Photo, Mt. McKinley A Ring of Kong
by Ichin Shen


A Ring of Kong is an essay on Chan (Zen). A Kong (satori) is an expression (in whatever form and shape) such that causes enlightenment. When it does, the Kong reveals the true reality. The essay is written with such intent in mind. Thus the essay itself is a Kong.

The essay is written in Chinese Chan poem fashion. Each poem is a Kong itself and it also expresses the meaning of the poem title. The titles, fashioned after one-word Chan, are also Kongs. From nothing to something, there is beginning - BEGINNING; it begins with nothing - WU (NON-BEING); then there is something - YOU (BEING); when things exist, there is life - LIFE; where there is life, there is death - DEATH; between life and death, there is knowledge - KNOWING; when knowing is true, it is Chan - CHAN; what is truth - TRUTH; as truth being realized, that is Kong - KONG. When Kong is realized, the path reaches a full circle - A RING OF KONG.

Ichin Shen


Wu is a state of mind where mind is no longer there, No-mind. No-mind is Kong. Kong means empty [in Chinese], yet it is not empty in meaning. With meaning truth reveals itself. The question is, how is truth true and why? To answer this question, the following poems show a path. As the question shapes the answer, the answer reforms the question. When there is no more question, the truth reveals itself, and the path comes to a full circle. Is the circle a full circle or an empty ring? That, is a ring of Kong.

(Background: It is not necessarily the beginning; however, it is what it appears to be, so it is.)

Half asleep half awake, [I] woke in a mid-day.
With light-headed dizziness, [I] could not reason.
Absentminded, [I] watched the serene Mirror Lake.
With no particular things to do, [I] wrote poems.

(Background: Before order there is chaos. Thus chaos breeds order; then chaos is the order. When an order does not agree with the order bred from chaos, is the order an order, or chaos?)

Tao (Nature) reveals itself without words.
No words to interpret, no words to misinterpret.
No misinterpretation, Tao (Nature) is true.
True by self-evidence needs no reasoning.
For it's the reasoning that is unreasonable.

(Background: Does God make Man, or Man make God? The simplicity of Tao suggests that Man does not need to make God in order to make Man.)

No Tao, no Heart, no universe.
Out of nothing, Tao breeds Heart.
Heart manifests Tao, Heart breeds Mind.
Come with Mind, the being of the universe.

(Background: Does mind breed life, or life breed mind?)

Out of meaningless mess the universe emerges.
Ever-changing is no change, stillness is the universe, moved is Mind.
Mind moves, Mind thinks, Mind sees Sky and Earth.
Sky above, Earth below, life breeds in between.

(Background: Without knowing life, what do we know about death?)

To live, to die, facts of life.
No life, no death, Chuang-Tsu lives.
Life and death are rooted in illusion.
Without Mind where do they attach?

(Background: The way of nature is simplicity; it does not argue, it just is.)

Knowing is knowing, arguing is not.
Without truth what to argue?
With truth no need to argue.
Thus one who argues does not know, one who knows does not argue.

(Background: Why is logic logical? Logic provides no clue. In fact, any logical answer begs the question; logic cannot prove itself. With logical reasoning in doubt, science creates illusions. True reality, hiding behind facts like a shadow dancing in the darkness, remains a mystery.)

Chan/Tao embrace "One," so their principles converge to "One." I-Ching (Science) begins with one [truth], interpretation makes two, partition breeds three; the method of I-Ching is divergent, so it loses its content at the end.
Practicing I-Ching without knowing its principle, I-Ching is confusing.
Practicing I-Ching without understanding its principle, I-Ching is a mystery.
Practicing I-Ching with its principle, I-Ching is simple.
It is simple because the way of nature is simplicity; simplicity the nature,
simplicity the principle, I-Ching converges to "One."

(Background: Wu-Wei is "know it by heart, do it without deliberation." In Wu-Wei, truth manifests.)

"Having" (You) is common mind, "Not having" (Wu) is Buddha-mind.
Not having "not having", man worships Buddha.
Having "not having" is the beginning of Buddha-mind.
(Having "not having" is still "having".)
The Buddha-mind is true only when not having "having" mind.

(Background: Past is a memory, Future is a vision, and Now is an instant nowhere grasped; yet is that Now the past and the future made of? Now sees no beginning and no end. What do we mean by eternity? Eternity in an instant.)

Life begins nowhere.
Death ends nowhere.
From the beginning to the end nowhere stands.
Becoming a Buddha still arrives nowhere.
That, is Kong.