In the West we tend to think of koans
as a can opener for the mind--and they do have that quality--but they also point to a way of being in the world.
why!"), asks the "old cook, with lidded eyes" the classic koan
: "Why did Bodhidharma come from the West?" His answer: "I don't care" (11).
In Japanese, the word paradox is referred to as a Zen paradox or koan
where ko means "public" and an is a "proposition" or question (Heine & Wright, 2000, 268).
You don't carry the koan
around consciously all day long.
An old woman responds in a koan
, writes Jerry Shinshin Wick, to every sojourning monk asking for directions to the monastery on the Great Mountain: "Straight ahead" (34).
tangrams and origami to calligraphy and haiku to Zen koans
In fact, Zen koans
, paradoxical statements, or questions that illicit paradoxical responses in an attempt to open and enlighten the mind, give major insight into the nature of language and the true essence of the guru/teacher/tutor.
Both of us love koans
, for example and haiku poetry.
Most Buddhists understand the use of koans
as challenges to directly experience reality without recourse to the intellect.
I teach high school English, and when my seniors read Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha, I often put Zen koans
on the board for the students to ponder.
Second, Ford provides an unusually helpful introduction to koans
and their use in Zen.