Opening a Mountain: Kōans of the Zen Masters

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Oxford University Press, 2002 - Religion - 200 pages
With the growing popularity of Zen Buddhism in the West, virtually everyone knows, or thinks they know, what a koan is: a brief and baffling question or statement that cannot be solved by the logical mind and which, after sustained concentration, can lead to sudden enlightenment. But the truth
about koans is both simpler--and more complicated--than this.
In Opening a Mountain, Steven Heine shows that koans, and the questions we associate with them--such as "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"--are embedded in larger narratives and belong to an ancient Buddhist tradition of "encounter dialogues." These dialogues feature dramatic and often
inscrutable contests between masters and disciples, or between masters and an array of natural and supernatural forces: rouge priests, "wild foxes," hermits, wizards, shapeshifters, magical animals, and dangerous women. To establish a new monastery, "to open a mountain," the Zen master had to tame
these wild forces in regions most remote from civilization. In these extraordinary encounters, fingers and arms are cut off, pitchers are kicked over, masters appear in and interpret each other's dreams, and seemingly absurd statements are shown to reveal the deepest insights. Heine restores these
koans to their original traditions, allowing readers to see both the complex elements of Chinese culture and religion that they reflect and the role they played in Zen's transformation of local superstitions into its own teachings.
Offering a fresh approach to one of the most crucial elements of Zen Buddhism, Opening a Mountain is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the full story behind koans and the mysterious worlds they come from.
 

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User Review  - ikkyu2462 - LibraryThing

Runs counter to the popular belief that koans are unsolvable riddles designed to bring the practitioner to the end of logical thought and into a direct comprehension of reality. Readable and informative. A must read. Read full review

Contents

What Are Koans?
1
1 SURVEYING MOUNTAIN LANDSCAPES
37
2 CONTESTING WITH IRREGULAR RIVALS
73
3 ENCOUNTERING SUPERNATURAL FORCES
101
4 WIELDING SYMBOLS OF AUTHORITY AND TRANSMISSION
141
5 CONFESSIONAL EXPERIENCES Giving Life and Controlling Death
169
Zen Figures Cited
197
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About the author (2002)


Steven Heine is Professor of Religious Studies and History at books on Zen Buddhism, including (with Dale S. Wright) The Koan: Texts and Contexts in Zen Buddhism (OUP). Dr. Heine was recently awarded the Kauffman Professorship in Entrepreneurship Studies at the Florida International University
Business School.

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