ko•an [From the Japanese ko ("public") and an ("proposition")]
A paradox to be meditated upon that is used to train Zen Buddhist monks to abandon ultimate dependence on reason and to force them into gaining sudden intuitive enlightenment

Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine.
Shunryu Suzuki

Zen is a way of liberation, concerned not with discovering what is good or bad or advantageous, but what is.
Alan Watts

A monk asked: "Master, how do you put enlightenment into action? How do you practice it in everyday life?"
The master replied: "By eating and by sleeping."
The monk said: "But Master, everybody eats and everybody sleeps."
The master replied: "But not everybody eats when they eat and not everybody sleeps when they sleep."
Zen Mondo

If I should give you a statement that would teach you how to achieve Zen immediately, dirt would already be spread on top of your head. To grasp Zen you must experience it. If you have not experienced it, do not pretend to know. You should withdraw inwardly and search for the ground upon which you stand. Thereby you will find out what Truth is.
Yun-Men

The purpose of a fish trap is to catch fish,
and when the fish is caught the trap is forgotten.
The purpose of a rabbit snare is to catch rabbits,
and when the rabbits are caught the snare is forgotten.
The purpose of words is to convey ideas.
When the ideas are grasped, the words are forgotten.
Where can I find a man who has forgotten words?
He is the one I would like to talk to.
Chuang-tzu, circa 369-286 BC


Only the paradox comes anywhere near to the comprehending fullness of life.
C.G. Jung

The reverse side also has a reverse side.
Japanese Proverb

People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.
Albert Einstein

Some people will never learn anything... because they understand everything too soon.
Alexander Pope

A frontier is never a place; it is a time and a way of life.
Hal Borland

One day Chao-chou fell down in the snow and called out, "Help me up! Help me up!"
A monk came and lay down beside him. Chao-chou got up and went away.
Zen story

Reality is a flowing. This does not mean that everything moves, changes, becomes. Science and common experience tell us that. It means that movement, change, becoming is everything that there is. There is nothing else; everything is movement, is change. The time that we ordinarily think about is not real time, but a picture of space.
Henri-Louis Bergson

If you wish to know the road up the mountain,
You must ask the man who goes back and forth on it.
Zen saying

To be truly ignorant, be content with your own knowledge.
Chuang-tzu, circa 369-286 BC

The three worlds are only mind;
All things are simply perception.
Zen saying

The water a cow drinks turns to milk;
The water a snake drinks turns to poison.
Zen saying

Stones rise up in the sky,
Fire burns down through the water.
Zen saying

Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana.
Ah, the imprecision of language.


Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things.
Miyamoto Musashi

It is the consistency of principle that when form changes, the mind and ch'i change with it. Principle has no form, but exists within ch'i.
The Demon's Sermon on the Martial Arts

The important thing in strategy is to suppress the enemy's useful actions but allow his useless actions.
Miyamoto Musashi

The primary thing when you take a sword in your hands is your intention to cut the enemy, whatever the means. Whenever you parry, hit, spring, strike or touch the enemy's cutting sword, you must cut the enemy in the same movement. It is essential to attain this. If you think only of hitting, springing, striking or touching the enemy, you will not be able actually to cut him.
Miyamoto Musashi

Attack along the line of least expectation, and tactically along the line of least resistance.
B.H. Liddell Hart, summarizing William T. Sherman.

sword and dagger


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Last updated June 11, 2016