Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

2014 Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming

Koan

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6086-2_761

Introduction

The term “koan” derives from the Chinese ko (public) an (case), hence, literally, “public case.” A public case implies a standard of judgment. In the case of Zen, the judgment refers to the depth of the student’s intuitive understanding. Each koan takes the form of a story, anecdote, or dialog, typically entailing an incident, situation, or conversation between an historical Zen figure and a student. The use of the koan exercise as a tool for spiritual practice developed in tenth- and eleventh-century China. Koan practice instilled new life into a Zen system that had become codified, calcified, dogmatic, and caught up in sectarian disputes.

Koan study developed through a long history of spontaneous question and answer dialogs, in which the question is typically turned back on the student or is given a seemingly illogical response. As teaching stories were collected, formalized, and compiled into anthologies and structured, formal courses of study developed that were...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Bibliography

  1. Aitken, R. (1991). The gateless barrier: The Wu-Men Kuan (Mumonkan). New York: North Point Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bion, W. (1967/1988). Notes on memory and desire. In E. B. Spillius (Ed.), Melanie Klein today: Developments in theory and practice (Mainly practice, Vol. 2). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Bion, W. (1970). Attention and interpretation. London: Karnac.Google Scholar
  4. Cooper, P. (2001). The gap between: Being and knowing in Zen Buddhism and psychoanalysis. The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 61(4), 341–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Fromm, E., Suzuki, D. T., & DeMartino, R. (1960). Zen Buddhism and psychoanalysis. New York: Harper & Brothers.Google Scholar
  6. Heine, S. (1994). Dogen and the Koan tradition: A tale of two Shobogenzo texts. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  7. Heine, S. (2002). Opening a mountain: Koans of the Zen Masters. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Kim, H. (1985). The reason of words and letters: Dogen and Koan language. In W. LaFleur (Ed.), Dogen studies (pp. 54–82). Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
  9. Loori, J. (1994). Two arrows meeting in mid-air: The Zen Koan. Rutland: Charles E. Tuttle & Co.Google Scholar
  10. Suzuki, D. T. (1994). The Zen Koan as a means of attaining enlightenment. Rutland: Charles E. Tuttle & Co.Google Scholar
  11. Winnicott, D. (1965). The maturational processes and the facilitating environment. New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  12. Yamada, K. (1979). Gateless gate. Los Angeles: Center Publications.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis, Two Rivers Zen CommunityNew YorkUSA