Koan Commentaries and Study
Carl Hooper: Koan Zen and Wittgenstein’s Only
Correct Method in Philosophy Koan Zen is a philosophical practice that bears a strong family resemblance to Wittgenstein’s approach to philosophy.Both koan Zen and Wittgenstein’s method set limits to the reach of philosophical discourse. Each rules metaphysical speculation out of bounds. Neither, however, represents a rejection of the metaphysical. Where Wittgenstein enjoins silence in the face of the unsayable, a silence that allows the metaphysical to show itself, koan Zen calls for concrete demonstrations of that which cannot be captured in rational discourse.
Asian Philosophy Vol. 17, No. 3, November 2007, pp. 283–292
John F. Fisher: An Analysis Of The Koans In The Mu Mon Kwan Fisher looks at the Mumonkan and breaks the koans down into catagories, finding that although the koans differ, the message is the same: "...the way to satori is not through dependence upon words, even if they be words of the Buddha or past Masters; however, one should not reject words, for, imperfect as they are, they are the only means we have of attaining enlightenment. They should use the words and ideas contained in the koans to reach satori, but they should never confuse the two. "
Kusumoto Bunyū: Zengo Nyūmon (An Introduction to Zen Words and Phrases) translated by Michael D Ruymar. This text consists of 100 words and phrases selected by Dr. Kusumoto for exegesis from a variety of sources, but particularly from classic kōan collections like the Blue Cliff Record, the Gateless Barrier, and the Book of Serenity, as well as from the collected writings or sayings of renowned Zen Masters from both China and Japan, like Zen Masters Linji and Dōgen, or, again, from the poetry of such as Han Shan (Cold Mountain) and others. A useful guide in conjunction with Victor Sogen Hori's Zen Sand: The Book of Capping Phrases for Koan Practice. (see below)
Mary Jaksch: The Road to Nowhere: Koans and Deconstruction of the Zen Saga Jaksch is a Zen teacher in the Diamond Sangha. This is her M. A. thesis on koans. She looks at "mind-to-mind" transmission, the historicity of koans and how koans are used in practice. Her website is here.
Victor Sogen Hori has written a book of capping phrases (jakugo) for koans. The introduction to the book , which discusses extensively the history of koans and jakugo, is available for free download here. Also, here you will find some personal background about how the book came about. Highly recommended.
Hajime Nakamura: The Non-Logical Character of Zen Nakamura sees koans as "paradoxes which transcend the opposites" where "human existence is implicitly expressed". Are koans really paradoxes?
James D. Sellmann & Hans Julius Schneider Liberating Language in Linji and Wittgenstein The aim of this paper is to explicate some unexpected and striking similarities and equally important differences between Wittgenstein's methodology and the approach of Chinese Chan or Japanese Zen Buddhism. "The Zen approach to life most definitely sheds some light on what Ludwig Wittgenstein was ‘pointing’ at or trying to show through his kōanic or kōan-like use of philosophical problems. Wittgenstein’s analysis provides a way for understanding what the Zen master is doing. "
Asian Philosophy, Vol. 13, Nos. 2/3, 2003
Barry Stephenson: The Koan as Ritual Performance "Study of the Zen kōan tradition has been dominated by psychological and textual methods and theories. But kōans not only constitute a literary genre, they are part of the liturgical order of Zen Buddhism. In this article I argue that psychological and textual approaches offer a limited understanding of the ritual and performative contexts of kōan practice and, drawing on ritual and performance theory, develop an alternative approach to the kōan tradition."
John Tarrant: Paradox, Breakthrough and the Zen Koan A brief excerpt from John's book Bring Me the Rhinoceros (Harmony, 2004)
Youru Wang: The Pragmatics of ‘Never Tell Too Plainly’: indirect communication in Chan Buddhism This is a philosophical investigation of the linguistic strategy of Chinese Chan Buddhism. It examines the underlying structure of Chan communication, which determines the Chan pragmatics of 'never tell too plainly' revealing what the Chan `special transmission’ means. This essay also investigates the different types of the Chan strategies of indirect communication, such as the use of paradoxical, tautological and poetic language, which best demonstrate the principle of 'never tell too plainly'. from Asian Philosophy, Vol. 10, No.1, 2000
Caifang Zhu: The Hermeneutics of Chan Buddhism: Reading Koans from The Blue Cliff Record This paper explores the inner logic of Chan cognition and behaviour to try to make koans understandable to general readers. Are enlightened masters the only ones to adequately interpret an encounter or a Chan text? from Asian Philosophy Vol. 21, No. 4, November 2011, pp. 373–393