Tonight's game followed this koan:
Case 53: Baizhang’s Wild Duck
Great Master Ma and Baizhang were taking a walk and saw a wild duck flying by.
“What is that?” asked the Great Master. “A wild duck,” said Baizhang. “Where did it go?” asked the Great Master. “It flew away,“ answered Baizhang. The Great Master twisted Baizhang’s nose and Baizhang cried out in pain. “Why, it didn’t fly away,“ said the Great Master.
We sat and our attention was drawn to a baseball placed on the alter. An old, beaten piece of leather, with infield dirt darkening the shere and threads standing up from the stiches. It was passed from person to person in silence. We were all asked to know how we knew that baseball was real. To feel the texture of its reality. People would smell the ball, grasp it, toss it, roll it in their hands. We were asked to place our attention on the ball even when it wasn't in our hands, and to notice our connection to it even then. The ball was passed around again, this time we were instructed to forget that it was a baseball. That there was such thing as a baseball. That there was a word for ball. To just encounter it as if it was the first moment of reality, before names. And to find the ball. Around it went again. Then we discussed what we noticed:
We could notice dynamically how our minds rattled on an endless narrative about the ball, about who was holding it, about what it was supposed to be doing. One person explained how it was when the ball was being transferred from person to person that it seemed most "real". That when it was thrown in the air that there was a moment of pure silence and immediacy. One person noted how he had played baseball his whole life and how the notion of letting go of the word and concept of a ball was so difficult. Another person noted how it was never the sight of the ball that made it feel real, but the smell, the texture. Another person noted how the ball seemed real when it did what was expected- when squeezed it was firm, when thrown it came back to earth.
Finally, we placed the ball back on the alter to a final sit. People were asked to place their attention on the ball. After a minute, the ball was carried out of the room. We were asked where the ball had gone...had it gone anywhere at all? The ball had not gone away, where was it?
Tonight was about getting intamate with the subjective nature of reality. Not questioning it as much as familiarizing ourselves with it. It was a lovely evening. Thank you to all.
“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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