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Koan Practice

Koan practice in Zen is a way to reveal enlightened perspective in students through the use of obscure ancient dialogues documented by Zen masters. The student is intended to reflect on the dialogue and present their understanding to the teacher. Their infinite value in this context is that the koans do not have a single answer. While there are certain understandings that contribute to the solving of a koan, the key to getting at its heart is to see it working in your own life, with your own situation, as it is right now.
The trick to employing the wisdom of Zen, and all spiritual truth in our lives is just that – taking ultimate eternal truths and making them alive in our daily life, and applying them to our situation. As a Buddhist Catholic, I have seen Catholic priests who do this in their homily just as adeptly as a Zen Master, and there are others who will simply put you to sleep. The point is that unless we can bring spiritual teachings into our own painful, joyful situation, they are not of much use to us, and the truly enlightened teachers, be they Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu or Jewish, know this.
Indeed, theoretically, the key to enlightenment itself lies in ones propensity to wake up in ones life as it is, as opposed to pursuing some far off goal. If the vertical spectrum of development is infinite, and enlightenment possible, then it is possible for all in this moment.

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