Mad Mind-Fire [Free Verse]

My brain is an angry sac of neurons:
hot wired / electrified.

Sizzling synapses ready to snap
and spew seedy scenes
upon this world.

But no one hears a scream
in the dark void of a barren mind:

though the scream radiates outward
as a painful wave of unknown
origin & purpose,

a tremor in the fabric of us

The Crossing [Free Verse]

A ship
crosses the ocean,

in the darkness:
darkness, black & endless

no moon,
no stars,
just clouds -- thick & low
clouds that can't be seen

The ship has lights,
but those lights know
an event horizon

Lights sometime 
glint against the waves,
those roiling & undulating
waves,

and the lights bounce off
the ship's hull

But no one can see them,
because if anyone could see them,
the seers would be seen--
unless theirs is a ghost ship,
piloted by literal ghosts,
or some other agent of observation

Maybe there is fog --
not enveloping the ship,
(such mist would be felt
on the skin of those on deck)
but, rather, a fog between 
where the ship is,
and where is should be

For it is surely off course,
listlessly drifting,
all hope arrayed against edges:

edges of ice
&
edges of the world

Not that the world is flat,
but, perhaps, it's not fully sculpted:
maybe nothing lies outside
the range of the seen:
outside the bounds of experience

It sounds crazy, 
but all kinds of crazy
form in a mind
submerged in darkness

BOOK REVIEW: Dropping Ashes on the Buddha by Seung Sahn

Dropping Ashes on the Buddha: The Teachings of Zen Master Seung SahnDropping Ashes on the Buddha: The Teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn by Seung Sahn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amazon.in Page

This book’s one-hundred brief chapters mostly consist of interactions between the Korean Zen Buddhist teacher, Seung Sahn, and students of his. However, there are also some old Zen stories, and a few odds and ends: such as the transcript of a completely unproductive “dialogue” between Seung Sahn and a Hindu yogi. Some of the student-teacher interactions are epistolary, but others are face-to-face “dharma combat” or Q&A sessions (which also, ultimately, became dharma combat — given Seung Sahn’s teaching methods.) Dharma combat is a dialogue that resembles Socratic dialogue except that the goal isn’t to use logic and sound reasoning to persuade another, but rather to demonstrate a lack of attachment and proclivity to overintellectualize. It involves a lot of seemingly nonsensical answers and occasional shouting and slapping / hitting. It sounds unproductive, but the objective is to break established cognitive modes and to induce epiphany, rather than to build a rational argument.

It’s a thought provoking and informative book, if a bit repetitive. Most of the conversation revolves around less than a dozen ko-an [kong-an in Korean,] which are questions or statements that’re intended to provoke a kind of realization rather than to produce a straightforward / rational answer. It’s not a problem that there’s repetition, as these aren’t straightforward ways of thinking, and oftentimes it takes many varied looks at a ko-an to grasp what’s being conveyed. That said, I felt this book could’ve used some editing to streamline the dialogue a bit to make it feel a bit less punitively redundant.

If you’re interested in ko-an and dharma combat, this is a great book to look into. However, if you’re familiar with many of the popular ko-an and Zen stories, it may feel a bit redundant.


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Discovery Distance [Free Verse]

Mountains are best viewed at a distance,
despite humanity's "closer is better" bias.

Up close, one is invariably in a cloud,
looking at an undifferentiated mass
of gray-white:
ice -- granite -- snow -- fog.

One may climb a mountain 
to see other mountains in the distance,
but standing eye-to-rock with a mountain
offers little spectacle & grandeur.

Massive things can be too close to see.

I wonder whether I'm also
 better viewed from a distance.

Not everything is.

Consider the opposite mistake:
People say things such as, 
"My Great White Whale is out there."

But Great White Whales are  
always found looking inward --
not out in the distance.

Asylum Mind [Lyric]

my mind snapped
with attention rapt
staring out into the world

i'd hoped for the best
devoid of sweet rest,
despite being fetally-curled

where was the shore?
or the thirteenth floor?
they were absent in life & in dream

i searched all about,
calling names out, 
but all I heard was a burbling stream

but with no water -
just someone's dear daughter
wading out on bone-bleached rocks

she seemed to know all
like how we all fall,
and who keeps the keys to the locks

but I was tied down
screaming at clowns,
too far gone to see her wind-blown hair

what pulled me out?
not a shake or a shout,
but some stuttered nonsense of prayer