Monday, April 9, 2012

Passing A Koan ...

... a Big Book Koan at that!

Part of me once wondered if there were any koans in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Over time, rather than trying to search for them, they appeared to me. "Hey, this sounds like it might be a good koan," I told myself. So I took my ideas to one of my teachers, David Weinstein Roshi. He gave me some rewriting suggestions and then he asked me for the answers! Gulp. No hiding here...this was just like dokusan (we call it Work In The Room), the exchanges between teacher and student...except this time it was via emails.

The following shows how the questioning took place. Hopefully this may take a little mystery out of the way one "passes" a koan with a teacher. The end result is not like receiving a good grade from the teacher, it's more about "actualizing" the koan...finding one's place with the koan and discovering one's place right now.

Here's an example of a Big Book koan:

“Deep down in every man, woman, and child, is the fundamental idea of God.” (Page 55 in Alcoholics Anonymous). Show me the fundamental idea of God.

Before reading on, I suggest you turn your computer off for a while and sit with this koan alone. See where it takes you. And then, after you feel at ease with it all, come back and continue reading how this went for me...

These are a series of emails over several days, beginning with David.

David: So show me the fundamental idea of God.

Bill: "In today's local newspaper!

There is an article about the birthing center's 3000th baby (two of my grand children were born there).

There is an article about a 12 Step friend who has a local recording studio.

There is the obit of another 12 Step friend who took his life last Wednesday, the
same day I had my heart procedure.

David: Show about something more intimate?

Bill: Maybe it's the way I described it.

1) Last Wednesday when I learned that my friend had taken his life (BTW, he didn't go out...but was experiencing a deep, dark, depression) I wrote this:

the voices got their way
convincing my friend
to pull the trigger
the voices got their way
on this very day
as the doctor was mending my heart
others' were breaking

2) When I read the article about the birthing center I was reliving the times we saw our grand kids only hours old.

3) When I read about my 12 Step friend and his recording studio, I felt good thoughts about his success and our friendship in the fellowship.

When I wrote you, while reading the local paper, I found myself holding all three of these examples together and felt really alive and grateful.

David: Ah...feeling alive & grateful...that's it. What else?

Bill: More than feeling alive and grateful...

The examples I have given are the fundamental idea of God.

These are examples of my life.

I am the fundamental idea of God.

David: So...if that's true, then what else?

Bill: God is the fundamental idea of me. Like we say we are all Buddhas.

David: Forget about ideas, show me the fact, in a different way than you have.

Bill: Mmmmmmm, sip (good tasting coffee) is the idea of God.

David: What about bad tasting coffee?

Bill: Sip (who made this coffee anyway?) is the idea of God, too.

David: Alright!

- - -

It was right there in front of me all the time. That's what we have. Our life is right here.


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