Arjun Yadav

A Collection of Koans

Nov 26, 2022

Digital art of a robot meditating - DALL·E 2

Note: This post is a replacement post for October 2022.

I recently finished the Koan series by Henry Shukman on Waking Up. Here are some of the more profound koans I've come across.

  • There was an experienced practitioner who decided to return to his life as a fisherman: he packed up his things and walked not too far out of the monastery. He stubbed his toe quite badly and it was that moment that awakened him, and he stumbled his way back to the monastery and become a great teacher.

  • Zhaozhou Congshen was a Zen master who may have lived till the age of ~118-119. What’s fascinating is his introduction to zen. He asked his teacher what was the way (i.e.: what is awakening) and his teacher replied that ordinary mind is the way (i.e.: ordinary experience). When Zhaozhou asked how to find the ordinary mind, the teacher replied that if you try to find it, you go against it.

  • What Is This?

  • Disease and cure are complementary, the whole world is medicine.

  • There was a student who embarked on a pilgrimage, but not the religious pilgrimage that we’re all familiar with. No, he just went where the wind took him. He was kept inside a Zen monastery due to a snowstorm and the Zen master there asked him what he was doing. When the pilgrim said that he was going where the wind took him, the Zen master inquired why. The student realized that he did not know and that’s when the Zen master said that not knowing is most intimate.

  • A new student came to a Zen master and asked him to teach him. The Zen master asked him “Have you finished your rice gruel yet?”. The student replied yes, to which the Zen master said “Go wash your bowls”.

  • A student left his zen-style teaching and became a labourer after his teacher did not tell him the answer. While he was sweeping the yard, a piece of rock hit a piece of bamboo and made a ‘knock’ sound, and that was all he needed.

  • You know the sound of two hands clapping, what’s the sound of one hand clapping?

  • Build me a seamless tomb.

  • What’s your original face, before you parents were even born?

  • Dwelling nowhere, mind comes forth.

  • The body is like a Bodhi tree, the mind is like a mirror, keep it clear of dust.

  • There is no mirror, no stand on which it sits. Where can dust settle?

  • One man argued: “It’s the wind moving!”, another man countered and said, “Of course not, it’s the flag that’s moving!”. Huineng came up to both of them, cleared his throat and said, “Actually, you’re both wrong, it’s the mind that’s moving.”

  • Trust the Heart-mind, for it may be all that we have.

  • If there is only a hairsbreadth of difference, it is the distance between heaven and earth.

  • Rice in the bowl, water in the bucket.

  • No thing.