In my last post I put up a koan that has been spinning in my head for over 20 years. Now, I am not much of a koan guy nor classically trained in them. In Soto Zen our central practice is Shikantaza...just sitting zen. However, this one koan, 'Why is a mouse when it spins?' tickles my brain for some reason, so I dwell on it from time to time.
Now, I have a certain understanding of this koan, which I am sure a Rinzai Zen Master would not accept, but what the #@%^, I really don't care. For myself this koan has helped me see 'sideways'. This is all I can say about that, without sounding totally like I just flew in from Venus.
One thing I have come to know about koans, is that there are two experiences you can have with them. One is the , "Oh, I See" experience. This is when the koan is sort of explained to you. Your intellect grabs onto it and says it understands, but this is limited understanding.
What is more important, at least from my limited and extremely delusional perspective, is the 'Aha' experience. This occurs when you can 'see' the koan in its wholeness and get the 'feeling' behind it. Your whole body feels it. You may have the same answer as the person who gets the 'Oh, I see' experience, but your understanding is authentic as it comes from a deeper place within you.
It's similar to solving a word in a crossword puzzle you have struggled with without using a dictionary or asking for help. It pops into your head and you go, 'aha!' When you use the dictionary you get the 'oh, I see' experience...it is a bit unsatisfying.
My karate teacher, Mr. Paul Dean, was good at just letting us practice without a lot of criticism or critique (until you got to certain levels). He allowed you to explore the art's techniques and katas, especially when exploring a kata's bunkai, or hidden self-defense techniques.
Exploring bunkai on your own and getting the 'aha' is much more inspiring and exciting than having someone just tell you what a certain move means. When you can find it coming deep from within yourself, that 'aha' helps you grow and expands your mind larger than you know. (Right ZenHG?...check out his On the Dojo Floor blog). It is the road to mastery of your art.
So, as you go through life, what do you want? Do you want the "Oh, I see" or the "Aha!"...with a big 'Yes!' running behind it? I know what's more fun. How about you?
Thanks for visiting. My Dharma name is Shinzen. I began studying Goshindo Karate under the watchful eye of Shihan Paul Dean in 1969. Yes, I now have gray hair. I am also Lay-ordained in Soto Zen under the tutelage of Rev. Nonin Chowaney of the Nebraska Zen Center.