02 March 2009

the koan of calvary

In the koan practice of zen, the student is confronted with a question for which there is literally no intellectual or rational , let alone correct, answer.

In fact, intellectual approaches fail in trying to get to the heart of the teaching presented by koans and zen and presuppose the same difficulty with coming to grips with life. our questions presuppose that there is an answer. but zen begs to differ. one method of "solving" a koan is to take the stance of "don't know mind." "don't know mind" is not literally "don't know" but rather a clearing of the mind to be open to seeing what is right there in front of you. One practice of this is to ask yourself a koan, such as "What is the color of wind?" If you ask sincerely, you may only find peace, after much struggle, with the answer: "don't know."

Imagine the waters of a lake rustled by wind. These are thoughts that keep you from seeing through the water to the rocks and sand on the bottom. you cannot gain clarity about a koan by thinking and reasoning through it any more than you can calm the waters by getting more wind to come.

Two examples:

Elder Ting asked Lin-chi,
"Master, what is the great meaning of Buddha's teachings?"
Lin-chi came down from his seat, slapped Ting and pushed him away.
Ting was stunned and stood motionless.
A monk nearby said, "Ting, why do you not bow?"
At that moment Ting attained great enlightenment.


Wakuan complained when he saw a picture of bearded Bodhidarma,
"Why hasn't that fellow a beard?"

In a sense, Christ's death at Calvary is a koan for which there is no rational answer. I cannot reason my way to understanding why Christ had to die. Why the Triune God has taken this path rather than one that would fit far more neatly into my human rationality? My key doesn't open this lock. What is the color of the wind? Why did he know at the top of the mountain with Elijah and Moses that he had to leave that mountaintop and travel to Calvary and endure all the humiliation and pain along the way? And why choose/accept this path?

"don't know"

The koan of Christ death and resurrection is one that I will work with all my life. Some koans are never solved except in the contemplation,

the acceptance of paradox, and,

the discovery of faith.


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