John Daido Loori Roshi, a little something for his grave

Half of a Sonnet

1. He wants to feed the whole congregation all at once.

2. What is wrong with them? I’m afraid they’ve all fallen into the same pit.

3. Hoping for a sign of life he stirs the pot again.

4. A live one has appeared. Not all is lost after all.

5. The entire teaching of countless generations is right in his face.

6. Too bad. After all, the teacher can’t do it alone.

7. Although you bump into it everywhere, it’s still hard to talk about it.


This is a found poem in memory and celebration of John Daido Loori Roshi. After I heard about his death on October 10th or so (he died on the 9th), I spent an afternoon reading stuff about him and written by him. These seven lines are the footnotes to his Teisho on Juifeng’s Rice Cake. I liked how they sounded all alone like this, they make some kind of odd sense and so they became my little homage to his life's work. Seven lines for his grave. A half of sonnet. Of course, I never sat with him or met him. My connection was purely through his two books--The Heart of Being: Moral and Ethical Teachings of Zen Buddhism and The Eight Gates of Zen: A Program of Zen Training. They're strong books, stern books, good books. They were important to me. They gave me the energy to sit and stare at the wall. Loori called himself a "radical conservative" in regards to keeping the traditions of Zen. If you read his books, you'll understand why. He was also a photographer. The photograph of the rocks in water is his.

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