Zen Koans Explained: The Final Koan

Hamilton Nolan · 12/19/14 04:45PM

"I have blogged for so very long," caterwauled the dunce, "yet still the people do not embrace the zen!" Enraged, he "dropped the mic," which turned out to be a rubber Super Bounce ball. At that, he achieved enlightenment—right on the noggin!

Zen Koans Explained: "Publishing the Sutras"

Hamilton Nolan · 12/12/14 03:50PM

IF a man has walked the stony path and IF he has seen the rising sun and IF he has sipped from the frigid waters and IF he has trod upon the rolling hills THEN and ONLY THEN may he—Eric? Eric. I'm literally doing a thing, right here. Stop.

Zen Koans Explained: "The Silent Temple"

Hamilton Nolan · 11/21/14 03:23PM

What is the wind? Is it a fluid, like water? Is it, like, fire, which would be some sort of magic, or maybe, not a solid, but the other—a gas?—or a category of "heat thing" that is named for its temperature, because what else would you even call it? It's almost a fluid as well, which would be ironic. Anyhow. Is it

Zen Koans Explained: "A Letter to a Dying Man"

Hamilton Nolan · 11/14/14 04:38PM

Pour one glass of water into another. Now ask yourself: how can you tell which water came from the first glass, and which from the second? As you think about this, you're struck by a bird. The bird survives—but never forgets.

Zen Koans Explained: "Is That So?"

Hamilton Nolan · 11/07/14 03:04PM

"Teach a man to fish, and he'll eat forever!" the man said brightly, extending his fishing pole towards me. Man—or machine? This was the worst visit to Disneyland's animatronic Country Bear Jamboree I'd had yet. And I'd had a few.

Zen Koans Explained: "The Most Valuable Thing in the World"

Hamilton Nolan · 10/24/14 04:01PM

"Walk the walk," we are often told by shallow thinkers. They presume this to be a metaphor for sincerity. They forget the footless. They neglect the legless. The rebuke the bottomless. The topless? "You can stay," says the horny fool, shallowly.

Zen Koans Explained: "Great Waves"

Hamilton Nolan · 10/17/14 03:20PM

To cast aspersions on another man is as easy as casting sand upon the water. What are you doing there, alone at the seaside, casting sand upon the water? Some kind of pervert?

Zen Koans Explained: "The Giver Should Be Thankful"

Hamilton Nolan · 10/10/14 02:22PM

Many people out walking have stepped on snakes, and recoiled in horror. How many of those people tried instead "leaning in" to the step, so that the pressure on the snake was increased, snapping his spine more cleanly? Only a select few.

Zen Koans Explained: "Open Your Own Treasure House"

Hamilton Nolan · 09/26/14 02:34PM

Simple people often gape at commentators on their television sets as a monkey might gaze in awe at a Teddy Ruxpin doll. The wise man, meanwhile, studies cassette tapes; data blogs; things of that nature.

Zen Koans Explained: "Happy Chinaman"

Hamilton Nolan · 09/19/14 03:49PM

We often call a mischievous child a "scamp." Is that really fair? Do they "scamper" away from us by choice—or because we chase them, with an axe? We must remember that we ourselves are part of nature, along with the scamps we chop.

Zen Koans Explained: "Just Go to Sleep"

Hamilton Nolan · 09/12/14 02:22PM

Two men walking towards one another meet in a narrow hallway, wide enough for only one to pass. "Ladies first," says one man, slyly. A riddle: What is the other man's reply? A hint: Women have not been invented.

Zen Koans Explained: "The Voice of Happiness"

Hamilton Nolan · 09/05/14 02:23PM

Two enemies are locked together in a small room. As time goes by, they gradually lose their hatred of one another and become friends At last, the door to the room is unlocked. Don't want to jinx it, but it sounds like things turned out just fine?

Zen Koans Explained: "The Living Buddha & the Tubmaker"

Hamilton Nolan · 08/29/14 01:30PM

"Do the twist." Would that it were so easy. "Do the twist," says the recording. The simulacrum of sound. Deaf dumb and blind. A real human would know that you can't twist very well. Look at you.

Zen Koans Explained: "If You Love, Love Openly"

Hamilton Nolan · 08/22/14 03:25PM

True story: I once—true story—knew a man who spoke to god. "God told me we're all just a tiny piece of dust on his shoe," the man said. True story. I was shocked!

Zen Koans Explained: "Everything Is Best"

Hamilton Nolan · 08/15/14 01:57PM

Drudgery makes a mockery of mankind's natural enthusiasm for life. The boy becomes a bent old man; the girl becomes a weathered crone; the fresh pasta is ground down to paste. Paste makes a fool of the child. It never fulfills its purpose. It smears.

Zen Koans Explained: "Not Far From Buddhahood"

Hamilton Nolan · 08/01/14 01:56PM

A bowl of milk is placed on the ground. A cat is invited to drink. As he does, a poor man walks by. He gazes at the milk longingly. The cat looks up and the cat is like... I don't think so, lol.

Zen Koans Explained: "Reciting Sutras"

Hamilton Nolan · 07/25/14 01:41PM

Let me tell you a story. You will, won't you? Of course. You fail to realize that your passive "letting" of me is akin to a fierce tiger allowing itself to be led by a leash. And that is where our story begins—inside the urethra of a tiger.

Zen Koans Explained: "Subjugation of a Ghost"

Hamilton Nolan · 07/11/14 02:12PM

Love, some say, is pain. They shout this out, at inopportune times, like during dinner parties, or at the weddings of acquaintances. "Love is pain!" they holler. Few believe that this is because of Tourrette Syndrome, though it could plausibly be so.

Zen Koans Explained: "What Are You Doing! What Are You Saying!"

Hamilton Nolan · 07/03/14 01:34PM

Why do people watch horror movies? Why do people ride roller coasters? The fact is, we like to be scared. What if I said something scary right now—would you like it? Well, I won't. I don't like you in the same way you like me.