Zen Koans

Love these.

Every Day Is a Good Day

Unmon said: “I do not ask you about fifteen days ago. But what about fifteen days hence? Come, say a word about this!” Since none of the monks answered, he answered for them: “Every day is a good day.”

 

No Cold and Heat

A monk asked Tozan, “How can we escape the cold and heat?” Tozan replied, “Why not go where there is no cold and heat?” “Is there such a place?” the monk asked. Tozan commented, “When cold, be thoroughly cold; when hot, be hot through and through.

 

The Short Staff

Shuzan held out his short staff and said, “If you call this a short staff, you oppose its reality. If you do not call it a short staff, you ignore the fact. Now what do you wish to call this?”

 

Seijo’s Two Souls

Chokan had a very beautiful daughter named Seijo. He also had a handsome young cousin named Ochu. Joking, he would often comment that they would make a fine married couple. Actually, he planned to give his daughter in marriage to another man. But young Seijo and Ochu took him seriously; they fell in love and thought themselves engaged. One day Chokan announced Seijo’s betrothal to the other man. In rage and despair, Ochu left by boat. After several days journey, much to his astonishment and joy he discovered that Seijo was on the boat with him!

They went to a nearby city where they lived for several years and had two children. But Seijo could not forget her father; so Ochu decided to go back with her and ask the father’s forgiveness and blessing. When they arrived, he left Seijo on the boat and went to the father’s house. he humbly apologized to the father for taking his daughter away and asked forgiveness for them both.

“What is the meaning of all this madness?” the father exclaimed. Then he related that after Ochu had left, many years ago, his daughter Seijo had fallen ill and had lain comatose in bed since. Ochu assured him that he was mistaken, and, in proof, he brought Seijo from the boat. When she entered, the Seijo lying ill in bed rose to meet her, and the two became one.

Zen Master Goso, referrring to the legend, observed, “Seijo had two souls, one always sick at home and the other in the city, a married woman with two children. Which was the true soul?”

 

Bells and Robes

Zen Master Unmon said: “The world is vast and wide. Why do you put on your robes at the sound of a bell?”

 

Returning to the Ordinary World

A monk asked Kegon, “How does an enligthtened one return to the ordinary world?” Kegon replied, “A broken mirror never reflects again; fallen flowers never go back to the old branches.”

 

Manjusri Enters the Gate

One day as Manjusri stood outside the gate, the Buddha called to him, “Manjusri, Manjusri, why do you not enter?” Manjusri replied, “I do not see myself as outside. Why enter?”

 

Where to Meet after Death

Dogo paid a visit to his sick fellow monk, Ungan. “Where can I see you again if you die and leave only your corpse?” Dogo asked. “I will meet you where nothing dies,” Ungan replied. Dogo criticized his response saying, “What you should have said is that there is no place where nothing is born and nothing dies and that we need not see each other at all.”

 

The Turtle in the Garden

A monk saw a turtle in the garden of Daizui’s monastery and asked the teacher, “All beings cover their bones with flesh and skin. Why does this being cover its flesh and skin with bones?” Master Daizui took off one of his sandals and covered the turtle with it.

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