I am between gates at this point of my practice. I have finished a list of koans, and am sitting without koans for three months before starting on the Mumonkan. This period has left me to reflect on what the practice of koans really is. I have felt a sense of accomplishment from solving them, and I have had some eye openers. I have acquired a certain way of looking at things in order to answer them. The question is, can I make this skill applicable? Can I see the natural koans arising within each moment?
To work with a koan, one learns to drop the story of it. The story that is evoked from logic, which is based on dualism. In short, the ego perspective. The ego perspective is not wrong, just incomplete, or out of balance. Each one of us has our own story, and this can be quite beautiful. It can also be full of pain and suffering. Even if it is not so bad, comparatively, if left out of balance it is bound for suffering. The reason for this is because the ego is limited, and small. This feeling of limitation leads to the need to be in control. In control of what? In control of reality. Everything has its place, has its role to play. If a shift begins, which always does, then this egocentric perspective is threatened. This is caused by the sense of identity being fixed on a moment in time, of which is gone. We need to allow the ego to pass away and be reborn again in a new light. We must learn to look at things a different way in order for this balance, this awakening to occur. Therefore we have the practice of koans.
The Raw Mind perspective is all inclusive due to the fact that it does not have a fixed sense of self. It is amazing to me, when doing zazen, how the ego is constantly grasping on to each object as it arises, and letting go can be very difficult. I remember when I was working on Mu. One night after a sitting, I went to bed. After being asleep for awhile I suddenly woke up, and the ego had completely let go. Well maybe not completely, but enough for me to truly loose my sense of identity. I was everything that crossed my mind. My sense of self was floating around so fast that I really had no idea who I was. Then this huge feeling of fear came up. I quickly gained "control" of the situation and was able to calm down. Later I discussed this with my teacher. "It was like having an identity crisis", I said. "Zen is the ultimate identity crisis", he said. Eventually I have learned to sort ask the ego permission to let go. After all I do not want to get rid of the ego, just balance out the perspective. This has completely changed the way I sit. It can be very nice. When I hear the clock ticking, I am ticking. The chirping of a bird, I am chirping. There is no need for anything to be any different. There is nothing more to see, and that's the beauty of it. There is truly nothing else to find out. Everything is perfect.
My marriage, my job, friendships, the car I drive, my income, a cup of coffee. These are all koans, I am a koan. They all threaten to cloud me with doubt, yet all are speaking the dharma.
When looked at through the eyes of doubt........ "I want more, or I need less." The Raw Mind just sees. When they're here, they are here. When they are gone, they're gone. No lamentation or lust. Why would you lust after yourself anyway? This is not to say I wouldn't be sad if my wife was gone, but that I don't want anymore from her than she is. I would be sad. I would be so sad that I would be happy being sad. Whats wrong with being sad?
Koans show me what I already have, what I already am. The practice of koans reject all doubt.
Which results in freedom. The freedom to laugh. The freedom to cry. The freedom to love.