"Four Seasons Mandara"

The Four Seasons are holy.

Each contain the teaching.

When one of them is pronounced,

front-and-center on the “outside,”

we carry the other three

in a mandala within.

The proof is found

in a Winter tea bowl.

It goes like this:

High winds and ice.

Freezing air tonight.

Skin aches for beams of Sun.

Just a drop of it would be healing.

Warm saké in a pale green tea bowl

holds these

brittle and brittling forces

at bay.

A deep breath

and the Spring Lands Within

inhale the bouquet.


Early Summer melon.

Dogwood bloom.

Magnolia perfume.

Black cherries on a branch.

Even tendons

in my legs

suddenly recall

long Summer walks

when the late evening humidity

hugged tight and close to me

like a firefly-eyed lover

blinking flirts across

the chasm of space-time.

Here, in the dead of Winter,

new spirit stirs.

Tonbo: Dragonfly

Karumi: Lightness of Being

Jimoku: Eyes and Ears attuned to the Holy Soft-Attention

Soon after my reverie wears off,

I turn to the crazy-cloud verses

of Zen master Ikkyū:

“The ten-trillion lands are not distant.

The highest Truth is fulfilled in a single word: Wonder.

There are four directions: North, East, South, and West.

West is Autumn - the quarter wherein all things are harvested.

East is the direction of birth.

The sun, the moon, all living creatures appear in the East.

They pass South, through the area of yang,

then go North to embrace yin,

until they are born again in the East.

The very body

of the awakened person

takes on the aspect of the West

and is called a 'Pure Land'.

The directions considered in terms of colors:

North is black,

East is blue,

South is red,

West is white,

the Center is yellow.

‘Pure Land’ means ‘fresh earth’ and refers to the bodies of those who have awakened.

We can find all the thousand universes contacted within the mortal body.”

And this

is how a waning moon

guided me

to the Trailhead

of the Crazy Cloud Way.

Glossary for Poem

mandara - Japanese word for mandala

mandala: a circular design demonstrating wholeness of psyche and Nature

Ikkyū - refers to Ikkyū Sojun (1394-1481) a.k.a. self-named: "Crazy Cloud," an iconoclastic, renegade Zen master who began to cultivate a syncretic spirituality toward the end of his life that wove together principles of Zen Buddhism, Pure Land ideas, and primal ways of perceiving Nature. The excerpted verses cited above come from an ancient text called the Amida Hadaka, or Amida Stripped Bare (literally: "Naked Amida"), which debunks notions of "one-vehicle" Buddhist fundamentalism of his day. Put another way, in response to the questions of a troubled student, Ikkyū presents a cosmology that all forms of Buddhadharma are one and the same at their root. (The specific Amida Hadaka verses come from a translation in Zen-man Ikkyū, J. Sandford)