Zen Koans Explained: "The Dead Man's Answer"

Come closer. Closer now. Look into my eyes. Look very deeply. In the very depths of their blackness, you will see: a tiny monkey. How was that? Did that sound zen? Cause I can tweak it however you guys want it.

The koan: "The Dead Man's Answer"

When Mamiya, who later became a well-known preacher, went to a teacher for personal guidance, he was asked to explain the sound of one hand.

Mamiya concentrated upon what the sound of one hand might be. "You are not working hard enough," his teacher told him. "You are too attached to food, wealth, things, and that sound. It would be better if you died. That would solve the problem."

The next time Mamiya appeared before his teacher he was again asked what he had to show regarding the sound of one hand. Mamiya at once fell over as if he were dead.

"You are dead all right," observed the teacher, "But how about that sound?"

"I haven't solved that yet," replied Mamiya, looking up.

"Dead men do not speak," said the teacher. "Get out!"

The enlightenment: "Acting class is so boring," Mamiya thought. Years later he got into all the Zen stuff.

This has been "Zen Koans Explained." Reach for your shovel.

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