This is my introduction to Koans, thanks to a few dear teachers. I found the book “The Gateless Gate”, by Koun Yamada. Picked a title of a koan that resonated with me. Rather than reading the commentary, I went ahead to reflect on what it means to me, in this space and time.
“A Woman Comes Out of Samadhi
One can awaken her, the other cannot;
Both have their own freedom.
A god-mask here and a devil-mask there;
Even in failure, an elegant performance.”
(From “The Gateless Gate”, #42)
To awaken, or, to sleep through and experience the grand illusion. Which is to say is the right way? Who is to determine? One awakens per her desire, when she is ready. Not necessarily with another’s help. If she wants to awaken, even then, is it up to her ‘here and now’ to do so?
As we contemplate and desire to awake, perhaps part of the meaning of being is to just experience the non-‘awakenness’. The dilemma may be to cling so much to our desire or need to awaken and just be done with it. And miss the process, the journey, that is part of the awakening. Because afterwards, what next?
Can the beauty be in the human experience as one door leading to awakening, subtly, miserably, arduously, per our plan? Once the human experience is done, we die and wake up on “the other side”, let’s say the awakening is reached. There, there are no judgements presented to us on the good or the bad, the godly or the devilish, per se. It, in a puzzling yet simple fashion, could have been the experience itself that proved to be the sustenance to carry over the soul through the door of awakening. In its own ‘time’ and ‘place’, or state.
So, one with god-mask could easily awaken her. The other with the devil-mask could keep her asleep. In either case, possibly unbeknownst to her, she has a marvelous experience, flawless as it was created,. Possibly created to be just so before she fell asleep into the illusion of this world to experience it fully.
Ever since my husband’s sudden and quick illness and death, my desire to know the reasons that put us in this trajectory have preoccupied me. They will continue to do so. The way this life experience for him, for our son, for me, unfolded and will continue to, makes me almost sure that a sort of awakening, full or partial, should be my path for living. As I have started learning about The Buddha over the last few weeks, and his four noble truths including the path to cessation of suffering, in my being one thing kept coming up: (human) life is about experiencing, suffering is a consequence. There is a reason for us choosing to be human and to have these experiences. The flawless perfection, the “elegant performance” that the god-mask or the devil-mask enables and the individual chooses, that this koan is referring to makes me contemplate how to accept whatever comes, whether I end up awakening or not.
Yasemin, August 6, 2015