Koans

The Zen practice of contemplating a question or statement, the answer to which transcends dualistic thinking
  • Tricycle Community 2 comments

    Good for Nothing Paid Member

    The Zen Teaching of Homeless Kodo (Wisdom Publications, fall 2014) features the wisdom of three generations of Zen masters: Kodo Sawaki Roshi (1880–1965), Kosho Uchiyama Roshi (1912–1998), and Shohaku Okumura (1948–). “Homeless Kodo” refers to the first in this dharma line, Kodo Sawaki, who powerfully revived and popularized the Soto Zen practice of shikantaza, or “just sitting”—as distinct from the Rinzai Zen school’s focus on koans—by bringing the practice outside Japan’s monasteries to its laypeople. An itinerant teacher for most of his life, he established in 1949 Antaiji Shichikurin Sanzen Dojo, a still thriving Buddhist temple now in Hyogo Prefecture. After Sawaki died, his dharma heir, Kosho Uchiyama Roshi, published a collection of brief sayings by Sawaki with commentaries of his own. More »
  • Joshu's Dog Paid Member

    A monk asked Joshu, "Does a dog have buddhanature or not?" Joshu replied, "Mu." Commentary: Dog in the backyard, lifetimes upon lifetimes spent shuttling between the bright sun of the deck and the smelly shade of the propane tank. But there is no door into the cool of the restful kitchen, and no one need open it. Upon realizing this, a dog passes naturally through the Gateless Gate.John House is a Tricycle contributing editor. More »
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    The Buddha's Robe Paid Member

    I AM SEWING MY FIRST RAKUSU—the rectangular bib-like garment that is worn by Zen Buddhists. It is formally conferred during jukai, the ceremo­ny of taking refuge in the Buddha and receiving the precepts. Unlike many people I know, I have never wanted a rakusu. I do have a narrow black doth band (a wagesa) that I received during my first jukai many years ago, but I keep it folded in a comer of my drawer—my sock drawer. Some­times I feel a pang of remorse that for so long l have allowed it to lie among my socks, socks that slide along the floor and gather dust balls and the smell of sweat and leather. But the truth is that hidden among my socks there are also a few family jewels: an amber bracelet from Poland, a black onyx crucifix that belonged to Great-Aunt Maria, my mother's moonstone bracelet. More »
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    A Matter of Misdirection Paid Member

    In “Indian Camp,” the first story in Hemingway’s first book, In Our Time, a boy and his father paddle out on a lake to an island where a pregnant Native American woman is having a hard labor. The boy is shocked both by her suffering and by the general poverty of the camp. He waits as his father, a doctor, helps deliver the baby; the boy doesn’t pay attention—nor do we—to the woman’s husband lying on a nearby bunk. Unable to endure the sound of his wife’s birth pains or his certainty of the new child’s miserable prospects, the man slits his own throat. But the author only lets us see this late in the tale; most of the way we think the story is about the boy and his father. All along, without our even noticing, another more pressing series of events has been unfolding right under our eyes. More »
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    The Art of Being Wrong Paid Member

    There’s a scene in the fine and dark TV series Breaking Bad in which a villainous drug dealer, half-dead and half-blinded by a poisonous gas, stumbles down a suburban street and runs into one of his adversaries. The dealer can see just enough to recognize who it is, but he can’t see enough to realize, when he lurches off in a panic, that he’s heading straight for a large cottonwood tree. He slams into the trunk and knocks himself out cold. In the midst of that scene of tense dramatic confrontation, the resolution—a moment of classic slapstick reversal—is unavoidably funny. More »
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    It Was Worth It Paid Member

    Case Seisen Fletcher was angered upon reading the Buddha’s statement that his allowing women to ordain would put Buddhism back 500 years. She went to Maezumi Roshi to ask him about it. After a few moments he said: “Well, it was worth it.”Commentary Taizan Maezumi Roshi (1931–1995) studied in and transmitted three teaching streams: the Soto Zen lineage of his father, the Rinzai Zen lineage of Koryu Osaka Roshi, and the Harada- Yasutani blend of Soto and Rinzai in which koan training is emphasized. He founded the Zen Center of Los Angeles in 1967 and had many disciples. He ordained Seisen Fletcher, who received dharma transmission from Tetsugen Glassman (a successor to Maezumi Roshi) in 1998. More »