- Religion and Philosophy
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