In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “We Can Be Taught!.”
By: FRATER BOVIOUS
(CARROLLTON, TX – Cradle of Civilization) You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him think.
Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him to think and he will always be hungry.
Give a man a book of zen koans with answers if you hate him.
Data is data, not knowledge. If you just give someone the answers, you specifically teach them not to think. But, we have rational souls, and the best teachers teach you to think. And why should we think? To know truth.
The value of a zen koan consists in the relationship between the master and the student. It’s not a test, per se. It is a challenge to one’s mind. The right challenge at the right time is the genius of the master. One may never be asked if they can describe the sound of one hand clapping because the master may not find that particular koan useful for this particular student. That a book exists with the “answers” is both funny and sad.
In some traditions, a student is given one thought to ponder for the rest of his life. It makes sense, if everything is in fact interrelated. So, what does he do for the rest of his life if he finds the answer one day in the stacks at a library?
Not all koans are questions. One koan goes something like this: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” Such a statement may yield the desired results with one student, and not another.
I will wager that some of the best and most productive koans have been lost to history because they were developed on the spot by the master for a specific student, and then were set aside.
And probably many glimpses of truth simply go unrecognized, or are just ignored. Here is a koan:
“I am to be crucified. Follow me.”