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GrasshopperMan17
02-19-2021, 01:02 AM
does this zendo place any weight on or do koan teachings and other one on one practice with a teacher? i think the proper term is rinzai, but im not sure if its the same. not too clear on it or if its necessary, but ive heard good things about it and am interested in trying it if its an option here. would love to get some feedback on this topic :)

gassho, John
ST/LAH

Jundo
02-19-2021, 01:56 AM
does this zendo place any weight on or do koan teachings and other one on one practice with a teacher? i think the proper term is rinzai, but im not sure if its the same. not too clear on it or if its necessary, but ive heard good things about it and am interested in trying it if its an option here. would love to get some feedback on this topic :)

gassho, John
ST/LAH

In Soto Zen (as opposed to many Rinzai and mixed Rinzai-Soto lineages), Koans are approached as stories which contain teachings, and are to be understood for the wisdom that they seek to express. They are strange to the ear for a number of reasons, and we do not do usually undertake "Dharma Combat" here in the Rinzai way, all as I describe in a couple of old posts:


... we cherish Koans in Soto too and Soto folks work with Koans, chew on Koans, penetrate Koans ... but not as an aspect of Shikantaza Zazen, on the cushion, in the way of Rinzai and mixed Soto-Rinzai practitioners. One cannot read Dogen's Shobogenzo and Eihei Koroku without acknowledging that he and his monks danced with Koans as a key part of his Teaching. We do too. However, one actually wants to get the message of the Koan. Koans do present Wisdom and Zen/Mahayana teachings in very poetic and creative fashion, often going beyond ordinary logic but consistent with the logic of the Mahayana (where a mountain is not a flower - yet it is, and there is no birth or death - yet each is so too, and Buddha and ignorant us are not the same - yet we are. The koans help us see beyond ordinary language and the "common sense" logic of daily experiencing the world in order to know such other Truths too.) The koans are not arbitrary, meaningless or illogical in a Mahayana sense.

One cannot read Dogen's Shobogenzo and Eihei Koroku without acknowledging that he and his monks danced and played with the "classic" Koans as a key part of his Teaching. We do too. We also realize the "Genjo Koan" which are the endless Koans of life continuously manifesting here there and everywhere ... in each gesture and moment of life.

...

I am not a Koan introspection teacher, so I am perhaps biased. However, I believe that such kind of Koan work is a great distraction often turning into psycho-babble and gobbledygook and hunting for revelations and such, especially in the hands of teachers who just make it up as they go along. ... In the hands of a gifted teacher, a Koan can come alive. But, in the setting of a Dokusan room with students presenting mysterious answers and yelling or jumping around ... and a teacher who thinks he or she can "read minds" ... it is ridiculous and is more likely to lead to blind alleys. It has plagued the Zen world for centuries. There is one fellow teaching Koans to groups online now, and listening to his talks I wonder if he just makes it up on the fly as he goes along. It is like "stream of consciousness" poetry, wherein once in awhile wisdom does appear (but only once one gets through all the mumbo jumbo).

more here:
https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showthread.php?16733-Koan-and-Shikantaza&p=236411&viewfull=1#post236411

and


One thing about Koans that make them seem more mysterious is the distance of time and culture, and the resulting gap in shared cultural references and language, 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!

more here:
https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showthread.php?16733-Koan-and-Shikantaza&p=236432&viewfull=1#post236432

We undertake Koans here, in all our readings of Shobogenzo, and also in our "no words" book club reflections on the Book of Serenity. You can see some of how we do that here:

https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/forumdisplay.php?150-Koans-of-the-Book-of-Equanimity

If you have any question about that, after reading those top two links, I am happy to discuss it more.

(Sorry to run long)

Gassho, Jundo

STLah

Risho
02-19-2021, 02:21 AM
Thank you!

I also want to recommend episode 14 of The Zen of Everything podcast which I coincidentally listened to today and gets into some interesting talk of koans: https://www.zen-of-everything.com/14

I really enjoy koans and am probably biased but I like how we practice with them here.

gassho

risho
-stlah

GrasshopperMan17
02-19-2021, 02:30 AM
Thank you Jundo, i appreciate the feedback gassho1

Gassho, John
ST/LAH

Hoko
02-19-2021, 04:21 PM
Thank you, Jundo.
Your Thomas the Tank Engine analogy is permanently etched in my brain so that now, whenever I read a koan and don't get the reference I immediately start hearing the theme song to the show. [emoji16] My boys are all teenagers now but we watched a lot of Thomas over the years.
Peep peep!
Gassho,
Hōkō

SatToday and LAH

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