Zen Koans

Zen practice comes alive, not in concepts or words, but in the body of experience, insight, and intuition. It becomes powerful only in the wild humus of our encounter as part of the world. Zen describes itself as “a mind-to-mind transmission outside of words.” Zen koans are a ‘gateless gate’ to see the mind afresh. In koan encounters we become aware of the intimacy that extends its taproot far down, where words and concepts do not reach.

Name of the tradition


Broad school

Mahayana Buddhism

Specific school

Diamond Sangha, a lineage tradition passed down from both the Rinzai and Soto schools

What can attendees expect?

What are koans? A koan means ‘a public case.’ They are short words or phrases that point to the mind. They are unique to Zen meditation, and first emerged as a practice at a time of great turmoil and uncertainty in China. They are best experienced directly.

After an introductory session, there will be five interactive koan salons. They will include a chance to practice koan meditation and discussion in a group. The salons will explore themes such as “saving a ghost,” trusting one’s life, encountering sickness, responding to uncertainty, and freedom.

About the teacher

Kirk Fisher

Kirk Fisher is an apprentice to Roshi Susan Murphy. He has been teaching at the Melbourne Zen Group for 7 years, and he began Zen practice in 1992. Kirk has a long practice in group facilitation, coaching, and creative approaches to how we think. He founded two secondary schools when he was a teacher. Later he became head of faculty for both the National Excellence in Schools Leadership Institute and the Australian School of Applied Management. He teaches at the Melbourne Zen Group and the Hobart Mountains and Rivers Zen Group. He also currently works as a coach and facilitator in private practice.

Further resources

  • Melbourne Zen Group, a dharma community based in mutual support and practice based at CERES in Brunswick.
  • Red Thread Zen and Minding the Earth, Mending the World by Susan Murphy.
  • Taking the Path of Zen by Robert Aitken.
  • Bring Me the Rhinoceros by John Tarrant.