Saturday, 30 November 2019


378. 'The Sixth Patriarch was pursued by the monk Myo as far as Taiyu Mountain.' Who was the Sixth Patriarch? Who was the monk Myo? Where is Taiyu Mountain? When did this take place? Why was Myo pursuing the Sixth Patriarch? Usually the koan practitioner will be able to answer all these questions. But is this necessary? Does it help?

Sunday, 24 November 2019


377. A persistent question ... The kōan that won't let go ... So which is the real Seijo? The one that bowed to the dictates of the family's patriarchal and caste ridden mentality? Or the Seijo that followed her heart's desire? Seijo's heart's desire seems to have been to marry Ōchū even though this involved going against her father's decision and secretly running after her lover. But there was more to Seijo's heart than this for she eventually returned to her father's house, if only for a visit.
     Who can know their own deepest desire? Can you fathom your own heart? The Hebrew psalmist witnesses to our need for help here when he prays: 'Search me O God and know my heart, test me and know my thoughts'. Zazen opens us to such a searching, such a testing.

Thursday, 14 November 2019


376. 'Which is the real Seijo?' Familiarity with the old Chinese ghost story about Seijo and her cousin Ochu will have a different effect on a Western practitioner of Zen than on someone raised in a culture dominated by a patriarchal and caste ridden mentality. Might be best to forget the story and just focus on the question. Can you do this?

Tuesday, 5 November 2019


375. Koan Zen, in China the kung-an tradition, is the practical expression of the well known saying that Zen is 'a special transmission outside the scriptures'. This saying, however, inasmuch as it appears to jettison doctrinal teachings, would put Zen at odds with conventional understandings of Buddhism. And so the Buddhist character of  Koan Zen has been hotly disputed down through the centuries. Thus many Buddhists would be scandalised by the Zen demand that 'should you meet the Buddha on the path, kill him!' 

Sunday, 3 November 2019


374. When Goso asks 'Which was the real Seijo?' he is questioning not only the real identity of the practitioner engaged with koan practice but also the identity of Zen itself, an identity that has been hotly contested at various times through out its history. Now if Zen depends upon 'a special transmission outside the teaching', as exemplified in the Buddha's silent transmission to Kashyapa (see Mumonkan, Case 6), it seems to follow that the answer to Goso's question is to be sought outside the literary and cultural context of a ghost story about Seijo and her cousin.