By Steven Heine, Dale S. Wright
Koans are enigmatic religious formulation used for non secular education within the Zen Buddhist culture. Arguing that our figuring out of the koan culture has been seriously restricted, members to this assortment study formerly unrecognized components within the formation of this custom, and spotlight the wealthy complexity and variety of koan perform and literature.
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Extra resources for The Koan: Texts and Contexts in Zen Buddhism
T o restat e thi s definition using the terminology of medieval Chinese Ch'an, a koan is a "com ment o n a n ol d case" (chii-ku, nien-ku) o r a "verse o n an ol d case" (sung-ku), that is, a discrete unit o f text in which a n ol d case (ku-tse) i s cited an d com mented on . It is true that, as a matter o f historical fact , th e word "koan" has had othe r meanings. I t ha s bee n used , w e have seen , t o refe r loosel y t o anythin g that serves as an object of meditation in a manner analogous to the contemplatio n of a critica l phrase .
I t i s not clea r fro m th e tex t exactl y ho w Wumen used koans to teach hi s disciples, but ther e are indications in his preface and prose comments that he expected the m to focus thei r minds on particula r old case s i n som e sor t o f protracte d meditativ e effort . Perhap s th e Gateless Barrier, unlike the Blue Cliff Collection and Ts'ung-jung Record, wa s conceived THE F O R M AND F U N C T I O N OF K O A N L I T E R A T U R E 33 from th e star t a s an ai d t o th e practic e o f contemplating phrase s tha t cam e into vogue following Ta-hui.
Whenever a number o f cases with verses attached ar e groupe d togethe r in a discourse record, it can be said that they constitute what we today would call a koan collection, although it may not be clear who actually put the collection together—the Ch'a n maste r wh o was featured o r som e late r compile r o f his writings. Nor i s it clear fro m th e discours e records just ho w such collection s were used. They may have served a s a means o f instructing disciples , or they may have been written by Ch'an masters for their own edification, or for posterity.