Friday, 29 July 2016


50.          artist statement

               on empty paper
               my pencil dreams -
               of what it dreams
               I do not know
               I do not know

               on empty canvas
               my paintbrush dreams -

               of what it dreams
               I do not know
               I do not know

               but this I know -
               unknowing is
               most intimate
               most intimate

Sunday, 24 July 2016


49.          Our dark cloud
               a clouded moon -
               its mysterious light,

Friday, 15 July 2016


48. Some parallels (perhaps):

Basho Osho said to his disciples, 'If you have a staff, I will give you a staff. If you have no staff, I will take it from you'. Jesus said to his disciples, 'Anyone who has will be given more and will have more than enough; but anyone who has not will be deprived even of what he has'.

Basho would open the eyes of his disciples to the mysterious Tao that supports the heavens and sustains the earth. Jesus would reveal the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.

Basho teaches his disciples with a riddling koan. Jesus talks to the crowds in riddles but not so to his disciples. This is because the crowds have eyes but do not see, ears but do not hear. The disciples, however, have their eyes and ears open to the mysteries that their master reveals.

Basho would train his disciples to open their eyes and ears to that which enhances everywhere the doctrine of the mysterious Tao.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016


47. A list of opposites: short/tall, high/low, hot/cold, wet/dry, deep/shallow, pleasure/pain, joy/sorrow. Basho's staff is intimate with each and everyone of these. Master Mumon, in one of his verses, puts it like this:
            The depths and shallows of the world
             Are all in its grasp.

Indeed, nothing escapes it. But what is 'it'? What is this 'it' that embraces all things, comprehends all things? What is this 'it' that gives to those who have and takes from those who have not? There is a documentary film that takes the viewer deep into this question. It is called 'Into Great Silence'.

Sunday, 10 July 2016


46. Concerning Basho's staff, Master Mumon Ekai makes this comment: 'If you call it a staff, you will enter hell like an arrow'. The image is vivid, even shocking, but its message is surely greatly exaggerated. If not exaggerated, then Mumon's notion of hell does not square with Dante's 'abandon hope all ye who enter here'. A Zen practitioner need never abandon hope. (Bear in mind: great faith, great doubt, great determination.) Fidelity to the practice, especially under the guidance of a skillful and enlightened master who teaches within a compassionate sangha, brings one countless opportunities for awakening to one's True Self. Even 'calling it a staff' and being thrown out by the master, can function as turning words. Doubtless Mumon's hyperbole is deliberately designed to effect the disciple's longed for Enlightenment-Realisation.


Wednesday, 6 July 2016


45.           pilgrim and staff

                user and used
                possessor and possessed
                knower and known

                are they one?
                are they two?
                are they the same?
                are they different?

                distinct but not different?

                on four in the morning
                on two at noon
                on three in the evening

If you have a staff, Basho will give you a staff.
If you don't have a staff, Basho will take it from you.

                giving and taking
                winning and losing

In Zen, born to lose. Born to be a loser. (And so to win.)

Tuesday, 5 July 2016


44. Sometime in the 10th century of the common era a Korean monk made his way into China. Once there he wandered about visiting various Ch'an masters until he came to Master Nan-ta, whose disciple he then became. After receiving Dharma Transmission from Nan-ta, he took up residence on Pa-chiao Mountain and trained disciples of his own. And so it came to pass that a Korean monk is remembered as Pa-chiao in Chinese Ch'an and as Basho in Japanese Zen.
     This Basho, settled down at last as master of his mountain temple, his many years of wandering behind him, surely retained a certain fondness for his trusty old pilgrim staff. It had helped him wade across rivers where bridges were either non existent or broken down. It had been effective in warding off aggressive dogs when he had passed through unfriendly villages. Nor could he forget how it had supported him on narrow mountain tracks where steep climbs were followed by steep descents. And there were those rare occasions when, far from any town, he was overtaken by darkness on moonless nights and it had helped to keep him safely on the right path. It is no surprise then that that selfsame staff should have figured prominently in his teaching. He was in the habit of addressing his disciples as follows: 'If you have a staff, I will give you a staff. If you have no staff, I will take it from you'.
     Many words have been wasted, and much ink spilt, in ceaseless discussion of what for many is a puzzling teaching. But Basho's staff swallows up words and images and concepts together with books fat with commentary. For it teaches what is immediately to hand.

Sunday, 3 July 2016


43.          much more than a metre
               my pilgrim staff
               but still I struggle
               when walking up hill