Green Koans Case 17: The Color of Insight

Clark Strand

In Great Concentration and Insight, T’ien-t’ai states, “From the indigo, an even deeper blue.”


Green Koans 17


Great Concentration and Insight (Chin Mo-ho-chih-kuan) is based on a series of lectures given on the Lotus Sutra by the Chinese monk T’ien-t’ai in 594. “Concentration” means to focus one’s mind on one point without being distracted. “Insight” means seeing reality as it is.

Deeper Blue  In his letter “The Supremacy of the Law,” the Japanese priest Nichiren explains T’ien-t’ai’s statement as follows:

Ice is made of water, but it is colder than water. Blue dye comes from indigo, but when something is repeatedly dyed in it, the color is better than that of the indigo plant. 

Indigo dye is the essence of the indigo plant. It gets darker and richer the longer we boil it down. This is called concentration. The blue that results from repeated dyeing is called insight. But why indigo? Why a blue so deep it verges on the blackness of night? Why can’t insight be white?

Just say it over
And over like a mantra
If you want to know
What happens when a color
Becomes deeper than itself.


Read all the Green Koans.

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Dominic Gomez's picture

Hail White Tara, Mother of Liberation. Thou art purity, wisdom, and truth. You bestow long life and serenity to those who beseech you. Born from the tears of the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokiteshvara, you see all the world's sufferings with your seven eyes. White and bright as the sun itself, you labor all day long to relieve the suffering of the world.

White light is thus because it contains all the colors of the spectrum. Insight is the prism that allows us to see them all in a rainbow.