July 8, 2012, 8:47 pm ~ by Shodo Harada in news
In the olden days, only a few Koans were used. “What is Buddha?” – “What is the true body of Buddha?” – “What is the meaning of the patriarch coming from the West?” Koans are helpful tools so that we can awaken to our original self, and for that not many were needed. During the Tang dynasty Zen spread far and wide, and the experience of the patriarchs became more deep and profound. That particular teaching which expressed their awakening, was formed into Koans. Joshu´s words: “ The Great Way is without difficulty, just avoid picking and choosing.” Or the way Unmon would teach was by saying “KAN – gate.” Rinzai would tell the assembly the following words: “There is a true man without rank inside this red lump of flesh.” Training is about awakening to one´s original mind, and to teach and guide someone to that place is not easy. It does need deep wisdom. It might be an easy task to awaken oneself but to share this experience with others, to guide others to that same experience is extremely difficult, it needs huge wisdom or else the state of mind stays small. After having realized awakening for oneself, from there we need to learn to use our wisdom well, our original wisdom. That shows how tricky our minds are and how difficult it is to guide others to awakening.
During the time of Goso Hoen Zenji, the fifth patriarch of Zen in China, it became custom to write one´s own approval of awakening and thus create huge confusion among the honest Zen students. And that is still how it is nowadays. Right there it needs to be checked: Is this person really awakened or fake.
These many koans, that are left for us, were divided into five different sections. They are all necessary to raise a true teacher. That is why it is said, there are 1700 Koans.
But for everyone, to even pass through one koan under the guidance of a true teacher, you will have an experience of your Buddha nature.