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Thread: Koan study

  1. #1

    Koan study

    Hi,

    I am sorry if this has been asked before, or this in the wrong board.

    I have been working with the question "who am I" for a few months now. Is anyone else working with a koan? If so how do you use them? Are you searching for an answer or set of answers? When is it time to move on?

    Gassho,

    dan.

  2. #2
    Hi Dan

    There may be other members who are working on a koan but it is not something we do at Treeleaf or in Soto Zen generally.

    That doesn't mean that it isn't useful or doesn't have its place in practice but our way centres on Shikantaza zazen.

    Koans in Soto Zen are more used as teaching tools and stories which convey truths.

    That said "who am I?" is a question we all sit with and as we drop all sense of "I" and "mine", "self" and "other" in Shikantaza, the answer to that may well present itself.

    There is more than one way to kill Nansen's cat!

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday/lah-
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  3. #3
    Kokuu speaks for "me" on this, and says it just right ... which is "Who am I" ....

    Really, all we do around here is about the question "Who am I." Especially:

    "who am I?" is a question we all sit with and as we drop all sense of "I" and "mine", "self" and "other" in Shikantaza, the answer to that may well present itself.

    Gassho, J

    SatTodayLAH
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-14-2020 at 12:22 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  4. #4
    I will also say this ... probably too much ...

    The "answer" is not necessarily an "answer," in that usually one thinks of a questioner and an answer which stands apart.

    Further, the "answer" will not tell you what the weather will be next Tuesday, or the outcome of a football match, or the capital of Peru, God's middle name, but it will answer so much.

    It is something like finding oneself, out of the blue, born in a little boat on a wide wide river, paddle in hand. This is just as we find ourselves, born out of the blue, in this life. One is not sure of where the river came from, or where it stretches around the next bend, and yet one fully knows the wetness of the river just by dipping in one's hand. One can taste the whole river in each briny drop. Further, one comes to realize that the whole river, every drop, its flowing, your hand, you, the boat and paddle, the other boats and passengers passing by, the shore and sky, and every blade of grass and mosquito is all just this ... all the river flowing, and the river flowing as all. Every blade contains every boat and the whole river, and each drop of water holds all the flowing waters and the entire sky. Same for you and you just so.

    The river flows as you, you are this river flowing, and all the rest is you including every blade of grass and tiny bug and sky, and they each are enlivened by you. Seemingly, this river flowed before your time and will flow on after, and some folks' trips are long while others seem short, yet ... since you are just the river's flowing ... you flow on before and after, not bound by start or stop. How wondrous, how amazing, that river and boat, sky and paddle, you and me should be rowing along here at all!

    In the meantime, having been born with paddle in hand, what is the best thing to do? Just paddle paddle, sometimes drift drift ... do your best to avoid any rocks or gators (though they are just this too) ... Though we cannot avoid the rocks and gators forever, and some folks seem to encounter their share, human beings do seem to muck up the rowing more than needed.

    Row row row your boat ... down the stream ... life is but a dream ... so dream it well.

    Now, the above is just a simile, a story, an idea. The purpose of a Koan like "Who am I" or "Jundo's River" is just to feel the flowing wetness of these waters as oneself, flowing as our every inch.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-14-2020 at 12:56 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  5. #5
    "who am I?" is a question we all sit with and as we drop all sense of "I" and "mine", "self" and "other" in Shikantaza, the answer to that may well present itself.
    Seems to me I've heard this somewhere before http://www.mirrorofzen.com/form.html

    gassho, Shokai
    stlah
    仁道 生開 - Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    May we all grow together in our knowledge of the Dharma

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Shokai View Post
    Seems to me I've heard this somewhere before http://www.mirrorofzen.com/form.html

    gassho, Shokai
    stlah
    Wow that's an interesting little page!

    Gassho
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Snark View Post
    Hi,

    I am sorry if this has been asked before, or this in the wrong board.

    I have been working with the question "who am I" for a few months now. Is anyone else working with a koan? If so how do you use them? Are you searching for an answer or set of answers? When is it time to move on?

    Gassho,

    dan.
    I will add this, that if you are interested in Koan study in the Rinzai or mixed Rinzai-Soto way ... chewing on a Koan, presenting one's responses to a teacher ... one really needs to work face-to-face with a teacher who engages in such practice. Otherwise, it can be a bit like teaching oneself to fly a plane without a flight instructor. No, it is not how we approach sitting and Koans in the Soto way.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  8. #8
    Thank you all for your considered replies!

    Gassho,

    dan.

  9. #9
    Shokai, I have that book, or similar book with Koan and Commentary. I have enjoyed the good book very much. And I might add the perhaps, I don't know for sure, but one might sit with the book in front on one, or self. That book was given to me, along with A Brief History of Buddhism explanation where we came from, the latter recommended by Kokuu, and a book I completed only half way trying to understand Theravada essence of The Buddha's enlightenment. I will reread some of this book on Koan again.
    Tai Shi
    sat/ lah
    Gassho
    The object of practice is not transcendence but transformation, yet ultimately we must transcend ourselves. (Elucidation of Dogen) in HOW TO RAISE AN OX

  10. #10
    Member Getchi's Avatar
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    May 2015
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    Between Sea and Sky, Australia.
    Thankyou for this teaching 🙂

    I'm reminded of a little be in a movie, "when am I NOT myself?".

    So easily answered, and yet never finished.

    SatToday, LaH.

    Gassho,
    Geoff.

  11. #11
    Thanks Dan for bringing this up and thanks to Jundo and others for the input. Ive been mulling this question over myself lately. Not as a koan but since I read chapter 11 of Realizing Genjokoan which touches briefly on this. The funny thing is, I find it much easier to know who I am NOT.

    Gassho
    ST-lah
    James

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Snark View Post
    Hi,

    I am sorry if this has been asked before, or this in the wrong board.

    I have been working with the question "who am I" for a few months now. Is anyone else working with a koan? If so how do you use them? Are you searching for an answer or set of answers? When is it time to move on?

    Gassho,

    dan.
    Hi Dan,

    These are my thoughts on Koans:

    From a soto perspective they are stories that use less obscure logic to decrease suffering.

    From a rinzai perspective they are intended as a more mystical vehicle to decrease suffering.

    The end result is the same. The Soto perspective may seem boring, less mystical and not the "sexy zen" that we want to encounter as practitioners a lot of the time.

    I think that the logical aspect of koans more common in soto zen is more useful as rinzai koans with more mystical answers actually serve the opposite purpose of decreasing suffering. You work very hard at them and run further away from decreasing suffering for a long time until you learn that they are a trap given to you by your teacher so you will leave him/her alone.

    It's only a koan if you make it a koan. Don't make it a koan. Don't let the trojan horse in. Don't be ensnared by the word trap.

    Gassho, ST
    Last edited by Jishin; 07-16-2020 at 07:54 PM.

  13. #13
    These are my thoughts on Koans:

    From a soto perspective they are stories that use less obscure logic to decrease suffering.

    From a rinzai perspective they are intended as a more mystical vehicle to decrease suffering.
    I pretty much agree with Jishin on this.

    Although we don't actively work with koans in Soto practice, you end up understanding a large amount of them through successive exposure to them and your deepening understanding through sitting.

    Both ways are pointing to the same thing.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday/lah-
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Snark View Post
    Hi,

    I am sorry if this has been asked before, or this in the wrong board.

    I have been working with the question "who am I" for a few months now. Is anyone else working with a koan? If so how do you use them? Are you searching for an answer or set of answers? When is it time to move on?

    Gassho,

    dan.
    The answer is not intellectual or from thinking, it’s existential.
    The Kwan Um School uses teaching koans at centers thru out the world.
    What is this? Don’t know

    Sat
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

    I may be wrong and not knowing is acceptable

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Rich View Post
    The answer is not intellectual or from thinking, itís existential.
    The Kwan Um School uses teaching koans at centers thru out the world.
    What is this? Donít know

    Sat
    I love their school of thought.

    My only problem is the time spent on getting to "things are just as they are."

    The time spent is gone forever on What is this? Don't know...

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

  16. #16
    Thank you all for your thoughts on koans. I don't actively use koans but I read a book a few months back which gave the instruction to use the question "who am i". I understand the possibly mystical idea of these questions and I am not into "mysticism". My practice is based around Shikantaza. But the question "who am I" finds its. way into my conscious thoughts many times each day. I am now able to approach my vanity, contempt, jealousy, etc. And I have the faith that I will become the person I believe I should be. I guess this is passive koan study.

    Gassho,

    dan.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Snark View Post
    Thank you all for your thoughts on koans. I don't actively use koans but I read a book a few months back which gave the instruction to use the question "who am i". I understand the possibly mystical idea of these questions and I am not into "mysticism". My practice is based around Shikantaza. But the question "who am I" finds its. way into my conscious thoughts many times each day. I am now able to approach my vanity, contempt, jealousy, etc. And I have the faith that I will become the person I believe I should be. I guess this is passive koan study.

    Gassho,

    dan.
    Jundo once told me to look at my driver's license to find out who I was when I was all wrapped up in emptiness questions such as who am I?

    :-)

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Snark View Post
    Hi,

    I am sorry if this has been asked before, or this in the wrong board.

    I have been working with the question "who am I" for a few months now. Is anyone else working with a koan? If so how do you use them? Are you searching for an answer or set of answers? When is it time to move on?

    Gassho,

    dan.
    From Zoolander:



    :-)

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Jishin View Post
    I love their school of thought.

    My only problem is the time spent on getting to "things are just as they are."

    The time spent is gone forever on What is this? Don't know...

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__
    What is this? Is just a method towake you from your dream.
    Time to waste?? There is no time

    Sat
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

    I may be wrong and not knowing is acceptable

  20. #20

    Koan study

    Quote Originally Posted by Rich View Post
    What is this? Is just a method towake you from your dream.
    Time to waste?? There is no time

    Sat
    Ha! Jishinís statement and Richís reply gets to the heart of my own daily Koan. Thank you for the teaching guys!!

    Deep Gassho
    Jakuden
    SatToday


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Rich View Post
    What is this? Is just a method towake you from your dream.
    Time to waste?? There is no time

    Sat
    Not 1 not 2.

    If If I whack a what is master over the head he/she will wake up quickly to the fact that there is time and not just 1.

    The time that it takes to completely drop 2 is wasted effort and this is the harmful part of koans, even the Korean ones, that I am talking about.

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

  22. #22
    Another way to look at the who am I question is the truth of the Heart Sutra.

    Things have no bounderies yet a thinking thing with boundaries thinks about the Heart Sutra.

    This is the fallacy of the Heart Sutra that is better addressed by not 1, not 2.

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

  23. #23
    Jishin,

    If you write 4 posts but back to back ... each less than 3 sentences, not 1 not 2 ... is that a technical infraction of the "3 Sentence Rule"??

    Always pushing boundaries and testing the rules, my friend, yes?

    This is how we start with a simple rule, and need to cover exceptions until we have the IRS Tax Code!

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-17-2020 at 02:26 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  24. #24

  25. #25
    **Thank you to Rich, Jishin and other contributors to this post, and thank you Dan for asking this question (note: this is a meta-sentence to the thread and does not count as part of my 3 sentence limit lol)

    In my humble opinion, the answer to this question is not what we say but what we do. Who are you? You show others and yourself by how you act, think, treat others and treat yourself. There is no answer, but the striving to answer that, adhere to the precepts (being a good human), getting better and better, refining over time with age like a fine wine is how we answer this koan; our practice is the answer to this question and, as long as you have a pulse, you will never stop working on this koan; it's how we engage with life.

    Gassho

    Risho
    -stlah
    Last edited by Risho; 07-17-2020 at 05:01 PM.

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by Jishin View Post
    Not 1 not 2.

    If If I whack a what is master over the head he/she will wake up quickly to the fact that there is time and not just 1.

    The time that it takes to completely drop 2 is wasted effort and this is the harmful part of koans, even the Korean ones, that I am talking about.

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__
    Ok thanks, i get it. You think koans are harmful.

    I once felt the same

    Sat
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

    I may be wrong and not knowing is acceptable

  27. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Risho View Post
    **Thank you to Rich, Jishin and other contributors to this post, and thank you Dan for asking this question (note: this is a meta-sentence to the thread and does not count as part of my 3 sentence limit lol)

    In my humble opinion, the answer to this question is not what we say but what we do. Who are you? You show others and yourself by how you act, think, treat others and treat yourself. There is no answer, but the striving to answer that, adhere to the precepts (being a good human), getting better and better, refining over time with age like a fine wine is how we answer this koan; our practice is the answer to this question and, as long as you have a pulse, you will never stop working on this koan; it's how we engage with life.

    Gassho

    Risho
    -stlah
    I'm sorry, I see no stated exceptions in the Code for "meta sentences" ....

    ... and your second paragraph both has a strange way of counting "4" as "3" and is an abuse of semi-colons!

    "You show others and yourself by how you act, think, treat others [and so] the striving to [] adhere to the [Three Sentence Rule] is how we engage with life."

    Gassho, J

    STlah
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-17-2020 at 08:19 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  28. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by Risho View Post
    **Thank you to Rich, Jishin and other contributors to this post, and thank you Dan for asking this question (note: this is a meta-sentence to the thread and does not count as part of my 3 sentence limit lol)

    In my humble opinion, the answer to this question is not what we say but what we do. Who are you? You show others and yourself by how you act, think, treat others and treat yourself. There is no answer, but the striving to answer that, adhere to the precepts (being a good human), getting better and better, refining over time with age like a fine wine is how we answer this koan; our practice is the answer to this question and, as long as you have a pulse, you will never stop working on this koan; it's how we engage with life.

    Gassho

    Risho
    -stlah
    Risho, your humble opinion really hits the spot. The question "who am i" is the syntax of my conscience. Regardless.of my situation there is always a constant.

    Gassho,

    dan.

  29. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by Snark View Post
    Risho, your humble opinion really hits the spot. The question "who am i" is the syntax of my conscience. Regardless.of my situation there is always a constant.

    Gassho,

    dan.
    Apparently SOMEBODY understands the meaning of the "Three Sentence Koan." You pass this one, Dan.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  30. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Apparently SOMEBODY understands the meaning of the "Three Sentence Koan." You pass this one, Dan.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    hahahaahahhah

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