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Seung Sahn, Zen Buddhism, the Secret of the Golden Flower, and life's koan

excerpted from THE WAY OF WONDER: a return to the mystery of ourselves, by Jack Haas




The Eastern, or Oriental, psyche has seemingly always had a clearer grasp of the subtler metaphysical undercurrents of ‘being’ as compared with the Occident’s more concrete, psychological makeup. And the East has broadcast these realizations in a much more cohesive structure than its western, theistic counterpart; from the Buddha in India, to Lao Tzu in China, to the Zen masters of Japan, there has run a stream of ‘detachment’ from and ‘transcendence’ above the conventional, or profane, vision of reality, and this has produced a concomitant distaste for the linear, rational mind.

           Thinkers in the East have for the most part considered all that ‘is’ as ‘illusion’, and so the ancient masters sought to show therefore that there was no liberation within the context of the illusory world, and thus only by stepping out of (that is, by escaping, or, rising above) the context and recognizing another whole way of seeing things did the individual emancipate him or herself from the limitations society's thought-structures imposed upon life.

This perspective has often, therefore, been divulged through paradoxical and absurd statements about conventional reality, a method that is so patently ‘eastern’.



“…the still deeper secret of the secret:

The land that is nowhere, that is the true home.”

The Secret of the Golden Flower



And yet since everywhere is nowhere (now-here), there is no need for one to physically escape life, but instead one can remain in the world while not being tainted by it, for, as Jiddu Krishnamurti pointed out, “...the innocent mind can live in the world which is not innocent.”

That is, in a world which is endlessly seeking to belittle the incredible mystery of being through its addiction to facts and ‘understandings’, an individual can still reverse the process and return to the untainted vision of incomprehension, as we have seen from the last two chapters.

           Thus, through the following quotes it can be seen that the mystic East has not simply recommended that one flee the world, escaping into the void, but the masters have instead often suggested that the mystery can and must exist in the cacophony of daily living; one need not seek out esoteric wisdom, or retreat to the monastery, but instead one can come to essential awe through the absence of every idea, understanding, and expectation, while dwelling calmly in the midst of life's myriad ‘things’.

            It is our false views of the world that lead to our erroneous participation within it. The eastern adepts have therefore realized that the struggle to be released from the sorrow of life comes from the misconception that we are trapped in the sorrow of life; the misconception is conception itself, by which we are ‘conceived’ into the trap that is not there.

Zen Master Yuanwu asserts, “Once the ground of mind is clarified, there is no obstruction at all- you shed views and interpretations that are based on concepts such as victory and defeat, self and others, right and wrong.”

Regarding the ‘shedding of views’, one method employed in Zen Buddhism, as an attempt to liberate the mind from its conventional fetters, is the koan. The purpose of these illogical puzzles- the koans- is to strategically disarm the individual's conventional reason, rendering a state of hopeless exasperation, because the koan, being a rationally unsolvable, solutionless conundrum, drives the individual into the precarious realm of ambiguous uncertainty- a state which normally the mind, through inveterate tendency, would do anything within its power to deny or avoid, or would invent an answer rather than be left with no answer at all. And so, by the method of the koan, the mind is tricked into the inescapable sense and acceptance of absolute non-understanding. An example of a koan is the oft quoted “what is the sound of one hand clapping?”

           When an individual, struggling with the meaninglessness of one of these problems, finally comes to the state of confounded bewilderment, they have arrived exactly at the place within themselves where they were intended to be all along- they have rediscovered ignorant wondering. Then all that is necessary is to, “Keep that don’t-know mind”, as suggested by Seung Sahn.


excerpted from:


way of wonder, sacred geometry, sri yantra



THE WAY OF WONDER: a return to the mystery of ourselves

by Jack Haas

author Jack Haas, Canadian, American writer, artist, photographer














Mystical books, visionary art, and fine art photography by Jack Haas




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