The historical meaning of the Japanese word koan is roughly “the place where the truth is declared.” In Zen, a koan is a paradox or problem that is insoluble by means of discursive thought. Most koans are the sayings of the great Zen masters of the past, who used them on their students to open their minds to the truth of Zen.

What, then, is the deeper meaning of these koans and how can they help us to find the insight that brings lasting peace and fulfilment? Master Daito Kokushi (1280 – 1348) gave us the key when he emphasized to his students: “Not one of the 1700 koans of Zen has any other purpose than to make us see our Original Face.”

Seeing your Original Face doesn’t require any effort but it does require you to turn your attention and look in the opposite direction to which we’re all accustomed. And the good news is, that just by holding your attention there — long enough, with a completely open mind — the awesome and liberating understanding will break through. Are you willing to give it a try?

Yes?! Okay then, point at something nearby and look You are observing a ‘thing’. In other words, at this range it has form, color, opacity …

Now point at something else. The floor, for example. Observe that it too, at this range, is a ‘thing’.

Point at your shoe. Another ‘thing’.

Point at your torso — yet another ‘thing’. At this range it too has form, color, opacity …

We now come to the most important part — turning your attention round 180 degrees and looking back at the place you are looking out of. Point back at the place where others see your face. (Actually do this.) You’re now pointing at the one place that’s no distance from you.

What do you see?

Are you pointing at another thing now? Going by present evidence, not by memory or imagination, is there any color, shape, opacity or ‘thingness’ here? Do you see your face here? Do you see eyes or cheeks or chin here?

Put aside assumptions and expectations and look as if for the first time. Only you are in a position to see what you are at center, since you alone are your side of your pointing finger. Don’t rely on what you think is there. Rely on looking.

Here’s my experience. Where others see my face, I see nothing. There’s my pointing finger with the room beyond it, but here where it’s pointing is nothing — no face, no eyes, no cheeks, no teeth. I’m looking out of space, clearness, transparency, emptiness, In fact, I am this space, this clearness.

In this spacious emptiness is now presented my finger, the scene beyond, various tickles and itches, passing thoughts and feelings.

Keep pointing at — and looking at — the place where others see your face. Be curious and attentive. What’s the nature of this place you’ve assumed is solid, head-shaped, human? Rely directly on your present experience, not on thinking. Don’t assume you know and therefore needn’t look. Don’t take other people’s view of you from several metres as reliable evidence for what you are at center. Have an open mind and take a fresh look at yourself.

You’re now seeing who you really are. ‘But I see nothing!’ you may object. Yes, I see nothing too. But this is a very special nothing. For a start it’s awake — awake to itself as no-thing. (It’s not an unconscious nothing, unaware of itself, dead.)

It’s also a no-thing that’s awake to what it contains — which is everything, from your pointing finger to the stars in the night sky. This empty space is room for the universe. You are that space and all it embraces. But you may find that seeing your no-thingness isn’t ‘wow’ experience. That’s alright. It doesn’t have to be dramatic. We’re simply paying attention to what is given … or not given.

We’re not trying to generate mystical feelings or get high. That may or may not happen. In fact, exciting mystical experiences can sometimes confuse the issue, diverting us from the simplicity and truth at center into those attractive states of body and mind.

A seeing friend once shared with me a letter he received from an American friend who is the Zen abbot of a temple in Japan.

“Last night,” the abbot wrote, “I was visited by a man I didn’t know very well and he noticed a calligraphic scroll I had hanging, with only the character for ‘MU’ (nothingness) on it. He asked, ‘Toler san, have you ever entered the world of MU?’ I said, ‘Yes. Many times.’ He then asked, ‘How can you do it? At what times do you do it?’ I said, ‘Oh, you can do it anytime.’ He asked, ‘How?’

“So I led him through the pointing exercise. When I came to the question, ‘Now, what do you see at the place where your finger is pointing?’ he said, ‘Nothing.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s MU, isn’t it?’ He thought about that for about ten seconds, then suddenly laughed loudly and clapped his hands and said, ‘I’ve been pondering that for years, and you showed me in a minute!’ and thanked me profusely.”

~ by Richard Lang. To read the complete article, >>>Click Here

~ We’re privileged that Richard will visit ua again shortly to give special pressentations on the Headless Way at several venues across Australia.

He’ll give an evening talk at Suffolk Park, Byron Bay, NSW, (Fri. Mar. 30th). Then a 2-day Weekend Workshop (Mar. 31 – Apr. 1). For details, contact Brian on 0413 176 817 or via: FLYER

Richard will then give an evening talk (Weds. Apr. 4) in the Dougherty Centre, Chatswood, Sydney. For details, contact Alan on: 02 9419 7394 or via:

And finally, at Piney Lakes, in Winthrop, Perth (see above), Richard will give an evening talk (Apr. 6 – Good Fri.) followed by a 2-day Weekend Workshop (Apr. 7-8). For details, contact Sam on: 0412 039 050 or via: FLYER Bookings

Not in Oz? Then you’re invited to watch a YouTube Clip of Richard talking with a Buddhist monk, Amaranatho (recently in Perth), about what Seeing means to him, and how it enhances his life.

Pointing at Nothing

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