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Thread: Experience and Koans

  1. #1

    Experience and Koans

    Perhaps it's better not to write anything at all, but we are people who write and talk. I suppose we could go away and never speak again. That's fine. However, we can also "talk".

    Most of the talk on this forum is of "our" practice. What we have experienced and learned. This changes from moment to moment or day to day. The precise thing might be to say "I don't know." and leave it at that. However, we all know that's not the way it is.

    What we experience in our practice might be waayyy off. It might be just something that we created like a story. However, our practice tells us what our practice is. We can go off and read a thousand books, and listen to a thousand people, but none of that is useful unless we practice.

    We might think we know it all, or we might think we know "something".

    Koans. Koans go hand in hand with practice. Not "one hand clapping" but "Koans everywhere". The reason why I talk about Zazen and practice so much is because, if we want to get anywhere (or nowhere) in this practice, we must "start" somewhere.

    When ever someone tells you something, that's a Koan. No matter what they say, you can only guess and carry that with you. Perhaps you carry too much. Drop it.

    We must remember that we are not speaking to "someone". Then we won't get angry or defensive. And if we are talking to "someone" then take it in an open way with acceptance. Proving your point is useless.

    Even through these words, I can't express much. I can't give you my practice. I can only write what I am writing now.

    We all experience things in our practice and want to share that with others. However, we can not be "certain" that we are on the same page. I don't know Sh*t. That's ok. Why is that ok? It is ok as long as we keep practicing. You are you. It's important to know that. It's important to know that we can be "strange" and awkward sometimes.

    One thing I have learned is that nothing is really that big a deal. Sure we do, and we say save all sentient beings, but it's not a serious issue. It is what it is.

    As long as we learn/question, and as long as we practice, everything is fine. What more do we need to do?

    Gassho (with humilty)

    W

  2. #2

    Re: Experience and Koans

    Quote Originally Posted by will

    Not "one hand clapping" but "Koans everywhere".
    Hi.

    _/_
    The sentence of the year.

    Mtfbwy
    Fugen

  3. #3

    Re: Experience and Koans

    I was totally going to write something but after a few sentences I decided not to. Really. I'm not just saying that. It was going to be really meaningful, but I won't try to convince you... please forget I wrote anything at all. (this happens almost as often as my actual posts)

    Cam

  4. #4

    Re: Experience and Koans

    Quote Originally Posted by Deadbuddha
    I was totally going to write something but after a few sentences I decided not to. Really. I'm not just saying that. It was going to be really meaningful, but I won't try to convince you... please forget I wrote anything at all. (this happens almost as often as my actual posts)

    Cam
    We got the message in the silence. :wink:

  5. #5

    Re: Experience and Koans

    (this happens almost as often as my actual posts)
    I hear ya.

    _/_

  6. #6

    Re: Experience and Koans

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    We got the message in the silence. :wink:
    ...

  7. #7
    Senior Member Kent's Avatar
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    Re: Experience and Koans

    Will wrote.
    When ever someone tells you something, that's a koan. No matter what they say, you can only guess and carry that with you. Perhaps you carry too much. Drop it.
    Perhaps it's all a Koan. :?

  8. #8

    Re: Experience and Koans

    I felt I forgot to thank you Will for this very good post. Thank you. It touched on a few things I had been thinking about and introduced one I had not seen.

  9. #9

    Re: Experience and Koans

    Kent
    Perhaps it's all a Koan.
    Perhaps. Don't know.


    btw: this only what I have done and experienced. Like I said we could be way off.

    Yes.it is all a Koan. Zazen (not only on the cushion) is the ultimate koan.

    However,some koans that I found interesting were:
    -Jundo talking of goaless Zazen.
    -Not sticking to strongly to practice "Not creating standards of your own."
    -Dogen's frequent mention of Shikantaza.
    -Shobogenzo Zuimonki: Act like you forget about an argument, then the person won't get angry.
    -Taigu's compassion and compassion in general
    - Eika's experience
    - Shunryu Suzuki "Bigmind"
    - Sueng Sahn "only go straight, don't know"
    - Treeleaf in General
    - Tobiishi doing his moderation thing
    - and many more

    A lot of the time it might just be a story (thinking), but that's ok I think, if it leads to what the Buddha was talking about. It will also give us a base for our practice.


    Gassho _/_

    W

  10. #10

    Re: Experience and Koans

    I should also mention that Koans might present themselves without us even knowing it's a koan.

    W

  11. #11

    Re: Experience and Koans

    Quote Originally Posted by Deadbuddha
    I don't claim to be an expert on koans. I've done a little reading on them. What I understand is when someone says something, typically we carry the logic forward (accept their sentiment and make it our own) and come to what we understand as "true" (either agreeing or disagreeing) and/or form some kind of mental construct. However, as a koan, we must understand that what someone tells us is nothing near true (nor can it be by the nature of language and emptiness), instead of carrying the logic forward and arriving at some artificial "truth" or mental construct, we acknowledge what we hear, we let it go, and we see that the best (?) response is already in us. We just need to let the response come from that source within us which is true realization or insight. This is why we sit zazen (I think there are many "whys").
    Hi DB,

    Well, yes and no! (That sounds like a Koan right there!) 8)

    Let me tell you a little about "Koans" ...

    The Zen schools throughout their long history have -never- been a true rejection of traditional Buddhist philosophy and teachings. If anything, our way is about how to experience and "bring to life" those traditional perspectives and teachings through practice.

    It is often said that the Zen path is "a way beyond words and letters", but it is important not to misunderstand the intent of that statement ... or carry it too far (it was never true in the many centuries of Zen practice for the great masters ... and the fellows who burned their books were usually seasoned teachers who had already read them all! :wink: We learn from the words ... but do not take this as an intellectual pursuit and get -caught- by the words. Something like the difference between reading a book about 'swimming' and jumping in the pool oneself! Feel the cool water on our own skin. )

    My point in saying this is to make clear that most Koans are actually founded in, or demonstrations of ... or celebrations of ... aspects of Mahayana Buddhist philosophy. It is a false rumor that Koans are not "logical". They are very "logical". It is just a logic that is very different from what we usually consider "common sense" logic or Aristotle's logic, as one may encounter in a university logic class. In our way, for example, two completely contradictory statements can be true at once. Or, in other cases, the best response is to drop all limiting mental "yes/no, black/white, up/down" categorizations and experience a reality that is not based on those mental divisions ... a statement best conveyed without limiting words and either/or conclusions.

    A good example is this Koan on life and death ... sometimes the most profound answer is silence ...

    Blue Cliff Record Case 55: Dogo's Condolence Visit

    Master Dogo and [his student] Zengen came to a house [for a funeral] to express condolences. Zengen tapped on the
    coffin and said,
    "Is this life or death?"
    Dogo said,
    "I don't say life, I don't say death."
    Zengen said,
    "Why don't you?"
    Dogo said,
    "I won't say, I won't say."
    Master Dogo did not say the guy is "not dead" ... but, simultaneously true, what is there when we drop from mind all mental categories of "life" and "death" "start" and "finish" "coming" and "going" "inside the coffin" and "outside" ?? ... SPEAK! SPEAK! 8)

    Conventional "truths" in this world are true (otherwise, who is the old dead guy in the box who is looking a bit wormy?) If someone tells you "it is hot today" in July ... that is not "not true" (especially if the sun is beating down, and sweat is pouring off his brow). Yet, there are ways to experience life beyond all thought of "hot" "cold" "summer" "winter".

    Another example is found in this week's readings of Shobogenzo-Zuimonki, 1-6, in which we see that Dogen believed very strongly that we all bear the Karmic consequences for our actions (such as killing a cat), yet somehow perhaps that is not the sole story and perspective ...

    Dogen also said, “This action, that is, cutting the cat, is nothing other than Buddha’s action.”

    Ejo said, “What shall we call it?”

    Dogen said, “Call it cutting the cat.”

    Ejo asked, “Is it a [Karmic] crime or not?”

    Dogen said, “Yes, it is a crime.”

    Ejo inquired, “How are we able to be released from it?”

    Dogen said, “Buddha’s action and the criminal action are separate, yet they both occur in one action.”
    Dogen, the great "word-smith" and poet, was not about abandoning words in our practice ... he was about using them in a crafty and "mind shaking" fashion to get at truths beyond truths.

    As well, a Koan is as Will has so lovelyly pointed out ... the wonder and paradox and miracle and beauty and beyond-wordsness of each instant and circumstance of this very life. Each breath is a Koan.

    Something like that (another Koan).

    Gassho, J

  12. #12

    Re: Experience and Koans

    Quote Originally Posted by jundo
    Stuff that Jundo wrote.


    I think, now, that I was wrongly making a distinction between conventional "truths" and that "truth beyond truth" when they are neither different nor the same. Dividing things into mundane and divine as it were. But truth is emptiness and emptiness is truth? Do I understand? I'm sure I have the "not understanding" part down.

    Thanks for answering my question even though I had "changed it".

    Cam

  13. #13

    Re: Experience and Koans

    Quote Originally Posted by Deadbuddha
    Quote Originally Posted by jundo
    Stuff that Jundo wrote.


    I think, now, that I was wrongly making a distinction between conventional "truths" and that "truth beyond truth" when they are neither different nor the same. Dividing things into mundane and divine as it were. But truth is emptiness and emptiness is truth? Do I understand? I'm sure I have the "not understanding" part down.

    Thanks for answering my question even though I had "changed it".

    Cam
    Gee, Cam, you joined here only 1 month ago. Would you like to have all this resolved right now, or can you wait a few days more? :wink:

    It now sounds like a cliche to say this in the Zen world, but it is still true sometimes: "Please just with with all that. More sitting please".

    Gassho, Jundo

  14. #14

    Re: Experience and Koans

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by Deadbuddha
    Quote Originally Posted by jundo
    Stuff that Jundo wrote.


    I think, now, that I was wrongly making a distinction between conventional "truths" and that "truth beyond truth" when they are neither different nor the same. Dividing things into mundane and divine as it were. But truth is emptiness and emptiness is truth? Do I understand? I'm sure I have the "not understanding" part down.

    Thanks for answering my question even though I had "changed it".

    Cam
    Gee, Cam, you joined here only 1 month ago. Would you like to have all this resolved right now, or can you wait a few days more? :wink:

    It now sounds like a cliche to say this in the Zen world, but it is still true sometimes: "Please just with with all that. More sitting please".

    Gassho, Jundo
    Yeah, I know. I was starting to get that feeling too. I'll give it a rest and go to kung fu practice. thanks.

  15. #15

    Re: Experience and Koans

    Quote Originally Posted by Deadbuddha

    I think, now, that I was wrongly making a distinction between conventional "truths" and that "truth beyond truth" when they are neither different nor the same. Dividing things into mundane and divine as it were. But truth is emptiness and emptiness is truth? Do I understand? I'm sure I have the "not understanding" part down.

    Thanks for answering my question even though I had "changed it".

    Cam
    Taking your words as mine (as is traditional in koan study) - the question for me is "what is (buddhist) emptiness?" And I am fairly damn sure it isn't the usual definition of empty.

    I think as an artist I might have an advantage in "studying" koans, because art is all about just staring until something comes up out of one's unconscious/whatever. And then it is about looking harder and harder, over and over, to see what needs to be resolved.

    thank you for your time,
    rowan/jinho

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