Short story: The Zen master gives out his last koan

spiritedStarred Page By spirited, 19th Nov 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Short Stories

A Zen master gives koans to his student both to test and to stretch them. He gives out his koan to suit the student. He knows what type of koan a particular student needs.

This story is about the last koan given out to such a student before his great master died. It worked. It achieved the final miracle for this student. He became at last enlightened.

What is a koan? Is it something that falls off of a tree?

The renowned Zen master, Rinpai Richoshe, used to give out koans to his students.

Most of us would have heard of that most famous of all koans, which is this one:

"What is the sound of one hand clapping?"

A koan is a sort of open ended question which cannot be answered by the mind, no matter how much it might try to find the correct solution.

The real answer to all of these koans, is that there is no correct solution.

This is the paradoxical nature of a koan. It will lead you to see that logical, analytic reasoning can never completely jump the fence into the field of real truth.

If you can jump this fence created by your mind, and which a koan helps you to dismantle, you will find yourself within this field of truth then, without ever even needing to jump over anything at all, including this fence of your own construction.

At this stage you will be enlightened, as the Zen Buddhists call this type of realisation.

Literally, a koan makes no sense at all.

When sense is gone, awareness then increases, and reaches past what the sense of something is.

A koan is the method of no method, a way without being a way, a pathless path to enlightenment.

You simply realise that really you are already enlightened when you remove all of your own self-imposed barriers to it.

The mind of the past is ungraspable;
The mind of the future is ungraspable;
The mind of the present is ungraspable.

The above quote is from a piece of writing, known as the Diamond Sutra.

The Diamond Sutra is said to be the world's earliest dated printed completely preserved, fully intact book. It is a timeless Buddhist text, that more of us should make an effort to read.

A Sutra is a collection of memorable writings, or thoughts, something like a collection of great quotes, or memorable sayings would be today. The Diamond Sutra contains great wisdom within it.

Junpa, a model student of the master, only lacked a connection to love

The Zen master, Rinpai Richoshe composed this koan for one of his most stubborn of students.

Rinpai dearly loved this student, but no matter what he had tried in the past, this student had always refused to leave his mind. He had always argued the point back again with his master.

Here is the koan that Rinpai presented to his student, only a week before the old master died.

Rinpai knew that he was dying, as most great Zen masters often do. He wanted to name his successor for the monastery to lead the monks after he had gone.

Rinpai knew that the only person that was even close to being able to fulfil this role was Junpa, this stubborn mule of a student. His mind was actually a very brilliant one.

Junpa's awareness levels were astounding. His consciousness level was the highest of any of the other students. His heart and soul were committed to his path. In all respects he was a model student, almost the perfect one.

One thing held him back though, and this was his innate in-born sense of stubbornness, of wanting to find his own answer to something that was really largely only ever unanswerable within the mind. Junpa could not accept this with his mind.

Something else was needed. He needed to connect to something greater to that which his mind was limiting him too. He needed to really feel the love of his master for him.

This would and could be the only thing that could ever move him past his mind and propel him into the infiniteness of love's energy, which is really the only energy ever really responsible that can bring about real enlightenment for anyone.

Only love can do it for you.

Junpa valued the state of enlightenment more than which he loved the master. He could never become enlightened though if he didn't change from this wanting, burning desire for something that he thought the great master could bestow upon him.

Junpa needed to drop this final desire, this want of his wanting to become enlightened.

Here is Rinpai's koan, exactly as it was given to his student Junpa. It has since been referred to as, "the crying statue koan."

"The statue has eyes, the tears roll down silently."

The death of the great Zen master, Rinpai Richoshe

When the master gave the above koan to his student, he told him not to think about it. He told him to try to feel its inner meaning through connecting to it with his heart. Do not use you mind at all with this one, the old master had pleaded to his student.

One week later, sure enough, the old master died.

His student had still not solved the master's last koan to him, but he was very, very surprised that the old man had appointed him as the new master anyway, just hours before his death.

Junpa realised then that the old man had seen something in him that he had not yet owned as himself.

As soon as Junpa realised this, his own tears started flowing profusely. He could not control them at all, as they rolled down his face now, seemingly unendingly.

He felt only now the great undying love that his master had had for him. This had now opened the final gate to his enlightenment. He had removed the last barrier. He felt the love, and it was real, so very real, that he now wept these tears of joy because of the connection being now made from his heart, and not just from his mind anymore.

Junpa knew now that he loved his old master too, with his whole person, at long last.

We are all stony faced without the heart of love opening our eyes, and the master's tears will continue to roll down his face, until we do so.

These tears are simply the connective love that he feels for you, and which he expresses like this, because his eyes, living in his heart, are always drawing you to him silently, only silently though for now, because you do not yet hear his real message to you, as yet.

Photo credits: All photos used here have been freely taken for use from the free media site, Wikimedia Commons.


Koan, Short Stories, Short Story, Teaching Story, Zen, Zen And Love, Zen Koan, Zen Koans, Zen Master, Zen Masters

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author avatar spirited
I have been interested in the spiritual fields for over thirty five years now. My writing is mostly in this area.

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
20th Nov 2014 (#)

Awesome and interesting post!

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author avatar spirited
20th Nov 2014 (#)

thanks Fern

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author avatar Utah Jay
20th Nov 2014 (#)

I agree in whole. It must come from the heart. I find myself thinking about your posts for some time afterwards. You have a way of making us think and rethink the world around us. The world we thought we knew.

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author avatar spirited
20th Nov 2014 (#)

Thanks Utah Jay, That's quite a compliment you have paid me there. All posts should do that in a way I feel.

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