My first kong-an

First – dang, I totally missed Wednesday. Where did Wednesday go?

Second – this week, as random happenstance would have it, I had Tuesday night free to go sit zazen with the KC chapter of the Kansas Zen Center. That’s not the random part. But this is: this past Tuesday happened to be the third Tuesday of the month, which is when the guiding teacher of the Center visits KC to hold interviews. So, as random happenstance would have it, I got my mind rattled by my first Zen kong-an (Korean Zen. The more familiar term is the Japanese “koan”) during the interview.

And here it is:

“Zen means ‘attain “don’t know” mind and save all beings’. Show me this “don’t know” mind.”

Here’s the trick: though your first inclination is to say this or say that to try and explain “don’t know” mind – the request here is to “Show” not “tell” (flashbacks to intro writing classes). But it is that “show”ing that’s the all-important – and quite confounding – imperative. Important because function matters. Glimpsing a truth is good. Understanding the function of a truth is everything. But how to show “don’t know” mind? How to demonstrate understanding the function of a truth? A smile, a sharp yell, a clapping together of hands? The display itself is dependent on this moment at hand and the truth of this individual moment (Give me a pencil. I say, “The pencil is yellow”. This is truth. Give me a pencil. I write with the pencil. This is the function of a truth (the intricacies obviously compound when dealing with life as it is)). Words won’t work here. We’re before words.

Pretty much that entire paragraph and a billion other thoughts went rushing through my head (which truly was tingling) all while the teacher sat patiently. Finally, we both smiled and she said, “So now you have a question. And I’ll be back in a month. It was nice to meet you.”

Now whether random happenstance allows for another third Tuesday night off we shall see, but it’s not all that important. The question remains to be answered regardless.

My first kong-an

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