Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mumonkan, Koan 5: Kyogen's 'Man Up In A Tree'

Kyogen Osho said: "It is like a man up in a tree hanging from a branch with his mouth; his hands grasp no bough, his feet rest on no limb. Someone appears under the tree and asks him, 'What is the meaning of Bodhidharma's coming from the West?' If he does not answer, he will lose his life. What would you do in such a situation?"

This was an easy one. I would say nothing, because it's impossible for anything I might say to answer the question. Such a question can only be answered by the person asking it. For example, the answer would be very different for someone who has attained enlightenment versus someone who thinks Zen is bunch of new age mumbo jumbo. Trying to spoon feed meaning to someone is futile; we all have to figure things out for ourselves.

Even more fundamentally, there is no meaning in his coming from the West. The action itself has nothing to do with truth or Zen or anything. Sort of like the old adage of the man who travelled around the world, but when he came home he realized he had not moved an inch. I practice Zen to find truth, not to assign meanings to every random occurrence. That would be like trying to see a beach by handling each individual grain of sand one at a time.

On another note, I'm continuing to work on controlling my breathing and my posture while meditating and it does seem to have a positive impact on my ability to get into samadhi.  It also makes me more aware of my posture in general, which I find has been getting a little lax lately.

The Zen focus on breathing with the tanden (basically your guts) is something echoed from my martial arts training. I try to breath that way when I'm in class or practicing on my own, and I find it helps me not only keep from getting winded but also to catch my breath more quickly after a great deal of exertion. Martial arts and zen really do fit together!

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