Sunday, January 26, 2014

Baizhang's Wild Duck - now with Questions!

How do/did Koans come about? If you are new to the idea of Koans, the link is a great post on Koans and Koan practice, by Zen Master Wonji of the Five Mountain Zen Order.

Here is an attempt at creating a Koan based on a historical exchange. The exchange goes like this:
Zen master Baizhang was walking with Mazu and saw a wild duck fly by.
Mazu said "What is that?"
Baizhang repiled "A wild duck."
To which Mazu asked "Where is it going?"
Baizhang said "It is flying away."
Mazu twisted Baizhang's nose and said "When did it ever fly away?"
This is a good story to work with, as there is a valuable point here. In the Zen lineage, we don't really want to discuss it. We want to help people to get some insight. So the question becomes: How can we use this story to help people wake up? Although this story is already part of some existing Koan collections, it can be improved with the addition of some questions and a verse.

The proposed questions are:
  1. What was Baizhang's mistake?
  2. If you were Baizhang, how could you answer "Where is it going?"
  3. When did it ever fly away?
And a new verse:

  Baizhang, Mazu, and a wild duck
  Together where?
  A forest, a swamp, a lakefront?
  So many concepts
  Put them all down,
  How could it ever fly away?

As mentioned, there is a very important point here. It has to do with Sunyata. As Zen practitioners, we don't practice by discussing things endlessly. Instead, we work with each other to help attain and cultivate that which is within us (what Buddhists call Buddha Nature).

So, my question to you is "When did it ever fly away?"