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Elegant Failure: A Guide to Zen Koans Paperback – May 25, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
Of great practical benefit in opening our moment by moment hearts to the practice of loving kindness, this book is also a wonderful inspiration for sitting, and a treasured guide to effortless effort on the cushion.
I recommend this boook to all serious koan students.
The simplest koans ground your thought: the sky is the sky, the mountain is the mountain.
Intermediate level koans strip away conventions (like naming): the sky is the mountain, the mountain is the sky.
The most provocative koans point to a greater understanding of the four aspects of the Zen universe (existence, nonexistence, both existence and nonexistence, and neither existence nor nonexistence): there is no sky or mountain, you are a blade of grass.
The author of Elegant Failure takes up the challenge of explaining more than twenty classic koans -- classic referring to koans tormenting students since at least the 13th century, with names like Yen-kuan's Rhinoceros Fan, San-sheng`s Golden Fish Who Has Passed Through the Net, and Tung-shan's Three Pounds of Flax.
He presents each koan, breaks down its historical relevance and then attempts to unravel its meaning. Many of the koans, as he explains, rely upon the reader to understand idioms of the Chinese language. Take, for example, Yen-kuan's Rhinoceros Fan. An English speaking reader wrestling with the koan would not likely know that Rhinoceros is interchangeable with the word "ox" and that the word ox is an allusion to the mind. Likewise, "fan" refers to permeation or sometimes(!) complications and "broken" refers to an enlightened experience.
Reading the book, I came away more frustrated with and allergic to koans than ever.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a difficult topic to write about and the author does the subject a decent job. His title shows that he appreciates the task at hand, and knows what koans are.Published on May 19, 2014 by Dennis E. Donham
If you only have time to read one book on Koans (kong-ans) this is it! The writing is clear, funny and very insightful. Read morePublished on March 21, 2011 by shoki
Koans, or kong-ans as they are called in the Korean tradition, have eluded many Zen practitioners since their inception. Read morePublished on December 29, 2010 by Adam Kō Shin Tebbe