Chapter 6: To Take Up a Koan
The moment you put the mind aside, you have entered into the world of meditation. It has nothing to do with the koan, but the koan helped to tire the mind.
Bukko is a very practical master; most of the Zen masters are not so practical. They speak from their peaks of consciousness; Bukko is speaking from the same ground as where you are. Hence, he is of much more help than the great masters who speak from a faraway peak of consciousness. Bukko knows that even if they shout they will not be understood; it is better to come down to the dark valley and talk to people in such a way that they can somehow get the point, that mind is of no use in the internal journey. That is the point: that mind is a hindrance, not a help; a wall, not a bridge.
And Bukko is very compassionate in going into the details - no other master has gone into the details - and even giving warnings that the method is not a hundred percent foolproof. No device can be; even the method itself can become a hindrance.
At the beginning you have to take up a koan, says Bukko. The koan is some deep saying of a patriarch. Its effect in this world of distinctions is to make a man’s gaze straight, and to give him strength as he stands on the brink of the river bank.
Your mind is very wavering, wobbly. A koan concentrates all your energies. A koan has not to be done in a lukewarm way, that is dangerous. It has to be done with totality, so you can exhaust the mind quickly - as quickly as possible.
Zen masters have experienced that the longest period is three years - if you cannot get tired in three years that means you are not putting your total energy into it. You are saving energy, you are not going really hot. If you go really hot, then in a single moment you can see straight: there is no answer. And with the very experience that there is no answer at all, mind drops by the side. You have entered the space of your being.
But if you go on doing it so-so, the danger is that after three years.if you have not got it yet, then it is better to drop the koan. It is not going to help, it is now going to hamper and hinder. It has become just a habit. Sitting silently, and just by the way, with many other thoughts coming and going, one thought is also there: What is the sound of one hand clapping? But you are not totally concentrated so that only the koan is there and nothing else.
Bukko says, The koan is some deep saying of a patriarch. Its effect in this world of distinctions is to make a man’s gaze straight.to put his whole energy straight on a single point; to make his consciousness like an arrow - not going in all directions, a part here and a part there, a part in the past and a part in the future, and you are doing the koan with whatever small bit is left which has not gone anywhere. This way you will never come to the end; on the contrary, this will become your habit. You will do the koan your whole life, it will never bring meditation to you.