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Theo Literature & Language Essay Research Coursework (Essay Sample)


Hi all,
I hope you had a good vacation and had fun with the riddles. I will publish the answer to the riddles tomorrow, Tuesday, April 28, and will not accept any late submissions once the answers are published.
Koans and Western Riddles
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?
In summary, you are to submit one page (with two separate paragraphs) responding to the two questions, due Wednesday, April 29. Good luck! One week to go!


"The Sound of One Hand"
The master of Kennin temple was Mokurai, Silent Thunder. He had a little prot£j£ named Toyo who was only twelve years old. Toyo saw the older disciples visit the master's room each morning and evening to receive instruction in sanzen [dokusan] or personal guidance in which they were given koans to stop mind-wandering.
Toyo wished to do sanzen also.
"Wait a while," said Mokurai. "You are too young."
But the child insisted, so the teacher finally consented.
In the evening little Toyo went at the proper time to the threshold of Mokurai's sanzen room. He struck the gong to announce his presence, bowed respectfully three times outside the door, and went to sit before the master in respectful silence.
"You can hear the sound of two hands when they clap together," said Mokurai. "Now show me the sound of one hand."
Toyo bowed and went to his room to consider this problem. From his window he could hear the music of the geishas. "Ah, I have it!" he proclaimed.
The next evening, when his teacher asked him to illustrate the sound of one hand, Toyo began to play the music of the geishas.
"No, no," said Mokurai. 'That will never do. That is not the sound of one hand. You've not got it at all."
Thinking that such music might interrupt, Toyo moved his abode to a quiet place. He meditated again. "What can the sound of one hand be?" He happened to hear some water dripping. "I have it," imagined Toyo.
When he next appeared before his teacher, Toyo imitated dripping water.
"What is that?" asked Mokurai. "That is the sound of dripping water, but not the sound of one hand. Try again."
In vain Toyo meditated to hear the sound of one hand. He heard the sighing of the wind. But the sound was rejected.
He heard the cry of an owl. This also was refused.
The sound of one hand was not the locusts.
For more than ten times Toyo visited Mokurai with different sounds. All were wrong. For almost a year he pondered what the sound of one hand might be.
At last little Toyo entered true meditation and transcended all sounds. "I could collect no more," he explained later, "so I reached the soundless sound."
Toyo had realized the sound of one hand. (Paul Reps, compiler, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings [Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, Anchor Books by arrangement with Charles E. Tuttle Company of Boston and Tokyo, 1957], pages 24-26. Copyright © 1957 by Charles E. Tuttle Company. Used with permission of Tuttle Publishing, a member of the Periplus Publishing Group.)Handout 9-C: Permission to reproduce is granted. © 2009 by Saint Mary's Press.


During meditation, Zen Buddhists used koan in discovering truths hidden about the world and about themselves. These koans are riddles or puzzles that are utlized to test the disciples of Zen masters. These disciples are challenged in unraveling the meaning of these riddles as these are understood by the spirit and intuition. As compared to Western riddles, koan is a tool that educates, not to develop the skill to be intellectually fast or in creating quickness of wit, but in unraveling greater truths involving great concentration and considerable time. In western riddles, the time given for solving it rarely exceeds 30 minutes since it is considered as an activity in practicing intellectual agility. Koans may take years to solve, depend

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