Opening a Mountain: Kōans of the Zen Masters
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.
What Are Koans?
1 SURVEYING MOUNTAIN LANDSCAPES
2 CONTESTING WITH IRREGULAR RIVALS
3 ENCOUNTERING SUPERNATURAL FORCES
4 WIELDING SYMBOLS OF AUTHORITY AND TRANSMISSION
5 CONFESSIONAL EXPERIENCES Giving Life and Controlling Death
Zen Figures Cited
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abbot According appears assembly attained Bodhidharma bodhisattva Buddha Buddha-nature Buddhist Buddhist monasticism capping phrases CCL vol Ch'ing-yüan Chao-chou China Chinese Chü-chih cited from PYL context demons Dharma Hall dhutanga disciple Discussion This kōan Dōgen dream encounter dialogue enlightenment evoked fly-whisk hermit hermitage highlights Hsüan-sha Hsüeh-feng Hsüeh-tou Huang-po Hui-neng iconoclastic kōan collections Kuei-shan lamp records Lin-chi lineage Ma-tsu magical Manjusri meaning meditation mind monastery monk Mount Wu-t'ai mountain Nan-ch'üan narrative Niu-t'ou nonduality Northern old woman P'u-hua Pai-chang patriarch Peak Pi-yen lu Platform Sutra pointer practice practitioners priest prose commentary question realm recorded sayings refers repentance rhetoric Rinzai ritual robe role shapeshifting Shih-t'ou Shōbōgenzō snake Sōtō Southern school staff style supernatural supranormal powers Sutra symbols Ta-hsiung Taishō Taoist Te-shan teacher teaching temple texts tion trans transmission Tripitaka Tsung-men Tung-shan verse commentary wild fox Wu-cho Yang-shan Yen-t'ou Yün-chü Yün-men zazen Zen literature Zen masters Zen monastic