Of Koans and Mantras

This article will touch on Koans and Mantrams as tools for arriving at the space of unmanifest.

One of the most famous koan is "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"

From Wikipedia, and this meaning approximates the meaning of the koan in the East..." A Koan consists of a story, dialogue, question, or statement whose meaning cannot be accessed by rational thinking, yet it may be accessible by intuition"

A Zen Master gives the student a koan as a tool to arrive at a state of being-ness. Sometimes it takes years to solve one koan.

The answer is neither logical nor illogical. It is a measure of the state of mind of the student. This state of mind is what the Zen master pays attention to when the student comes to him to present his solution.

It follows that two students given the same koan will give different answers. The answer does not have to be a lengthy explanation, sometimes it is an action, a grunt, or silence.

The object of the koan is to quiet the mind which is normally so full of thoughts. Exhaust the logical thinking mind and in so doing arrive at the place, without thought. This is the place of the unmanifest. It is also the place/space we want to access when we earnestly desire for something material.

In several religious traditions mantras are used instead of koans. The objective is the same.

There is an excellent book by Eknath Easwaran called "The Mantram Handbook"

In it he outlines only the most popular ones for different religions. When a mantram is incorporated into the being of the person, his mind is quieted. It is in this space where creation occurs.

We normally do this in the popular culture using visualization/affrimation techniques. Strictly speaking, these are techniques/tools to "bridge" the gap between the conscious and the subconscious. It is the subconscious that does the work.

One can create his own mantram. For example, one can use "Hail Mary" or "Hare Krishna" or "Om" or "Ram" or "Kyrie Eleison" .  In fact the name of God in different languages is sufficient. You can choose yours.

Caution: It is possible to "get lost" while doing the mantrams and koans so it is advisable to use these techniques only when you are in a safe place and there is no demand for your attention. It is not advisable to do this while driving or operating heavy machinery.

The paradox is that when we arrive at this space, there is absolute peace and there is nothing to be desired except union with God. All the other material desires vanish.

© 2010 by Melinda M. Sorensson

Note: mantrams and mantras are used interchangeably in the literature

Comments 18 comments

AlexK2009 profile image

AlexK2009 6 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

A valuable article. I found it most interesting. Thanks


Sidney Clouston 6 years ago

This article is all good, but for me Zazen is Meditation on Mu. My single focus is in the breath and feeling the pause

after inhales, A slight pause at the pause after the inhales is like a silent mantra, but after some time you let it go. Why? "Those who know do not speak and those who speak (Mantras) do not know." Namaste Dr. Sorensson


Sidney Clouston 6 years ago

This article is all good, but for me Zazen is Meditation on Mu. My single focus is in the breath and feeling the pause

after inhales, A slight pause at the pause after the inhales is like a silent mantra, but after some time you let it go. Why? "Those who know do not speak and those who speak (Mantras) do not know." Namaste Dr. Sorensson


msorensson profile image

msorensson 6 years ago Author

Thanks, Alex


msorensson profile image

msorensson 6 years ago Author

Hello, Sidney,

It is a rare privilege to be given a mantra or a koan to work with, for the giver assumes part responsibility for giving you the mantra or a koan. It is as it is.

Mine was, "A Woman with Split Soul"

It took me 10 years.

Namaste.


msorensson profile image

msorensson 6 years ago Author

Hello Sidney,

The objective of both the mantra and the koan are the same. To quiet the mind. To some, those who use pure intellect the koan is more apt. However there are some who would benefit more when they utter the mantra.

Kind regards,

Melinda


Ashmi profile image

Ashmi 6 years ago from Somewhere out there

The important thing to remember about these "devices" is that they are a tool in order to keep all other thoughts out.

By constantly keeping the koan or prayer etc in mind eventually you lose the sense of separation as you become one with it. The koan vanishes as you become one with it; and your sense of "I" also goes. You merge with the all and the all becomes yourself.


msorensson profile image

msorensson 6 years ago Author

Yes, Ashmi, pefect description. You use them to silence the chatter of the mind.

Thank you!!


billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 6 years ago

Melinda you are such a great source of wisdom with anything meditative - thank you for sharing.


msorensson profile image

msorensson 6 years ago Author

Thank you Billy~~


Hopmoney wizard profile image

Hopmoney wizard 6 years ago from barak

this is interesting. this is new to me. good hub msrensson


msorensson profile image

msorensson 6 years ago Author

Thank you, Hopmoney :-)


katiem2 profile image

katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

This is most intriguing. Is this similar to finding the space of nothingness that is between everything yet so hard to enjoy, know and experience? I enjoyed your Of Koans and Mantras I must return after I have let this settle into my being. Peace :)


msorensson profile image

msorensson 6 years ago Author

The koans and mantras are supposed quiet our minds. The analogy would be Jehoshaphat clanging his cymbals is order for him not to hear himself talking.

You will know when you are still. The chatter has ceased. Thank you for dropping by. Peace :-)


katiem2 profile image

katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

Oh I get it, now it's the gap of silence between all the noise that goes on around us, within us and the space between is where we go breaking from all distraction especially the chatter within our own minds. I think I understand. Peace :)


msorensson profile image

msorensson 6 years ago Author

Yes!!!!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

Thank you Melinda for a very lucid and simple explanation of these important ideas and practices.

Love and peace

Tony


msorensson profile image

msorensson 6 years ago Author

Thank you Tony for visiting. Much appreciated. Incidentally, I was just thinking of you and yours happens to be Kyrie Eleison.

Warmest regards,

Melinda

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