Charles Chaim Wax
Even Zen Masters Make Mistakes - Poem by Charles Chaim Wax
Kogaku Roshi had just finished his opening Teisho,
a speech given to spur students on
when Trentino leaped from his full lotus position,
pranced to Kogaku Roshi’s mat,
and kissed the edge of it saying,
“You are the only true Master.”
I was shocked,
as were all the participants.
Head Monk Hugo glanced at
the Zen Master. There must have been
some kind of telepathic communication
because a second later
Hugo lowered his eyes and stared at the floor.
“ONLY TRUE MASTER. PAIN, ”
bellowed Kogaku Roshi.
“Yes, yes, ” Trentino babbled.
“ALL NIGHT SIT, ” Kogaku Roshi replied.
Trentino immediately rose,
tiptoed to his mat,
and resumed the full lotus position.
Hugo tinged the gong five times.
When I heard that sweet sound
my heart shuddered. Five tones meant
a Double period. I instantaneously
remembered the agony of a Double sit
during the second Sesshin
and that torment occurred
at the very end of the Sesshin
but now we were starting off with it.
After ten minutes I started talking
to myself. I didn’t care, Mostly:
Kogaku Roshi is not the Buddha, far from it
for I feared the great Zen Master got it wrong.
I know he wanted to teach Trentino
about who the true Master was,
but not this way
because the guy was a ballet dancer
and could sit a week without a scintilla of pain,
like some of the other circus performers here.
This wouldn’t teach Trentino a thing
but for guys like me, with legs
like blocks of wood,
this was going to be hell.
A jolt of pain hit me, and lingered.
I waited for it to pass.
The pain did not pass. I began to sweat as
I actually felt the bones in my ankles slowly crack.
“It’s damn easy for an acrobat to enter
the Kingdom of Heaven, ” I said,
making sure not to vocalize the words,
but the ever vigilant Head Monk Hugo bellowed,
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