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Anonymous

My essay on Koans and the Zen arts.
    #1143613 - 12/15/02 04:39 PM (13 years, 11 months ago)

This is a paper i wrote for my Eastern Philosophy Class. It's due tuesday. What do you think? The question is, roughly, " explain and discuss how both the koan and sen arts function in zen as pathways to spiritual realization. discuss one koan of your choice. can you trace daoist influences to the ways the koans and the zen arts are applied? are these practices confined to zen centers or do they carry over to ordinary life?"

Cultivating Mushin: The Koan and the Arts in Zen

In Buddhism, there are different paths to spiritual understanding. Practices such as meditation, koans, and Zen arts are often used by students of Buddhism. One tool for awakening is the koan. Another is practice in the various Zen arts.
A koan is a sort of spiritual riddle. It can be anything from a story of an event to a simple question. A koan is not to be solved via conventional logic; the very idea of a koan is that it jolts one out of the habitual way of relying on the intellect and the constructs of logic. This is important because to a Buddhist, the ultimate truth transcends logic and is not something to be grasped by the intellect. This is a clear echo of Chuang-Tzu?s rejection of logic; Taoists understand the shortcomings of the intellect in a very similar way to Buddhists. The intellect, with its chains of associations and cut-up-and-categorize way of understanding the world, is not something through which the one truth can be experienced. However, more often than not, it is our calculating, rational intellect through which we perceive the world. A koan is designed so that it is not solved by the intellect, but through mushin, the mind empty of logical constructs and pre-fabricated notions. It is in the same way that one cannot come to an understanding of the mind and of the universe by any means of logic, but through the clear, meditative mind. For this reason koans are considered in Buddhism to be powerful tools for spiritual awakening.
One example of a koan is the story of the Buddha holding up a flower to a gathering of Buddhist monks and nuns. It is as follows:

Once when the World-Honored One in ancient times was upon Vulture Peak, he held up a flower before the assembly of monks. At this time all were silent. The Venerable Kashyapa alone broke into a smile. The World-Honored One said, "I have the All-Pervading Eye of the True Dharma, the Secret Heart of Incomparable Nirvana, the True Aspect of Formless Form. It does not rely on letters and is transmitted outside the scriptures. I now pass it on to Kashyapa"

Reading this story, it is apparent that there is something going on which is not immediately apparent. The intellect will raise questions like: What is the meaning behind the flower-raising and the smiling? Why Kashyapa? What does the Buddha mean in what he says? What is it that is transferred? If we let the intellect manufacture and go to work on these questions, we get nowhere. Deeper contemplation will reveal an understanding of the koan.
My understanding of this koan is that the truth, enlightenment, the Buddha Nature, whatever one may call it, is not something that is taught or passed on or written down. Rather, it is inherent in all things. It is not something that you must seek and find, or have taught to you. It is already within you. It is the distractions and delusions of the ego, the delusion of a self separated from the universe, that keeps most people from seeing through to the truth that All is One. In smiling, Kashyapa is as the Buddha holding up a flower. In holding up a flower, the Buddha is as Kashyapa smiling. Nothing is transmitted, told or taught; Kashyapa looks beyond the ego and sees that he and the Buddha are One, and smiles a flowering smile back to the Buddha's smiling flower. He has real personal experience of the Truth, which is what really matters, and so the Buddha says that he has passed the wisdom to Kashyapa, though nothing has really been transferred.
It is by understanding the concepts behind the koan that one understands the koan, and at the same time, the koan helps one to understand that concepts underlying it. An understanding of the Buddha Nature and the emptiness of a separate self is required to ?solve? this koan. Logic alone will not suffice.
In addition to the koan, another tool for realization in Zen is the practice of various Zen Arts. A description of the function of the arts in Zen begins with a discussion of mushin. Mushin is a term for a state of mind in which the mind is alert, still, and calm. It is when centered in mushin that the delusions of the ego begin to lose their hold. Thinking and calculating yields to doing, being, and feeling. The illusion of a separate self dissolves. Mushin is a state of unattachment, unnattachment from thoughts, emotions, and the wily ego.
In many art forms, and not just in the east, people are familiar with the experience of becoming ?lost? in whatever it is that they are engaged in. At this point, they do not feel as though they are an actor working on an external reality. They are the pure act itself. This has been felt by everyone from the runner to the woodcarver. In the Zen arts, this is understood to be pure concentration and an entrance into a state of mushin. The self dissolves and the actor and act are One. Delusions and distractions disappear, and it is no surprise that it is from this selfless state that much of our best work is done.
It is important in the Zen arts that one approaches whatever they may be doing in mushin. They must try to see beyond their distinctions between self and other. They must be one with the material at hand and cooperate with it, not fight it. This is very reminiscent of an aspect of Taoism that teaches that everything has a natural, correct way of working. The teaching is that the best way to act is not to act upon something, but to act along with it in such a way that the desired result will manifest itself. This is something that should be learned from practice in the Zen arts as well.
The purpose of the Zen arts is to cultivate mushin. Students may train in archery, swordsmanship, painting, flower arrangement, serving tea, various martial arts, and others. The activity itself is simply a means to practice mushin, with the idea being to carry this to other aspects of life.
The purpose of koans and the Zen arts is not to solve riddles or be an expert archer. It isn?t to understand old stories and to paint well. Koans would be useless if they were not in some way applicable to everyday life, and the same is true for the Zen arts. The purpose of the both the koan and the arts in Zen is to cultivate mushin so that it may be applied to other aspects of life. If this is not done, there really is not much use for these practices. This is the Zen standpoint on the issue and I agree. The purpose of the Zen arts and koans is to strengthen concentration and mushin for the service of every aspect of one?s life.
Koans and the Zen arts are tools that have been developed by Zen practitioners as means of developing spiritual understanding. They both work in unique ways to strengthen mushin and dissolve the ego, and along with meditation, are powerful instruments for understanding ultimate truth.


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Offlinepattern
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Re: My essay on Koans and the Zen arts. [Re: ]
    #1143661 - 12/15/02 05:05 PM (13 years, 11 months ago)

I like it!  "Cultivating Mushin" - is mushin what I think it is?  :laugh:

I recommend separating your paragraphs with blank lines: Makes it easier to read!  :grin: 


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man = monkey + mushroom


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Invisiblewhiterasta
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Re: My essay on Koans and the Zen arts. [Re: ]
    #1143674 - 12/15/02 05:10 PM (13 years, 11 months ago)

:wink: :ooo:


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Edited by whiterasta (12/15/02 05:14 PM)


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Invisiblewhiterasta
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Re: My essay on Koans and the Zen arts. [Re: ]
    #1143680 - 12/15/02 05:12 PM (13 years, 11 months ago)

I really liked the essay VERY much.I westernized and paraphrased it into "There is truth in paradox" And only with "no mind"(Mushin) can subjectivity and sensuality be eliminated from experiencing reality.
Quote:

Once when the World-Honored One in ancient times was upon Vulture Peak, he held up a flower before the assembly of monks. At this time all were silent. The Venerable Kashyapa alone broke into a smile. The World-Honored One said, "I have the All-Pervading Eye of the True Dharma, the Secret Heart of Incomparable Nirvana, the True Aspect of Formless Form. It does not rely on letters and is transmitted outside the scriptures. I now pass it on to Kashyapa"



When I read of this encounter I wondered if the wonders were "passed" on or if Kashyapa 'took' them up at that moment .Your interpretation is insightful into the nature of Dharma and it's separate nature from it's vessels.Dharma exists separate of the vessels of Dharma.Dharma manifests it's truest form through the state of Mushin (again ,No-Mind) it is then that the pure self can commune with reality as it manifests from the place whence it manifests. :grin:WR

 


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To old for this place


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InvisibleSwami
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Re: My essay on Koans and the Zen arts. [Re: ]
    #1143739 - 12/15/02 05:36 PM (13 years, 11 months ago)

The question is, roughly, " explain and discuss how both the koan and sen arts function in zen as pathways to spiritual realization.

Instead of turning in the term paper, I would have smacked the teacher hard across the face!


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The proof is in the pudding.


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OfflineToxicManM
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Re: My essay on Koans and the Zen arts. [Re: ]
    #1143767 - 12/15/02 05:47 PM (13 years, 11 months ago)

Your essay is interesting. I am curious to see if this essay on koans will influence your essay.

Of course, in most classes it is more important to know what the instructor wants you to say than what the correct answer is.

Good luck in your class.


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Happy mushrooming!


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Offline3eyedgod
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Re: My essay on Koans and the Zen arts. [Re: ]
    #1145231 - 12/16/02 09:57 AM (13 years, 11 months ago)

I never knew the purpose of the zen arts before. Thanks for the post.


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Without everything wouldn't nothing be everything and without nothing wouldn't everything be nothing.I am the beginning and the end,the source and the void, the light and the darkness,i am but a small drop of the ocean yet i am an ocean unto myself


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