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.
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.
PZI Zen online – Tess Beasley leads off the Zen Tuesdays by encountering immensity, examining creative process and koan practice as inclusionary.
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.
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. Friday eve in Summer Sesshin 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.
The Zen Koan for summer sesshin was “Who Is Hearing?” The talk by John Tarrant and ensuing conversation regards the nature of the mind, and aspects of practice. June 22, 2011.
Rachel Boughton, Director of the PZI Santa Rosa Center, how-to talk on working with zen koans.
A Zen ancestor was gathering wood and heard a line being recited that struck him. “What was that again?” he asked. “Oh, it was just something I heard up north in a temple.” So he went to study up north.
A koan is a little healing story, a conversation, an image, a fragment of a song. It’s something to keep you company, whatever you are doing. There’s a tradition of koan study to transform your heart and the way you move in the world. Article by John Tarrant published in Lion’s Roar magazine, March 2016 and September 2018.
“Working with a koan can make the world more transparent and alive and at the same time shift your consciousness in small and large ways. It’s a work of art as well as a spiritual method and intended to be useful in your life and contribute to your happiness.”
“Koans light up a life that may have been dormant in you; they hold out the possibility of transformation even if you are trying to address unclear or apparently insoluble problems.” Originally published in Shambhala Sun Magazine, November 2004.