The stone woman gives birth in the middle of the night.

—PZI Miscellaneous Koan

Koan practice is a conversational art: a conversation between ourselves and a koan, a conversation between ourselves and ourselves, a conversation between ourselves and the world around us.

There a lot of references to “the dark” in koans. Being in the dark is about not knowing, the way that the pandemic threw and continues to throw us all into a place of not knowing. Should I be wearing a mask? A seed germinating in the dark doesn’t know it is a seed, it is just doing what it does, naturally, without thoughts about it being too dark or wishing for more light. 

Unlike seeds, we think we know what we are and what we are doing. When we are in the dark, our natural impulse is to want more light so we can see more clearly where we are going.

The ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes was very much in the dark about how to determine whether the king’s crown was pure gold or not. Having struggled with the problem, he took a break for a bath and as he lowered himself into the water and noticed the level of the water rising, he saw the light in the midst of his dark. 

It is said that he ran naked through the streets crying, “Eureka, I have found it!” That’s what happens in koan practice; we’re in the dark about the koan and we struggle with it and in the midst of the struggle there is light. Then we run through the streets of our mind naked of all of the stories we have been wearing about who we are and the way things work.

It’s like being born.

—David Weinstein, January 30, 2024


David Weinstein Roshi

 

 

David Weinstein Roshi, Director of Rockridge Meditation Community

 

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