Bodhidharma, the first Zen patriarch,
told Emperor Wu that merit
but great emptiness
revealed by sitting facing a wall
had great merit.
Wu was perplexed.
Patriarch number two, Hui-k’o,
faced a granite wall in a forest for seven years;
it became his beloved.
Seng-Tsan, the third Zen patriarch wrote poems
and his legendary Hsinhsinming verse
transcended all the unnecessary duality
in the mind’s mire.
Tao-Hsin, patriarch number four,
said don’t’ stare at a wall,
just do the laundry
and watch the clear water
then pour it onto the vegetables in the garden
when you’re done.
Patriarch five, Hung-Jen
meditated from age six staring at the horizon
and said if you find the line between sky and land and sea
you slip into infinity
with no sky, land and sea
just one place for the mind to finally rest.
Hui-Neng came next;
no laundry water
no heavenly horizon
just fascinating monkey mind
sometimes full, sometimes empty
running whichever way, whenever,
and that was all good.
The 300-year Tang dynasty
had three wild man patriarchs-
Ma-Tzu shouted constantly;
Pai-Ching did laundry,
and Huang-Po told everyone
they were already enlightened
and should not bother with Zen at all.
Lin-Chi was the Jesus of Zen
who loved everybody everyday.
He taught the heart’s clear natural action,
compassion, not walls and laundry and trying not to think.
His love was wiser than his mind.
The patriarchs of zen
taught more than a thousand years
before I grew up an American idiot
in a materialistic world
populated by narcissistic borderline freaks
thumbing smartphones in leather car seats
never doing laundry
afraid to face the walls
built of brick made
mortared tight together
with the fear
of their own compassionlessness.