Sunday, February 13, 2011

Mumonkan, Koan 12: Zuigan Calls His Master

Zuigan Gen Osho called to himself every day, "Master!" and answered "Yes sir!" Then he would say, "Be wide awake!" and answer "Yes sir!" "Henceforward, never be deceived by others!" "No, I won't!"

Zuigan - and all of us - are our own teachers in that we can experience Zen through being in zazen and samadhi and that is something we do on our own. Truth doesn't come from outside of us. So in a sense, we are our own Masters. The last statement in particular made me chuckle, because who except ourselves can really give this advice without there being a certain irony in it? We must enter samadhi in zazen and trust what we experience there.

However, there is an aspect to this koan that I missed completely. I didn't pick it up until I read Mumon's notes. Zuigan makes a critical error in that he is identifying himself as his Master. In my thinking, the 'self-Master' concept is just that - a concept. But Mumon suggests that it can be a slippery slope to think of things this way because you can literally start to believe that you are teaching yourself.

So I must be clear in my thinking: I am not my own Master, nor am I teaching myself. I am learning alone. There is a huge difference in mindset between these two ways of looking at it. The former suggests a kind of egotism, and the idea of Zuigan actually conversing with himself reflects the absurd of this view. I may be learning while in samadhi, but I cannot confuse that with the idea that I am actively teaching myself. I am not my teacher, I am learning while masterless. This is so important because to slip into the former way of thinking would be delusion on a grand scale. I would be no better off than if I were taking instruction from an incompetent teacher (which is exactly what I would be). The fact is, Zuigan or I or anyone may well avoid being deceived by others, only to end up being deceived by ourselves. This is probably the far more common and dangerous pitfall to begin with.

After thinking about this, I decided that I want to make sure I have zazen sessions divorced entirely from koan study. I'm worried that this 'working through the Mumonkan' project may be placing my zazen time into a place of ego-driven progress ("I've solved another koan, so someone give me a gold star!"). I must have this mentality in my head to some level because, if I did not, I wouldn't have been so determined to solve Koan 11. I would likely have recognized that I just didn't get it and have moved on.

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