Zen Redux

If you can immediately recognize the candlelight as fire, the meal was cooked a long time ago.

What does this statement mean? If you haven’t previously heard the koan it references, it will be little more than gibberish… and if you haven’t heard the story the koan references, the koan’s meaning will be opaque.

If, however, you are familiar with the folktale of the foolish man who needed fire to cook his dinner and so went out into the night to search with a lit lantern…

The point is not merely that the fool already had that which he was searching for. The point is that what he searched for was the means by which he searched — it’s what made the search possible.

“Though a candle burns in my house… there’s nobody home.”

— Jack O’Neill, Stargate SG-1

2 Responses to “Zen Redux”

  1. I know there are plenty of collections of koans out there. Are there some that come with the stories they reference?

  2. The koans often ARE the stories they reference, so to speak. It’s the ‘explanations’ of the koans, the famous responses that were intended to help students grasp their meaning, that tend to reference external sources and cultural metaphors.

    See http://www.ashidakim.com/zenkoans/10thelastpoemofhoshin.html

    It’s one of the rare examples of a koan *explicitly* referencing another teaching.

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