|The Shit Paper
Wipe your own ass
In Zen, koans are used to give ultimate expression to the Dharma (truth). However, often these koans take the form of questions, like the following:
Suppose you are hanging in a tree, not able to use arms and legs, just with your teeth biting on a branch. If someone came and asked you for only one word to help him in his suffering, what would you do? If you do not answer, you ignore his request and can not help him. If you do answer, you will fall down from the tree and lose your life.
This situation might not strike us as very realistic, but don't we face situations every time where we are trapped - what ever we will do, it won't help. There is nothing we can do, but at the same time we have to do something. Our koan is: What can I do about this "myself" about which nothing can de done? If there is nothing that can be done, on the otherhand anything is possible. The purpose of the koan is to awaken us to the unlimited possibilities of the Dharma, and to put them into practice.
So, what is the answer to this koan? First, koans have no "answers". What ever you say, what ever you do, it will not do to "answer" the koan. If there is nothing to be done, than there is nothing that can't be done either. But still, the questions remains what you do and HOW you do it. There is no solution that would eliminate the problem and leave only "joy and peace forever".
"What am I going to do, right now, when nothing can be done" - this questioning itself is Dharma. "Why don't you try this, it might help you" - that kind of advice has nothing to do with Dharma. The instant you think "This is it!" - let it go, through it away, or it will not be Zen.
However, many "zen people" seem to think that finding the answers to koans, "passing" one after the other is the aim of Zen practice, and that Zazen was a means to help us concentrate on and "solve" the koans. Others say that you can "finish" your practice once you solve all 1700 koans.
Needless to say that this is not the case. There are no solutions to koans, and practice will never be finished. And Zazen is no means to help us solve a koan, it could rather be said that in Zen practice Zazen itself is our biggest koan. I think that is why it is said that "if you do Zazen, everything is finished!"
By the way, if we do not take care, this "if you do Zazen, everything is finished" will be understood as: "If we do Zazen, then everything will be fine." If we understand Zazen in that way, don't we try to give an half assed answer to the koan we are facing: What ever we will do, nothing will be fine! Even if we do Zazen, that will not be the final solution to our koan. Because Zazen is no solution: Zazen itself is the problem at hand. We always desperately try to be part of the solution so as not to be regarded a part of the problem - but in life being one with the problem is the solution itself. Nothing can be done about this me, myself, this moment, living here, in this reality, so what can I do? This problem itself is the Dharma, and to represent Dharma with our physical bodies is Zazen.
As long as WE DO Zazen, we won't find rest because we can not solve our problems. Only when the Dharma itself manifests the Dharma, when Zazen itself does Zazen, will we awake to that free and unlimited cosmic activity that works all around and inside us what ever we do.