Its late. I am going to be seriously brief here.
I haven't been excited about Zen games in a while. Tonight was exciting. For me.
As we sat, we sat with the folloring koan:
Case 91: Yanguan’s Rhinoceros Fan
One day, Yanguan called to his attendant, “Bring me the rhinoceros fan.”
The attendant said, “It is broken.”
Yanguan said, “If the fan is broken, bring back the rhinoceros.” The attendant did not answer.
Later Touzi said, “I wouldn’t mind bringing that rhinoceros, but probably its head and horns would not be complete.”
(Xuedou: I want to see the incomplete head and horns.)
Shishuang said, “If I brought it back to you, nothing would remain for me.”
(Xuedou: That rhinoceros still exists.)
Zifu drew a circle and wrote the ideograph “ox” in it.
(Xuedou: Well done! Why didn’t you bring it out sooner?)
Baofu [on behalf of the attendant] said, “Master, you are too venerable. The task you set is too hard for me. Let someone else do that job for me.”
(Xuedou: All efforts have proved fruitless.)
So tonight, after seated meditation, we played a game. An experiment in the Zen lab.
We sat for 5 minutes or so. After we got centered and comfortable, the challenge was posed to let out attention not just drift, but search. Look for something of great value. Notice where we looked. How we knew we were getting closer. Was it inside us? Part of our thoughts? A sensation? An emption? Something else.
Once we had located that thing, we were asked to bring it forth, acknowledging that those words were vague, but that we could trust we knew what they meant. And then we sat with that. That move. That emphasis. Whatever it was.
Then we were asked to suppress that thing of great value. To reject it, push it away, avoid it, turn it off.
Finally, we were asked to just let it be. Does it sink? Float? Shine? Dim? Can we find it? Is it lost?
Then we chatted. One person talked about his middle finger- a rejection of forms and authority and limitations. How central that was. And another his job search. Another a sensation of compassion, and closeness. Another how it went to his thoughts, but settled in a vague sense of personal energy. And another in the way his mind twisted and searched.
We noted how we all knew when we found it. And when we did, we felt somewhat complete. Some discussion was around how cold and distant it felt to suppress it and that bringing it forth meant melding with it, so that we were without distinction.
And we had a great conversation following that. About a Rhino fan, about how the teacher was just asking the attendant to confront his fears that he was broken, and really just asking that he recognize himself, as he was, as a thing of great value- whether incomplete, or in pieces or what.
And we talked about how kids would know what to do with this koan and how to bring a rhinoceros and that somehow along the way we had forgotten. And we talked about how the notion that that thing of great value is other than you can hurt. And how bringing a rhinocerous is not something you can prepare for. That each bringing forth is special and unique and without precedent to rely on.
“A Course on Koans” is the delusion-riddled work of Chris Kufu (“Wind in the Void”) Wilson, who began practicing Zen in 1967. He regards Taizan Maezumi, Robert Aitken, and David Weinstein as his root teachers. Each of them pecked at his shell until he “completed” the never-ending koan curriculum of the Harada-Yasutani lineage.
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