Saturday, September 10, 2005

In Dreamland

A Zen koan to ponder:

"Our schoolmaster used to take a nap every afternoon," related a disciple of Soyen Shaku. "We children asked him why he did it and he told us: 'I go to dreamland to meet the old sages just as Confucius did.' When Confucius slept, he would dream of ancient sages and later tell his followers about them.

"It was extremely hot one day so some of us took a nap. Our schoolmaster scolded us. 'We went to dreamland to meet the ancient sages the same as Confucius did,' we explained. 'What was the message from those sages?' our schoolmaster demanded. One of us replied: 'We went to dreamland and met the sages and asked them if our schoolmaster came there every afternoon, but they said they had never seen any such fellow.'"

I wonder what the moral of this koan is. Any ideas?


Mark Walter said...
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Mark Walter said...

The students went to a lower part of dreamland (heaven), and had sages there that were not as advanced as their master's, who, when he went to dreamland, went to a higher place to meet the higher sages.

Moral: The student's teacher was more advanced than their dreamland teachers. They were fortunate to, on earth, have a greater teacher than back in heaven.

Sophia said...

I think that's a great answer, Mark. They are very lucky indeed to have such a great teacher. :)

Change said...

..the schoolmaster was proud of his pupils. They had not failed, but ventured into a land of their own. By time they would see.

Anonymous said...

Often, children know better.
They made the story up like their schoolmaster did.
I think the koan means: Beware of false teachers!

Sophia said...


That's a great idea. Maybe they had their own sages, different from those of the school master. After all, how can we believe that there are only a certain number of sages in dreamland? The schoolmaster might have met a different sage than the children.