Zen Koan 7: “Announcement”


Zen Koans seem like paradoxes at first. The reason is that Koans are not meant to be understood by the intellect, but by intuition. Pondering over these riddles can help us unravel greater truths about our world and ourselves. This breakdown isn’t meant to substitute the insight the Koans are meant to invoke, but merely aid in getting there.

From “101 Zen Stories”:

” Tanzan wrote sixty postal cards on the last day of his life, and asked an attendent to mail them. Then he passed away.

The cards read:

I am departing from this world.
This is my last announcement.

Tanzan
July 27, 1892 “

The Breakdown

This short yet profoun zen koan requires a very simple and brief explanation.

First of all, Tanzan didn’t mention before his death where to send the letters, meaning who they were meant for is a mystery. However, it is possible that Tanzan left the task up to the attendent, believing it didn’t matter who knew of his death, it was simply an announcement. The announcement was literally saying that it was his last announcement and nothing more. It’s meant to make you laugh at the absurdity of it, and to make you think so hard that you achieve a form of enlightenment.

By searching for meaning in an otherwise meaningless statement that “appears to be meaningful” you will learn that a lot of stuff we think about appear to be meaningful, like social status and people accepting who we are, but in the end could really just be a waste of time. It’s possible that Tanzan had nothing to say, because really there is nothing to say except that he would no longer be around.


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