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Lions Roar : March 2016
6. ANY PART OF THE KOAN IS ALL OF THE KOAN. Your mind presents all sorts of things— coins, lost and found, hidden treasure, the ever-flowing river. Loss is itself a kind of coin. Even if you were delirious, dying, or just really excited, the gold would be there. The practice is robust like that. Secretly, inside any state there’s the glint of something that has always been here. You just show up in any condition and you start to notice. 7. YOU DON’T NEED A SPECIAL STATE OF MIND. There are many calm and clear states of mind, but the meditation is not about chasing after them. Meditation occurs before any states of mind become fixed. 8. HAVE CONFIDENCE IN YOURSELF. The most important thing is not to judge, criticize, assess, or find fault with anything that arises in your mind. This includes how you are doing with the koan. If you can’t help it and you do judge, criticize, assess, and find fault with yourself, don’t criticize that. Then the compassion has somewhere to come in. Any final suggestions for trying this? We can turn toward whatever arises. No moment of life is unworthy of us or wrong, and every being has a treasure that was never lost. It’s fine to enjoy your koan, to let it become you, to relish your life. Ah, the coin! You might be doing it right. ♦ 2. YOU SHOW UP. Have the life you have, and let the koan into it. Think of it as play. Everyone wants to develop meditation as a skill, but building a skill is just making your life smaller than it is. Before that, medita- tion is showing up for your own life. It’s personal; something in your life will rise to meet the coin that was lost. It will not be what you expected. 3. TRUST WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW. Usually if we want to understand some- thing we take it up to the top floor and find a shelf with a label for it. If we do that with meditation, we are still outside of our own lives. Instead, you can let the koan into your heart and your body. Let it change you. 4. EXPERIMENT. Fall into the koan, make mistakes, try to misunderstand it, find its virtues. You can’t break a koan. Ask yourself questions: “Is this a coin?” “Is anything really lost?” 5. THE KOAN CAN BE YOUR FRIEND. It can be the good dog that follows you around. So you can stop struggling. Just wondering about that coin will change you; you’ll begin to notice it everywhere. Keep company with the koan what- ever you are doing. Even when you are asleep it might be there, an unnoticed kindness. ORDINARY LIFE IS THE WAY Zhaoshouo asked Nanquan, “What is the Way?” Nanquan said, “Ordinary mind is the Way.” “Should I turn toward it or not?” “If you turn toward it you turn away from it.” Zhaozhou asked, “How can I know the way if I don’t turn toward it?” Nanquan said, “The way is not about knowing or not knowing. When you know something you are deluded, and when you don’t know, you are just empty-headed. When you reach the way beyond doubt, it is as vast and infinite as space. You can’t say it’s right or wrong.” With these words, Zhaozhou had sudden understanding. • It is natural to look for the things you want outside of where you are now. That is the whole point of a journey. Yet this moment is all anyone has. So if freedom, love, beauty, grace, and whatever else is desirable are to appear, they must appear in a now. It would be nice if they appeared in the now you have now. And if they are to appear and endure, they will have to be found in ordinary circum- stances, since ordinary circumstances fill most of life. The marvelous, the lovely, will have to be right here in the room where someone is reading, someone is sick, someone is coughing, two people are making love, one man is yelling at a dog. It will have to appear in the sound of rain splashing off trees, of a truck laboring up a grade, of TV from another room. It will have to appear in the sight of a child running, in the feeling of a headache, in the anxiety of preparing for exams, in worrying over a sick child. It will have to appear in what is ordinary, usual, commonplace, and right under your nose. From Bring Me the Rhinoceros and Other Zen Koans That Will Save Your Life, by JOHN TARRANT (Shambhala). LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2016 32 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE