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October 30, 2010

Koan Study

The last three days and for some time forward, I will be posting some koans. A koan is like a riddle, a nonsensical or paradoxical question given to a student for which an answer is demanded, the act of meditation on the question often being illuminating. There are no 'right' answers to these koans. Often a teacher will dismiss an answer seen as too simple or too esoteric. Koans in my view are sometimes over emphasized in some Zen circles, but they can be useful and fun ways to expand one's thinking and reasoning. Koans are usually used in Rinzai Zen and not usually in Tao teaching but I believe they can be quite helpful in liberating the mind from dormancy.

Master Li is a fictional character based on a composite of teachers, Zen and Tao that I have read about and directly learned from. Some of the interactions are true exchanges I have heard and also been on the receiving end of. From the stories, one can see that Master Li can be rather blunt and seemingly mean to some 'students'. However, his intentions are true and pure; that is to guide students down the path of the Way. This way of teaching has been documented in the past as being quite true of some teachers. Often such teachers are ones that students can learn the most from.
I hope you enjoy the stories and give thought to what the hidden meaning is.