Opening a Mountain: Koans of the Zen Masters

Paperback | May 28, 2004

bySteven Heine

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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.

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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 compl...

Steven Heine is Professor of Religious Studies and History at books on Zen Buddhism, including (with Dale S. Wright) The Koan: Texts and Contexts in Zen Buddhism (OUP). Dr. Heine was recently awarded the Kauffman Professorship in Entrepreneurship Studies at the Florida International University Business School.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:216 pages, 5.59 × 8.9 × 0.59 inPublished:May 28, 2004Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195174348

ISBN - 13:9780195174342

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"Heine is an accomplished, deft writer.... For those intrigued with koans, the enigmatic teachings of Zen Buddhism, this text offers translations of and critical commentary on sixty of these always lively, often maddening, anecdotes."--The Asian Reporter