Zen Luminary Joan Sutherland Roshi talks with Jon Joseph about her new book Through Forest of Every Color – on her work with koans since leaving teaching. Joan talks about her breakout work with John Tarrant and others, following the teaching of the koans out of the box of dokusan into the new western practice in groups. Joan also mentions her innovative work with koans and improv and artists of various traditions. A rich and lively hour long conversation with questions and insights from Jon Jospeh, John Tarrant and Allison Atwill. Recorded Sept. 26, 2022
Shitou says the dark and bright are both part of the deep work. When times are tough, trusting your koan and the deep current carrying us all, is the way forward. Mazu tells us we came here to make a way out of no way—koans help. Trust in this valuable process. From a talk given at Summer Sesshin in June 2022. 5 minutes.
In the vessel of sesshin, attention can move freely and find myriad places of rest. A koan can hold you when you don’t know where to go. From a talk in Summer Sesshin, June 15, 2022. 1 minute.
Knock on any door—someone will answer. Letting koans teach you koans is the way. Anything that arises is part of the work. It’s not following instructions. John Tarrant’s Sunday Talk as recorded March 27, 2022.
Escape arts disassemble the walls or, as in dreams, allow us to step right through them. We can also think of escape arts as practices that appear in moments of natural clarity. They are often similar to the moves you make if you are interested in Zen and koans, but the world teaches escape arts to us; they just appear in a situation without any conscious feeling that you are entering spiritual territory.
Musicians Jordan McConnell and Jesse Cardin join Jon Joseph to share elements of music practice and their creative relatedness to koan work.
John Tarrant’s welcome and introduction to a special program on The Four Boundless Vows and the Bodhisattva path. We are each in the true temple; it’s always happening here, and everyone holds it. Meditation and opening words: the beauty of practice and of the path, the way we teach through stories in Zen, and inclusion of the Daoist view that “the world does fine on its own.” Excerpt from the Sunday session recorded August 1, 2021.
Part 3: I vow to walk through every wisdom gate. Jon Joseph talks about the 3rd of the 4 Vows, and asks, What is a wisdom gate? How do we walk through? The impossibility of the vow, the impossibility of our lives—this is exactly where we should be. The endless nature of unfolding and of always-appearing wisdom gates. What is my part in the world? By becoming a koan, or a vow, we set up a resonance with it, and begin to soak in it—not separate! Excerpt from the Sunday session on August 1, 2021.
David Weinstein in Summer Sesshin, shares remarks on picking and choosing in practice and in life.
Roshi Jon Joseph assembled a panel of 4 PZI meditators, who deal with various experiences of chronic and severe pain. Koan meditation has helped all of them to find a way to allow the pain in—not to exclude it, and to see it as a profound teacher and ally. As recorded May 31, 2021.
John Tarrant Roshi on PZI: Zen koans are a key part of what we do in PZI, although there is no requirement that anyone work with koans to practice with us. Koans hold an ancient wisdom that anyone can use, and for a long time PZI has been exploring different ways of working with them. This exploration, and its embodiment in practice, is our gift.
To turn toward the difficult thing is usually a move of compassion. We think it’ll be a fierce warrior move, but it’s not, actually. And when we turn toward what’s difficult, it becomes mysterious and unknown and strange and interesting. Whatever it is, your dilemma—if you turn toward that, it’s to let the koan be there. So we stop trying to flee. And suddenly we’re at peace, and instead of it being the thing that we don’t want to do, it’s the gateway into freedom.
Tess Beasley leads off the Zen Tuesdays Series with thoughts about encountering immensity, examining creative process, and koan practice as inclusionary. As recorded October 6, 2020.
PZI Fall Sesshin: The Koan Raft – with Jon Joseph Roshi. What is a koan? A koan is a “public case” in Chinese. Koan practice develops a resonance with all things. Any section or word in a koan is a gate. As recorded October 2, 2020.
Summer Sesshin: Into the Blue Dragons Cave – audio excerpt. Koans are much more than “tools”—they do YOU! Your very heart-mind is it, so have the intimacy of your life even into death. From the Friday evening talk by John Tarrant. As recorded June 26th, 2020.
Audio: PZI Zen Online – Jon begins with Dongshan’s 3rd Rank and ends with Zhouzhou’s ‘Welcome!’ Beauty in the odd experience of lockdown, economic hardship and all of it. Koans reinforce our innate knowledge before our parent were born. Celebrations of the awakened mind. As recorded – music Jordan McConnell. june 1 2020.
John Tarrant, Roshi, Director of PZI and author, talks about the mystery of meditation as he first experienced it in the ancient forests of Queensland; about transformation on the ancient koan path we follow, and the evolution of Pacific Zen Institute as a community, and koan school with a new online resource center, the KALPA (Koans and Liberation Project Archive) Library. Your support helps produce PZI’s ongoing retreats and dharma talks, John’s writing projects, and spreads the teachings. 8 minutes. January 2019
Often we chase out and look for things, but when things come toward us – that’s enlightenment. In retreat, time expands and the universe appears. The art and craft of koan practice – freeing the heart and mind.
In practice you are traveling, you are on a path. It is different from a plan because you are on uncertain turf. Practice also has more love in it because you are moving in the dark in a positive way. The koan is like the dog that follows you around with a bowl – it foils your serious plans.
A most heartfelt conversation about David’s spiritual journey. Beginning with his teacher Lama Yeshe to the practice of Zen with John Tarrant and the Pacific Zen Institute community. July 15, 2014.
A koan is a piece of old wisdom in a very concise form. I think of it as a vial of ancient light that has been passed down to us. It’s the same light that was in the heart of the teacher who invented the koan. So, if you can get the vial open, what will pour out is your inheritance. It won’t be the usual kind of inheritance with bank accounts, real estate, debts and family feuds. This inheritance will be a perspective—the way an old master saw and experienced the world.
The practice part of it is that it doesn’t matter if you think you lost the coin and start to be unhappy about life. That is another theory. And it doesn’t matter how many times that theory rises. Even that theory is the coin. A koan practice means that you go back to the river over and over again and you can trust that process.
Everybody probably has a road that would come to mind. I remember getting a bus in Tasmania and driving through the west coast mountains to a mining town where I was going to work, get a job, and how the snow was coming down and the bus would just go around this really narrow road like that, and there are certain parts of the world that have truly alarming narrow mountain roads with truly alarming drivers and very ancient buses.
..a practice is different from a plan. You know what a plan is; you’ve probably made a few of them. A practice has more love in it, because a practice is something you’re doing without being sure of the outcome..