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Thread: Koans You

  1. #1
    Friends of Treeleaf Dokan's Avatar
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    Koans You

    Hi All,

    So I thought I'd bring to the forum a question on koan study. I know that in zazen we focus on shikantaza. However, in your travels I am certain everyone must come across some level of koans...even if they are not from formal sources such as The Gateless Gate but just simply life. My question comes on how they are applied to y/our practice?

    When I sit, I simply sit. But when I encounter a koan (be from dharma talks or books) I'm not certain on what to do with it. I understand that they are meant to short-circuit the intellectual process, but at which point would you 'focus' on a koan if not in zazen? Sometimes I will stop and think about them after reading a chapter of a book or hearing a podcast, but then, as I understand it, I am missing the point as I'm using my logic and intellect to attempt to realize something that is seemingly paradoxical.

    Of course, maybe we simply ignore koans altogether as unnecessary...either way, I would love to hear how others approach this topic and what they do, if anything with it.

    Gassho,

    Shawn

  2. #2

    Re: Koans You

    In the Soto tradition, one doesn't sit with Koans during Zazen. But there's nothing hindering you from working on a Koan when you aren't doing Shikantaza. It's just not the most important aspect of practice. In the Rinzai and Yasutani-Harada (mix of Soto and Rinzai) traditions Koans are very important. One carries the Koan with him both in ordinary life and concentrates on it during Zazen, often a small part that is used almost as a mantra. In these traditions, Koans are used to trigger a Kensho experience, a glimpse of true reality or the true order of things, and sudden awakening to this same reality, Satori. In Soto enlightenment is instead both slower, over one's life, and immediate, since enlightenment = practice and the other way around.

    This is my limited take. Please correct any misunderstandings!

    Gassho,
    Pontus

    PS I describe my relationship with Koans in this thread! DS.
    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=3391

  3. #3
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Koans You

    Thank you Shawn for asking and thank you Pontus for answering.

    The practice of Shikantaza is just what we do here. Just what we do.

    In other schools or traditions, you may bump into koan practice, in the wonderful White Plum Lineage, both flavours are mixed. Here, it is not the case. So although we mention koans, we read koans through Dogen's work, we have no particular way of working on them. Rather than swallow them up, we let Zazen to swallow us up, we allow shikantaza to swallow us up. Koans are not riddles or even funny devices to bypass the dualistic mind. In the Rinzai tradition, you are invited to be so intimate with the koan, that koan and you are nothing but one. The answer to the koan is your life itself. The way you breathe, move, sit, smile or cry. In our Soto tradition, all along we are invited to act and unfold from the space of shikantaza. From that space, everything becomes a gate. Activities of our daily life are the koans we practice and study. People we meet the teachers. This body-mind-world the monastery and dokusan room. Then, we may bump into koans and they are just seen clearly. But we are not given any or searching for any. So there is no need to focus on koans. When met, let them go. Return to shikantaza, return to I-don't-know which is the source of it all. After some years of shikantaza, koans may appear very clearly and very simply before our eyes. They looked so weird and strange some time ago; now, just fine. We never try to do anything special with them. Just sit. Understanding or not...does'nt matter. Just being matters. Be you.

    gassho

    Taigu

  4. #4
    Senior Member Hogo's Avatar
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    Re: Koans You

    As Taigu said thank you for asking Shawn, and thank you both for the answers. It has lifted a little load off my mind in an unexpected way.
    Gassho.

  5. #5

    Re: Koans You

    Quote Originally Posted by Hogo
    It has lifted a little load off my mind in an unexpected way.
    In what way, if I may ask? You don't have to answer if you don't feel like it.

    Gassho,
    /Pontus

    Edit: Spelling

  6. #6
    Senior Member Hogo's Avatar
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    Re: Koans You

    Quote Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi
    Quote Originally Posted by Hogo
    It has lifted a little load off my mind in an unexpected way.
    In what way, if I may ask? You don't answer if you don't feel like it.

    Gassho,
    /Pontus
    Apologizes for my vaugness, I try not to say much when I don't feel particularly smart on a subject, and thus is the case with Koans. Shawn asked a question which I probably would not have made the effort to ask, but upon seeing the answers realized that I was seeing the Koans in an interesting way, as something to be chewed on, or to be clever with even though my mind simply says ...........Huh?..........not that I really ever get too spun up about them but it is hard from a state of ignorance to know how much (or little) effort to throw at something, So I guess what I am saying is that I am thankful for a post that shone a light where I had not thought to look.... or something.....clear as mud?
    Hope that kinda answers your question.
    Gassho.

  7. #7

    Re: Koans You

    Quote Originally Posted by Hogo
    clear as mud?
    Hope that kinda answers your question.
    Yes, thank you.
    So now you know that no effort is needed! (Or if you should end up in Rinzai, ALL of your effort is needed...)
    Clever thinking doesn't take you very far with most Koans, but I'm still so attached to my conceptualizing that I have to let myself conceptualize before I can start letting go...
    When I first got interested in Zen fifteen years ago (I had a long hiatus) I tried Koan practice, but never got past the first! Now I think I have mostly let it go, but return to it once in a while for fun, so see if my view has changed anything since the last time. I also read other Koans from time to time, but I let them go after I stop reading.

    Also, remember that most of these stories were written hundreds if not thousands of years ago. In our time, in our western culture, we don't have the cultural background or understanding of terms and concepts in these Koans, which makes them even more convoluted!

    Gassho,
    Pontus

  8. #8

    Re: Koans You

    return to I-don't-know which is the source of it all.

    ...WELL written. Gassho.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Hogo's Avatar
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    Re: Koans You

    Quote Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi
    Also, remember that most of these stories were written hundreds if not thousands of years ago. In our time, in our western culture, we don't have the cultural background or understanding of terms and concepts in these Koans, which makes them even more convoluted!
    Oh well that explains it! :wink:
    LOL well next time I am staring blankly at one of Taigu's videos I can just say, ahhhhh its not me its the crusty old dudes that wrote this stuff!
    but really I have learned that for me anyway much of this teaching just needs to be absorbed slowly, if not clearly right away.
    The more I tried to digest, and quickly the more I choked on it.... and so now here I sit doing my best impersonation of a sponge.
    Gassho
    ~Dave.

  10. #10

    Re: Koans You

    Quote Originally Posted by Hogo
    LOL well next time I am staring blankly at one of Taigu's videos I can just say, ahhhhh its not me its the crusty old dudes that wrote this stuff!
    I wouldn't call Taigu a crusty old dude... :shock: :lol: :wink:

  11. #11
    Senior Member Hogo's Avatar
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    Re: Koans You

    :lol: :lol: :lol:
    Sure throw me under the bus. I errr.. was refering to the crusty old dudes who teachings Taigu has generously offered to guide us through.......yup.
    Though I will admit still maybe nearly half of what Taigu says goes over my head I still consider every minute spent with him a well spent one.

  12. #12

    Re: Koans You

    Taking our daily lives as koans to solve, from our experience while in shinkantaza. Hhhhhmmm

    In situations when stress, anger, excitement, boredom... don't let me think clearly I bring to my mind the concept of "washing the dishes in order to wash the dishes by Thich Nhat Hanh (from his book: The miracle of mindfulness
    [There are two ways to wash the dishes. The first way is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second way is to wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes.(p.4)
    In more detail:

    While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes, which means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. At first glance this might seem a little silly: why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that's precisely the point. The fact that I am standing there and washing these bowls is a wondrous reality. I'm being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There's no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves. (pp.3-4)

    Gassho

  13. #13

    Re: Koans You

    How about singing and washing the dishes? And maybe dedicating a song to the bowls?

    Can I not be as mindful then? Sure I can!

    So, maybe not think that you have to attend to just the dishes when washing, instead being with the moment as it is, and if you donīt care for singing, donīt sing. On the other hand if you donīt care for washing the dishes, you probably still have to do it, and then just do that.

    We tend to neglect the act of washing dishes, thatīs the problem, and on the other way around we should not neglect all else that is right there.

    Just a different viewpoint I wanted to share.

    Janne

  14. #14

    Re: Koans You

    Hi.

    Just putting in an excercise we used during the Ango, and its still applicable now.
    viewtopic.php?f=7&t=2973

    Clean up around the sink, so that there are only the dirty dishes there to be washed.

    Get everything ready so that you can wash them by hand.

    Wash the dishes intently one by one, as if each plate was the most important thing in the world ... as if handling a precious child.

    Clean diligently, removing the grime, while simultaneously dropping all thoughts of "clean" and "dirty" (if that is difficult, see if you can drop any negative feelings about the dirtiness, and see the dirty state with acceptance and equanimity).

    Do not rush it.
    Proceed ahead at a steady pace, taking care.
    Drop all thought of some goal to attain, even while forging ahead.
    Let each plate take it's time.

    How did it feel?
    Was it different than usual (if you usually do the dishes)?
    Did you feel stressed? More at ease?
    Can you consider doing this again, and other work in such "non gaining" way?
    Mtfbwy
    Fugen

  15. #15
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    Re: Koans You

    Thank you for your wonderful replies. Several of the things you posted hit me right where I am coming from.

    Much of my beginnings in Zen were under the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. And, exactly as Rimon posted is how I find koans in my daily life...the practice of mindfulness.

    I also spent a couple years with Daido Roshi (and the others at MRO) as my primary source of teaching, thus Yasutani-Harada lineage as Pontus referenced. Which while being of the Soto tradition and lineage, taught using koans but then emphasized shikantaza on the zafu. Which is most likely my source of confusion. I find also, from these teachings that the koans that are studied spill over into my daily life.

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    In the Rinzai tradition, you are invited to be so intimate with the koan, that koan and you are nothing but one. The answer to the koan is your life itself. The way you breathe, move, sit, smile or cry. In our Soto tradition, all along we are invited to act and unfold from the space of shikantaza. From that space, everything becomes a gate.
    The comparison of the two is very much appreciated and helps immensely. I believe my disconnect comes in that I have been using shikantaza as a tool for just the zafu and then leaving it there. Then when I encounter a koan in my readings/listenings/"beings" I have stumbled with how to proceed with it. Which brings me to...

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    Return to shikantaza, return to I-don't-know which is the source of it all.
    I believe there is a jewel of clarity here but I'm not sure I grasp this yet. However I believe your admonition to not focus on koans and that through our practice, (shikantaza) koans will be realized without need for introspection.

    Please correct me if I am misunderstanding.

    Many bows.

    Shawn

  16. #16
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Koans You

    Shawn,

    When you follow the shikantaza way, there is no need for introspection. Shikantaza penetrates and shines much further than the zafu. It is reality itself.
    Your post is very clear, your understanding doesn't miss a single thing.
    I-don't know is nothing but you-sitting-going-breathing.

    Just stop trying to get somewhere and grasp anything...just on the spot, BE.


    Take great care of yourself


    Gassho


    T.

  17. #17

    Re: Koans You

    Hi,

    I will echo much of what Bro. Taigu has said. Shikantaza is, in our way, the complete Koan whereby all (and us too) are resolved and made whole and brought back to life.

    As well, there are endless Koans being presented to us each each moment, in each breath. This is the "Genjo Koan" ... meaning something like "the Koan Ever Actualizing Right Here".

    But let me talk a moment about "Koan Koans" (I mean Koans of the "Sound of One Hand Clapping" "Does A Dog Have Buddha Nature" kind):

    In my view, such Koans have come to be very much misunderstood and often misused.

    Koans are not "illogical statements" or "riddles". In fact, most have a certain "logic" to them ... although a "Buddhist logic" firmly grounded in Buddhist perspectives and teachings where, for example, A is not B, yet A is precisely B ... all while there is no A nor B because All is just thoroughly A which is all time and space! Now, an overly or merely intellectual understanding of such perspectives is not sufficient, for one must actually see and be these perspectives, come to live them. Thus, I would compare Koans to poems and songs which express these wonderful perspectives in musical language so they can be felt in the bones, music that can be danced to. Many also have the aspect of an expression which carries and lets us "see" these multiple perspectives at once ... like this famous drawing ... or those 3-D images in the newspaper that some folks can see and some not ...



    Is she an old lady .. a young lady ... lines and ink on paper ... the whole universe?

    Like poems, like music ... these teachings should resonate with us and help us see in new ways (one Koany way of saying this is "see with the ears, hear with the eyes!" 8) )

    Now, one thing about Koans ... as was pointed out ... is that the distance of time and culture, and the resulting gap in shared cultural references and language, is actually hurting more than helping now. As was pointed out ... often Zen phrases seem "cryptic" or mysterious and profound simply because many old Zen stories were written in 1000 year old "slang", citing forgotten Chinese legends, stories and poetic references, and poorly translated over time! It is as if I were to create a Koan now using such 'Americanism' terms as "bling-bling", "shake your booty", "Thomas the Tank Engine" (Britishism) and "Casey at the bat" and expect folks 1000 years from now in Lithuania to "get the reference". They might take "Bling Bling" to be a mysterious Mantra thought to have great magical powers.

    Now, somewhere along the line, some radicals started to take the Koans and, forgetting the meaning behind them, asserted that if one merely takes a few words of the story ... and wraps oneself up in it ... even if one doesn't have a clue what the folks are "talking about" ... one can have a breakthrough to a Kensho experience or some insight. These days, students are assigned Koans to chew on so far removed from their original context that they might as well be future Lithuanians sitting Zazen while breathing in and out "Thomas the Tank Engine." I have no doubt that if the 31th Century Lithuanian does so for long enough, he will have some kind of breakthrough! :shock:

    Now, as I have spoken of before ... in our Soto way too, we have all manner of encounters, deep and subtle, shallow and boundless. We do not overvalue or undervalue any of single instant but, rather, consider the whole hike ... the whole lifetime voyage with its changing scenery ... to be precious. There is no doubt (including the Great Doubt) that, in classical Soto Zen Practice (and all Zen Practice) a deep, profound insight piercing of the timeless, boundless, selfless (which is simultaneously this 'time bound, space bound, self bound' world) is vital. However, it is not a passing experience, no matter how profound (if you doubt me, just look at all the magnificent Kenshoing, Koan passing truly misguided and confused and rather unbalanced beings out there ... some of them perhaps "Zen teachers", as seen in some recent stories). Our Soto way is enlightenment in constantly polishing of the Jewel ... a constant polishing of the tile into Buddha ... all while the tile is already Buddha and the polishing never ends! This moving forward not knowing or sure what tomorrow holds ... yet truly Beyond Doubt ... is 'Great Doubt'!

    As well, certain folks "systemized" koans into great collections which were to be "passed". While I appreciate that different Koans deal with different subjects (and sometimes sameness and difference subjects ... that's a joke), the over-emphasis on "passing" the Koan curricula is ridiculous. That is especially true as, with time, so many of the Koan have become separated from their original meanings.

    Anyway, I digress.

    I consider that I "teach in Koans" all the time, almost daily returning to the "classic" koans, but that I try to do so in modern language too (which may be closer to the experience of 10th century Zen Buddhists hearing these stories in their own 10th century language). So, for example, I wrote this when folks were a bit too focused (or some folks under focused) on Dharma names ... using a more familiar poetic reference to make a point ... a Koan on the futility of names and words by the greatest wordsmith of the English Language (Shakespeare ... not me :wink: ) who could turn mere names and words into living flowerings ...

    "What's in a name? That which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet."
    Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

    A Kanji is but ink on paper or cloth, although the strokes give life to great power and beauty ... like a flower, a rose.
    That, I believe, is a Koan. Can you feel it, can you grok** it?

    Gassho, Cohen (not Koan)

    PS - ** To "grok": Author Robert A. Heinlein coined the term in his 1961 Science Fiction classic Stranger in a Strange Land, where he wrote "Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science—and it means as little to us (because of our Earthly assumptions) as color means to a blind man."

    PPS -
    Quote Originally Posted by Rimon
    While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes, which means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. At first glance this might seem a little silly: why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that's precisely the point. The fact that I am standing there and washing these bowls is a wondrous reality. I'm being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There's no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves. (pp.3-4)

    Gassho
    Being mindful and aware of one's act in such way is a lovely practice. However, I do not know how useful it truly is in a life in which we cannot live such way much of the time. For that reason, I emphasize in teachings "non-doing" ... which is a twist on that flavor. Cleaning the yucky dirty dishes to get them clean ... all while, hand-in-hand, dropping all thought of "clean and dirty" and the undesirability of "dirty" (as two sides of a single coin). In other words, moving forward toward the goal ... all while free of any goal or need to obtain ... holding judgments, aversions and attractions though lightly, all while free of judgments, aversions and attractions.

    Yes, another KOAN!

    This is a much more useful practice in a world in which we must often be busy busy busy ... yet can be still and one with the flowing.

  18. #18

    Re: Koans You

    Hi everyone!
    I'm sincerely happy I read this post today... Sometimes we tend to make too much about what we do/know/think and forget the basic joy of the this practice.
    So easy to get lost in the myriads of books, blogs, conferences, retreats and other Dharma stuff of all Buddhist traditions we encounter or have encountered.
    Sometimes nothing is nicer than tasting the sweet taste of simpleness. Getting back to practice with what is important for us in this practice and remembering the practical gate of luminous joy that Zazen is. Far from theoretical questions or mystical consideration...

    All this to say that sometimes I tend to forget that Zazen is Shikantaza... sounds silly but lately I've been sick and I've been reading more than practicing, ...
    And it is a real joy, for me to remember the jewel we have, it is about the joyful simpicity of the here and now... or as Taigu put it:

    In our Soto tradition, all along we are invited to act and unfold from the space of shikantaza. From that space, everything becomes a gate. Activities of our daily life are the koans we practice and study
    deep gassho,
    Jinyu
    ps: Sorry I couldn't had anything on the subject of Koans... they said everything! :lol:

  19. #19

    Re: Koans You

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    Being mindful and aware of one's act in such way is a lovely practice. However, I do not know how useful it truly is in a life in which we cannot live such way much of the time. For that reason, I emphasize in teachings "non-doing" ... which is a bit of another flavor. Cleaning the yucky dirty dishes to get them clean ... all while, hand-in-hand, dropping all thought of "clean and dirty" and the undesirability of "dirty" (as two sides of a single coin). In other words, moving forward toward the goal ... all while free of any goal or need to obtain.

    Yes, another KOAN!

    This is a much more useful practice in a world in which we must often be busy busy busy ... yet can be still and one with the flowing.
    I love this thread as well In any case, this is a really, really good point about mindfulness; it's something that really resonated with me when I first read what you wrote about mindfulness. Non-doing is the middle way. You can go nuts trying to be aware of everything you do, which is impossible and would end up just being frustrating. Sometimes being lost in thought is the way it is.. that's practice. Being pissed is practice. It's all practice. This type of mindfulness (it's almost a superficial mindfulness) just ends up separating you from what you are doing.. so it's the other side of the coin of not being aware. One side is not paying attention, the other is trying to pay attention. But non-doing, that is the point that transcends both.

    Gassho,

    Risho

  20. #20

    Re: Koans You

    How about singing and washing the dishes? And maybe dedicating a song to the bowls?

    Can I not be as mindful then? Sure I can!
    Good question Janne. Actually that is my main self-assigned "life koan". When walking is "just walking", eating "just eating" and so on?
    I like to read the newspaper while having breakfast, but that is clearly not "just eating"; I'm not paying all the attention I should to the food. On the other hand, I like to take a walk while humming to myself some tune; the rythm of the song tend to match my walking pace so I view as "just walking".
    Singing and washing dishes? Depends completely on one' s experience I'd say. I know that if I did it, it would be to distract myself for the boring task of washing dishes. Don't tell Jundo :x but lots of times I wash the dishes with my stereo playing out loud so I don't have to pay attention to the washing.


    Jundo said:

    Being mindful and aware of one's act in such way is a lovely practice. However, I do not know how useful it truly is in a life in which we cannot live such way much of the time. For that reason, I emphasize in teachings "non-doing" ... which is a twist on that flavor. Cleaning the yucky dirty dishes to get them clean ... all while, hand-in-hand, dropping all thought of "clean and dirty" and the undesirability of "dirty" (as two sides of a single coin). In other words, moving forward toward the goal ... all while free of any goal or need to obtain ... holding judgments, aversions and attractions though lightly, all while free of judgments, aversions and attractions.

    Yes, another KOAN!

    This is a much more useful practice in a world in which we must often be busy busy busy ... yet can be still and one with the flowing.
    Hhhhmmm.. That gives a whole new meaning to TNH concept of "washing the dishes in order to wash the dishes". I'll work hard in that non-assigned koan

    Also, from a more "professional" point of view, your brief description on the Buddhist logic of Koans sounds like something this philosophy guy would like to explore. Can you reccomend some readings to dwel into the subject?

    Gassho

    Rimon

  21. #21

    Re: Koans You

    I love this thread as well In any case, this is a really, really good point about mindfulness; it's something that really resonated with me when I first read what you wrote about mindfulness. Non-doing is the middle way. You can go nuts trying to be aware of everything you do, which is impossible and would end up just being frustrating. Sometimes being lost in thought is the way it is.. that's practice. Being pissed is practice. It's all practice. This type of mindfulness (it's almost a superficial mindfulness) just ends up separating you from what you are doing.. so it's the other side of the coin of not being aware. One side is not paying attention, the other is trying to pay attention. But non-doing, that is the point that transcends both.
    coulnd't agree more with that.

    Who said that there weren't any interesting discussions in this place? :twisted:

  22. #22

    Re: Koans You

    Quote Originally Posted by Rimon
    Also, from a more "professional" point of view, your brief description on the Buddhist logic of Koans sounds like something this philosophy guy would like to explore. Can you reccomend some readings to dwel into the subject?
    Ola Rimon,

    Well, since you are an actual philosophy professor at a university, here are some items that might be of interest to the specialist ... maybe not the general reader ...

    A very good book is this one ... a fascinating series of scholars papers on the origins, history and various uses of Koans ...

    http://www.amazon.com/Koan-Texts-Contex ... 252&sr=1-1

    Reviewed in the second half of this review ...

    http://www.thezensite.com/ZenBookReview ... Nelson.pdf

    You might also find this paper interesting ...

    http://www.thezensite.com/ZenTeachings/ ... rmance.htm

    this too ...

    http://www.thezensite.com/ZenEssays/His ... sebook.pdf

    That should keep you busy for awhile ...

    Gassho, J

  23. #23

    Re: Koans You

    Quote Originally Posted by Rimon
    Also, from a more "professional" point of view, your brief description on the Buddhist logic of Koans sounds like something this philosophy guy would like to explore. Can you reccomend some readings to dwel into the subject?
    Rowan Jinho recommends Cleary's translation of the Book of Serenity (a collection of 100 medieval Chinese koans).

    On a more general note:

    Do not think ABOUT a koan, just live with the question. If a koan grabs you, then live with that question, just let it sit in your being and an answer will come. maybe in a few years maybe next week. but the important thing is (as Sensei Ejo McMullin of the Eugene Zen Center said to me) "where is there not koan?" There are an infinite number of koans in our lives at every moment.

    A koan that lives with me (or lives me) for me is "what is enlightenment?" I am sure this is a koan that lives in many zennies, whether Soto or Rinzai.

    Someone (I believe Maezumi) wrote that before enlightenment, life is chopping wood and carrying water, and after enlightenment life is chopping wood and carrying water, but do not be mistaken, the chopping wood and carrying water before enlightenment is not the same as the chopping wood and carrying water after enlightenment. I can certainly say that is very true even after my very tiny kensho experiences.

    But the important this is to just live with the question, because the "answer" that comes from one's subconscious (after it has mulled it around for a few years) will be far more meaningful than the intellectual one that one comes up with. But perhaps it is good to analyse something to death to sort of get the analysing out of one's system. FYI, very few people do "sound of one hand". Almost everyone begins with Mu as a first koan when doing formal koan study. And there is only one answer to all koans, which is that great understanding that we call enlightenment.

    I would like to assert, while mindfulness is a good thing, it is not enlightenment.

    Also, I think of shikantaza as koan study whose koan is "This Moment" - but without the words, of course (I hope Jundo and Taigu understand what I am trying to express). to become one with This Moment, to completely experience This Moment as the entire universe. Perhaps it is my innate orientation but I experience shikantaza as a vast limitless koan.

    Another lovely quote from Sensei Ejo - I asked him "what is shikantaza" and he replied that for him it is the roaring stream which flows through everything.

    gassho,
    Rowan Jinho

  24. #24

    Re: Koans You

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    That should keep you busy for awhile ...

    Gassho, J
    Indeeeed. Thank you so much Jundo. Looking forward to read some of these by the end of the week

    Gassho

    Rimon

  25. #25

    Re: Koans You

    When I read a koan, which I will sometimes read a bunch at a time, like reading a book, I will simply read it. I might think on it for a moment, simply to make sure I understand in what way something is being said, like all those koans where one monk asks another to "say something" they are asking for a piece of wisdom from the teachings that would enlighten the situation.

    For the most part, I simply read them and either look at them and say, "I don't get this one yet." or "ahhhhh, I see......" I think that koans are intensly personal and the answer will change with the reader.

  26. #26
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Koans You

    A word of caution JohnstonCM, don't think that koan...let koan think you. Don't live life , let life live you. Same old thing. By the way, love what you wrote about pointless sitting.
    Our way is just sitting, sitting the big koan itself, the source of it all. Thank you Jinho for that limitless koan.

    gassho

    Taigu

  27. #27

    Re: Koans You

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    A word of caution JohnstonCM, don't think that koan...let koan think you
    I was reading Keizan's Zazen-Yojinki today and I've seen something with "the same taste":
    Arising from stillness, carry out activities without hesitation. This moment is the koan. When practice and realization are without complexity then the koan is this present moment. That which is before any trace arises, the scenery on the other side of time’s destruction, the activity of all Buddhas and Awakened Ancestors, is just this one thing.
    what a beautiful program... lets do this :lol:

    gassho,
    Jinyu
    edit: The Zazen-Yojinki has been a wonderful discovery for me, somewhat different froom Dogen style, a bit more esoteric with a great emphasis on "light" but anyway it strucked me has the Fukanzazengi did the first time.
    Here is a pdf with some of the articles we can find in ""The Art of Just Sitting: Essential Writings on the Zen Practice of Shikantaza": https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&p...thkey=CJ3Qrq0L
    And here is the text in html format can be found on WWZC website at this address: http://www.wwzc.org/translations/zazenYojinki.htm

  28. #28

    Re: Koans You

    What about Shobogenzon shinji? I know we dont use koans but is has been speculated dogen did. I wonder were this fell out of his favor or the soto tradition...

  29. #29

    Re: Koans You

    Quote Originally Posted by TrevorMcmanis
    What about Shobogenzon shinji? I know we dont use koans but is has been speculated dogen did. I wonder were this fell out of his favor or the soto tradition...
    Hi Trevor,

    It never fell out of favor in the Soto tradition, even now. Shinji Shobogenzo was a collection of Koans that Dogen collected and wrote down himself and brought back from China. (My teacher, Nishijima, translated the Shinji Shobogenzo):



    Then Dogen used most of those same Koans again and again throughout Shobogenzo (not to be confused with "Shinji Shobogenzo") and (the other main collection of Dogen words) Eihei Koroku. Wall to wall, chock full of Koans!

    The only question is HOW he used the Koans, his particular style of playing that jazz piano. For example, it is pretty clear that he did not want people to be focusing on a Koan or phrase from a Koan during Zazen (or anything or nothing during Zazen) ... and one was not to employ the Koans in the way of Tahui during Zazen ...

    ... but more as Taigu so often does around here ... with Koku, with this today. Here is a nice Sufi Koan ...

    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=3454&start=0&st=0&sk=t&sd=a

    Gassho, J

  30. #30
    Friends of Treeleaf Dokan's Avatar
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    Re: Koans You

    Quote Originally Posted by Jinyu
    edit: The Zazen-Yojinki has been a wonderful discovery for me, somewhat different froom Dogen style, a bit more esoteric with a great emphasis on "light" but anyway it strucked me has the Fukanzazengi did the first time.
    Here is a pdf with some of the articles we can find in ""The Art of Just Sitting: Essential Writings on the Zen Practice of Shikantaza":
    I was happy to see this Jinyu as it's next on my reading list!

    Gassho,

    s

  31. #31
    disastermouse
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    Re: Koans You

    I agree with Jundo about koans, and Taigu too. I think they are able to be misused in a way that shikantaza is not susceptible to being misused. Koans and teacher pass/fail input can really anchor the idea that, by god, you're getting somewhere, man... Also, many people think they're enigmatic riddles when really (IMHO) they are often very straightforward expressions.

    The best koans are 'in this moment koans' like 'I hate my job but I don't want to be homeless.' or 'I'm justified in going to war against my teacher in the name of the peace of enlightenment.'

    Chet

  32. #32
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Koans You

    Yes, Chet, I really like "I hate my job but I don't want to be homeless". This is the kind of thing we face everyday.

    There is a big evidence that Dogen never wanted people to play with koans when sitting: we should check his poetry as he describes his zazen so often...Read again the Fukanzazengi, where there is no mention of koan practice during sitting. It is true that it is mentioned by Keizan in the Zazen-jojinki but as a possibility to settle and focus the mind.

    I would suggest also to read the following teaching of Suzuki roshi about Soto and Rinzai:


    http://suzukiroshi.sfzc.org/dharma-talk ... 2#more-762

    gassho


    Taigu

  33. #33
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: Koans You

    Time's tailor has never made a robe for anyone
    Without then slashing it to pieces.
    See how the million fools of this world
    Pay Satan heaps of gold for pain!
    Don't stretch out your legs on this earth-carpet,
    It is a borrowed bed; fear that day
    His messengers come to roll it up forever.
    How can you go on gazing at the body's dust?
    Search out the Horseman of the Soul!
    Train your vision with passion and longing,
    And see the Horseman at the heart of this dust-storm!
    - Rumi 1207-73

  34. #34

    Re: Koans You

    Hello friends,

    I realize I'm a bit late to the discussion, but I only now saw it (thank you, Shokai, for posting Rumi's poem).

    In answer to the OP, in my life the only koan I've found worth holding on to is "what do I do right now?" An "in the moment" (thank you Chet) koan that encompasses all moments, all koans.

    It has also, on occasion, stripped away some deeply held ignorance in a pretty violent fashion. Just the medicine I needed.

    Metta and Gassho,

    Saijun

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