Zen and Language: Zen Mondo and Koan

  • Takashi OgawaEmail author
  • Akihiko MasudaEmail author
  • Kayla Sargent
Part of the Mindfulness in Behavioral Health book series (MIBH)


In Zen Mondo and Koan, Dr. Takashi Ogawa of Komazawa University describes in detail the linguistic, cultural, and spiritual functions of mondo and koan practices within Zen. A mondo refers to a verbal exchange between a disciple and his or her master, and a koan is a paradoxical anecdote or riddle, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the shortfall of logical and analytic reasoning and to provoke enlightenment. According to Ogawa, Zen does not reject language unlike common misconceptions of Zen saying it does. Ogawa also states that what may be unique to Zen language are its styles (e.g., mondo and koan) and its purpose. Whereas discourse between a teacher and a disciple is generally literal and linear in other religions and other schools of Buddhism, Zen mondos appear relatively illogical or disorganized in content and structure. However, Ogawa states that they do so deliberately so that the student learns the Buddha Nature personally and experientially. In Zen, knowledge transmitted verbally from others is not the way. Through discourse, a master deliberately prohibits him- or herself from teaching his or her student the Buddha Way literally so that it does not contaminate the Buddha Way that the student experiences directly and wholeheartedly.


Zen Buddhism Behavioral health Koan Mondo 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Komazawa UniversityTokyoJapan
  2. 2.University of Hawaii at ManoaHonoluluUSA

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