On Zen Practice
In comments to yesterday's post, andrée asked about koans and the infamous zen stick (kyosaku). As a novice who has shyed away from koan practice my experience is limited. I've only been to a couple of interviews with my teachers where I was presented with a koan (in Korean Zen we say kong'an). I'd like to first express my appreciation today to Dosho Port for stopping by and offering a teacher's perspective. His blog (which I just acquainted myself with yesterday) appears to be full of resources for anyone interested in an introduction to Zen from an ordained teacher.
My exposure to Zen as it is practiced in America is limited to Korean (Chogye) Zen. This may be odd or atypical, but it is a function of where I practice. I had an opportunity to visit one of the centers connected to my sangha's lineage (the Zen Buddhist Temple in Chicago founded by Ven. Samu Sunim) last year but beyond that I've exclusively practiced at Still Point. I'd like to visit the Ann Arbor temple at some point because I hear such lovely things about Haju Sunim but I haven't made the trip yet.
Korean Zen practice centers around meditation, chanting, bowing (prostrations) and koan study/practice. While I am attuned to the sound of the moktak (a fish-shaped drum used during services, especially during chanting) I have never seen a kyosaku in use... at least I hadn't until I found the video I'll share today. It was interesting to watch because it offered my first opportunity to witness a different style of zen practice (for lack of a better word). The video directly addresses andrée's question about the use of the kyosaku and perceived associations with violence, harshness or cruelty. It walks us through what practice is like at a sesshin (retreat) and includes an overview of koan interviews with the guiding teacher. Enjoy!