Original Face

There is a saying, well known in Zen Buddhism, ‘Show me your original face, the face you had before your parents were born.’ Such propositions are called koans, and the seeker is expected to meditate on his or her koan—to live with it, so to say—until its meaning is intuitively grasped.

To attempt to ‘explain’ a koan is not to fathom it. A Zen master seeks not an explanation but a sign that the enquirer has penetrated something of the state of consciousness that inspired the koan—that he or she knows through direct experience where the koan is ‘coming from’, as we might say. However, this particular koan may be fruitfully discussed, because it can deepen our understanding of similar teachings found in the Yoga of Self-Knowledge.

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This article is from the Summer 2016 issue of Self-Knowledge Journal.