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Thread: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

  1. #1

    SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    I have been having a little back-and-forth with Rev. Dosho Port about some statements made on his blog, in a post aptly titled "Who Gets to Say Anyway?" ...

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wildfoxzen ... nyway.html

    There are many Paths up and down the no-mountain mountain, each suited to sentient beings with differing needs. I believe that there are students who may benefit from Koan introspection alone, and those who will not. There are student who will benefit from Shikantaza alone, and those who will not. And there are students who may benefit from some combination, and those who will not. All beautiful paths, suited (or not) to different people.

    So I was rather saddened and surprised to see Dosho express a seemingly narrow view of Koan teaching, stating ...

    Soto priests without koan training comment on koans regularly (including myself in my nefarious past). ... Now that I’ve done some koan training, I confess to this hubris in my own past and from my current perspective would like to encourage my Soto non-koan trained friends to consider the possibility that there might well be something in a koan that they have not seen from their shikantaza perspective.

    I wrote him back to say I agree with his comment that Shikantaza practitioners might not see or teach Koans as Dosho's school or sect teaches, but that, in turn, those other folks "should consider that there may be something in Koans that they have not tasted in their dreams without piercing the purity of Shikantaza". When I informed Dosho that our Treeleaf Community would soon begin dancing with the Book of Equanimity (the Sh?y?roku), a collection of Koans much cherished in the Soto world for nearly 1000 years, Dosho wrote:

    Seriously, I suggest that you don’t. From what I’ve read of your views on koan and shikantaza, I wonder if you might be misleading your community by working through koan with them – koan that you yourself have not worked through with anybody. Perhaps qualifying what your doing by saying that this is just your view….

    Hmmm. Respectfully, that seems a very narrow vision of the Gateless Gate to Buddhist Truth! Dosho did not wish to continue the discussion on his own blog. So, I thought to respond here and invite Rev. Dosho or anyone to offer views (provided one doesn't omit the non-views too!)


    So, WHO OWNS THE KOANS?


    Today’s Sit-A-Long video follows at this link. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 15 to 35 minutes is recommended

    [youtube] [/youtube]
    .

  2. #2

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Maybe he's right.
    But I'm willing to take the risk of being mislead.
    Thanks for leading/misleading!

    /Pontus

  3. #3
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    My dog and I have this unique relationship and I doubt is the same as that which Pontius and his dog share but, who's to say that one or the other is better. :lol: His dog is brown, my dog is black!

    Jundo, thank you for this Sit-a-Long, it totally brings out the "my dog's better than your dog"-isms found in all religions. Which donkey ya gonna ride and who owns the donkey anyway?? Like i keep telling my wife, "There's no ownership in this lifetime!"

    Most of all i love your logic and passion, please don't change ( although we all change and nothing is changeless 8) ) . I most certainly am looking forward to the discussions on the Book of Equanimity/Serenity (the Sh?y?roku)

    again, many thanks for this lesson ????

  4. #4
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    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Different strokes for different folks.

    I've enjoyed koan study in the past...even if I was "doing it wrong" by some standards...and look forward to continuing so with Shoyoroku.

    Gassho,

    Dokan

    PS - Posted up to podcast.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Dosho Port's comment was interesting--worth showing in its entirety, I think:

    Hi Jundo,

    Of course, it is possible that someone without any koan (or shikantaza) background, a four-year old even, might see through a koan in a totally fresh and invigorating way. I’ve seen in my short time working koans with students that some long-time shikantaza practitioners have been doing their shikantaza in a way that when they encounter koan, it’s like warm butter spreading on toast.

    That’s not true for everyone, however. For some practitioners, the shikantaza instructions (especially when the fundamental is reified as something beyond our reach) can lead to trance and avoidance of what’s really going on in life and can leave people clueless about how to bring the zazen heart forth in daily life.

    There are, of course, many possible negatives of koan practice too – like competitiveness and arrogance, for example. We humans can sure make a mess of whatever we pick up.

    I see the koan masters as teaching the same point as Dogen with incredibly innovative and creative ways to help us discover and actualize the fundamental point.

    As many people have noted, (my koan teachers Ford, Blacker, and Rynick for example), the two practices can be very much complementary, not “this and that” as you say. Koan and shikantaza seem to me to be two foci interacting. I have gone on and on in blog posts about this and how this view elegantly fits with the overall teaching of Dogen – imv.

    Granted, you and I see things differently and have come to different (provisional, I hope) conclusions. No problem. I like differences as they provide the opportunity to learn.

    I’m surprised to see that although you agree with my point of caution for Soto teachers who haven’t done koan work you plan to work through the Book of Serenity with your students. Be careful, some of them might find themselves considering koan in zazen and defiling their shikantaza! :-)

    Seriously, I suggest that you don’t. From what I’ve read of your views on koan and shikantaza, I wonder if you might be misleading your community by working through koan with them – koan that you yourself have not worked through with anybody. Perhaps qualifying what your doing by saying that this is just your view….

    Specifically, you seem to see koan and shikantaza as rigidly different (I say this from seeing your comments on your blog and at ZFI) and this itself suggests to me that there might be a better answer than how you would tend to interpret any koan.

    If you would like to discuss this further, I suggest that we have a Skype conversation.

    Respectfully,

    Dosho
    All right. It's a fair warning, I think, from his point of view--not so much an attack but a warning against doing the kind of practice he once did and now regrets:

    Now that I’ve done some koan training, I confess to this hubris in my own past and from my current perspective would like to encourage my Soto non-koan trained friends to consider the possibility that there might well be something in a koan that they have not seen from their shikantaza perspective.

    I suppose that goes for all of us all the time.
    Well, yes, it does. I assume all of us at Treeleaf get that? I haven't done much koan study at all, but I can't imagine going forward with this and not thinking that there are so many different perspectives on what it all means.

    I am curious about his last statement, though. Are koan and shikantaza practices "rigidly" different? Do you, Jundo, really think so?

    Gassho

    Jen

  6. #6

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer G P

    I am curious about his last statement, though. Are koan and shikantaza practices "rigidly" different? Do you, Jundo, really think so?

    Gassho

    Jen
    Hi Jen,

    No, and they have always gone hand-in-hand.

    We wrestle with Koans around Treeleaf all the time ... sometimes the "classic" Koans, and sometimes modern, living Koans that are appearing in our active lives each day. (By the way, the "Book of Equanimity" reading, with Rev. Wick's commentary, is a wonderful success at both ... bringing the "classic" Koans into relevance for this present life.)

    Gassho, J

  7. #7

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Very well put Jundo. Thanks for sharing.
    As I see it, stating that there is a correct way to interpret a koan goes against the very nature of working with koans.
    How can they be alive if they turned into a riddle that needs an algorithm to be cracked, so to speak?

    Gassho
    Rimon

  8. #8

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shokai
    "my dog's better than your dog"
    I can assure you that your dog is better than my dog!
    I have no illusions. My dog is completely worthless, a total waste of dog food! :lol:
    Somehow I can't help loving him anyway.

    /Pontus

  9. #9

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Ha! I loved that talk, and I'm really looking forward to studying the koans.

  10. #10
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    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Jundo - what a brilliant talk! It seems that Dosho's post is a koan of sorts that we have already started to discuss.... right way/wrong way/OK to have more than one way - of course there are other perspectives out there that we might open our minds to!

    As Jundo mentions in his talk, Dogen is a master of the koan - Shobogenzo is one big koan - Dogen's use of contradictory statements and reversals of position throughout the fascicles is characteristic of his rhetorical style - it is the entirety of these statements that represents his teaching style and not the seeming individual inconsistencies many point out.... this is intended to disrupt/short circuit discursive thinking and lead one into the realm beyond thinking.... this is the heart of the difference between koan practice in the rinzai style as compared to soto: rinzai uses silence, "thought-stopping speechlessness," and meditative contemplation leading to kensho as a passageway beyond thinking. Dogen's style in Shobogenzo is to use exploratory discourse beyond discursive thinking - playful dialogue - much like a maze - some of it goes nowhere and is unproductive - some leaps ahead dimensions beyond linear thinking. To raise the relationship between Shikantaza and Koan practice as Dosho does is in my mind to miss the deeper point.... Read the 18th fascicle of Shobogenzo - Shin-Fukatoku - Dogen's assessment of the meeting and dialogue between the Old Woman selling rice cakes and Tokusan plays out variations of "he said/she said..." Dogen goes so far as to reject the open-ended question format employed in Rinzai-style koan analysis by saying that the old woman "has questions.... but is without any assertion." Just because Tokusan could not answer her question does not mean she is a "realized" person: "No one since ancient times has ever been called a true person without asserting even a single word." The flapping of sleeves and abrupt turning away of zen masters in many Koans is a dramatic literary instrument, but IMHO does not contribute to any real learning or movement beyond thinking...! Silence, on the other hand, can be a very powerful tool, and Dogen does recognize this.

    The use of Koans is central to Soto Zen - it is a vibrant part of Dogen's work - its method is not that traditionally taught and recognized in the Rinzai tradition, nor in the Rinzai/Soto crossovers that we see in Rev. Ford, or ZMM (Loori's work), etc. The Koan heritage is so rich and boundless there is no need to be territorial.... within this corpus there is more than enough for all.....

    We owe Dosho a debt of gratitude, for he has shown us that there is more than one way to slice a cat (sorry Nansen)!

    Gassho,
    Yugen

  11. #11

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    I personally love Koans. Both for the direct pointing they offer and for the aesthetic beauty I get from reading them.

    During my time with the Kwan Um school of Zen I did a lot of work with Koans, and the Koan isn't something that belongs to any school. In fact the Koan by itself is pretty useless. Koans present a question, a problem that we think we need to figure out. Because that is how we are brought up. A question is posed we need to have an answer, a problem is presented we need to have a solution. But it is in this very way of thinking that keeps us separated from the truth of the Koan. To truly see a Koan we have to enter into it, to fully embody it with body and mind. When we completely enter into the Koan in this way, where is Rinzai way, Soto way, Buddhist way?

    When we truly enter into the Koan, where can "I" be said to be?

    Koan practice, Shikantaza practice, bowing, chanting, and all the other things we can engage in are simply pointers. They are design to point back to our fundamental nature, because most of us refuse to see it directly for ourselves, so we put ourselves through all this training to glimpse something that is present from the very beginning.

    But Koans are not for everybody, and thats ok, that is why there are many methods. Find your method and follow that. Don't study Koan because you think you should.

    All of us carry within us the most important Koan of all. "What am I?"
    who is it that studies the Koans?
    Who is it that sits down on the cushion?
    Who is it that ask the questions "what am I?"

    ....just some thoughts....

  12. #12

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    This idea that the meaning of some koans might be lost, or haggled over, is interesting. Are not, or were not, koans a super straightforward way of provoking, evoking, realization(s)?. Wasn't the whole point to not be enigmatic and cloaked in cultural accretions? Why can't a Zen master today who has awakened no more or less than a Zen master of old make new koans, not just in the "everything thing is a koan" sense, but in the sense of expressing the specific points of the old Koans?, from those realizations?, ...new, speaking now as directly to us as Zen masters of old spoke to people then? The stories and situations and imagery of the old koans were normal to the old ears hearing them. I'm happy to be told this misses the point and that I don't understand koans, but it seems to me that if Buddhism, and tradition, and "hocus pocus" is up for review, then why not express the realizations embodied in the koans anew?, so that students today can hear a normal story with the same advantage of cultural immediacy that Zen students of old enjoyed?

  13. #13
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    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Seiryu, Kojip; Well said, thank you

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    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    I recall a Cultural Orientation Training given by a professor at the University of Waterloo, wherein he said, "every day of our lives we ask ourselves three questions:
    1) who am I?
    2) what am I doing here?
    3) How will I survive?

    Whether you realize this or not, it is true and it becomes significantly pertinent when or where you find yourself out of your usual environment or culture.
    The more you engross yourself in a daily liturgy, the less daunting these questions become; giving you more time to think of others ('not-two' others) and develop compassion and love for the universe.

  15. #15

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    There are modern Koans as well...I know Daido Roshi has a Koan collection called, I think, Koans of the way of reality which are 108 koans taken from sutras not traditionally use as koans, and koans that come up from practice in our world now.

    Also Zen master Seung Sahn also had some modern koans...like "dropping ashes on the Buddha" koan which was posed to ZM Seung Sahn by one of his students.
    "Somebody comes into the Zen Center with a lighted cigarette, walks up to the Buddha-statue, blows smoke in its face and drops ashes on its lap. You are standing there. What can you do?
    "This person has understood that nothing is holy or unholy. All things in the universe are one, and that one is himself. So everything is permitted. Ashes are Buddha; Buddha is ashes. The cigarette flicks. The ashes drop.
    "But his understanding is only partial. He has not yet understood that all things are just as they are. Holy is holy; unholy is unholy. Ashes are ashes; Buddha is Buddha. He is very attached to emptiness and to his own understanding, and he thinks that all words are useless. So whatever you say to him, however you try to teach him, he will hit you. If you try to teach by hitting him back, he will hit you even harder. (He is very strong.)
    "How can you cure his delusion?
    "Since you are a Zen student, you are also a Zen teacher. You are walking on the path of the Bodhisattva, whose vow is to save all beings from their suffering. This person is suffering from a mistaken view. You must help him understand the truth: that all things in the universe are just as they are.
    "How can you do this?
    The mind is always presented with something it thinks it has to figure out. The mind never figures out anything, but it thinks it has to. Koans are the same way. We think we have to figure them out. But there is nothing to figure out.

    I remember what Shugen sensei of ZMM said once after a dharma talk..."There are some things in life that can be figured out, but not life itself."

    More thoughts....

  16. #16

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Quote Originally Posted by Seiryu
    There are modern Koans as well...I know Daido Roshi has a Koan collection called, I think, Koans of the way of reality which are 108 koans taken from sutras not traditionally use as koans, and koans that come up from practice in our world now.

    Also Zen master Seung Sahn also had some modern koans...like "dropping ashes on the Buddha" koan which was posed to ZM Seung Sahn by one of his students.
    "Somebody comes into the Zen Center with a lighted cigarette, walks up to the Buddha-statue, blows smoke in its face and drops ashes on its lap. You are standing there. What can you do?
    "This person has understood that nothing is holy or unholy. All things in the universe are one, and that one is himself. So everything is permitted. Ashes are Buddha; Buddha is ashes. The cigarette flicks. The ashes drop.
    "But his understanding is only partial. He has not yet understood that all things are just as they are. Holy is holy; unholy is unholy. Ashes are ashes; Buddha is Buddha. He is very attached to emptiness and to his own understanding, and he thinks that all words are useless. So whatever you say to him, however you try to teach him, he will hit you. If you try to teach by hitting him back, he will hit you even harder. (He is very strong.)
    "How can you cure his delusion?
    "Since you are a Zen student, you are also a Zen teacher. You are walking on the path of the Bodhisattva, whose vow is to save all beings from their suffering. This person is suffering from a mistaken view. You must help him understand the truth: that all things in the universe are just as they are.
    "How can you do this?
    The mind is always presented with something it thinks it has to figure out. The mind never figures out anything, but it thinks it has to. Koans are the same way. We think we have to figure them out. But there is nothing to figure out.

    I remember what Shugen sensei of ZMM said once after a dharma talk..."There are some things in life that can be figured out, but not life itself."

    More thoughts....
    I'm familiar with both, great..... more!

    I practice regularly with the local Kwan Um group, great discipline, little talk. There is something Koan-ish about the usual kwan Um-isms like " Go straight", "Only don't know", "The red floor is red" ( accompanied by a slap on the red Zendo floor).

    I could also just be a mugwamp about learning a new idiom and vocabulary to really appreciate traditional Koan study. Looking forward to the book club.

  17. #17
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    I guess the koans are open for anyone that's up to the challenge to sit with them and try to understand them, regardless of the teacher or even religion.

    To say that certain group possess the only way to understand them is pretty narrow. It's like saying that you need to be from Norway to understand Wikipedia.

    Thank you for this teaching, Jundo Sensei.

  18. #18
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    SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kojip

    I could also just be a mugwamp about learning a new idiom and vocabulary to really appreciate traditional Koan study. Looking forward to the book club.
    What's a mugwamp?

    Ron

  19. #19

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Interesting. And helpful discussion. Let the koan begin.

  20. #20

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Quote Originally Posted by rculver
    Quote Originally Posted by Kojip

    I could also just be a mugwamp about learning a new idiom and vocabulary to really appreciate traditional Koan study. Looking forward to the book club.
    What's a mugwamp?

    Ron
    It allegedly has roots in native american language, but was probably just an invention of 19th century politicians. it means a few things... but in this case it means a petty self declaring authority. It can also mean a ditherer or someone who is skittish around committing.. The word went out of usage at about the same time as "confounded", and "sam hill!" . I tend to conflate it with "swampy" which was the name Martha called George in "Who's afraid of Virginia Wolfe". Words are funny things.. :lol:

  21. #21

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kojip
    Quote Originally Posted by rculver
    Quote Originally Posted by Kojip

    I could also just be a mugwamp about learning a new idiom and vocabulary to really appreciate traditional Koan study. Looking forward to the book club.
    What's a mugwamp?

    Ron
    It allegedly has roots in native american language, but was probably just an invention of 19th century politicians. it means a few things... but in this case it means a petty self declaring authority. It can also mean a ditherer or someone who is skittish around committing.. The word went out of usage at about the same time as "confounded", and "sam hill!" . I tend to conflate it with "swampy" which was the name Martha called George in "Who's afraid of Virginia Wolfe". Words are funny things.. :lol:
    The Koans are filled with so many long lost words and references like Mugwamp ... yet people reading them wonder why they cannot understand. Once, someone could understand. Some things are meant to be wordless because they are 'beyond words' ... but other things in the koans are mysterious simply because the words and references have been forgotten!

    I said in my talk that the Koans are ever changing in meaning, and this is true. However, sometimes there was an original intent of the writer, now lost ... as the word 'mugwamp' is now almost lost in our language.

    However, there is Loud and Clear Meaning to each of the Koans too.. That is, for example, the Sound of One Hand Clapping, the Sound of that which shines In, Out, Between and Right Through-and-Through each of the Koans. So, maybe we should say that there is sometimes many meanings changing as often as life changes or the speakers and hearers change ... and sometimes no meaning or a lost and forgotten intended meaning ... but also the Meaning Beyond Meanings. All At Once As One.

    MUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU ....gwamp.

    Gassho, J

  22. #22
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    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    I enjoyed this article on this topic by James Ford:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/monkeymind ... -whom.html

    He has some good points and takes a nice middle-way that appeals to me somehow.

    Gassho,

    Dokan

  23. #23

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dokan
    I enjoyed this article on this topic by James Ford:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/monkeymind ... -whom.html

    He has some good points and takes a nice middle-way that appeals to me somehow.

    Gassho,

    Dokan
    Hi,

    James Ford is Dosho Port's Koan Introspection Zen teacher, so it is not surprising that he would say some of those things just as Dosho ... .

    However, I do not feel it is quite so. I responded to James Ford in his comment section ...

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/monkeymind ... mment-2285

    Gassho, J

  24. #24
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    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Maybe the issue is the other half of the equation...the student.

    If the student is expecting a confirmation of understanding of a koan from his teacher and that confirmation is part of a systematic approach used by Rinzai school then maybe the teacher should be qualified in that school's methodology.

    However, if the student is studying koans for simply life application and has no interest in being qualified in his/her understanding, then I would imagine that same absence if formal qualification of the teacher is unnecessary.

    But then again, what the hell do I know. I'm just happy to be practicing the dharma.

    Gassho

    Dokan

    Sent from my SGH-I897 using Tapatalk

  25. #25

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dokan
    However, if the student is studying koans for simply life application and has no interest in being qualified in his/her understanding, then I would imagine that same absence if formal qualification of the teacher is unnecessary.
    I think it is not a matter of one system or another needed to give formal approval to someone's understanding of the Koans, except for institutional reasons (for example, the Rinzai branches in Japan now certify people as "understanding the Koans" left and right mostly to give them the institutional authority to be full priests and inherit their family temple ... not necessarily because there is actually any particular understanding. There may or may not be).

    When the student understands the teacher (usually) knows ... and moreover, when the student understands the student knows. Really really knows ...beyond all thought of teacher vs. student. How does the teacher know? Much as a doctor just knows when his patient is healing and feeling right just by observing the student's attitude to life, vigorous actions and healthy complexion (no blood test in Zen, I am afraid!). How does the student know? Much as a patient knows when he is cured of illness and returned to health, his fever broken. One knows. It is not a matter of the ways, methods and interpretations of any one school or lineage within a school.

    Gassho, J

  26. #26

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dokan
    But then again, what the hell do I know.
    Yes.
    After we have spent ten or twenty years under a Koan introspection teacher in the Rinzai school, maybe we will know what they are talking about. But Rev Jundo has the authority to speak from the Soto perspective. And as he says, the proof is in the pudding/student.

    It is only words, only books, nothing special, nothing holy. Still, powerful tools and these collections of words do have a special place in the Rinzai tradition and we should be respectful toward their practice with Koans. Each and every traditional Koan has presumably led to the enlightenment of one or many Zen students in the past. But they are not the property of the Rinzai tradition. They are also part of Soto Zen.

    It's a little like a Judo practitioner telling the Ju jutsu practitioner he's doing it wrong, because the Judoka has been throwing all his life and feels only Judo truly knows throwing. But there is throwing in Ju jutsu too. It isn't as central in Ju jutsu as it is in Judo and the techniques are quite different sometimes, but nobody can say to the Ju jutsuka that he should not use throwing techniques and that the Judo way is the only way. The same principle applies to the Rinzai and Soto sects in Zen I feel.

    /Pontus

  27. #27

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    I find that koans throw in a computer type bug into my small mind causing it to shut down which is great because it helps me use my big mind

    gassho
    Ray

  28. #28

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    I've learnt a lot from this post - being very new to Soto Buddhism.

    But being very new to something means we sit at the outer peramiter
    for a while and perhaps that's a good place to be at times.

    I've learnt a little about the Koans - that there can be two approaches - a formal
    'study' - or an introspection study - and that somehow these two approaches seem to
    have got snagged up into different 'camps'. This makes me question:

    'Do we not bring 'introspection' to study and study to 'introspection'? Is the use of the term
    'introspection' being used in a 'special' way here - and is Shikantaza the essential practice
    bringing these two approaches together?'

    So we have 3 elements - and what puzzles me is why we need to prize them apart or valorize one over the other?

    I do understand the arguments being put forward - but having listened and I think understood - the voice with
    the less ego attachment (I feel) is Jundo's.

    The idea that there is a 'right' answer to a Koan that has to be validated by a 'master interpreter' puzzles me - but like I said I'm very new to this. Hoping the book club will give some clarification and - truthfully - I think the assumption that
    students will somehow be led to 'misunderstand' is a bit extreme.

    No one has an answer to the 'truth' and hopefully our minds are free enough to respond, accept or reject as feels fit?

  29. #29

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Quote Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi

    It's a little like a Judo practitioner telling the Ju jutsu practitioner he's doing it wrong, because the Judoka has been throwing all his life and feels only Judo truly knows throwing. But there is throwing in Ju jutsu too. It isn't as central in Ju jutsu as it is in Judo and the techniques are quite different sometimes, but nobody can say to the Ju jutsuka that he should not use throwing techniques and that the Judo way is the only way. The same principle applies to the Rinzai and Soto sects in Zen I feel.
    This reference to another Japanese art is, I feel, right on. There is no right or wrong way to throw or fall, I feel ... so long as the throwing is effective, masterful. The only thing special about the Zen perspective is perhaps that ... as we fall ... there is no "we" or place to fall, No Fall Even As We Fall.

    Quote Originally Posted by willow

    I've learnt a little about the Koans - that there can be two approaches - a formal
    'study' - or an introspection study - and that somehow these two approaches seem to
    have got snagged up into different 'camps'. This makes me question:

    'Do we not bring 'introspection' to study and study to 'introspection'? Is the use of the term
    'introspection' being used in a 'special' way here - and is Shikantaza the essential practice
    bringing these two approaches together?'

    So we have 3 elements - and what puzzles me is why we need to prize them apart or valorize one over the other?
    You may have practiced a short time, but this is a wise perspective I feel. I would only disagree that Shikantaza is the necessary bridge (even though I am a Shikantaza teacher). Some folks may find the bridge through Shikantaza, some another way. But, like Judo and Ju-Jitsu, each are marvelous ways to the Falling Without Falling.

    Gassho, Judo ... I mean, Jundo

  30. #30
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    And so now, we have come full circle. Perhaps it took a Willow, Omoi Otoshi and Ray to straighten it out; we've lost the macho, bullshit, pissing fight attitude and are telling it the way it is. There is no ownership !! :shock: Koans are there for us all to non-understand in our own way; to break through the intellectual claptrap and get to where the rubber meets the road and then throw it away, with the raft when you reach the other side of the stream. 8) Remembering that none of us gets out alive. :roll:

    (and Willow, I trully felt your beginner's mind Thank you _/_)

  31. #31
    Treeleaf Unsui rculver's Avatar
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    SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Thanks Kojip.

    Ron

  32. #32
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Deep Gassho to the wisdom all who have posted here! _/_

    Jundo Sensei,

    Your ability to pierce through matters of time, space, tradition, and other concepts of mind where others may get stuck(or set in their ways) is most beautiful. Your teachings always get down to the fundamental heart of what (I believe) this practice is truly about!

    Gassho,
    John

  33. #33

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Quote Originally Posted by JRBrisson

    Jundo Sensei,

    Your ability to pierce through matters of time, space, tradition, and other concepts of mind where others may get stuck(or set in their ways) is most beautiful. Your teachings always get down to the fundamental heart of what (I believe) this practice is truly about!

    Gassho,
    John
    My wife does wish I would remember to pick up my socks and underwear and not leave them in the middle of the floor. For a guy good with time, space, tradition and the heart of the matter ... I am a slob with my socks and shorts. Wife Mina often says to me she thought Zen guys would be more mindful, and she should take a photo to post here. ops:

    That's the Dirty Socks Koan.

    Gassho, J

  34. #34
    Senior Member Shujin's Avatar
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    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    I'm currently wrestling with the Dirty Socks Koan myself. Could you be my koan introspection teacher on this, Jundo? :P

    On a slightly more serious note, thank you for undertaking this project. The subject of teachers, certified or otherwise, in koans is a moot point for me. There aren't any who are accessible here. I'm excited for the opportunity to learn.

    gassho,
    Shujin

  35. #35

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Very interesting discussion popped up while I was away!!

    Full disclosure: I am pursuing koan study with the aforementioned James Ford roshi and the other teachers in the Boundless Way sangha. Given that context: as I read through this topic, I kept trying to to square people's references to "knowing" and "understanding," and to correct "answers," with my own koan work. Referencing something that one of my teachers, Melissa Blacker roshi, said to me (making me cringe, I'll admit), "We're going for something more intimate here."

    It's precisely that elusive intimacy that characterizes my koan study with my teachers. To that end, is anyone else here pursuing koan study with a teacher? (Feel free to define that in whatever way you'd like.) In my case, that means that I devote time throughout my day to Mu (and Mu to me :wink, and bring that engagement into dokusan. I've also been (re)reading the Ford Mu and Loori koan books and listening to some related podcasts (such as this wzen.org dharma talk podcast by Daido Loori Roshi on the “Jiashan Sees the Ferryman” koan). I have found this study invaluable; I am unable to explain what "invaluable" means. Of course, I can't say whether others here would or would not find it valuable, find it invaluable, or even find it.

  36. #36
    Friends of Treeleaf Dokan's Avatar
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    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Not formally no. I read them and have listened to Daido Roshi's talks for years...but never really chewed on them and made them part of my practice. Only one that I ever felt a clarity on was from Mumonkan case 29.. Not the Wind. Not the Flag. But nothing I ever worked on with a teacher...other than life.

    Gassho

    Dokan

    Sent from my SGH-I897 using Tapatalk

  37. #37

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisA

    Full disclosure: I am pursuing koan study
    Hi Chris,

    Some folks may do so, some may choose not. Some folks in this Sangha may believe in God and be practicing Christians, some not. Some may chant the Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo, some stay silent. Some folks in our Sangha may be vegetarian, and some not. Some folks may be conservatives or liberals, some not. Many may like baseball or cricket, many not at all. Some people in our Sangha may like chocolate ice cream sundaes, some not.

    So long as one is also sitting Shikantaza Zazen each day as the one and only action that one needs to do, or can do, all Time and Space fully Realized in that Timeless moment ... with nothing more to attain, not an item lacking (from God to Chocolate Sauce to Satori) ... then one is practicing what is taught in this Sangha. We ask all our members to do-non-do so diligently, each and every Timeless day. That is the rule around here.

    Then, one can be no more intimate with all the Koans, every Chant, surpassing ordinary understanding.

    Though there is nothing in need of attaining or change ... not a thing ever lacking ... there may be choices to make, beliefs to hold, preferences and aversions, and targets to pursue ... or not.

    This is the Koan of Koans.

    Gassho, J

  38. #38

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Thanks for this talk, Jundo,
    very refreshing
    _()_
    Myoku

  39. #39
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Jundo;

    Full disclosure; I turned the big wheel three times, with all the sutras on it in the pagoda at Narita-san :shock: and even bought a fortune (and tied it to a tree.) Does that count for anything?? :roll:

  40. #40

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shokai
    Jundo;

    Full disclosure; I turned the big wheel three times, with all the sutras on it in the pagoda at Narita-san :shock: and even bought a fortune (and tied it to a tree.) Does that count for anything?? :roll:
    It sure can't hurt!

    Did the fortune come true?

    Gassho, J

  41. #41

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Dosho Port, my deep appreciation for your input.
    Jundo Cohen, my deep appreciation for your teaching.
    So Jundo, when will this group of Shikantaza sitting Treeleafers begin our Koan study? Gassho Shogen

  42. #42

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisA
    Very interesting discussion popped up while I was away!!

    Full disclosure: I am pursuing koan study with the aforementioned James Ford roshi and the other teachers in the Boundless Way sangha. Given that context: as I read through this topic, I kept trying to to square people's references to "knowing" and "understanding," and to correct "answers," with my own koan work. Referencing something that one of my teachers, Melissa Blacker roshi, said to me (making me cringe, I'll admit), "We're going for something more intimate here."

    It's precisely that elusive intimacy that characterizes my koan study with my teachers. To that end, is anyone else here pursuing koan study with a teacher? (Feel free to define that in whatever way you'd like.) In my case, that means that I devote time throughout my day to Mu (and Mu to me :wink, and bring that engagement into dokusan. I've also been (re)reading the Ford Mu and Loori koan books and listening to some related podcasts (such as this wzen.org dharma talk podcast by Daido Loori Roshi on the “Jiashan Sees the Ferryman” koan). I have found this study invaluable; I am unable to explain what "invaluable" means. Of course, I can't say whether others here would or would not find it valuable, find it invaluable, or even find it.
    Once a friend was trying to get me to take up Dzogchen. He gave me symbols and Tibetan characters to place on a wall. These were to become the object of practice. When I asked him what the symbols mean, what they signify, he said it doesn't matter, that they had transformative powers and if I chanted what was suppose to be chanted (not knowing what the chant means either), the practice would be like a depth charge triggering deep awakening. It seemed to work for him. Koans on the other hand aren't like that are they? They are different in that understanding, ordinary comprehension of the meaning of words, is a part of it. Even if it moves on to something more "intimate" (presumably an core-of-the-bones realization of the Koan's meaning and not mere mental understanding)), it starts out with ordinary understanding, no? One...hand....clapping. We need to comprehend the conventional meaning of these words in order to practice with the koan. Without that it might as well be just repeating "mugwamp".

  43. #43

    SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Westerners starting Koan introspection don't know the literal meaning of Mu very well, but are often adviced to chant it like a mantra during Zazen. Sometimes people say the word Mu is so effective precisely because we don't have an understanding of it from before. Nowadays I much prefer the Shikantaza Way of Soto Zen.

    /Pontus

    PS Mugwamp might be an alternative to Who am I..? DS

  44. #44

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Quote Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi
    Westerners starting Koan introspection don't know the literal meaning of Mu very well, but are often adviced to chant it like a mantra during Zazen. Sometimes people say the word Mu is so effective precisely because we don't have an understanding of it from before. Nowadays I much prefer the Shikantaza Way of Soto Zen.

    /Pontus

    PS Mugwamp might be an alternative to Who am I..? DS
    I think Mu can be effective not because of having occult properties, like those attributed to the symbols of his practice by the Dzogchen guy, but because it is a handy object of awareness. Any object of awareness, of any sense function, can work like Mu, gathering everything into one point, one "iron ball" (if that is a proper use of the term). What I do not understand, and this may be a way off, is that if different koans are said to embody different realizations, and koans embody a plurality of realizations, by definition are not those realizations partial? That is a very different practice than just sitting, which not partial.

    .......waaaaay overthinking this one. :lol:

  45. #45

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Have just read a book by Ruth Fuller Sasaki of a translation of talks Isshu Miura gave (in 1955)
    (on the Koans) to the first Zen Institute of America. I was hoping this might prep me for the book club.

    It has a good historical introduction - but then I started to get lost because my limited knowledge of doctrine/rituals
    made it difficult to follow. There seems to be a process of 'illumination' that starts with hosshin Koans and works through
    five levels to Goi kones.

    I guess I just go back to it and keep reading - but slightly worried that I'd be better off just sitting Zazen at this stage, and also I
    wouldn't know a good text from a bad text on this subject -( but I did enjoy bits of this book)

    Any other recommendations appreciated.

  46. #46

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    I think that both the Ford & Blacker Book of Mu and the Daido Loori Siting with Koans are both great introductions to koan study, with both a broad historical range and a large selection of contemporary writers who are part of the koan's trip west.

  47. #47

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kojip
    What I do not understand, and this may be a way off, is that if different koans are said to embody different realizations, and koans embody a plurality of realizations, by definition are not those realizations partial? That is a very different practice than just sitting, which not partial.

    .......waaaaay overthinking this one. :lol:
    Zazen, and the whole world, is ever Whole and Complete ... yet the world contains mountains, rivers, trees, many different things and people. Each mountain is wholly and completely that mountain, yet it changes its appearance, foliage and even shape as the seasons, years and ages pass.

    One can be whole and complete yet very different too!

    Shikantaza is ever Whole and Complete and Beyond Change, yet life is always many things and changing. So, Shikantaza is always many things and changing.

    Likewise, some Koans are about That which is ever Whole and Complete and Beyond Change, and other Koans are about the many things and their changing. Most Koans are about, in some way, the intimacy of those views, two sides of a single no-sided coin.

    Yes, all of the above I just described is a Koan too. 8)

    Gassho, J

    PS - We will beginninglessly-begin the Book of Equanimity in a few weeks (another Koan!) ... no definite date in mind yet.

    PPS -

    Quote Originally Posted by willow
    ... I started to get lost because my limited knowledge of doctrine/rituals
    made it difficult to follow. There seems to be a process of 'illumination' that starts with hosshin Koans and works through five levels to Goi kones.

    I guess I just go back to it and keep reading - but slightly worried that I'd be better off just sitting Zazen at this stage, and also I
    wouldn't know a good text from a bad text on this subject -( but I did enjoy bits of this book)
    Hi Willow,

    I really recommend the book by Rev. Wick for both folks new to Zen and old to Zen (beyond "new" and "old" ... ANOTHER KOAN! 8) ) Please consider to get the book and join us. It is a real jewel ... even among the many Zen books. No, you do not need so much technical knowledge to jump in, and those categories are rather artificial, made by some old guy with too much time on his hands except to sort through his Koan collection.

  48. #48

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kojip
    He gave me symbols and Tibetan characters to place on a wall. These were to become the object of practice. When I asked him what the symbols mean, what they signify, he said it doesn't matter, that they had transformative powers and if I chanted what was suppose to be chanted (not knowing what the chant means either), the practice would be like a depth charge triggering deep awakening.
    Quote Originally Posted by Kojip
    I think Mu can be effective not because of having occult properties, like those attributed to the symbols of his practice by the Dzogchen guy, but because it is a handy object of awareness. Any object of awareness, of any sense function, can work like Mu, gathering everything into one point
    Maybe they have occult properties, but my current and uninformed point of view is that the symbols, tibetan characters and chanting work in exactly the same way as focusing on and silently or loudly chanting Mu. I'm not sure their meaning in the conventional sense is important, but their obscure nature make it hard for the conceptual mind to latch on. Some or all symbols may also have hidden, universal meanings, hard coded into our brains through the evolution of mankind. When I first tried meditation maybe fifteen years ago, I used symbols as focus point for a while. A circle, a square and triangle don't work in exactly the same way, but I don't remember well enough to say how the experience during meditation was different. I liked the circle, maybe we all do..?

    In Shikantaza, I find it more difficult to put the finger on what the focus point is if there is one. I'd like to say it's just open awareness of everything at once as one, but that is not often true, especially not when first sitting down on the Zafu. Instead, I consciously have to focus on the body, my crossed leg posture, letting the spine grow upwards, outwards, going through all muscles, relaxing them, releasing all tension, finding stability. Then, when I can trust the body to do its own thing, I sort of do the same with the mind, studying its contents, consciously watching thoughts and emotions arise and drift away, letting the search light steady itself and the wild monkey swinging from tree to tree calm down. If and when the mind settles down and I can leave it also to do it's own thing, then there can be open awareness without so much focus on the body and mind, without identifying so much with the body and mind. And here I feel Shikantaza begins. From here, there is the chance of dropping body and mind completely. It may happen and it may not and it's not something to look for. This is my current interpretation of Shikantaza. If it is way off, please correct me so no one is mislead.

    Speaking of depth charges, I remember a strong visual hallucination I had a couple of weeks ago that felt just like a depth charge! :lol: There was an explosion of bright light, then an implosion of fragments, then expansion into the wall... Never sit in a dark room... ops:

    Afterwards though, there was peace, as if the depth charge had sunk the last mental submarine and won the war. The water was clear and calm. No deep awakening though, I'm afraid! :wink: Back on the surface, it did not take long before reinforcements arrived and the conflict and chaos recommenced! :evil: :lol:

    If talking about these things is unskillful and counter-productive for new folks, tell me and I'll edit!

    /Pontus

  49. #49

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Zazen, and the whole world, is ever Whole and Complete ... yet the world contains mountains, rivers, trees, many different things and people. Each mountain is wholly and completely that mountain, yet it changes its appearance, foliage and even shape as the seasons, years and ages pass.

    One can be whole and complete yet very different too!

    Shikantaza is ever Whole and Complete and Beyond Change, yet life is always many things and changing. So, Shikantaza is always many things and changing.

    Likewise, some Koans are about That which is ever Whole and Complete and Beyond Change, and other Koans are about the many things and their changing. Most Koans are about, in some way, the intimacy of those views, two sides of a single no-sided coin.
    Thank you,
    That was beautifully put.

    Gassho,
    Pontus

  50. #50

    Re: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

    Thank you Jundo for this talk! :wink:
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    So long as one is also sitting Shikantaza Zazen each day as the one and only action that one needs to do, or can do, all Time and Space fully Realized in that Timeless moment ... with nothing more to attain, not an item lacking (from God to Chocolate Sauce to Satori) ... then one is practicing what is taught in this Sangha.
    For me that is the point... The main practice here is Shikantaza.

    There are many may expedient means (upaya), 84.000 says our old Shakyamuni.
    And Koans, even if they have an high status in Zen, are just one of them.

    It is sometimes strange because they also are a bit of our history, they link us back to the masters of our Lineage. But from the point of view of practice, they are very useful tools to get back to our "real Nature before thought"... and that is great... but it is just a tool. Something you use to enter the Gateless gate.
    Maybe we should remember that Chinese Venerable masters went for Koans and Hua-tou because they find that "the true practice of the patriarchs" (Lets say Shikantaza-Zazen, Mo Chao-Zuo-chan) was too difficult to the modern times and they tried to find a method to help practitioners to get into the "non-method zone" that is shikantaza-Zazen, like a launching pad.

    These practice are of course not antagonistic, but they are not exactly the same... one coming from the other, or returning naturally to the other...
    Just a few thoughts, Have a nice day everyone,

    deep gassho,
    Jinyu

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