Do you know this koan?

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Do you know this koan?

Postby greenjuice » Fri Dec 13, 2013 10:36 pm

Can you help me find this koan, I vaguely remember it. It goes something like this- a young monk has an older monk as a teacher, that lectures him about dhamma and teaches him basic meditation. Once they finished a lesson and the teacher hints that he will start teaching him advanced meditation tomorrow. Tomorrow the student comes in an eager mood to the place where his teacher is, having gone in, he salutes him and sits, and he asks if he will start teaching him advanced meditation. The teacher thenn asks the student how many shoes there were by the door of the hall when he was entering. The student anwers that he wasn't paying attention and doesn't know, to which the teacher says that he is not yet ready for the advanced meditation.

I remember this koan made me think about mindfulness, it's extent, attention and perception, things I'm not still clear about. E.g. when meditating or being mindful while doing something, how far, or how deep should the attention go. When I breath in long I know that I am breathing in long, simple enough, but when I see a book shelf, I know that I see a book shelf with books in it, and I also subconsciously know that some books are large, some small, some red, some blue, some are standing upright, some are lying on top of others, etc., a miriad of details that I do see, but don't consciously note, so it was a big question for me, and still is- what is the proper measure of mindfulness...
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Re: Do you know this koan?

Postby Babadhari » Fri Dec 13, 2013 11:23 pm

All the four different objects of mindfulness: body, feeling, consciousness and mental objects, have to be understood before one reaches sanctitude. According to character, temperament and cognizing slant, one can make however only one of these the preliminary object of contemplation. It is often the case that owing to a lack of proper understanding of oneself one has to try all objects before one gets to know what suits one best for the preliminary work. The choice is made more difficult by the fact that most of us have no clear-cut natures and are a mixture of a little of every possible human characteristic. In these circumstances there is no alternative to the method of trial and error. But the earnest ones will find their way with persistence and sustained effort.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... wayof.html
Aflame with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion.
Aflame, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs ......

Seeing thus, the disciple of the Noble One grows disenchanted. SN 35.28
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Re: Do you know this koan?

Postby Mkoll » Sat Dec 14, 2013 1:30 am

greenjuice wrote:what is the proper measure of mindfulness...

There is only one way to find out and each person has to do it themselves. Whatever anyone tells you is just a finger pointing at the moon.

That one way is this:

:meditate:
Peace,
James
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Re: Do you know this koan?

Postby fivebells » Sat Dec 14, 2013 2:34 am

The version I read had the monk meditate for seven years, realize he didn't remember the arrangement of shoes, and decided he needed to go meditate another seven years. The message I took from that is that there is no upper bound on the proper measure of mindfulness, because who remembers stupid little details like that?? Probably not even arahants.
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Re: Do you know this koan?

Postby IanAnd » Sat Dec 14, 2013 6:05 am

The version I read had the monk meditate for seven years, realize he didn't remember the arrangement of shoes, and decided he needed to go meditate another seven years.

The message I took from that is that there is no upper bound on the proper measure of mindfulness, because who remembers stupid little details like that?? Probably not even arahants.

The irony of this statement is that "the devil is in the details." Or, to put a dhammic slant on this: "The dukkha is in the details."

"The student comes in an eager mood to the place where his teacher is, having gone in, he salutes him and sits, and he asks if he will start teaching him advanced meditation. The teacher then asks the student how many shoes there were by the door of the hall when he was entering. The student answers that he wasn't paying attention and doesn't know, to which the teacher says that he is not yet ready for the advanced meditation."

This should tell one who is paying attention that mindfulness (heedfulness) is an important (if not essential) part of the equation. To miss a small, yet seemingly unimportant, detail like that is to be unmindful from the master teacher's perspective. Therefore, take heed. Don't let anything (no matter how small) go unnoticed! It is all grist for the mill of awakening. Because it promotes knowingness of just this moment. And can point toward the causation of this moment.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
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Re: Do you know this koan?

Postby serg_o » Sat Dec 14, 2013 7:28 am

greenjuice wrote:The teacher thenn asks the student how many shoes there were by the door of the hall when he was entering.

Hello,

the story:
35. Every-Minute Zen

Zen students are with their masters at last ten years before they presume to teach others. Nan-in was visited by Tenno, who, having passed his apprenticeship, had become a teacher.

The day happened to be rainy, so Tenno wore wooden clogs and carried an umbrella. After greeting him Nan-in remarked: 'I suppose you left your wooden clogs in the vestibule. I want to know if your umbrella is on the right or left side of the clogs.'

Tenno, confused, had no instant answer. He realized that he was unable to carry his Zen every minute. He became Nanin's pupil, and he studied six more years to accomplish his every-minute Zen.


The teacher asked the student where he had left his boots and umbrella. So the story is about attention to the actions the student did himself, not to some detailes of landscape. The situation shows that the student did this action without enough awareness (sampajanna), his thoughts it seems were somewhere else at that moment.
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Re: Do you know this koan?

Postby binocular » Sat Dec 14, 2013 8:59 am

serg_o wrote:The teacher asked the student where he had left his boots and umbrella. So the story is about attention to the actions the student did himself, not to some detailes of landscape. The situation shows that the student did this action without enough awareness (sampajanna), his thoughts it seems were somewhere else at that moment.

I think the version where the student is asked about the arrangement of shoes in front of the door is also relevant. Because before entering a room or an assembly, one should learn (as much as possible) who is already in that room, and what one's proper attitude should be toward those people.

Also, in some Eastern cultures, they sepcifically have practices for whenever one passes through a door or gate.
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Re: Do you know this koan?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Dec 14, 2013 11:24 am

serg_o wrote:The teacher asked the student where he had left his boots and umbrella. So the story is about attention to the actions the student did himself, not to some detailes of landscape. The situation shows that the student did this action without enough awareness (sampajanna), his thoughts it seems were somewhere else at that moment.

This is what many Theravada teachers do. One of my teachers would ask us, after we'd been doing walking meditation with our hands clasped, and had sat down, which finger had moved first. I recall, I think Joseph Goldstein recounting how U Pandita kept asking questions to Sharon Saltzberg like "How did you feel when you brushed your teeth this morning?", "How did you feel when you bowed just now?", etc, until she made sure she paid attention to everything.

:anjali:
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Re: Do you know this koan?

Postby kirk5a » Sat Dec 14, 2013 2:49 pm

serg_o wrote:The situation shows that the student did this action without enough awareness (sampajanna)

:thumbsup:
It's about bringing full awareness to what one is doing, not attempting to notice every trivial detail of one's environment.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Do you know this koan?

Postby fivebells » Sat Dec 14, 2013 7:04 pm

IanAnd wrote:
The message I took from that is that there is no upper bound on the proper measure of mindfulness, because who remembers stupid little details like that?? Probably not even arahants.


This should tell one who is paying attention that mindfulness (heedfulness) is an important (if not essential) part of the equation.


I think we're in basic agreement on this. I'm curious about what kinds of things you get from being able to reconstruct what's happened more than five seconds ago. I've gotten a lot of mileage out of that timescale (when I've remembered to :))
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