I think one goal of koan practice — part of the logic — is to exhaust that seeking part of us that brings one to koan practice in the first place.
This certainly seems true of much of the long mid-section in the Harada-Yasutani curriculum we embrace, which includes the Blue Cliff Record.
I mean, there are just so many koans. It’s bound to take many years to pass through them all, even if one proceeds relatively “quickly.”
One does sort of get the hang of it after a while.
And, fundamentally, all of these many koans teach the same thing – point to that same, always different thing.
There’s this old joke my dad told me when I was a kid. I recently told it to my seven-year old son when he was getting antsy about something.
A sage is riding his donkey from one village to the next.
The donkey, growing weary, asks, “When will we be there?”
The man replies, “Patience, donkey, patience.”
(Actually, my dad, who is – shall we say – a bit rough around the edges, used “jackass” instead of “donkey.” I rather prefer it that way, but my seven-year old wouldn’t have heard anything else if I’d said jackass.)
This goes on and on.
“How much longer,” asks the donkey.
“Patience, donkey, patience.”
On and on.
Eventually my son interrupts. Smiling, because he sort of gets the point by now, he asks, “When is this joke going to end?”
I reply, of course, “Patience, donkey, patience.”
With each koan we encounter, it’s as if the universe is saying, “Same answer. Right here. Why do you keep looking for something else? Something more.”
Just this, donkey.
And if and as one progressively opens to this, well, yes, openings . . .
Every koan . . .
Every moment . . .
What’s your hurry?
Why not settle in – settle into this practice, to this life – and stay a while?
There’s no place to go after all.