Roshi Eve Myonen Marko and Bernie Glassman have started a Koan System based on the Three Tenets of the Zen Peacemakers. Comments by Bernie are below, followed by the collection of koans.
The Three Tenets of the Zen Peacemakers
Entering the stream of Socially Engaged Spirituality, I vow to live a life of:
- Not-knowing, thereby giving up fixed ideas about ourselves and the universe
- Bearing witness to the joy and suffering of the world
- Doing Action arising from Not Knowing and Bearing Witness
The Three Tenets serve as the foundation for the Zen Peacemakers’ work and practice. Using the Three Tenets as an orientation transforms service into spiritual practice. Specifically, these practices suspend separation and hierarchy, and open direct encounter between equals as the spirit and style of the services offered through Zen Houses.
Not-knowing drops our conceptual framework from very personal biases and assumptions around such concepts as “in and out” “good and bad” “name and form,” “coming and going.” Not-knowing is a state of open presence without separation.
In this state we can Bear Witness, the second Tenet, merging or joining with an individual, situation or environment, deeply imbibing their essence. From this intimate “knowing,” we can then choose an appropriate response to the person or situation, described as “Action arising from Not Knowing and Bearing Witness,” our third Tenet. This gives rise to the holistic, integrated, wrap-around style of service projects inspired by Bernie’s vision.
In speaking about the Three Tenets as separate practices and phases of consciousness, we are making deference to the discriminating mind. They are actually a continual flow, each containing and giving rise to the others.
Koans on Not-Knowing
- What is the sound of one hand clapping?
- Master Kyogen said, “It is like a man up a tree who hangs by a branch from his mouth; his hands cannot grasp a bough, his feet cannot touch the tree. Another man comes under the tree and asks him the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming from the West. If he does not answer, he does not meet the questioner’s need. If he answers, he will lose his life. At such a time, how should he answer?” Gateless Gate
- Emperor Wu of Liang asked the great master Bodhidharma, “What is the highest meaning of the holy truths?” Bodhidharma said, ”Vast emptiness, no holiness.” The Emperor said, “Who is facing me?” Bodhidharma replied, “I don’t know.” The Emperor did not understand. Blue Cliff Record
- Affirmation is not the answer; negation is not the answer; both affirmation and negation is not the answer.
- Chao Chou, teaching the assembly said, “The Ultimate Path is without difficulty; just avoid picking and choosing. As soon as there are words spoken, ‘this is picking and choosing,’ ‘this is clarity.’ This old monk does not abide within clarity; do you still preserve anything or not?”At that time a certain monk asked, “Since you do not bide within clarity, what do you preserve?” Chao Chou replied, “I don’t know either.” The monk said, “Since you don’t know, Teacher, why do you nevertheless say that you do not abide within clarity? Chao Chou said, “It is enough to ask about the matter; now go and withdraw.” Blue Cliff Record
- All the dharmas lead up to the One. What does the One lead up to?
- Once the monks of the Eastern Hall and the Western Hall were disputing about a cat. Nansen, holding up the cat, said, “Monks, if you can say a word of Zen, I will spare the cat. If you cannot, I will kill it!” No monk could answer. Nansen finally killed the cat.
- Hoshan imparted some words saying, “Cultivating study is called ‘learning;’ cutting off study is called ‘nearness’; going beyond these two is to be considered real going beyond.” A monk came forward and asked, “What is real going beyond?” Hoshan said, “Knowing how to beat the drum!” Again the monk asked, “What is the real truth?” Hoshan said, “Knowing how to beat the drum!” Blue Cliff Record
- Words and no-word: it is like a vine twining around a tree.
- The sound of something struck! — and I have forgotten all I knew.
- Bodhidharma sat facing the stone wall. The Second Patriarch of Chinese C’han, Huiko, stood long in the thick snow. Finally, he severed his own arm and presented it to Bodhidharma. He said, “Your student cannot pacify his mind. Please give me peace of mind!” The First Patriarch replied, “Bring that mind, I will calm it down!” The Second Patriarch said, “I search for it everywhere, but I cannot find it!” Bodhidharma replied, “I have already pacified it for you!” Gateless Gate
- If man sees me in forms and he hears me by sounds, he practices the wrong way. He cannot see the Tatagatha (Buddha). Diamond Sutra
- A student asked an old man, “In this world of coming and going, how can we be free and unfettered?” The master immediately retorted, “Who has ever put you in chains?” That being so, where do ideas of freedom and bondage come from?
- Too many steps have been taken returning to the root and the source. Better to have been blind and deaf from the beginning! Ox-Herding Pictures
- Joshu asked Nansen, “What is the Way?” Nansen answered, “Ordinary mind is the Way.” Joshu said, “Then should we direct ourselves towards it or not?” Nansen replied, “The more you pursue, the more does it slip away.” Joshu asked once more, “If we do not try, how can you know it is the Way?” Nansen responded, “The Way does not belong to knowing or not-knowing. Knowing is illusion; not- knowing is blankness. When you attain to the Way of no-doubt, it is like the great void, so vast and boundless. How, then, can there be right and wrong in the Way?” Upon hearing this, Joshu was awakened. Gateless Gate
- Who is the third who walks always beside you? When I count, there are only you and I together But when I look ahead up the white road There is always another one walking beside you Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded I do not know whether a man or a woman -But who is that on the other side of you? T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land
- Every day Master Zuigan Shigen used to call out to himself, “Oh, Master!” and would answer himself, “Yes?” “Are you awake?” he would ask, and would answer, “Yes, I am.” “Never be deceived by others, any day, any time.” No, I will not.” Gateless Gate
- A monk asked Tung Shan, “When cold and heat come, how can we avoid them?” Tung Shan said, “Why don’t you go to the place where there is no cold or heat?” The monk said, “What is the place where there is no cold or heat?” Tung Shan said, “When it’s cold, the cold kills you; when it’s hot, the heat kills you.” Blue Cliff Record
- A monk asked Zen Master Huijue of Langye, “Purity is originally all embracing. How is it that mountains, rivers, and the great earth suddenly appear?” Langye said, “Purity is originally all embracing. How is it that mountains, rivers, and the great earth suddenly appear?”
Koans on Bearing Witness
- Stop the sound of the temple bell.
- How do you get out of a stone grave which is locked from the outside?
- Wakuan said, “Why has the foreigner from the West no beard?” Gateless Gate
- The emperor asked Gudo: “Where does the enlightened man go when he dies?” Gudo answered, “I know not.” “Why don’t you know?” asked the emperor. “Because I have not died yet,” replied Gudo.
- Yes! No! How necessary it is to have opinions! I think the spotted trout lilies are satisfied, standing a few inches above the earth. I think serenity is not something you just find in the world, like a plum tree, holding up its white petals. The violets, along the river, are opening their blue faces, like small dark lanterns. The green mosses, being so many, are as good as brawny. How important it is to walk along, not in haste but slowly, looking at everything and calling out Yes! No! The swan, for all his pomp, his robes of grass and petals, wants only to be allowed to live on the nameless pond. The catbrier is without fault. The water thrushes, down among the sloppy rocks, are going crazy with happiness. Imagination is better than a sharp instrument. To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work. – Mary Oliver
- A monk asked Unmon, “What is Buddha?” Unmon answered, “A dry shit-stick!” Gateless Gate
- Master Shogen said, “Why is it that a man of great strength can not lift his leg?” Gateless Gate
- A monk asked Yun Men, “How is it when the tree withers and the leaves fall?” Yunmen replied, “Body exposed in the golden wind.” Blue Cliff Record
- Without using your hands, make this old woman get up.
- Training was not even temporarily necessary.
- The First Patriarch replied, “Bring that mind, I will calm it down!” The Second Patriarch said, “I search for it everywhere, but I cannot find it!” Bodhidharma replied, “I have already pacified it for you!” Gateless Gate
- The breeze is whistling through the old pine, Hearing it closer, the sound is better.
- Once when Hyakujo delivered some Zen lectures an old man attended them, unseen by the monks. At the end of each talk when the monks left, so did he. But one day he remained after the others had gone, and Hyakujo asked him: `Who are you?’ The old man replied: `I was a human being when the Kashapa Buddha preached in this world. I was a Zen master and lived on this mountain. At that time one of my students asked me whether the enlightened man is subject to the law of causation. I answered him: ‘The enlightened man is not subject to the law of causation.’ For this answer I became a fox for five hundred rebirths. Will you save me from this condition with your Zen words and let me get out of a fox’s body? Now may I ask you: Is the enlightened man subject to the law of causation?” Hyakujo said: “The enlightened man is not separate from the law of causation.” At these words the old man was enlightened. “I am freed,” he said, paying homage with a deep bow. `I am no more a fox, but I leave my body in my dwelling place behind this mountain. Please perform my funeral as a monk.” The he disappeared. The next day Hyakujo gave an order through the chief monk to prepare to attend the funeral of a monk. The monks wondered about this, as no one had been sick in the infirmary. After dinner Hyakujo led the monks out and around the mountain. In a cave, with his staff, he poked out the corpse of an old fox and then performed the ceremony of cremation. Gateless Gate
- One day, clapping his hands and bursting into laughter he exclaimed, “How wonderful, wonderful! When I laugh, the heaven laughs and the earth laughs.” (Kazan) Another day he said, “Once I said that when I laugh, the heaven laughs and the earth laughs. It is not so, when I laugh a pillar to support heaven breaks and the axle of the earth is crushed.”
- If you attain that point, then how will you use it freely and constructively in the world?
- In the time of Buddha Shakyamuni, Manjusri went to the assemblage of the Buddhas. When he arrived there, the conference was over and each Buddha had returned to his own Buddha-land. Only one girl was yet unmoved in deep meditation. Manjusri asked Buddha Shakyamuni how it was possible for this girl to reach this state, one which even he could not attain. “Bring her out from samadhi and ask her yourself,” said the Buddha. Manjusri walked around the girl three times and snapped his fingers. She still remained in meditation. So by his miracle power he transported her to a high heaven and tried his best to call her, but in vain. Buddha Shakyamuni said: “Even a hundred thousand Manjusris could not disturb her, but below this place, past twelve hundred million countries, is a Bodhisattva, Mo-myo. If he comes here, she will awaken.”
- Yun Men said, “I don’t ask you about before the 15th day; try to say something about after the 15th day.” Yun Men himself answered for everyone, “Every day is a good day.” Blue Cliff Record
- I have just passed a barrier; another one is before me. One cannot climb following only old samples and patterns. – Ikkyu poem
- Linji said to the assembly, “There is a true man with no rank always going out and in through the portals of your face. Beginners who have not yet witnessed it, look! Look!” A monk came forward and said, “What is the true man of no rank?” Linji got down from the seat, grabbed and held him: “Speak! Speak!” The monk hesitated. Linji pushed him away and said, “The true man of no rank—what a piece of dry crap he is!” Book of Serenity
- Ananda once said to Kasho, “The World Honored One transmitted to you the brocade robe. What else did he transit to you?” Kasho called out, “Ananda!” Ananda answered, “Yes, sir.” Kasho said, “Pull down the flagpole at the gate.”
Koans on Actions Arising From Not-Knowing and Bearing Witness
- Count the stars in the heavens
- Hyakujo asked Goho, “How would you express your understanding with your mouth and lips closed?” Goho replied, “Sir! Should you not keep your own mouth and lips closed?” Hyakujo said, “In the place where no man is I will put my hand to my forehead and watch for you.” Blue Cliff Record
- Go straight ahead on the narrow mountain path of 99 curves.
- Unmon said, “Look! This world is vast and wide. Why do you put on your priest’s robe at the sound of the bell?” Gateless Gate
- A monk asked Tozan, “What is Buddha?” Tozan said, “Three pounds of hemp.” Gateless Gate
- He who shoots an arrow well does not hit the target.
- Once a monk made a request of Chao Chou, “I have just entered the monastery,” he said. “Please give me instructions, Master.” Chao Chou said, “Have you had your breakfast?” “Yes, I have,” said the monk. “Then,” said Chao Chou, “Wash your bowls.” The monk had an insight. Gateless Gate
- In the boundless sphere there is not a hair between self and others.
- Extinguish a candle light a thousand miles away
- In movement and deportment I manifest the ancient Way, And fall not into a possible pessimism.
- When the Buddha was born, he walked seven steps and pointed to the heaven with one hand and to the earth with the other. Looking around the four directions, he said, “Above heaven and below heaven, I alone am the honored one. “
- Interpolating on this, Unmon said, “If I had seen him that time, I would have killed him with one blow of a stick and would have made a dog eat him up. After all, the world must be in peace.”
- Hearing it closer, the sound is better.
- A monk asked Yao Shan, “On a level field, in the shallow grass, the elk and deer form a herd; how can one shoot the elk of elks?” Yao Shan said, “Look—an arrow!” The monk let himself fall down. Yao Shan said, “Attendant, drag this dead wretch out.” The monk then ran out. Yao Shan said, “This wretch playing with a mud ball—when will it ever end?” Blue Cliff Record
- Master Sekiso said, “From the top of a pole one hundred feet high, how do you step forward?” Gateless Gate
- Hahhh! A dog understands a dog’s job. A cat understands a cat’s job. Do you understand your job?
- No sooner had the Buddha spoken than that Bodhisattva sprang up from the earth and bowed and paid homage to the Buddha. Buddha directed him to arouse the girl. The Bodhisattva went in front of the girl and snapped his fingers, and in that instant the girl came out from her deep meditation.
- Why can’t clear-eyed bodhisattvas cut the red thread?
- Yunyan asked Daowu, “What does the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion use so many hands and eyes for?” Daowu said, “It’s like a person reaching back groping a pillow in the middle of the night.” Yunyan said, “I understand.” Daowu said, “How do you understand it?” Yunyan said, “All over the body are hands and eyes.” Daowu said, “Yu have said quite a bit there, but you’ve only said eighty percent of it.” Yunyan said, “What do you say, Elder Brother?” Daowu said, “Throughout the body are hands and eyes.” Blue Cliff Record
- During the T’ang dynasty, there lived a man called Chokan. He had two daughters. When the elder girl died, he devoted himself to the younger, Seijo. As she grew up he turned his attention to the question of a suitable husband for her and eventually selected a good and strong young man. But Seijo had already taken her cousin Ochu as her lover. She had grown up with him in a union blessed since childhood, and she considered herself betrothed to him. When Chokan announced that his choice of a suitor was to arrive in the village, Seijo became cast down and sad. Ochu, unable to bear the prospect of witnessing the betrayal, left the village without saying farewell. He took his boat and rowed into the night. As he rowed he noticed the outline of a figure running along the bank. He put into the shore to see who it was; and there was Seijo, tear stained and adamant. Together they travelled to a distant land where they lived as man and wife. Five years went by. Seijo gave birth to two girls. But though she loved Ochu and the children, she was weighed down by the dishonour she’d done to her father. All this she told to Ochu. And he admitted that he too longed for his homeland. “Let us go back and beg forgiveness,” he said. And so they returned. At the port, Ochu left Seijo and the girls while he walked to the village. He went directly to Chokan’s house, confessed the whole story and bowed his head at their ungrateful behaviour. Chokan received him kindly. “Which girl do you mean?” he asked. “Your daughter Seijo,” Ochu replied. “That is not possible,” Chokan said. “Seijo is here in the house with me. Since you left the village without bidding her farewell she has lain here; she lies here now.” Mystified, Chokan refused Ochu’s invitation to go with him to the port. Instead he sent a servant to check the boat. When the servant returned, reporting that it was indeed Seijo who waited there, Chokan took Ochu into the house. “She has not spoken since you left,” he said. “It is as if she has been absent in mind, or drugged. Now I see that her soul left to follow you.” So saying, he showed Ochu into Seijo’s room. Hearing the story, Seijo rose from her bed, still without speaking, and walked out into the village just as Seijo and her children stepped from the cart that had brought them from the port. The silent Seijo moved forward to greet her, and as she did, the two were united. Chokan spoke to Seijo. “Ever since Ochu left this village, you have not uttered a word, and you have always been absent in mind as if you were drugged. Now I see that your soul left your body and has been with Ochu.” To this Seijo replied, “I did not know that I was sick in bed at home. When I learned that Ochu had left this village in distress, I followed his boat that night, feeling as if it were a dream. I myself am not sure which was the real me – the one with you, sick in bed, or the one with Ochu as his wife.” Who is the real Seijo? Gateless Gate
- Dana Paramita
- Don’t corner a rat.
- Don’t be consistent.