Zen koans no longer have to be arcane meditation objects – only mastered by a few trained Zen minds. Your life is already a koan – a deep question whose answer you are already living. You cannot learn from a book how to understand koans. They have been studied over the centuries by Zen masters and their students alike. What was valid then, may no longer be applicable in a world that lives on short memories and fast internet connections. As issues are evolving and our needs adjust to the changing times the process of transformation may as well continue with a fresh perspective.
The koans presented here are different from any koan you have ever read. They don’t claim to be traditional koans (and as such they are not material for traditional koan scholars). The koans you find in this book were written for the untrained non-traditional mind. They are snappy, hilarious and often provocative allowing plenty of space for intuition and contemplation – often resulting in spontaneous laughter. These koans show the radically reversed relationship between a Zen master and his students and other devotees – from John Lennon to Arnold Schwarzenegger, from the prostitute to the stock broker, from the simple farmer and ex-wife to the sophisticated animal. Even Zen masters can show signs of stress and doubt which are so rampant in our modern world.
Take one koan at a time and follow it with a pause. There is always a lot in a koan – of any kind. What is the meaning, if any? Sometimes there is no meaning, no explanation, no deep wisdom but only a curious place in the wilderness of thoughts. If you prefer the traditional koans, this is not the place for you, you will look for your stick and smash this book to pieces. You may believe that presenting koans in this way may be a sacrilege, but don’t get carried away, in this world there is a place for every religion and style of presentation, as dangerous as many of them are. In comparison these Zen koans are quite innocent and only serve one purpose – to bring attention to the challenges of a retired Zen master whose words are not meant to make fun of anything but to enlighten.
If you have a good sense of humor and an open mind, this book is the perfect travel companion as each koan can lighten or deepen your time in a crowded airport or lead to abrupt laughter in the middle of a bathroom visit. You may even want to put these koans under your pillow to sleep on at night. To your surprise you may wake up in the morning not remembering who you are and wondering why your life has suddenly changed. This may be the result of too many koans read the day before or poorly digested by sleep. If you have such an experience don’t report it to the authorities but live with it for a day and see how you like it. A new perspective may not be as uncomfortable as first thought. But feel free to return any koan to the author when it is not enhancing your life’s experience. The author will instantly send you a refund in the form of a new unpublished koan. That sounds like a good deal to me. No questions asked.
“I like to offer you some help. But in Zen we don’t have a single thing.”
When the Zen Dust Settles
Zen Koans of a Retired Zen Master
Publication date: 10/10/2011
Hilarious Zen encounters between a Retired Zen Master and his many students
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