[ Sitting Practice ]
Between the Koan and Samma Ditthi
What is the difference between the koan and Samma Ditthi?
First, how are the Koan and Samma Ditthi similar?
Both are set up to deal with what I have called Pajapati's problem: the fact that at the end of the internal dialog there is a dilemma that is a very tough nut to crack: That is, that it is not possible for an individual (that is, a being downbound to the six sense spheres) to distinguish creation apart from perception. As a consequence of this The World is (until one becomes a Streamwinner) is always only "My Own Personal World."
This in it's turn makes it impossible to prove that anything that is said or done or thought out there is not "my own" creation.
This in it's turn results in the dilemma of existence faced by The Creator (and we are all The One and Only Creator of Our World): If I make the world, I am kammically responsible for all the suffering of all that exists. If I do not make the world then I must live in a world of absolute unreality where nothing at all besides myself really exists.
This is the secret of Christ's crucifixion [the Trinity], of Kafka's "The Trial" of Knut Hamson's Mysteries and other works and lives of such a nature: "I am here, you see? I am suffering right along with you! It was the only thing I could do; I was too afraid of the alternative. I will accept my punishment. Please forgive me."
Those are the statements of the problem by individuals who have perceived the problem. Most people do not even perceive (you could say remember) the problem. Most people keep themselves from remembering the problem by trying to figure out the problem (well...actually most people try to forget the problem by plunging headlong into self indulgence...but we are taking a higher view of that here and are calling that: 'attempting to demonstrate the futility of self indulgence to the mind').
The form this attemt to resolve this problem takes is an inner dialog: vitakka; or if you like vitakka and vicara: "It could be this way. Or it could be the opposite. Or it could be neither of those. Or it could be both."
What the inventors of the koan have done is to perceive a way to force the mind above this dialog by challenging it to think about something impossible to resolve by dialog.
We have got to believe that these people believed that forcing the mind up to the level where it would be able to see Pajapati's problem would then allow it the freedom to abandon the trap by way of understanding in the Buddhist way that all angles of the dialog rely on one idea that is unproven...not just unproven; that can be seen to be false: That there is a self somewhere in something there in the first place.
But this is a dangerous game. Practicing the Koan is an all-or-nothing proposition. Given that the koan always did it's job (which is something even the zen masters would admit is not possible to say), absent either very careful observation and quick thinking, or the presence of the knowledge of the Buddhas, there is no guarantee whatsoever that this little bit of knowledge will come to one, and one may well end up no better off than the madman who thinks he's God (well, he may be a little better off because he can call himself a zen buddhist and then everyone will say "Oh! Sorry! I was mistaken, I thought you were madder than an madarahattenite, good night, sleep tight, don't let the bed-bugs bite.")
This is the advantage of using Samma Ditthi as your koan: In the end, when it has completely demolished every position to which you so stubbornly cling; it gives you a way out: it tells you what is really what. It has been there with you all along. And in the end, perception of the truth of it will depend on no one but yourself, so all grounds for distrust (doubt) will have been eliminated.
And short of success, every step taken with samma ditthi takes you irrevocably closer to the end of the dialog, and there is good reason to believe that someone who has worked on samma ditthi, facing death and rebirth, may come to understand the point at that time.
Helpful in the beginning, helpful in the middle and helpful at the end. This is not a claim that can be made by the koan.