Of Koans : “R. H. Blythe said that Zen is poetry. What does he mean by poetry? Certainly he did not use the word poetry in the sense of what we commonly call verse. Rather, he meant that the essence of Zen, like the world of poetry, comes from the spontaneous, natural, unfabricated energy of meeting reality directly. This quality of immediacy is in our every day practice, and is also reflected in the so-called literary body that we call koans. T

he mystery of koans and their poetic veracity comes about because they are non-discursive, based in life, full of allusions, and nonlinear. They invite us not to use the thinking mind but to allow the thinking mind to drop away by being absorbed completely into the koan body so that a genuine experience of intimacy can present itself. Practicing with a koan is like a muscle that moves us into the reality, something that gathers us up and releases into the present.” ….

“… sometimes we think we have to solve life, and we hear inside ourselves the phrase: My life is a koan. After some years with my first teacher, I came to realize that the point is not to solve the problem but to be informed by the spirit of the question. If one is looking for a solution, an outcome: the right relationship, practice, teacher – a perfect world – disappointment 7 will surely follow. That’s not what life is about. That’s not what this practice is about.

This practice is not about being in an ideal or idea; it cannot be about trying to get anything or anywhere. Maybe through the friction of the koan, the habit skins begin to drop off, or maybe the habit skins are the very richness that gives life to life. Which ever, a koan can show us what we are wearing and what is underneath.

That is why the first koan {Mu} in the Mumonkan is so demanding and precious. There is No solution.

~ excerpts from this article by Roshi Joan Halifax  (2005)

This article (PDF) is sourced from Upaya Zen Center.

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