Tonight we played a game. but first we sat. As we sat, this koan was spoken into the room:
Yunmen said, “You come and go by daylight, you make people out by daylight. But suddenly it’s midnight and there’s no sun, no moon, no lamp. If it’s a place you’ve been to, then of course it might be possible, but if it’s a place you’ve never been, how will you get hold of something?
The koan called out to me during a recent job change decision. It wasn't easy and there wasn't a point of reference that I recognized. At first, there was nothing but anxiety coming from the decision. The stories spooled our, pouring over into variation of, I don't know what I am doing, I wish I knew which path tot ake, I am going to make the wrong decision. But then it settled in the joy that was this new place. This dark place. This novel place, where I was stripped from my illusions that I had control over the outcomes of life, or that I knew what was going to happen. I felt around in the dark and trusted to my grasping. Zen seems that way to me. A way of endless first steps in a new direction, one after another.
The game seemed obvious. We turned out the lights. All of them. And we stood, because at this point the cushion is type of story too, about how meditation will go and who we are. So we wanted something novel, unfamiliar, dark. We stood on the cushions in the dark. We were invited to notice how our bodies reached out to get a hold of something. Then the clappers were, er, clapped, and we were instructed to follow the person to our left. And we walked, kinhin, in the pitch dark. then we sat again. In the dark with just the altar candle.
It was wonderful how freeing the dark was. How we had to do it all over. How voices floated in without reference to face or person and we just met them there. Many people mentioned how their initial reaction was disorientation. Panic a bit. How the tensed. but how, after flailing a bit, they started to adapt. To feel there way. Many people mentioned how their minds were much quieter in the unfamiliar. Consistently people reported a freedom in their practice, in their way of being.
People liked the dark. It makes sense. It is us accepting that we don't know, that we can't really see tomorrow, or
“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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