Through Forests of Every Color
An intimate spiritual and literary journey exploring how Zen koans make us permeable to the joys and the anguish of this life—and to the primordial mystery we glimpse behind the veil of the everyday.
Koans are the record of paradoxical and provocative exchanges between Zen masters and their students that developed in medieval China. These exchanges, though often elaborated through commentary, have also been boiled down to one-line questions or statements to be held in meditation and daily life. Famous examples include, "What is the sound of one hand?" and "Not knowing is most intimate." In Through Forests of Every Color, renowned Zen teacher Joan Sutherland reimagines the koan tradition with allegiance to the root spirit of the koans and to their profound potential for vivifying, subverting, and sanctifying our lives.
Interlinked essays on “koans as art,” “keeping company with koans,” and “walking the koan way” intersperse with beautifully translated renditions of dozens of traditional Zen koans. Sutherland also shares innovative koans culled from Western literature, as well as teachings on how to create idiosyncratic koans or "turning phrases" from the circumstances of one's own life. “First honored is your yearning, the preparation made on faith that there is something that will receive you if you make yourself ready,” writes Sutherland of the koan seeker. “Bathed—attended to, washed free of complications—and then aspiring to the deepest kind of beauty—receptive, brave, dedicated, openhearted. Already you’ve begun to look like the thing you’re looking for.”