This question of enlightenment…For one human being to expect to attain enlightenment from another is like a grain of sand on the beach expecting to attain enlightenment from another grain of sand on the beach. Don’t you get it? You’re all grains of sand.
—  Terence McKenna, Sacred Plants as Guides- New Dimensions of the Soul
Zen Koan: Nothing Exists

Yamaoka Tesshu, as a young student of Zen, visited one master after another. He called upon Dokuon of Shokoku.

Desiring to show his attainment, he said: “The mind, Buddha, and sentient beings, after all, do not exist. The true nature of phenomena is emptiness. There is no relaization, no delusion, no sage, no mediocrity. There is no giving and nothing to be received.”

Dokuon, who was smoking quietly, said nothing. Suddenly he whacked Yamaoka with his bamboo pipe. This made the youth quite angry.

“If nothing exists,” inquired Dokuon, “where did this anger come from?”

Zen Koan - The Nature of Things

Two monks were washing their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was drowning. One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank. In the process he was stung. He went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion fell in. The monk saved the scorpion and was again stung. The other monk asked him, “Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know it’s nature is to sting?”

“Because,” the monk replied, “to save it is my nature.”

One day, some people came to the master and asked: ‘How can you be so happy in a world of such impermanence, where you cannot protect your loved ones from harm, illness and death?’ The master held up a glass and said: ‘Someone gave me this glass, and I really like this glass. It holds my water admirably and it glistens in the sunlight. One day the wind may blow it off the shelf, or my elbow may knock it from the table. I know this glass is already broken, so I enjoy it incredibly.’
—  Zen Koan

Subhuti was Buddha’s disciple. He was able to understand the potency of emptiness, the viewpoint that nothing exists except in its relationship of subjectivity and objectivity.

One day Subhuti, in a mood of sublime emptiness, was sitting under a tree. Flowers began to fall about him.

“We are praising you for your discourse on emptiness,” the gods whispered to him.

“But I have not spoken of emptiness,” said Subhuti.

“You have not spoken of emptiness, we have not heard emptiness,” responded the gods. “This is the true emptiness.” And blossoms showered upon Subhuti as rain.

– Zen koan “Flower Shower,” via http://www.ashidakim.com/zenkoans/zenindex.html

[Art by Odilon Redon. Buddha in His Youth, 1904. Distemper on canvas, 63.58 x 48.23 in. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.]

Zen Koan: The Thief Who Became A Disciple

One evening as Shichiri Kojun was reciting sutras a thief with a sharp sword entered, demanding wither his money or his life.

Shichiri told him: “Do not disturb me. You can find the money in that drawer.” Then he resumed his recitation.

A little while afterwards he stopped and called: “Don’t take it all. I need some to pay taxes with tomorrow.”

The intruder gathered up most of the money and started to leave. “Thank a person when you receive a gift,” Shichiri added. The man thanked him and made off.

A few days afterwards the fellow was caught and confessed, among others, the offense against Shichiri. When Shichiri was called as a witness he said: “This man is no thief, at least as far as I am concerned. I gave him the money and he thanked me for it.”

After he had finished his prison term, the man went to Shichiri and became his disciple.

Source; What is a Koan? Some Music for your zazen (meditation), Tips on meditation

Zen Koans? What Are Those?

A Koan (Japanese: ko-an, Chinese: go-ng-àn) is a story, dialogue, question, or statement in the history and lore of Chan (Zen) Buddhism, generally containing aspects that are inaccessible to rational understanding, yet that may be accessible to intuition. A famous koan is, “Two hands clap and there is a sound; what is the sound of one hand?” (oral tradition, attributed to Hakuin Ekaku, 1686-1769, considered a reviver of the koan tradition in Japan).

  Koans originate in the sayings and doings of sages and legendary figures, usually those authorized to teach in a lineage that regards Bodhidharma (c. 5th-6th century) as its ancestor. Koans are said to reflect the enlightened or awakened state of such persons, and sometimes said to confound the habit of discursive thought or shock the mind into awareness. Zen teachers often recite and comment on koans, and some Zen practitioners concentrate on koans during meditation. Teachers may probe such students about their koan practice using “checking questions” to validate an experience of insight (kensho) or awakening. Responses by students have included actions or gestures, “capping phrases”, and verses inspired by the koan.

      As used by teachers, monks, and students in training, koan can refer to a story selected from sutras and historical records, a perplexing element of the story, a concise but critical word or phrase extracted from the story, or to the story appended by poetry and commentary authored by later Zen teachers, sometimes layering commentary upon commentary. Less formally, the term koan sometimes refers to any experience that accompanies awakening or spiritual insight.

     English-speaking non-Zen practitioners sometimes use koan to refer to an unanswerable question or a meaningless statement. However, in Zen practice, a koan is not meaningless, and teachers often do expect students to present an appropriate response when asked about a koan. Even so, a koan is not a riddle or a puzzle. Appropriate responses to a koan may vary according to circumstances; different teachers may demand different responses to a given koan, and a fixed answer cannot be correct in every circumstance. One of the most common recorded comments by a teacher on a disciple’s answer is, “Even though that is true, if you do not know it yourself it does you no good.” The master is looking, not for an answer in a specific form, but for evidence that the disciple has grasped the practical use of the koan in daily life, or in other words, has actually given up some previous attachment.

     In the Rinzai Zen tradition the final set of koans is the ten precepts of Buddhism (Do not kill, and so on) which must be understood outside the dualism of right and wrong, but not in a monist or nihilist manner either. The Soto Zen tradition begins training with Dogen Zenji’s koan-style description of this deeper meaning of the Precepts.

     The word koan corresponds to the Chinese characters ?? which can be rendered in various ways: go-ng’àn (Chinese pinyin); kung-an (Chinese Wade-Giles); gong’an (Korean); công-án (Vietnamese); ko-an (Japanese Hepburn); often transliterated koan). Of these, “koan” is the most common in English. Just as Japanese Zen, Chinese Ch’an, Korean Son, and Vietnamese Thien, and Western Zen all share many features in common, likewise koans play similar roles in each, although significant cultural differences exist.

Here’s some Zen Koans, meditation music, and some info on how to zazen (meditate).


Where beauty is, then there is ugliness;
where right is, also there is wrong.
Knowledge and ignorance are interdependent;
delusion and enlightenment condition each other.
Since olden times it has been so.
How could it be otherwise now?
Wanting to get rid of one and grab the other
is merely realizing a scene of stupidity.
Even if you speak of the wonder of it all,
how do you deal with each thing changing?
—  Ryokan

The Wabi-Sabi of an Athlete: The Power of Imperfection

In Japanese culture there is a concept known as wabi-sabi. It is the appreciation of imperfection. How can the appreciation of imperfection make you a better athlete? Imperfection can empower you.