11. Zen Koans

Zen literature is unique. It consists, in the main, not of talks or textual homilies but of encounter dialogs between Zen adepts challenging one another to discern the main point of the teachings as it manifests right now, on the spot, in the midst of things. The Zen koan literature is a record of such encounter dialogs. In Everyday Zen we understand this literature as literature: stories meant to convey spiritual meaning. It is not part of our tradition to work with koans in the formalized style that has been popularized in Zen books and is used today by some Zen lineages. This method involves a step by step koan curriculum, with answers presented by the student (usually in few words, or in pantomime) in the interview room during retreats. Rather, we read, contemplate, and discuss koans, with the recognition that discursive meanings cannot do full justice to them. Our effort is to let them seep into our bones, to live them. As you see, the Everyday Zen Study Guide contextualizes the koan literature in the larger framework of the whole of Buddhist thought, and within the understanding of Dogen and Suzuki roshi. Zoketsu has for years been working on a way of speaking of and working with koans that honors our intelligence and understanding, and the problems of our daily lives, while at the same time not selling short the need to meditate on and spiritually penetrate this great religious literature.

Books

 
Title
Description
Author/Lecturer
Date

Download
The Gateless Barrier
Zen teacher Robert Aitken’s thorough-going translation of and commentary on the 48 koans of the Mumonkan.
Robert Aitken
Jan 01, 1991
Buddha Twirls a Flower
When Buddha was on Vulture Peak he twirled a flower before the assembly. Everyone was silent. Only Maha-kashapa smile...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Aug 24, 2005
The Blue Cliff Record
Translation (with traditional commentary) of 100 koans.
Thomas and J.C. Cleary
Apr 12, 2005
The Book of Equanimity
New translation of Book of Serenity, with good comments by a contemporary American Zen teacher.
Gerry Shishin Wick
Mar 25, 2005
The Book of Serenity: One Hundred Zen Dialogues
Translation (with traditional commentary) of 100 koans.
Thomas Cleary
Mar 22, 2005

Audio

 
Title
Description
Author/Lecturer
Date

Download
Afflicted Emotions
Talk on afflicted emotions given at Mar de Jade, Dec. 2006.
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Dec 05, 2006
1. Zen Koan Practice Introduction: Who Hears this Sound
This is an introduction to Koan Study. Zoketsu discusses the history of Koans and their relationship to Zen practice ...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Mar 13, 2001
Koans 2005 - Baizhang's Fox
Koan on Baizhang's Fox as published in The Gateless Barrier #14 and the Book of Serenity #8. This Koan deals with Ka...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Aug 31, 2005
Koans 2005 - Bodhidharma's Don't Know
Koan on Bodhidharma's Don't Know published in The Blue Cliff Record case #1 and the Book of Serenity case #2. This Ko...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Aug 10, 2005
Koans 2005 - Buddha Ascends the Seat
Koan on Buddha Ascends the Seat as published in the Book of Serenity #1 and the Blue Cliff Record #92. This Koan remi...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Aug 17, 2005
Koans 2005 - Buddha Twirls a Flower
Koan on Buddha Twirls a Flower as published in the Gateless Barrier #6. This Koan speaks of the first transmission.
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Aug 24, 2005
Koans 2005 - Cypress Tree/ Oak Tree
Koan on Cypress Tree as published in the Book of Serenity #47 (Cypress Tree) and the Gateless Barrier #37 (Oak Tree) ...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Dec 14, 2005
Koans 2005 - Everyday Mind or Ordinary Mind
Koan on Everyday Mind as found in case 19 of the Gateless Barrier. This case reminds us that everyday mind is the Ta...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Jul 31, 2005
Koans 2005 - Hands and Eyes
Koan on Hands and Eyes as published in the Book of Serenity #54 and the Blue Cliff Record #89. This Koan focuses on t...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Dec 21, 2005
Koans 2005 - Master Ma is Unwell (Sunfaced Buddha)
Koan on Master Ma is Unwell as published in the Book of Serenity #36 and the Blue Cliff Record #3. This koan reminds ...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Oct 19, 2005
Koans 2005 - Nanchuan Kills a Cat
Koan on Nanchuan Kills a Cat as published in Book of Serenity #9 and the Blue Cliff Record #63 and the Gateless Barri...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Sep 15, 2005
Koans 2005 - Wash Your Bowls
Koan on Wash Your Bowls as published in the Gateless Barrier #7 and the Book of Serenity #39. This Koan challenges us...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Aug 03, 2005
Koans 2005 - Yunyan Sweeps the Ground (Not Busy)
Koan on Yunyan Sweeps the Ground as published in thye Book of Serenity #21. This Koan reminds us that each moment is ...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Sep 28, 2005
Koans 2005 - Zhaozhou's Dog / Zhaozhou's Mu
Koan on Zhaozhou's Dog as published in case 18 of the Book of Serenity and case 1 of the Gateless Barrier or Mumonkan...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Sep 21, 2005
Koans 2005 - Master Ma is Unwell (Sunfaced Buddha)
Koan on Master Ma is Unwell as published in the Book of Serenity #36 and the Blue Cliff Record #3. This koan reminds ...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Oct 19, 2005
Koans 2006 - Not Knowing Is Most Intimate
Dizang's Not Knowing as found in case 20 of the Book of Serenity. In this Koan we are reminded that not knowing is a...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
May 21, 2006
Koans 2006 - Not Seeing
Koan on Not Seeing as published in the Book of Serenity #88 and the Blue Cliff Record #94. This Koan based on the Sur...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Dec 20, 2006
Koans 2006 - Vimalakirtis Silence
Koan On Vimalakirti's Silence as published in The Book of Serenity #48 and The Blue Cliff Record #84. This case deals...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Dec 13, 2006
Koans 2006 - Not Knowing Is Most Intimate
Dizang's Not Knowing as found in case 20 of the Book of Serenity. In this Koan we are reminded that not knowing is a...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
May 21, 2006
Koans 2007 - Baizhang's Fox
This talk is based on the koan "Baizhang's Fox" as published in The Gateless Barrier #14 and the Book of Serenity #8....
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Jun 27, 2007
Koans 2007 - Calling the Master
Koan on Calling the Master as found in the Mumonkan or Gateless Barrier Chapter 12. This Koan deals with calling our...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Aug 01, 2007
Koans 2007 - Condolence Call
Koan on Condolence Call as found in Case 55 of the Blue Cliff Record translated by Thomas Cleary. This Koan deals wit...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Aug 22, 2007
Koans 2007 - Daowu Tends the Sick - Who is Sick
Talk on Koan Daowu Tends the Sick or Who is Sick based on Case 83 of the "Book of Serenity" translated by Thomas Clea...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Aug 26, 2007
Koans 2007 - Everyday Mind or Ordinary Mind
Koan On Everyday Mind as published in The Gateless Barrier #19. This Koan deals with the enlightened nature of everyd...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Jan 17, 2007
Koans 2007 - Hands and Eyes
Koan on Hands and Eyes as published in the Book of Serenity #54 and the Blue Cliff Record #89. This Koan focuses on t...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Jan 10, 2007
Koans 2007 - Hot and Cold
Koan on Hot and Cold as published in the Blue Cliff Record #43. This Koan deals with preferences
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Jan 24, 2007
Koans 2007 - Inanimate
Koan on Inanimate Objects published in the Denkoroku (Transmission of the Lamp) Case 39. This koan exploring the teac...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Jan 28, 2007
Koans 2007 - Like a Dream
Koan on Dreams as published in the Blue Cliff Record case #40. This Koan reminds us to get out of the realm of philo...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Jan 31, 2007
Koans 2007 - The Buffalo's Tail
Koan on The Buffalo's Tail as published in the Mumonkan or Gateless Barrier case # 38. This Koan reminds us that wha...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Aug 29, 2007
Koans 2007 - This Mind is Buddha / Not Mind Not Buddha
Koan on "This Mind is Buddha" as found in Chapter 30 of the Mumonkan, and the Koan on "Not Mind Not Buddha" as found ...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Aug 08, 2007
Koans 2007 - Daowu Tends the Sick - Who is Sick
Talk on Koan Daowu Tends the Sick or Who is Sick based on Case 83 of the "Book of Serenity" translated by Thomas Clea...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Aug 26, 2007
Koans 2007 - Like a Dream
Koan on Dreams as published in the Blue Cliff Record case #40. This Koan reminds us to get out of the realm of philo...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Jan 31, 2007
Koans 2007 - This Mind is Buddha / Not Mind Not Buddha
Koan on "This Mind is Buddha" as found in Chapter 30 of the Mumonkan, and the Koan on "Not Mind Not Buddha" as found ...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Aug 08, 2007
"Enlightenment or Not"- Case 62 of the Book of Serenity
Norman speaks on the Koan Mi Hu's "Enlightenment or Not" Case 62 in the "Book of Serenity" Thomas Cleary edition.
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Nov 29, 2009
Book of Serenity Case 41 Luopu Close to Death Part One - Second Santa Sabina Sesshin Talk 2009
In Norman's second talk at the the Santa Sabina 2009 Sesshin Norman gives his first of two talks on koan Case 41 of t...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Sep 23, 2009
Book of Serenity Case 41 Luopu Close to Death Part Two - Third Santa Sabina Sesshin Talk 2009
In Norman's third talk at the the Santa Sabina 2009 Sesshin Norman gives his second of two talks on koan Case 41 of t...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Sep 24, 2009
Enlightenment or Not - Book of Serenity Case 62
Norman speaks on the koan "Mi Hu's Enlightenment or Not" as found in case 62 of the Book of Serenity - Thomas Cleary ...
Norman Fischer
Nov 20, 2009
Invitation of the Patriarch - Book of Serenity Case 3
Norman talks on the Koan "The Invitation of the Patriarch to Eastern India" Case 3 of the Book of Serenity - Thomas C...
Norman Fischer
Nov 18, 2009
Planting the Fields - Book of Serenity Case 12
Norman speaks on the Koan "Zang Planting the Fields" as found in the Book of Serenity Case 12. This is the third of f...
Norman Fischer
Nov 19, 2009
Bodhidharma's Emptiness - Case 2 Book Of Serenity
Norman speaks on Bodhidharma's Emptiness - Case 2 of the Book of Serenity Thomas Cleary edition. We are left with th...
Norman Fischer
Jan 14, 2010
Dizang Planting the Fields
Norman discuses the koan Dizang Planting the Fields case 12 of the Book of Serenity. This is the last koan of this t...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Mar 25, 2010
Everyday Mind - Case 19 Mumonkan
Norman speaks on the koan "Everyday Mind" case 19 of the Mumonkan. This talk is given at the Kannon-do Temple in Los ...
Norman Fischer
Feb 10, 2010
Mazu's White and Black
Norman speaks on "Mazu's White and Black" Case 6 in the Book of Serenity to the Bellingham Sangha.
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Mar 06, 2010
Qingyuan and the Price of Rice - Case 5 Book of Serenity
Norman speaks on the Koan "Qingyuan and the Price of Rice" Case 5 of The Book of Serenity - Thomas Cleary edition.
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Mar 05, 2010
The Woman of Taishan
Norman speaks on "The Woman of Taishan" Case 10 of the Book of Serenity.
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Mar 11, 2010
The World Honored One Ascends The Seat - Case 1 Book of Serenity
First Case in a series of 12 from the Book of Serenity (Thomas Cleary edition). This moment in life just Is. Norman...
Norman Fischer
Jan 07, 2010
The World Honored One Points to the Ground -Case 3 Book of Serenity
Norman speaks on the koan "The World Honored One Points to the Ground" Case 4 of the Book of Serenity - Thomas Cleary...
Norman Fischer
Jan 28, 2010
Avoid Picking and Choosing - Koans 2011 Second Case
Norman gives the second talk in the Koans 2011 series on Avoid Picking and Choosing - Case 2 Blue Cliff Record "The U...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
May 11, 2011
Dongshan Is Unwell - Practicing With Illness
Norman speaks on the Koan Dongshan Is Unwell Case 94 of the Book of Serenity and how we practice with illness. This...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
May 29, 2011
Koan on Miracles - All Day Sitting - February 27, 2011
Norman talks on a koan on "Miracles" case 61 of Dogen's Mana Shobogenzo found in "The True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dog...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Feb 27, 2011
No Zen Master - Talk 4 Koans 2011
Norman gives the third talk of the Koans 2011 series on "No Zen Master" found in the Blue Cliff Record Case 11 "Huang...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
May 18, 2011
When You Meet Me I Bow
Norman speaks on the koan "When You Meet Me I Bow" from Dogen's Mana Shobogenzo as translated by Kaz Tanahashi and Da...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Jan 16, 2011
Zhaozho's Dog - Koans 2011 First Case
Norman gives the first talk on the Koans 2011 series on Zhaozho's Dog (Book of Serenity case 18, Mumankan case 1, and...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
May 04, 2011
Ziyong's Earth - Koans 2011
Norman speaks on the fourth and final talk of the Koans 2011 series on Ziyong's Earth as found in "Eminent Nuns" by B...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
May 25, 2011
Iron Grindstone Liu's Feast - Talk 2 Zen's Women Ancestors
Norman gives his second talk on Zen Women Ancestors on Iron Grindstone Liu (and a brief talk on his new car).This ser...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Sep 05, 2012
Miaozong's Dharma Interview - Talk 3 Zen's Women Ancestors
Norman gives the third talk on the Zen's Women Ancestors series on Miaozong's Dharma Interview.
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Sep 12, 2012
Tara's Vow - Talk 6 Zen's Women Ancestors
Norman gives the sixth talk on Tara's Vow for the Zen Women Ancestor's series. This series is based on the Record Of ...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Oct 10, 2012
Zhaozhou And The Old Woman's Obstacles-Talk 1 Zen's Women Ancestors
Norman gives the first talk on the Zen's Women Ancestors series on Zhaozhou And The Old Woman's Obstacles. This serie...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Aug 29, 2012
Zhaozhou's Intimate Touch - Talk 9 Zen's Women Ancestors
Norman gives the ninth and final talk of the Zen's Women Ancestors series on Zhaozhou's Intimate Touch. This series i...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Oct 31, 2012
Transmission of the Lamp - Introduction and Case 1
Norman gives the first talk on the Transmission of the Lamp series on Case 1. This is based on the book Transmission...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Mar 13, 2013
Luoshan's Arising and Vanishing - Book of Serenity Case 43 - Talk 1 Angela Center Sesshin 2013
Norman gives the first talk of the Angela Center 2013 Sesshin on Luoshan's Arising and Vanishing from the Book of Ser...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Oct 29, 2013
Yangshan's Mind and Environment - Book of Serenity 32 - Talk 2 Angela Center Sesshin 2013
Norman gives the second talk of the Angela Center Sesshin 2013 on Yangshan's Mind and Environment case 32 of the Book...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Oct 30, 2013
Halloween and Dongshan Presents Offerings - Book of Serenity Case 49 - Talk 4 Angela Center Sesshin 2013
Norman gives the fourth talk at teh Angela Center Sesshin 2013 on Halloween and Dongshan Presents Offerings - Book of...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Oct 31, 2013
The Body and Huangbo's Gobblers of Dregs - Book of Serenity Case 53 - Talk 5 Angela Center Sesshin 2013
Normana gives the fifthe talk to the Angela Center Sesshin 2013 on The Body and Huangbo's Gobblers of Dregs.
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Nov 01, 2013
Zhizhao's Succession - Book of Serenity Cse 64 - Talk 7 Angela Center Sesshin 2013
Norman gives the seventh and last talk to the Angela Center Sesshin 2013 on Zhizhao's Succession - Book of Serenity C...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Nov 02, 2013

Texts

 
Title
Description
Author/Lecturer
Date

Download
Nonattachment
Norman talks about finding happiness by letting go of desire and aversion. He tells us that non-attachment does not m...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Feb 16, 1998
The Music of Our Lives
What does old man Zhaozhou have to say about the way we approach our everyday lives? How can we learn to listen to th...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Oct 31, 1998
The Highest Meaning of the Holy Truths
Bodhidharma meets Emporer Wu in this famous case. Can we meet ourselves with the same integrity?
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Aug 01, 1997
1. Zen Koan Practice Introduction: Who Hears this Sound
This is an introduction to Koan Study. Zoketsu discusses the history of Koans and their relationship to Zen practice ...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Mar 13, 2001
Baizhang's Fox
500 lives reborn as a fox for one misstep! Zoketsu speaks on karma and practice.
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Jan 10, 2003
Ruiyan Calls the Master
Talking to yourself as Zen practice and other suggestions for daily life practice.
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Jan 11, 2003
Tou-shuai's Three Barriers
"When your life is ending how will you be free?" Zoketsu discusses practice in the light of our living and dying.
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
May 20, 2003
Yunmen's "Sidetracked!"
A Commentary on Mumonkan, case 39
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Mar 18, 2003
Buddha Twirls a Flower
When Buddha was on Vulture Peak he twirled a flower before the assembly. Everyone was silent. Only Maha-kashapa smile...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Aug 24, 2005
Not Knowing is Most Intimate
Many teachers have made this one phrase, 'not knowing is most intimate,' the heart of their teaching, repeating it ov...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
May 21, 2006
Not Knowing is Most Intimate
Many teachers have made this one phrase, 'not knowing is most intimate,' the heart of their teaching, repeating it ov...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
May 21, 2006
Rhinoceros Fan (Shoyoroku 25 / Hekiganroku 91)
Yanguan had a rhinoceros fan. Possibly it was made of rhinoceros horn. It was no doubt a very expensive item.... But ...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Oct 05, 2007
Xiangyan’s man up a tree
Mumonkan, case 5
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Sep 12, 2007
Zhaozhou's Dog (Mumonkan 1 / Shoyoroku 18)
Koan on Zhaozhou's Dog as published in case 18 of the Book of Serenity and case 1 of the Gateless Barrier or Mumonkan...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Sep 21, 2007
"Enlightenment or Not"- Case 62 of the Book of Serenity
Norman speaks on the Koan Mi Hu's "Enlightenment or Not" Case 62 in the "Book of Serenity" Thomas Cleary edition.
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Nov 29, 2009
Bodhidharma's Emptiness - Case 2 Book Of Serenity
Norman speaks on Bodhidharma's Emptiness - Case 2 of the Book of Serenity Thomas Cleary edition. We are left with th...
Norman Fischer
Jan 14, 2010
Avoid Picking and Choosing - Koans 2011 Second Case
Norman gives the second talk in the Koans 2011 series on Avoid Picking and Choosing - Case 2 Blue Cliff Record "The U...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
May 11, 2011
Dongshan Is Unwell - Practicing With Illness
Norman speaks on the Koan Dongshan Is Unwell Case 94 of the Book of Serenity and how we practice with illness. This...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
May 29, 2011
No Zen Master - Talk 4 Koans 2011
Norman gives the third talk of the Koans 2011 series on "No Zen Master" found in the Blue Cliff Record Case 11 "Huang...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
May 18, 2011
Zhaozho's Dog - Koans 2011 First Case
Norman gives the first talk on the Koans 2011 series on Zhaozho's Dog (Book of Serenity case 18, Mumankan case 1, and...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
May 04, 2011
Iron Grindstone Liu's Feast - Talk 2 Zen's Women Ancestors
Norman gives his second talk on Zen Women Ancestors on Iron Grindstone Liu (and a brief talk on his new car).This ser...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Sep 05, 2012
Miaozong's Dharma Interview - Talk 3 Zen's Women Ancestors
Norman gives the third talk on the Zen's Women Ancestors series on Miaozong's Dharma Interview.
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Sep 12, 2012
Zhaozhou And The Old Woman's Obstacles-Talk 1 Zen's Women Ancestors
Norman gives the first talk on the Zen's Women Ancestors series on Zhaozhou And The Old Woman's Obstacles. This serie...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Aug 29, 2012
Zhaozhou's Intimate Touch - Talk 9 Zen's Women Ancestors
Norman gives the ninth and final talk of the Zen's Women Ancestors series on Zhaozhou's Intimate Touch. This series i...
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Oct 31, 2012