Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mumonkan, Koan 4: The Western Barbarian With No Beard

Wakuan said: "Why has the Western Barbarian no beard?"

I was up at 6 AM this morning meditating. Not sure how long it lasted. It could have been an hour, but it seemed more like 30 minutes.  It would be interesting to time how long I stay in samadhi, but I hate to try that as I could see myself trying to 'beat my time' or something equally useless. I'll avoid that.

It is a very cloudy and rainy morning, and I found myself looking out the window to clear my mind. However, I was best able to reach samadhi when I stared straight ahead at what happened to be in my line of sight. It happened to be a corner of my drafting table, and I thought of Bodhidharma staring at a wall for nine(?) years without moving. Seems that this works better than picking something I prefer or want to look at.

In any case, while I had a good zazen session, I'm not sure I made much progress on the koan. The 'barbarian' it references is Bodhidharma, and he always had a beard.  My honest response to the question is "Who cares whether he has a beard or not?" Not sure I'm satisfied with that answer, so maybe I'll meditate over it again before looking at Mumon's notes about this koan.

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