Posted inHenry's Messages, Koans

Message from Henry: Bach to Koans

October 28, 2020

…a cascade of releases, a domino effect…all might drop away. Body, mind, world, all give themselves up. And we see them for what they are.

Listening to unaccompanied Bach — in particular, some performances by Itzhak Perlman given in London in the 1970s. How prodigiously difficult the pieces are, yet generations of violinists, for the last 300 years, have been held to account by them, and have risen to their challenge, and become skilled enough not just to slog through them, but actually live them and give them new life. To occupy them, inhabit them, wear them, fill them.

Perlman is spectacular at fully living them. He uses them to bring out parts of his soul that would otherwise remain unknown. He lets the human soul expresses itself fully. It’s analogous to the way a writer like Tolstoy lets the telling of his characters’ stories be an opportunity for his own soul to express itself. As it does so it touches and brings to life the soul of the reader.

So, an analogy for koan training. What a high bar, in the realm of awakening practice, the koans can represent. It’s so hard to come by even a single experience of kensho that is clear enough just to begin koan training. And the way they work on us again and again, scouring out whatever obscures our deeper life, until we start to be able to occupy them more fully.

Or perhaps it’s the other way around, and they occupy us. They show us what this very moment is, and allow it to show and be and express itself. And in this way the creative universe finds a kind of realization. As if it couldn’t quite be fulfilled until it’s fulfilled in us.

And along the way we might want to cry out: too hard, I’ve done my best, I can do no more. And the koans say: not so, just a little more. One more brow to cross, another hump to get over, one more thread to snap. One more holding on to release.

And then a cascade of releases, a domino effect, will trigger one another. And all might drop away. Body, mind, world, all give themselves up. And we see them for what they are.

And at last we’re free to know our human lives as they are, and to live them fully as the gift they are, in each moment. And this – here, now – becomes all it can be. And our search for more is over. We are home, we always were. And no matter what happens, we now know we can never not be. It is truly a kind of ultimate love.

Message from Henry if from our October 26 Newsletter
Image: Old Town Roady by JoshuaWoroneicki, from
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