Category Archives: Koans

Koans & jokes: an unlikely connection

A koan is in some ways rather like a joke. For centuries Zen teachers in Japanese monasteries have held the attention of their followers by telling brief stories with a punch-line, known as koans. Joke-tellers, like Zen teachers, often ask questions at crucial points in the narrative. ‘Explaining’ the joke or the koan doesn’t work; […]

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Think neither good nor evil – Crosby 2010 (Audio)

The second of our talks from Crosby, this was Keizan Sensei’s first talk (and the only one we recorded).  He starts with a well-known koan, “Think neither good nor evil,” but has chosen one about which he says, “the essence of it is not complicated like some of them are… I’ll read it, and you won’t think, ‘What the hell was all that about?’!” 

There were quite a few people new to Zen or to sesshin with us this year, and both Tenshin Roshi and Keizan Sensei addressed some of their talks to them, making these perhaps a bit more accessible to beginners than some that have been given in the past.

Click through for the recording…

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Every day is a good day – Crosby 2010 (Audio)

Although there were some technical troubles, we did manage to record a few of the talks from the recent sesshin at Crosby with Tenshin Roshi and Keizan Sensei, and are grateful for their permission to post these on the blog.  They’ll be scheduled in addition to our usual talks and articles, hopefully those who weren’t able to come on sesshin will at least have a flavour of some of the talks. 

This recording the first of them, Roshi’s first teisho of the retreat – click through to listen. He starts by quoting Unmon’s “Every day is a good day”…

Note that this (and the next) recording is substantially longer and a larger download than recordings from our regular Wednesday evening talks.

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The Three Signs and Zazen (Audio)

“Zen is often talked about as the ‘religion before religion’… in Zen, we look into the very nature of Mind, the very nature of the whole thing, why we’re alive, what’s the point, why are we here? And what we discover is… that the whole thing is empty of any solidity.” Keizan Sensei looks at the Three Signs of Buddhism and the links to zazen… what’s it all about?!

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The Bell and the Seven-Fold Robe (audio)

This week’s post comes from a talk given at the Liverpool Dojo on 28th July by Keizan Sensei, on case 16 from the Mumonkan (Gateless Barrier), one of the major koan collections.

In a bit of an experiment, instead of a regular blog post, this post is an audio recording of that talk. Hopefully we’ll be able to do more of these in the future.

Click through to the rest of this post to listen to Sensei’s talk, and remember you can as ever leave comments for Sensei and the rest of us. Would also really like to get feedback on what you think about having more talks like this available.

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The fraud – Perils of koan practice

I’ve been stuck on a seemingly innocent koan for quite a few weeks now, even with weekly dokusan. I won’t go into details, I’m not looking for help on the koan, just an observation of the process, and perhaps a cry for understanding and begging not to be judged too harshly for either my fraud… or my self-pity!

(This is adapted from an old diary entry of mine – I’ve actually shared this online once before, but not here.)

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