In this Book

Zen Koans
summary
“What is the sound of one hand clapping?” “Does a dog have Buddha-nature?” These cryptic expressions are among the best-known examples of koans, the confusing, often contradictory sayings that form the centerpiece of Zen Buddhist learning and training. Viewed as an ideal method for attaining and transmitting an unimpeded experience of enlightenment, they became the main object of study in Zen meditation, where their contemplation was meant to exhaust the capacity of the rational mind and the expressiveness of speech. Koan compilations, which include elegant poetic and eloquent prose commentaries on cryptic dialogues, are part of a great literary tradition in China, Japan, and Korea that appealed to intellectuals who sought spiritual fulfillment through interpreting elaborate rhetoric related to mysterious metaphysical exchanges. By focusing on two main facets of the religious themes expressed in koan records—individual religious attainment and the role dialogues play in maintaining order in the monastic system—Zen Koans reveals the distinct yet interlocking levels of meaning reflected in different koan case records and helps make sense of the seemingly nonsensical.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
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  1. Title Page, Copyright
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  1. Contents
  2. pp. v-vi
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  1. Editor’s Preface
  2. pp. vii-viii
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  1. Acknowledgments
  2. pp. ix-x
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  1. Introduction: The Koan Is My Koan
  2. pp. 1-6
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  1. 1. Origins, Functions, and Modern Receptions of Koans: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives
  2. pp. 7-35
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  1. 2. Developmental Stages and Rhetorical Strategies: A Historical Overview
  2. pp. 36-69
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  1. 3. On Methods to the Madness of Koans: A New Theory of Interpretation
  2. pp. 70-96
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  1. 4. Personal Transformation: Cases Reflecting Doubt, Experience, and Expression
  2. pp. 97-128
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  1. 5. Monastic Transmission: Cases Reflecting Mythology, Monasticism, and Succession
  2. pp. 129-159
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  1. 6. Whither Koans, or Wither? Current Trends and Possible New Directions
  2. pp. 160-188
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  1. Appendix: Koan Case Catalog
  2. pp. 189-192
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  1. Suggested Readings
  2. pp. 193-196
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  1. About the Author
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  1. Back Cover
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