PZI Teacher Archives

Opening Talk on the Great Kalpa Fire Predicament Koan


The 3rd of John Tarrant’s Sunday series on predicament koans. John talks about the Great Kalpa Fire koan. A kalpa is a great age, eon, or universe. Opening Talk excerpted from Sunday Zen on September 18, 2022. (Complete Sunday Zen video also available.)


In the midst of everything, there’s always a predicament.

What’s it like to think the universe might end in fire?

Predicament koans: we’re all being tortured, or are enjoying, and are being enlightened by predicaments. These koans stop us in some way.

This is the predicament of Oh my god, WHAT. We suffer about it, and then we do crazy stuff: being excruciatingly correct or excruciatingly incorrect. The human response to stress is not rational or reasonable. It’s possible to take it all too seriously. Part of the bodhisattva path is not taking yourself so seriously.

KOAN: The Fire at the End of the Universe (a kalpa is the great arc of a universe.)

Dasui studied with great teacher Guishan, and was fire-keeper at his temple.

Dasui: The fire at the end will completely destroy the universe.
Student: I’m still not clear if there is something that will not be completely destroyed.
Dasui: Destroyed

Commentary: Because of a single phrase, (“It will be destroyed”), he traveled for a thousand miles, alone.

No need to travel to be here.

Video clip from a Sunday Zen session recorded September 18, 2022. (complete video also available)




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