Zen Koan Assignment
A Zen koan can refer to stories, parables, small statements or even a few words of a phrase that reference a larger story used in the practice of Zen Buddhism. They may be taken from the sayings or accounts of Buddhist teachers form the past or they may originate from modern day. The purpose of a Koan is to open the mind and perception to the truth and to open the mind that has been closed by habitual responses to the world and reality. Zen koans are meant to assist in shocking the mind into awareness or enlightenment which can be defined as the full realization of the truth of the Buddha’s teachings. In the Koan, “Nansen cuts the Cat in Two” there are many ways to interpret it by looking at it from different points of views. Nansen sees two monks fighting over a cat and tells them if either of them would say a good word then the cat could be saved but instead neither answered and the cat was cut into two pieces. That evening Joshu was told about the act Nansen did to the cat and removed his sandals and placed them on his head and walked out, Nansen says “if you had been there, you could have saved the cat”. The fact that this group of monks were fighting over a cat is plently ridiculous, and not only that but it is over the top that Nansen was forced to cut the cat in half
over this quarrel. I believe Joshu put his sandals on his head as a way to convey his feelings of the situation being absurd. Just think of the image of two Buddhist monks having a talk and one suddenly putting his sandals on his head and walking away, it would be pretty funny looking. Nansen says at the end of the story, “ if you had been there, you could have saved the cat”, I think that after watching Joshu walk away with his sandals atop his head, Nansen may have thought something along the lines of “that is the most ridiculous thing I have seen all day!” Which would perhaps prompt him to think of his actions and the actions of the monks and realize that...
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