The Natural Koan
By Shawn Nevins
owe this phrase to
, who wrote that the
Zen Master Bassui
natural koan, "Who is the master?" This koan arose from the depths
of Bassui's longing for an answer to life's mystery. Bassui could
not forget his natural koan, as it was a part of him, and the quest
for an answer propelled him to a total realization of his true
nature. Unfortunately, Kapleau and many others never acknowledged
the importance of every seeker discovering their natural koan.
Within each of us is a question that begs an answer. "Why am I
miserable?" "What is love?" "How can I find peace?" "Is there life
after death?" "What is the purpose of life?" "Am I awake or
dreaming?" "Who am I?" "What am I?" "What do I really want?" "Why am
I here?" "What is thought?" "Where does thought come from?" "What is
Real?" "What lasts?" These are just a few natural koans.
Everyone has a natural koan and it is in this sense that all
people have a spiritual path. All people have some question that
"bugs" them. Some people attempt to answer it, some give up hope,
but most procrastinate.
Sit alone one day and write out the questions that concern you.
Look for the one that feels most important and imagine how you might
feel if you answered it. You can answer it - this I know. Begin to
search. Read everything you can find on the matter, talk to others,
practice methods and develop your own. Allow your self (your life)
to follow your heart and not the currents of the world around you.
This is how the search becomes yours, and how you learn to really
pray. Prayer for an answer rather than a predetermined result. Be
open to the truth rather than accepting only what your
mind/ego/personality wishes and creates.
Beware someone advising you that your
question is not a "real" koan. They may say, "What you really should
be asking is...." Listen to what they say, but if it doesn't strike
you, then forget it. Stick to the question that has meaning for you.
There is a door between you and Truth. You have the question to ask
Likewise, don't fall into the trap of pursuing a question
because, "I think I should be asking it." Some people are so filled
with shoulds they ignore the fire in their heart. You must follow
your deep fascination. People have reluctantly told me that, "Asking
'who is the thinker' doesn't really interest me." Good. Drop it.
Discarding what doesn't interest you is a way to find what does.
Your natural koan may be discarded, as well. For example, my
first koan was "Why am I so miserable?" I first tried physical
answers to the question: maybe I need more money, a new place to
live, or more fun. As I explored and rejected physical solutions, I
moved toward psychological answers: trying to change my reaction
patterns, my mental habits, and ways I view the world. Finally, as I
was forced to dig deeper into who I was, I looked for solutions
involving the very nature of the world, matter, and my self. Thus,
"Why am I so miserable?" evolved into "What is the source of the
thoughts that lead to misery?" and "Is there anything about me that
is permanent?" then, finally, "What is the Truth?"
It was not that I solved each koan, but that each was gradually
discarded in light of revelations as to where the ultimate answer
I believe that any question, pursued with the idea of arriving at
complete certainty regarding the answer, will lead to a spiritual
realization. The problem is in unearthing the determination to
follow the question to its end. Your natural koan will lead you ever