Today I started working on a new koan. Yu the Donut maker:
"Yu was from Jinling and worked in the town as a donut-maker. She used to visit Master Langyeh Chi and ask him questions with the others. The Master taught her with Linji’s saying, “The true person of no rank.” One day she heard a beggar singing the song Happiness in the Lotus Land: “...If you haven’t heard the song of Yang Yi, how can you find Lake Tunting?” Hearing this, she was greatly enlightened. She threw her donut pan onto the ground. Her husband glared and asked, “Are you crazy?” She just said, “This isn’t your territory.” She went to see Langyeh, who, even from a distance, knew she had attained realization. He asked, “What is the true person of no rank?” She immediately said, “There’s a person of no rank with six arms and three heads, working furiously, smashing Flower Mountain into two with a single blow. Her strength is like the ever-flowing water, which does not care about the coming of spring.” Afterwards she became a famous master."
Its 12, and I am about to sit with this koan for a bit. As I did so, I remembered learning Spanish. I was not, at all, a talented student with foreign languages. On the cusp of a C+/B- average in high school, with a couple tenths of a percentage point separating me from not having to take a foreign language in college, my Spanish teacher relented and gave me the B- on the condition I would never take spanish again. Well, I did. After college, I took an intensive Spanish course after working for a year, which, not surprisingly, gave me an entirely different motivation and focus. (like Zen, I guess it seems important WHY you are doing it). 5 hours instruction a day, 3 hours language labs.
I felt like I was going crazy at times. I started dreaming in pieces of bad Spanish. I felt, everyday, like I was drowning, and yet, every so often, I would catch a snatch of a conversation from another table and go "Holy Shit! I understood that!" Ok, some of that.
Koans can be like that. I work really hard with them, and sometimes it seems like I am not going anywhere, then, out of nowhere, I get a glimpse of my mind and I think, "Oh, wow, when did my mind start doing THAT?" And I catch snippets of conversations of life, the wind talking to the grass, the ocean chatting with the shore and I think "Holy Shit!" I understood that!". Ok, some of that.
“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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