowly read the words, looked up at me and said: beautiful.

that he liked the poem was what touched me the most, being confirmed by your teacher for your understanding of the path was not my concern at that point and it never became one after.

twenty years on i still don't know what it was that he appreciated the most; the poem on it's own merit or what it expressed of someone's insight into zen through an open expression of the don't know mind, or maybe both. no, i still don't know. zen, not zen, still don't know. is this the unknowing zen masters have talked about through the ages? still don't know, still inquiring.

the still inquiring mirrors what is unfathomable in the not knowing. a not knowing into which we are all born, born without a beginning, and into which we all die, die without an ending. _____________________________________

after years of erring from land to land my steps bring me here to ei-tai ji a rundown monastery in the alpes-de-haute-provence where to my own surprise i am to be ordained monk

but is this not in keeping with my ways of old never knowing where i have been what i have done

_____________________

ei-tai ji temple, la rochette, 11 august 2000



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