Cover image for Opening a mountain : kōans of the Zen Masters
Opening a mountain : kōans of the Zen Masters
Heine, Steven, 1950-
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Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xiv, 200 pages : map ; 24 cm
Surveying mountain landscapes -- Contesting with irregular rivals -- Encountering supernatural forces -- Wielding symbols of authority and transmission -- Confessional experiences.
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BQ9289.5 .H438 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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With the growing popularity of Zen Buddhism in the West, virtually everyone knows, or thinks they know, what a koan is: a brief and baffling question or statement that cannot be solved by the logical mind and which, after sustained concentration, can lead to sudden enlightenment. But the truthabout koans is both simpler--and more complicated--than this. In Opening a Mountain, Steven Heine shows that koans, and the questions we associate with them--such as "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"--are embedded in larger narratives and belong to an ancient Buddhist tradition of "encounter dialogues." These dialogues feature dramatic and ofteninscrutable contests between masters and disciples, or between masters and an array of natural and supernatural forces: rouge priests, "wild foxes," hermits, wizards, shapeshifters, magical animals, and dangerous women. To establish a new monastery, "to open a mountain," the Zen master had to tamethese wild forces in regions most remote from civilization. In these extraordinary encounters, fingers and arms are cut off, pitchers are kicked over, masters appear in and interpret each other's dreams, and seemingly absurd statements are shown to reveal the deepest insights. Heine restores thesekoans to their original traditions, allowing readers to see both the complex elements of Chinese culture and religion that they reflect and the role they played in Zen's transformation of local superstitions into its own teachings. Offering a fresh approach to one of the most crucial elements of Zen Buddhism, Opening a Mountain is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the full story behind koans and the mysterious worlds they come from.

Author Notes

Steven Heine is Professor of Religious Studies and History at Florida International University.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Koans are paradoxical statements intended to derail mental business-as-usual for the Zen Buddhist student on the journey to enlightenment. A book about koans at first glance seems itself paradoxical, since it requires the cognitive discrimination that koans seek to upend. Yet the tradition of koans comprises centuries of commentary by students and masters, which records the mental wrestling that koan use embodies. With this study, Heine, a professor of religious studies and history at Florida International University, augments his own contribution to Zen studies, which already consists of a dozen books. Heine organizes koans from a variety of sources to illustrate the Chinese and Japanese historical contexts from which the koan "canon" emerged. He argues that koans play upon, and with, elements of the supernatural that prevailed in the popular religious traditions that Zen encountered and transformed. His 60 selected koans, for which he provides his own prose translations, support his thesis and distinguish yet another interpretive strand in the bundle of non-dualistic possibilities entangled in the koan. This is not a book for the nightstand Buddhist; readers educated in Buddhist thought, however, can better appreciate the whimsical and formidable discipline that koans represent and cultivate. This book is a respectful and respectable contribution to the growing body of contemporary Buddhist studies at a time when Buddhism is establishing a vital presence in the American religious landscape. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Sourcesp. xi
Prefacep. xiii
Introduction: What Are Koans?p. 1
Sticks and Stones, but It's No-Names That Hurtp. 1
On the Conventional Understanding of Koansp. 4
Marvelous and Ritual Elements in Koansp. 5
The Case of Chu-chih Cutting Off a Fingerp. 9
The Mythological Background of Koan Literaturep. 13
Zen Masters and Their Mountainsp. 20
Koan Themes and Sourcesp. 25
Themesp. 26
Sourcesp. 28
On Reading Koansp. 30
1. Surveying Mountain Landscapesp. 37
Northern and Ox Head Schoolsp. 39
1. Yuan-kuei Subdues the Mountain Godp. 39
2. Tao-shu and the Tricksterp. 41
3. Master Chiang-mo, Subjugator of Demonsp. 42
4. Does Niu-t'ou Need the Flowers?p. 44
Southern Schoolp. 46
5. Pai-chang Meditates On Ta-hsiung Peakp. 46
6. Kuei-shan Kicks Over the Water Pitcherp. 48
7. Te-shan Carrying His Bundlep. 51
8. Nan-ch'uan Sweeping On a Mountainp. 55
9. Hsuan-sha's "One Luminous Pearl"p. 57
Tung-shan's Mountainp. 58
10. Tung-shan's "Two Clay Oxen Enter the Sea"p. 58
11. Yun-yen's "Non-Sentient Beings Can Hear It"p. 60
12. Yun-chu Wandering the Mountainsp. 62
Mount Wu-t'aip. 64
13. "Iron Grindstone" Liu Goes to Mount Wu-t'aip. 64
14. Manjusri's "Three by Three"p. 66
15. Pi-mo's "You Shall Die from My Pitchfork"p. 70
2. Contesting with Irregular Rivalsp. 73
Hermits, Wizards, and Other Mastersp. 75
16. P'u-hua Kicks Over the Dining Tablep. 75
17. The Tripitaka Monk Claims to Read Others' Mindsp. 77
18. A Hermit's "The Mountain Torrent Runs Deep, So the Ladle Is Long"p. 80
19. Chao-chou Checks Out Two Hermitsp. 82
20. Hsueh-feng's "What Is This?"p. 84
21. Jui-yen Calls Out to Himself, "Master"p. 87
22. Ti-tsang Planting the Fieldsp. 89
Dangerous Women: Zen "Grannies" and Nunsp. 91
23. Chao-chou Checks Out an Old Womanp. 91
24. Te-shan and the Woman Selling Rice Cakesp. 94
25. Mo-shan Opens Her Mouthp. 96
26. Chao-chou Recites the Sutrasp. 98
3. Encountering Supernatural Forcesp. 101
Trance, Visions, and Dreamsp. 103
27. A Woman Comes Out of Absorptionp. 103
28. Huang-po's "Gobblers of Dregs"p. 106
29. Sermon from the Third Seatp. 109
30. Kuei-shan Turns His Face to the Wallp. 111
Spirits, Gods, and Bodhisattvasp. 114
31. P'u-chi Subdues the Hearth Godp. 114
32. Nan-ch'uan Is Greeted by the Earth-Deityp. 116
33. The Tea Ceremony at Chao-ch'ingp. 118
34. Hu-kuo's Three Embarrassmentsp. 121
35. Yun-chu and the Spiritsp. 123
36. The World Honored One Ascends the High Seatp. 125
Magical Animalsp. 127
37. A Snake Appears in the Relic Boxp. 127
38. Pai-chang and the Wild Foxp. 129
39. Ta-kuang Does a Dancep. 133
40. Hsueh-feng and the Turtle-Nosed Snakep. 136
4. Wielding Symbols of Authority and Transmissionp. 141
Symbols of Authorityp. 143
41. Chih-men's "I Have This Power"p. 143
42. Yun-men's Staff Changes into a Dragonp. 145
43. Kan-feng's Single Routep. 147
44. The Hermit of Lotus Flower Peak Holds Up His Staffp. 150
45. Ch'ing-yuan Raises His Fly-Whiskp. 153
Transmission Symbolsp. 156
46. Hui-neng's Immovable Robep. 156
47. Tung-shan Makes Offerings Before the Imagep. 159
48. Prime Minister P'ei-hsiu Replies, "Yes"p. 161
49. Yang-shan's "Just About Enough"p. 164
5. Confessional Experiences: Giving Life and Controlling Deathp. 169
Repentance and Self-Mutilationp. 171
50. Chih-yen Converts a Hunterp. 171
51. Chu-chih's One Finger Zenp. 173
52. Nalakuvara Broke His Bones and Tore His Fleshp. 176
53. Bodhidharma Pacifies the Mindp. 177
54. Hui-k'o Absolves Sinp. 180
55. Dogen Disciplines Monk Gemmyop. 182
Death, Relics, and Ghostsp. 184
56. A Woman's True Soul?p. 184
57. P'u-hua Passes Awayp. 187
58. Jiu-feng Does Not Concurp. 189
59. A Hermit Seeks to be Savedp. 192
60. Tao-wu Makes a Condolence Callp. 193
Zen Figures Citedp. 197