understanding of favourite gongans/Koans that youve heard

understanding of favourite gongans/Koans that youve heard

Postby White Lotus » Fri Apr 01, 2011 7:58 pm

"the mouse eats the catfood. the cat bowl is broken"

actually this mouse died about fifty years ago when the temple cat caught it and ate it. however this little story is just as it is. just like that.

love White Lotus.
in any matters of importance. dont rely on me. i may not know what i am talking about. take what i say as mere speculation. i am not ordained. nor do i have a formal training. i do believe though that if i am wrong on any point. there are those on this site who i hope will quickly point out my mistakes.
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Re: understanding of favourite gongans/Koans that youve heard

Postby White Lotus » Wed Apr 06, 2011 7:02 pm

"when you get to the top of a 100 ft pole where do you go from there?"

just come back down!

but what if theres a tiger at the foot of the pole?

then just whistle for your dragon!
in any matters of importance. dont rely on me. i may not know what i am talking about. take what i say as mere speculation. i am not ordained. nor do i have a formal training. i do believe though that if i am wrong on any point. there are those on this site who i hope will quickly point out my mistakes.
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Re: understanding of favourite gongans/Koans that youve heard

Postby White Lotus » Wed Apr 06, 2011 7:04 pm

"why did Bodhidharma come from the west?"

to teach buddhism!

thats not right.

he also had to collect his false teeth.
in any matters of importance. dont rely on me. i may not know what i am talking about. take what i say as mere speculation. i am not ordained. nor do i have a formal training. i do believe though that if i am wrong on any point. there are those on this site who i hope will quickly point out my mistakes.
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Re: understanding of favourite gongans/Koans that youve heard

Postby Jikan » Wed Apr 06, 2011 7:18 pm

:reading:

This is an interesting topic, but might it be better to discuss it with your teacher, in person?

...off to quality-test the cat chow
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Re: understanding of favourite gongans/Koans that youve heard

Postby Astus » Wed Apr 06, 2011 7:34 pm

Jikan wrote::reading:

This is an interesting topic, but might it be better to discuss it with your teacher, in person?

...off to quality-test the cat chow


There is no need to mystify koans. True, there is meditation practice with koans called kanna/kanhua (看話 observing the phrase) where one investigates a wato/huatou (話頭 phrase head). But that is just one specific use of koans. Both before and after such practice was invented by Daie/Dahui (1089-1163) they were used for instructing disciples in the meaning of Zen. Although such instructions were generally given by the abbot (i.e. the Zen master) the discussion of them has never been restricted as if it were a private matter. It's another thing that it takes considerable amount of study (!) and training to be able to converse on koans in a meaningful way.

"To begin with, you should study day and night the verbal teachings of the Buddha and patriarchs so that you can penetrate the principles of things in their infinite variety. Ascertain and analyze, one by one, the profundities of the five houses and the seven schools of Zen and the wondrous doctrines of the eight teachings given in the five periods of Buddha's teaching career.
If you have any energy left over, you should clarify the deep principles of the various different philosophies. However, if this and that get to be too much trouble, it will just waste your energy to no avail. If you thoroughly investigate the sayings of the Buddhas and patriarchs that are difficult to pass through, and clearly arrive at their essential meaning, perfect understanding will shine forth and the principles of all things should naturally be completely clear. This is called the eye to read the sutras.
Now, the verbal teachings of the Buddhas and the patriarchs are extremely deep, and one should not consider that one has mastered them completely after one has gone through them once or twice. When you climb a mountain, the higher you climb, the higher they are; when you go into the ocean, the farther you go, the deeper it is. It is the same in this case. It is also like forging iron to make a sword; it is considered best to put it into the forge over and over, refining it again and again. Though it is always the same forge, unless you put the sword in over and over and refine it a hundred times, it can hardly turn out to be a fine sword.
Penetrating study is also like this; unless you enter the great forge of the Buddha and patriarchs, difficult to pass through, and make repeated efforts at refinement, through suffering and pain, total and independent knowing cannot come forth. Penetrating through the barriers of the Buddha and patriarchs over and over again, responding to beings' potential everywhere with mastery and freedom of technique, is called subtle, observing, discerning knowing."

(Hakuin on Kensho: the four ways of knowing, tr. by Albert Low, p. 35-36)
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: understanding of favourite gongans/Koans that youve heard

Postby Jikan » Wed Apr 06, 2011 8:02 pm

Astus wrote: it takes considerable amount of study (!) and training to be able to converse on koans in a meaningful way.


Understood. Your point here (quoted) is the one I was attempting to make. I'm of the opinion that it's very difficult to have any kind of useful or meaningful conversation about koans on an internet discussion board except a literary one.
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Re: understanding of favourite gongans/Koans that youve heard

Postby Astus » Wed Apr 06, 2011 8:06 pm

I think it is possible to have a meaningful discussion on koans here as well as face to face. It is not a matter of communication form but what one can communicate and that depends on the qualities of the people involved.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: understanding of favourite gongans/Koans that youve heard

Postby Jikan » Wed Apr 06, 2011 8:15 pm

I hope I'm proven wrong and you're proven right, Astus.
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Re: understanding of favourite gongans/Koans that youve heard

Postby Astus » Wed Apr 06, 2011 9:28 pm

OK, let's see the case of the hundred-foot pole.

Sekisõ Oshõ asked, "How can you proceed on further from the top of a hundred-foot pole?"
Another eminent teacher of old said, "You, who sit on the top of a hundred-foot pole, although you have entered the Way you are not yet genuine. Proceed on from the top of the pole, and you will show your whole body in the ten directions."

(The Gateless Gate, Case 46)

Here's a small collection of commentaries for a start.

See T'aego Pou chip, 91: "Beneath this great doubt, one must let go of both body and mind." Hakuin later reified this experience as a specific stage in practice; see Kasulis, Zen Action/Zen Person, 112-116. Dogen (1235-1237) relates this "casting off of body and mind" to the final leap off the hundred foot pole; see A Primer of Soto zen: A Translation of Dogen's Shobogenzo, trans. Reiho Masunaga (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1971), 93-94.
(Robert E. Buswell, Jr.: The "Short-cut" Approach of K'an-hua Meditation in Sudden and Gradual: Approaches to Enlightenment in Chinese Thought, p. 374: note 137 to a paragraph on p. 355 that is about the explosion of great doubt resulting in "his own personal destruction")

What does "the top of a hundred-foot pole" mean? Figuratively, it is the stage of complete emptiness. When you attain self-realization, your eye will open first to the state of consciousness where there is absolutely nothing. That stage is called the "great death." It is a stage where there is no dualistic opposition such as subject and object, good and bad, saints and ordinary people and so on. There is neither one who sees nor anything seen. Zen usually expresses this stage with the words, "There is not a speck of cloud in the spacious sky."
Anyone who wants to attain the true Zen experience must pass through this stage once. If you remain there, however, you will be unable to attain true emancipation from deep attachment to this emptiness. This stage is often referred to as the pitfall of emptiness. It becomes a kind of Zen sickness.
When we attain kensho, we come to the top of the high pole where most of us are seized with this malady. It is said that even Shakyamuni succumbed to it for two or three weeks after his great enlightenment. The Zen master in this koan warns not to linger at this point when he says, "Take a step forward from this stage and you will be able to manifest your whole body throughout the world in ten directions." That means that you must become completely free from all kinds of attachments.
Look at this stick, this kotsu. See, it is lying horizontally at first. This position represents our ordinary life. With the practice of zazen, working on Mu or counting our breath, one end of the stick will gradually come up, while the other is fixed at the original point. When the stick stands perfectly vertical, that is the state of complete emptiness. There you become completely one with Mu, and ther eis no concept of thought whatever in your mind. This is the great death. It is also the entrance to perfect enlightenment. This stage is void of mental activity. But you must not stop there. You must press on even harder. Then the top of the stick will move forward, and suddenly a whole new world will manifest itself! This is true enlightenment. Perhaps now you understand what this warning means.
...
In our present koan, the last phrase of the case reads: "...to manifest this whole body throughout the world in ten directions." This means you will realize that you are one and alone in and with the whole universe and that you should be able to do anything in an extremely free and positive way. That is the state of true enlightenment.

(Kōun Yamada: The gateless gate - the classic book of Zen koans, p. 217-218)

This state beyond hope, where "there is no place to put one's hands and feet," Ta-hui remarks, "is really a good place." It is a "good place" because it is there that conceptualization is brought to and end: "Without debate and ratiocination they are at a loss, with no place to put their hands and feet." Only then can the student make the all-important transition from the conditioned to the unconditioned, which is likened to a death-defying "leap off a hundred-foot pole." One need only recall the role of no-thought as the access to final realization-awakening to see how thoroughly that earlier account of meditation has been subsumed by the hua-t'ou technique.
The leap off the hundred-foot pole from the conditioned to the unconditioned is perhaps the quintessential expression of what Ch'an means by a sudden style of cultication and meditation. Sudden cultivation demands that there be no hint of any sequence of practices that would lead the student from one stage to another, progressively abandoning defilements and cultivating wholesome actions, until he achieves perfect purity of mind. The jump off the hundred-foot pole suggests the radical nonattachment, even to one's own body and mind, that Buddhism has always expected as a prerequisite to enlightenment. Ch'an does not deny that it might take time for one to build up the courage necessary to take that ultimate plunge. But its lack of sequence at least freed it from charges of being gradualistic.

(Robert E. Buswell, Jr.: The "Short-cut" Approach of K'an-hua Meditation in Sitting with Koans: Essential Writings on Zen Koan Introspection, ed. John Daido Loori, p. 83)

The top of the hundred-foot pole is the isolation of Hui in a selfless condition. He has experienced one side of the complementarity of form and emptiness, but he has not integrated the two aspects of reality for himself, as himself. Even after meeting the great Nan-ch'üan, he is still stuck in the void.
"Take a step from the top of the pole." This is the test point of the case, which students through the centuries since Ch'ang-sha have presented to their teachers. For our purposes, we can see how Ch'ang-sha is emphasizing the importance of moving on from simple awareness of the unsubstantial nature of the self and all things. With that step, "worlds of the ten directions will be your entire body." That is, you will find mountains, rivers, the great Earth itself, the sun, the moon, the stars, people, animals, plants, streets, and towers to be your own great self.

(Robert Aitken: Original Dwelling Place - Zen Buddhist Essays, p. 91)

The need to go beyond the way of knowing of the Great Perfect Mirror is also emphasized in many koans. For example, in koan number 46 of the Mumonkan, Zen master Sekiso asked, "How will you step from the top of a hundred-foot pole?" And another eminent master of old said, "You, who sit on the top of a hundred-foot pole, although you have come to realization, you are not yet real. Go forward from the top of the pole and you will manifest your whole body in the ten directions." Manifesting your whole body in the ten directions is this second awakening. It is seeing that all things in the six fields of sense - seeing, hearing, discernment, and knowledge - are your own awakened nature.
(Albert Low: Hakuin on Kensho, p. 59)

This "backward step," at once the casting off of body-mind and presencing of the original face, is fundamentally the same as advancing a step further from the top of a hundred-foot pole. When one takes one more step from the top of a hundred-foot pole and jumps into empty space, one immediately realizes that the boundless empty space is oneself, one's true Self that is nondual with others. It is precisely "the Self prior to the universe's sprouting any sign of itself" (chinchō mibō no jiko).
(Masao Abe: A study of Dōgen - his philosophy and religion, p. 144)

Dogen instructed:
Students, cast aside your bodies and minds and enter fully into Buddhism.
An old Master has said: "You've climbed to the top of a hundred-foot pole. Now keep on going." Most people, when they reach the top, are afraid they will lose their footing and fall to their deaths. Thus they hang on all the more tightly. To advance another step means to discard all thoughts of everything, from your functions as a savior of other beings to the means of your own livelihood, even if it requires casting away your own life. If you do not do this and even if you study the Way as earnestly as though you were trying to put out flames in your own hair, you will not be able to attain the Way. Resolve to cast aside both body and mind.

(A primer of Sōtō Zen: a translation of Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō zuimonki, 3.1, p. 49)
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: understanding of favourite gongans/Koans that youve heard

Postby plwk » Thu Apr 07, 2011 1:39 am

What's the sound of one hand clapping? :popcorn:
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Re: understanding of favourite gongans/Koans that youve heard

Postby White Lotus » Thu Apr 07, 2011 3:55 pm

buuurp!

(laughter).

actually the sound of one hand clapping has an infinite number of answers. lets get creative.
i could say... are your shoe laces tied?
you would reply to me (clapping/speaking).
i have no shoe laces.

just as speech could be the sound of one hand clapping, if you are attached to emptiness, you could say it is silence/emptiness, No sound. the sound of the flute with no holes.

all these words i have said are being free or creative, none of them is the final or only answer.

I approach koans as a child and play with them creatively.

many koans are nonsense to the rational mind, you have to be creative to unravel a koan in your own unique way. there is no one answer to any koan, but many answers.

play!

love, White Lotus. x
in any matters of importance. dont rely on me. i may not know what i am talking about. take what i say as mere speculation. i am not ordained. nor do i have a formal training. i do believe though that if i am wrong on any point. there are those on this site who i hope will quickly point out my mistakes.
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Re: understanding of favourite gongans/Koans that youve heard

Postby White Lotus » Thu Apr 07, 2011 3:59 pm

"does a dog have buddha nature?"

Master Joshu said 'NO', Buddha said all beings have buddha nature, so who is right?

the dog chases its tail. yes no yes no yes no.

eventually he gives up and chews his bone.

who is right?

who is wrong?

just chew the bone!
in any matters of importance. dont rely on me. i may not know what i am talking about. take what i say as mere speculation. i am not ordained. nor do i have a formal training. i do believe though that if i am wrong on any point. there are those on this site who i hope will quickly point out my mistakes.
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Re: understanding of favourite gongans/Koans that youve heard

Postby Quiet Heart » Thu May 19, 2011 11:37 pm

:popcorn:

"does a dog have buddha nature?"

Master Joshu said 'NO', Buddha said all beings have buddha nature

--------------------------------------------------
Actually...not knowing any Chinese...what I think he actually said was MU!...which I understand can also be translated as NOTHING! (or also as MEANINGLESS!)
It makes a big difference in understanding the Koan if you think of it that way
:smile:
--------------------------------------
Shame on you Shakyamuni for setting the precedent of leaving home.
Did you think it was not there--
in your wife's lovely face
in your baby's laughter?
Did you think you had to go elsewhere (simply) to find it?
from - Judyth Collin
The Layman's Lament
From What Book, 1998, p. 52
Edited by Gary Gach
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Re: understanding of favourite gongans/Koans that youve heard

Postby Anders » Thu May 19, 2011 11:50 pm

Quiet Heart wrote::popcorn:

"does a dog have buddha nature?"

Master Joshu said 'NO', Buddha said all beings have buddha nature

--------------------------------------------------
Actually...not knowing any Chinese...what I think he actually said was MU!...which I understand can also be translated as NOTHING! (or also as MEANINGLESS!)
It makes a big difference in understanding the Koan if you think of it that way
:smile:
--------------------------------------


What he actually said was 'wu' ('mu' is the japanese rendition). Which, in my dictionary, have the following connotations:

-less
to not have
no
none
not
to lack

I think, though the meaning as a koan may go in the direction of total emptiness, there was not much mystery in Zhao Zhou's words here. He didn't say 'nothing' or 'emptiness' or similar. He just said the very mundane 'doesn't have/no'. But there is plenty of meaning in the dialogue nevertheless. As is generally the case with Chan dialogues, Zhao Zhou was responding directly to his student's situation and not in reference to abstract doctrine. To infer that Zhao Zhou must be a Madhyamikan who wasn't a fan of buddha-nature teachings is not the way to go. In fact, we probably ought to infer that Zhao Zhou was a fan of Buddha-nature teachings (as, IIRC, he was) in order to get the proper angle on this.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra
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Re: understanding of favourite gongans/Koans that youve heard

Postby Astus » Fri May 20, 2011 10:18 am

From the koan it becomes easier to see the meaning of "wu/mu".

趙州和尚因僧問。A monk asked master Zhaozhou.
狗子還佛性。也。Do dogs also have buddha-nature, or not?
州云。- Zhou said no.

The words in the question are 有 and 無 and they are like yes-no, existence-emptiness, thing-nothing, positive-negative. And that's why Wumen emphasises not to make of this a nihilistic (虛無) or a thing-nothing (有無) issue.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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