(Koans) are a lucky-dip of insights, experiences, tastes and transformations, from 2,500 years of practice.
I recently read a statement from a teacher who developed a methodology of dialoguing, around “koan questions,” that they say will promptly bring about a “taste of the actual liberating experience of no self.”
Apart from the doubts one might have about any system that promises something like the above in one (costly) session, I want to pick up on something else: the description talks about the importance of the facilitator being “grounded in Clear Deep Heart/Mind.”
To schematize in this kind of way – are you or are you not in Clear Deep Heart/Mind – seems a risky thing in human spirituality. To turn what cannot be codified into something like a trademark-able item – knowable, fixed, inducible on demand – isn’t that to go against the actual course of things, against nature’s ebb and flow, and also against the mystery that we are opening up to in practice, which resists all attempts to be quantified or categorized?
I prefer the old koan way. The koans are a rag-bag. They are not schematized. They are a hoard of old sayings that have proven helpful, culled mostly from biographies and sutras, and storied encounters. Yes, we have a “curriculum,” a set of classical koan collections, but they do not represent a graded sequential program. They are a lucky-dip of insights, experiences, tastes and transformations, from 2,500 years of practice.
Actually they are alive. They can’t be limited or “known” at all. All we can hope to do is join their ongoing life. And where is that life?