Koans and Western Riddles Literature & Language Essay (Essay Sample)
The next assignment builds on the previous riddle assignment. Read the handout posted on schoology titled “The Sound of One Hand.” This handout contains a Zen story that chronicles the attempts of Toyo, a young Zen student, to unravel Zen’s most famous koan. Then re-read p. 169 about Maura O’Halloran’s journey of “mastering” Zen.
First part of the assignment:
After reading “The Sound of One Hand” and p. 169, explain in a brief paragraph the role of koans in Zen. Additionally, and most importantly, explain how the process of “solving” koans is similar to, yet different from, solving Western riddles.
Koans and Parables
Second part of the assignment: Comparing Zen koans to Jesus’ Parables
In Zen Buddhism, koans are short sayings that are intended to derail our ordinary ways of thinking about things in order to enable us to see things radically differently. Some of Jesus’ parables share a similar intention. Jesus sets up a situation that his hearers would tend to assume would resolve in a certain way, and then he resolves it in a way that surprises and perhaps even offends the everyday sensibilities of his hearers. One good example is the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37). In the culture of those who heard this parable from Jesus’ lips, the Samaritan was despised and ostracized. In the parable, the Samaritan is the one who does the will of God, the one who acts with compassion, the one who emerges as a decent human being willing to take risks in order to help another person. The parable invites Jesus’ hearers to rethink their usual ways of looking at Samaritans and at who does the will of God.
There is also a contrast between koans and parables in that the intent of the koan is to frustrate thinking in order to facilitate the direct experience of truth. The parable, however, hopes to revise our thinking along lines consistent with Jesus’ message about the nature of the Kingdom of God.
In a brief paragraph, identify one of Jesus’ parables (do not use the Good Samaritan) and explain how the parable is somewhat similar to a Zen koan. That is, how does Jesus’ parable challenge and shift the mindset of the listener?
SUBJECT AND SECTION
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Zen koans are essential tool of meditation in Zen Buddhism. These koans are used in comparison to a riddle or a paradoxical anecdote which the Zen masters employed and gave to their students to ponder on to provoke enlightenment. These disciples would then meditate to uncover greather truths using this koans by the spirit and intuition. In the West, riddles are interpreted as a phrase or statement to het a clever answer and is usually presented as a form of a game. The time limit for solving riddles is usually between 5-15 minutes, depending on the quickness of the wit of the listener. It is a kind of intellectual activity used for developing agility of the mind. In contrast to Western riddles, koan is a tool that is used in educating and contemplating. It is not just about being intellectually fast but being open for realizations in the depth of the mind with great concentration and considerable time. It may take years for koans to be
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