O-Taiyo (meaning “Big Sun” in Japanese) is a blog dedicated to parables and koans that I have written or that I find especially relevant or instructive for modern life. Parables, short stories, usually fictitious and metaphorical, that commonly impart or uphold moral norms or principles, are distinct from koans, both geo-historically and in their implementation. Koans can be understood as a literary and oratory practice that evolved through Buddhism involving stories or expressions, often in the form of seemingly paradoxical or nonsensical questions or statements, that are intended for meditation leading to profound understanding (satori). One of the keys to understanding a koan is that, unlike parables, the meaning of koans rests largely in the process of coming to understand the koan, including the feelings that arise while reading and thinking about the texts.
I started this blog because I have become frustrated with contemporary discourses (political, religious, historical, economic, etc.) that have become overburdened by “facts” or opinions, often at the expense of “truths” that speak to the value of fostering a shared sense of human dignity. In their work on tour guide narratives at Colonial Williamsburg (1997), scholars Richard Handler and Eric Gable note the ways that debates over historical minutia can obscure larger historical and–and ultimately contemporary–realities, legitimizing some discourses about history, politics, and race while delegitimizing those that might disrupt a national narrative built around certain forms of privilege. The contexts language creates, and its ability to challenge certain forms of power often masked in our daily interactions and conversations, is at the heart of this endeavor. Parables and koans are well suited for this work, as are blogs.
For the sake of clarification, I am not a practicing Buddhist, though I am a practitioner of koryu (ancient Japanese martial arts) and have been profoundly influenced by Zen Buddhism as well as Christian liberation theology. I am not a seeker of “enlightenment”, at least not in any spiritual sense, but I do find great wisdom, compassion, and revelation in the people around me. I live my life following some simple precepts, which includes respect for all people, the personal and prayerful cultivation of calmness, humility, and curiosity, and preparedness for decisive action through martial training. Also, I am not a scholar of Japanese, nor do I have any linguistic or grammatical proficiency in the language. I piece together what I have learned through my life experiences and try to figure out the rest online. Please feel free to leave comments while adhering to common standards for respect and sensitivity.