Spring comes with flowers, autumn with the moon.

Summer with breeze, winter with snows.

When idle concerns don’t hang in your mind,

That is your best season.

~ Wumen Hukai (d. 1260), The Gateless Barrier, Case 19

Sun-faced Buddha, moon-faced Buddha.

What kind of people were the ancient emperors?

For 20 years I have suffered bitterly.

How many times have I gone down into the Blue Dragon’s cave for youhis distress is worth recounting

Clear-eyed patch-robed monks should not take it lightly.

~ Xuedou Chongxian (d. 1052), The Blue Cliff Record, Case 3

A jade man’s dream is shattered with one call from the rooster;

Looking around in life, all colors are equal.

Wind and thunder, with news of events, roust out the hibernating insects:

Peach trees, wordless, naturally make a path.

When the time and season comes, laboring at the plow,

Who fears the spring furrows’ knee-deep mud?

~ Hongzhi Zhengjue (d 1157), The Book of Serenity, Case 79

Deep in the creases of the Santa Cruz Mountains, with redwoods and bay laurel, tan oaks and poison oak, the Great Horned owls call to each other at night under a waning Hunter’s Moon. And we sit in meditation hall together, share silent meals together, and go on walks in the forest as our retreat itself begins to wind down.

The retreat theme is “The Elegant Path of the Book of Serenity,” a collection that makes up one of the three major collections that Pacific Zen uses in its koan curriculum. Following about 80 koans we call the Miscellaneous collection, students plunge into the Song Dynasty classics, The Gateless Barrier (48 cases), The Blue Cliff Record (100 cases), and The Book of Serenity (100 cases). Each collection includes poetic commentary on the main cases, and I include favorite poems from those collections above. The poems have sufficient strength to stand on their own, and do not need the main cases to provide context. And each they all are a wonderful expression of the author and assembler himself. Wumen was spare and direct in his verse; Xuedou, dynamic and powerful, with an artistic flourish; and Hongzhi also possessed an artistic flourish, but was subtle and sweet. Enjoy.

Bow-string and arrow notch interlock,

Jewels in the net face each other:

Shooting one hundred percent bullseyes, no arrows are wasted.

Unifying all the various reflections, each light is without impediment…

~ The Book of Serenity, Case 40, verse