Zen Koans and Selflessness

Meditation is a process of regaining that internal silence that was lost somewhere in the calamities of life. Many meditation techniques are being used in regaining this silence and once an individual achieves this internal silence, he or she becomes one with universe. At that point of time, there exists no notion of the past or the future.

Zen koan meditation is one such method employed by the Zen masters to practice silence. Zen master gives a riddle (koan) that may include stories, questions, or phrases and most of them would be next to impossible in comprehending. When one contemplates on it, the individual eventually understands the limitations of his or her intellect and this realization helps the person to be humble and subsequently selfless. In course of time, this selflessness gives way for silence, which is inherent in that koan.

For example, take the koan one-hand clap. In fact, the strike of two hands makes a clap and a one-hand clap is an absurd term.  However, the very thought of a one hand clap brings the notion of silence in the mind and later this silence becomes the permanent character of the disciple. In another koan, the Zen master asked his disciple to assume his face before his grand fathers were born. Though it is not possible to acquire an image of such kind, the disciple was compelled to ponder over it and ended up in deep meditation.

Every now and then, the master asked to pursue this endeavor by reminding the disciple that the answer that he or she found was wrong. Once the master interrupts, it becomes more complex and the intensity of the meditation gradually sharpens and finally, the disciple enters into deep silence.

However, it should be noted that the contemplation over the koan would not be a habit of thinking. The individual who practices koan should experience the essence of silence objectively. If it becomes a habit similar to the mechanical chanting of a mantra, the whole effort would be futile.

Meanwhile, Koan also appears as a story, conversation, image, a fragment of a song etc. and it follows the reader throughout his day as a riddle, and when the person falls into the true silence, it reveals its essence as love, silence and eternity.