Meeting the Inconceivable

Description

You might think of consciousness as a lamp, making a cone of light on the surface of a desk. Outside the yellow circle everything is dark and unknown. The usual way of approaching things is to try to extend the yellow circle into the darkness. Or perhaps to drag objects in from the dark. That is conceivable. This meditation takes things the other way. n.d.

Excerpt from Bring Me the Rhinoceros and other Zen Koans to Bring You Joy, by John Tarrant

You might think of consciousness as a lamp, making a cone of light on the surface of a desk. Outside the yellow circle everything is dark and unknown. The usual way of approaching things is to try to extend the yellow circle into the darkness. Or perhaps to drag objects in from the dark. That is conceivable. This meditation takes things the other way. Here you depend on what is unknown and inconceivable to sustain you. The inconceivable is the source of all that comes into being. This meditation is not about making what is unknown, known. Instead it is an exercise in relying on and making friends with the inconceivable.

The koan of this meditation goes like this:

Once upon a time in China, the governor gave a rare fan carved of rhinoceros horn to a Zen Master, who forgot about it. Then he remembered. He called to his assistant, “Bring me the rhinoceros fan.” The assistant said, “It is broken.” The master said, “In that case, bring me the rhinoceros.”

In life if you had had a terrible experience, or lost someone dear to you, you might think that you will not be able to survive or that you will never be happy again. It is easy to imagine that. However if you rely on the inconceivable you cannot know what will happen. When you drink coffee you are not different before and after the loss. What you can conceive of might take away your life. On the other hand, what you cannot conceive of will give you your life.

In the meditation hold this question: How will I bring the rhinoceros?

There’s no need to try to work out this koan. Just let it keep you company, the way music or a poem might — the whole thing or a word that floats to the surface, such as “rhinoceros.” Take a holiday from your mental map of what to do. Let the koan come into your heart by itself and let it show you what it has to offer. Let it guide you and take care of you. When you do this you might begin to trust what the universe does without your help. Everything that appears will be in the field of the koan; everything will have something to do with “rhinoceros.”

Breathing “Rhinoceros,”
walking “Rhinoceros,”
sitting “Rhinoceros,”
on the phone “Rhinoceros,”
fighting a war “Rhinoceros,”
giving birth “Rhinoceros,”
falling asleep “Rhinoceros.”

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