What is a tree?
Is it not its name:
Oak, acorn, birch,
Pine, teak, Arbutus?
Is it not its form, fragrances, its touch,
Its silhouette against the evening sky?
Is it not the timeless feeling generated
And the birdsong too?
Is it not the mosaic arrangement of leaves, flowers and fruits
Born anew and dying in the stream of life?
Is it not the forest floor rising and falling,
A rooted land breathing?
Is it not the rain showers
That return the waters to their source?
Is it not the vascular system;
An intricate living network, root to branch?
Is it not the epidermal bark
Guarding its rings of wisdom?
Is it not sunlight that has travelled
In the soundless void?
Is it not the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
Sustaining a united biosphere?
Is it not the species that live
In the empty openings
Of woodland, forest and groves
That evolve and inter-are
And are not many, but one,
With this layered web of interdependencies?
Is it not the young Siddhartha,
One awakened under the Bodhi’s branches?

A tree is and is not.
Non-meaning is meaning.
Form is Emptiness.
Emptiness is Form.

3:20 a.m. Haiku

Smiling crescent moon,
Insects chatter and chirrup;
Morning drawing in.

Homage to a Retreat at Kopan

Homage to Ani Karin
And the venerable Wong Mo.
By their subtle wisdom and compassion
May all beings break free from samsara’s woe.

I entered Kopan 10 days ago,
A bright-eyed traveller and his pack.
I have been exposed to the ancient way;
Now, there’s no looking back.

With each new dawn I awake
To hilltops swathed in clouds.
I look to the temple and breathe the air,
Listening to Kopan’s sacred sounds.

At the door of the gompa,
Where the walls depict samsara,
I bow my head to Shakyamuni
And to Avalokitesvara.

Dharma is a pair of jeans
You can wear in any walk of life.
Learn to see things as they are
And free your mind from strife.

Dharma is the art and meditation is the sword
In the void of the world.
Go to war with your fleeting thoughts
And purify your actions and words.

The mind is as clear as the bluest of skies.
Your thoughts can be clouds just floating through.
You are not your thoughts or your mistakes.
You are here, now. Choose wisely what to do.

Cross-legged, I breathe in the suffering of all beings
And a wave dissolves my self-cherishing.
The out-breath is a ripple on a golden lake
Reminding me that all things are perishing.

In my heart I see a peaceful future
Where the bombs and bullets fly no more,
Where the hate-filled put down their weapons
So that the young can be ignorant of war.

I think of my mother and my father
Afflicted by hardship, wrought low by pain.
I see their human suffering, their imprints,
And with tears of forgiveness, renounce all blame.

For all those who suffer in every dimension,
I extend my bodhisattva vow.
May all beings follow the path of Dharma,
The way of wisdom, the way of Now.

Each moment exists in relativity;
It has been so since beginningless time.
We are each grain of sand migrating between shores
In forever rolling currents of the sublime.

Each lifetime is a fleeting dance with Yama,
The briefest fluttering of a butterfly’s wings.
There is no time for anger, the true enemy;
No one can know when the last bowl rings.

But what is a bowl, a tree or a Buddha?
I, me, myself or mine?
They are our projections onto the void;
Delusions of the dualistic mind.

Delusion is the root of every pain,
Attachment puts suffering into motion.
But know that you are a lotus blooming
On a boundless dharmakaya ocean.

I thought that I was someone:
A traveller, a Buddhist, a dreamer
I am not a self, but a mosaic of moments
Drawn to the supreme jewel, bodhicitta.

May that which has arisen not diminish
And increase more and more.
May all sentient beings be free and peaceful
And reach nirvana’s golden doors.

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James is a freelance writer, teacher and traveller. Read more of his writing by visiting his travel blog, called It’s A Long Road To Nowhere.
image: Wonderlane (Creative Commons BY)