Q. Reading the old koans may lead one to believe that the old masters lost their minds. Why is this?
A. An old koan is to the unenlightened as a text for a doctorate course is to kindergarten children. To give another metaphor, if you hand a one-million-dollar cheque to a three-year-old child who is crying for sweets, he will be sure to think that you have lost your mind, because what he is anxious for is not a piece of paper but something sweet.
The reason why the old masters seem to have lost their minds is not that they lost their minds but that you don’t have the wisdom to have an insight into the old koans. So, ancient masters didn’t tell koans to all the people who came to them for teaching. They always presented them only to those who were ready to cope with them. Even after presenting koans, masters never failed to give students a lot of teaching to help them solve these koans.
If you feel excited and curious, when you read koans, you are above a certain level in Zen practice. If the ancient masters who created the koans seem to have lost their minds and you feel at a loss, you had better delay reading them and first build a basic foundation.
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway
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