Zen Parables

Essay by irishangel253High School, 10th grade May 2004

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{Research paper for English class. Uses paraphrasing and cited works. Very well written. Didn't recieve a grade. Focuses on Zen Parables (koans), but also talks about Zen Buddhism. (5 pages, 1,252 words)}

Zen parables, also called koans, are "stories or questions meant for reflection between a master and his student. They substitute meditation, self-contemplation, and intuition for faith and devotion" (Marinello 1). Koans are the means by which one must achieve enlightenment.

So what is Zen? "Zen is a Buddhist sect primarily in China and Japan that uses a particular from of meditation and mental practice to end suffering and achieve enlightenment in this lifetime. These practices often consist of reflecting on the meaning of koans" (Byrne 6). While Westerners can adopt these beliefs and practices, they make little sense outside the context of zazen and in the company of other students and under the guidance of a master.

"Zazen is simply Zen meditation. It is sitting in which one cuts all connections with the external world and lets go of all concerns within" (Roshi 1). Often, koans are sifted through the thought process when students practice zazen.

In order to acquire a deeper understanding of what exactly koans are and how they are used, one must first learn a little more of Zen's guidelines.

If Zen has an essence, it is to be found not by uncovering any truth that may be hidden to others, but by having an attitude to life that is at the same time playful yet disciplined, sophisticated yet quite simple, full of tradition and yet completely spontaneous. Such contradictions are essential to Zen: the student strives for enlightenment, but to become enlightened, one must give up all striving. To further complicate things, no eternal self exists to enlighten anyway. On the other hand,