"Koans" : Required reading !

From the wikipedian citation at


A kōan (


/ˈkoʊ.ɑːn/; Chinese: 公案; pinyin: gōng'àn; Korean: 공안 (kong'an); Vietnamese: công án) is a fundamental part of the history and lore of ZenBuddhism. It consists of a story, dialogue, question, or statement, the meaning of which cannot be understood by rational thinking but may be accessible through intuition. One widely known kōan 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 kōan tradition in Japan). The word koan, the name by which the practice is known to the West, comes from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese characters (公案).

The sound of one hand -- a prime example of a koan !

Two hands clap and there is a sound. What is the sound of one hand?

Hakuin Ekaku

"...in the beginning a monk first thinks a kōan is an inert object upon which to focus attention; after a long period of consecutive repetition, one realizes that the kōan is also a dynamic activity, the very activity of seeking an answer to the kōan. The kōan is both the object being sought and the relentless seeking itself. In a kōan, the self sees the self not directly but under the guise of the kōan... When one realizes ("makes real") this identity, then two hands have become one. The practitioner becomes the kōan that he or she is trying to understand. That is the sound of one hand." — G. Victor Sogen Hori, Translating the Zen Phrase Book[11]

Praying Our Experiences

Joseph F. Schmidt

Praying Our Experiences by Joseph F. Schmidt, Published by Saint Mary's Press, Christian Brother's Publications; Winona, Minnesota; www.smp.org . © 2000

PRAYING OUR EXPERIENCES is the practice of reflecting on and entering honestly into the day-to-day events of our life to become aware of God's word in them and to offer ourselves to God through these events.

Noted by some as one of the best introductions to prayer ever written, this book is helpful for developing your personal prayer life, as a guide for sharing in groups, or as a gift for someone who desires to live a more prayer-filled life.

From the blog post ( www.vid93.blogspot.com ) of October 17th, 2011.

Taking a break

A Discussion of "Koans"

Events in my life lately, have caused me to consider that I may not be able to complete as much of the animation as I had hoped. Once again, my livelihood is under attack for political reasons.

As well, my brother has raised the point that the animation writing is unintelligible, which I thoroughly understand.

So I feel it is time again to discuss how one may make sense of this animation, as I did in the winter of 2009 in my Blog post. It was a post from the book Praying Our Experiences A by Joseph F. Schmidt, which I will once again discuss here.

In chapter three of his book, page 27 in my copy, under the heading Introspection – Narcissism and the Limited Ego, this Jesuit Priest acknowledges the dangers of considering our experiences. One may discover their weaknesses and gifted-ness by considering their experiences but they risk becoming narcissistic. As well, one may rationalize their experiences so that they find what they want to find in them. Loving ourselves over others is a danger, but we cannot love others if we do not first love ourselves. It is a precarious undertaking. Authentic consideration of life is not the problem, but part of the solution.

When the ego is dominant one will judge each of their experiences as a victory or a defeat, rather than consider what they say to one. This rationalism leaves no room for authentic consideration to arrive through the cracks in our ego. An example of this is the judgment of a Pharisee that Jesus, if He was the Messiah, would have known what kind of woman was washing His feet. The dominance of the ego would not leave room for the unexpected and thereby close their awareness to God working in their life.

In order to open a disciple's mind to the non-rational and the unexpected, the teacher of some eastern traditions will present the disciple with a koan as a focus for consideration. A koan is a statement that does not make sense. It is impossible to resolve the statement through analysis. This is the point.

A classic koan is “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” The answer must come from beyond rationalization and analysis, from beyond the ego. It is not a matter of rationalizing the koan, but rather being in faith with the statement that brings personal awareness and transformation. The ego must surrender to the helplessness.

Our experiences themselves are koans, in that they are not rational, containing contradictions and elements that do not make sense. Looking for meaning appears fruitless – this is the point. This opens one up to the source of life on the other side of the limited rational ego.

So all of the animation text, can be considered as one would consider a koan.

As with life, just because something does not appear to make sense, does not mean there is not any sense at all in it. This is the achievement of science – making sense of the natural world. Geographers have mapped the irregularities and inconsistencies of the surface of the earth, making it known.

So the animation text does not appear to make any sense, but careful consideration of whatever sense one can find in it, is the meaning of the animation.

An example is the question “Can we lead with you?” Does this inquire if the questioner can be a leader in a group of leaders? Or does it mean that the person questioned will be leading the charge, and everyone else, including the questioner, will be right along shortly ?

As well, one may compare this question to the text in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus, an embodiment of the One, says “Follow me!” The disciples hear a command, but in the animation, the One hears a question – “Can we lead with you?” So just as the people wanted to make Jesus king after he fed the crowds, one following in the path of Jesus will be called upon to lead.


Sunday, October 16th, 2011


Praying Our Experiences by Joseph F. Schmidt, Published by Saint Mary's Press, Christian Brother's Publications; Winona, Minnesota; www.smp.org . © 2000