Hakuin Ekaku was an influential monk who revived the Rinzai school of Japanese Zen Buddhism in 1727. He refocused it on rigorous training methods integrating meditation and koan practice. The koan exercise came to be viewed as a battering ram that broke down the final vestiges of rational thinking already softened by zazen. Kōans reflect the enlightened state and shock the mind into awareness.
“…in the beginning a monk first thinks a kōan is an inert object upon which to focus attention; after a long period of consecutive repetition, one realizes that the kōan is also a dynamic activity, the very activity of seeking an answer to the kōan. The kōan is both the object being sought and the relentless seeking itself. In a kōan, the self sees the self not directly but under the guise of the kōan… When one realizes (“makes real”) this identity, then two hands have become one. The practitioner becomes the kōan that he or she is trying to understand. That is the sound of one hand.” — G. Victor Sogen Hori, Translating the Zen Phrase Book.
To the ordinary Joe, this might seem an unanswerable question or a meaningless exercise. Consider Lauren Scruggs, who is now in intensive care after surgery Monday. She is a Dallas-area model and editor of LoLo Magazine who lost her left hand and fractured her skull after she walked into the propeller of a small airplane following a flight to view Christmas lights over the weekend.
I first read about this on MSNBC and one thing in the article struck me as quite odd. The article stated “The pilot wasn’t hurt.” Well, what a relief. I’m sure Ms Scruggs family is comforted by that. The more I thought about this, the more baffled I became. It’s common (mandatory?) practice for pilots to shut down the engines before passengers exit the airplane. Then there’s the whole roaring vortex of death thing that would seemingly preoccupy reasonable people nearing a spinning propeller. There must be a missing piece to the puzzle.
All that aside, what remains after this horrible tragedy is a young woman faced with the prospect of rebuilding her life that appears to be centered primarily on the external. She’s lost her modeling career. Lauren will be faced with scars in the mirror and feeling the loss of what she relied on as her due in life. It will undoubtedly be a long painful struggle.
My wish for today is that young Lauren find the inner strength to work the puzzle and understand her inner worth is greater than her outer appearance.