If you know what is Zen then you don't know what is Zen.
This is a koan created for this occassion.
"A koan is a story, dialog, question, or statement in the history and lore of Chan (Zen) Buddhism, generally containing aspects that are inaccessible to rational understanding, yet that may be accessible to Intuition. Koans are often used by Zen practitioners as objects of meditation to induce an experience of enlightenment or realization, and by Zen teachers as testing questions when a student wishes to validate their experience of enlightenment.
A famous koan is, "Two hands clap and there is a sound; what is the sound of one hand?" (oral tradition, attributed to Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1769), considered a reviver of the koan tradition in Japan)..
Koans are said to reflect the enlightened or awakened state of historical sages and legendary figures who uttered them, and sometimes said to confound the habit of discursive thought or shock the mind into awareness or an experience of metanoia or radical change of consciousness and perspective, from the point of view of which the koan 'question' is resolved, and the practitioner's religious faith is enhanced.
Koans typically include the words of, or dialog with, an awakened or enlightened person, generally one authorized to teach in a lineage that regards Bodhidharma (c. 5th-6th century) as its ancestor. Informally, the term koan sometimes refers to any experience that accompanies awakening, spiritual insight, or kensho.
As used by teachers, monks, and students in training, koan can refer to a story selected from traditional sayings and doings of such sages, a perplexing element of the story, a concise but critical word or phrase (Ã¨Â©Â± hua-tou) extracted from the story, or to the story appended by poetry and commentary authored by later Zen teachers, sometimes layering commentary upon commentary.
English-speaking non-Zen practitioners sometimes use koan to refer to an unanswerable question or a meaningless statement. However, in Zen practice, a koan is not meaningless, and teachers often do expect students to present an appropriate and timely response when asked about a koan. Even so, a koan is not a riddle or a puzzle1. Appropriate responses to a koan vary according to circumstances; there is no fixed answer that is correct in every circumstance"
Koans - Some Definitions
"A koan is a Zen presentation in the form of a Zen challenge" (DeMartino 1983)
"...stories and verses that present fundamental perspectives on life and no-life, the nature of the self, the relationship of the self to the earth - and how these interweave. Such stories and verses are called koans, and their study is the process of realising their truths." (Aitken 1990:xiii)
"Koan, J. Universal/Particular. A presentation of the harmony of the Universal and the Particular; a theme of Zazen to be made clear. A classic Mondo, or a Zen story." (Aitken 1993:212-213)
"Koans are the folk stories of Zen Buddhism, metaphorical narratives that particularize essential nature. Each koan is a window that show the whole truth but just from a single vantage. It is limited in perspective.One hundred koans give one hundred vantages. When they are enriched with insightful comments and poems, then you have ten thousand vantages. There is no end to this process of enrichment." (Aitken 1990b:ix)
"...the [Korean - tmc] term hwadu usually refers to the particular question itself as well as the state of mind to be cultivated through concentrating upon the question. [...] the term hwadu is also used as a virtual synonym for the Japanese term koan (K. kong an). Technically speaking, though, these terms differ in meaning. A koan - literally " a public case" - is a description of an entire situation, usually of a dialogue between a Zen master and his disciple; the hwadu is only the central point of the exchange which is then singled out as a topic for meditation." (Batchelor 1985:53)
"The koans do not represent the private opinion of a single man, but rather the highest principle ... [that - tmc ] accords with the spiritual source, tallies with the mysterious meaning, destroys birth-and-death, and transcends the passions. It cannot be understood by logic; it cannot be transmitted in words; it cannot be explained in writing; it cannot be measured by reason. It is like [...] a great fire that consumes all who come near it." (Chung-feng Ming-pen [1263-1323] quoted in Miura and Sasaki 1966:5)
"These stories and sayings contain patterns, like blueprints, for various inner exercises in attention, mental posture, and higher perception, summarized in extremely brief vignettes enabling the individual to hold entire universes of thought in mind all at once, without running through doctrinal discourses or disrupting ordinary consciousness of everyday affairs." (Cleary 1994:xv)
For more see
A Register of Known Koan Collections
Works Dealing With the Koan Study
The Gateless Gate
The Gateless Gate Bursts Open.
We introduce the Section on Koans to facilitate the discussion of Old and New Koans. A new Zen adept. may post a new Koan too!
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