Koan of the day: Man Gong’s Net

One day, Zen Master Man Gong sat on the high rostrum
and gave the speech to mark the end of the three-month
winter retreat. “All winter long you monks have practiced
very hard. That’s wonderful! As for me, I had nothing to do,
so I made a net. This net is made out of a very special cord.
It is very strong and can catch all buddhas, patriarchs, and
every human being. It catches everything. How do you get
out of this net?” Some students shouted, “KATZ!”
Others hit the floor or raised a fist. One said, “The sky is blue,
the grass is green.” Another said, “Already got out.
How are you, great Zen Master?” From the back of the room,
a monk shouted, “Don’t make a net!” Many answers were
given, but to each, Man Gong only replied,
“Ah Ha! I’ve caught another BIG fish!”
So how do you get out of Man Gong’s net?

This intriguing Koan was sent to me by a dear friend. All he mentioned was this is an attack- style kong-an. HINT:  It’s naturally a trap for your mind. So whatever you think, say or do is “wrong”. So how do you get out of Man Gong’s net?  Hahaha. 😀

52 thoughts on “Koan of the day: Man Gong’s Net

  1. I comment when I appreciate a post on a site
    or if I have something to add to the conversation. It’s triggered by the sincerness communicated in the post I read. And on this article Koan of the day: Man Gongs Net | 1EarthUnited. I was actually moved enough to post a thought 🙂 I actually do have 2 questions for you if it’s okay.
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  2. Pingback: The Empty Boat | The Middle Pane

  3. acceptance of what is without any resistance? (um…letting go, in a way?) Tell me if I am even in the ball park–this will be on my mind (my netted mind) for a while to come! I love this riddle format, Maddy. Makes you think! And thinking helps you grow…

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  4. On the other hand, if the Man Gong’s net thing is limited to THIS apparent existence, then of course, it is true -as true as the fact that I am flesh and blood. But, why then all the fuss when the net has only stated the obvious -that I am existing as a human being? Take that, Maddy!

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    • Hi Doc! You are timeless and everlasting life. This net is all in our heads, we’re our own worst enemy because our collective thoughts make it so. What to do? What can U do? Change the paradigm by changing your thoughts, better yet stop thinking unnecessarily and just be. Live your life by serving humanity, for what else is there to “do” in this existence of “ours”? I’ll take what you have to offer and raise your consciousness, how’s that for being human? Uhhhh, Ummm, Ommm ♥

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      • Hehehehe. Maddy, it’s more towards the second case then. It’s stating an obvious fact. So, there’s nothing to be done then. You are still human NO MATTER what you do. And don’t tell me you’ll cease being so by dying. I already gave that answer once. Another teaser, please! Hehehe!

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  5. It’s like I come up today and give an analogy to represent MY idea of what DEATH is.
    I mean, who says I know all what death entails? So, how can my analogy be accurate and valid in the first instance? (I continue…)

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  6. I see the post is still alive. I’ll drop this and you give us another teasing post as fun as this.
    The whole idea of the net -of what this REALITY is -is Man Gong’s idea. So the validity of such a net is only as strong as Man Gong’s validity. (I continue…)

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  7. Pingback: Wow For Me; You Try It | GO! GROOVY

    • Hi Mary, but… No Thing is not nothing if it springs forth from your head. You brought up the subject of time spent making, seeing, catching >> so you must already be caught in this self imposed net?
      If it’s about you, then you’re already part of the matrix of existence. So how do you drop out of the trap? ☼ Thanks for playing!

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    • Let go of the thought of the net….
      But then, there will be no way play the game, or talk about the net that is not.
      As soon as we imagine the net, we create it and gave it a thought-form.
      As long as we discuss being in it or our of it, it exists.
      Your question cannot be answered, because the discussion automatically brings this imaginary net into existence.The only way to escape it, is to stop imagining it. Stop playing the game.
      Likewise…..
      No one can accurately imagine being dead, because anyone who is thinking is not dead.
      Thought cannot imagine it’s own death, because thought cannot unthink itself (it would have to be thinking to do that).
      Thought cannot think it’s opposite–no thought.
      As long as keep asking people to consider a net….and they do so….the net goes on.
      Let go of the thought of the net and the net will vanish.

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      • Congrats Mary, that’s precisely it! The nature of a Koan was never meant to be answered critically (using applied logic) because it’s suppose to bypass our conditioned minds and help us realize some aspect of ourselves.
        So yes, the net is just a construct of our thought. Similarly, we are a construct of the divine mind, so we may be holographic projections of thought from the divine perspective. We may not actually be “real” but in our own “little mind” we perceive existence, the physical world around us. So to us (with limited perspective) we perpetually create our own net and trap ourselves in it due to ignorance of the divine purpose of life.
        For me, this is a wonderful transformational exercise to develop awareness, to re-member all consciousness is just One Divine Mind. Man Gong’s net makes our direction and its function clear. ☼ Thanks for “playing.” …. so what is the purpose of your life? ♥

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    • That’s wonderful, then who is silent, saying nothing? Do you know for sure there’s no net? René Descartes says, ” I think, therefore I am.” If you don’t think “I-am” are you still caught?

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      • Silence. It is a meditative state, escaping, and dropping ego . Ego gives me, ‘I am.’ Escaping ‘I am,’ and substituting it for universal energy gives the true picture. The true picture disallows the net, let alone being captured in it.

        Question: Since I could only realize that meditative state momentarily, does that bring me back to ‘I am,’ voiding this thesis? Does it acknowledge the ego but, put ego in a secondary position so as to enjoy not being caught in the net? Or, acknowledgement of the ego, realizing its’ place doesn’t matter, ego is ego, and once you venture, it is once again, ‘I am?’

        Another question, who said, the net was necessarily a bad thing to be captured in? Perhaps, it is not. This was only an implication.

        Sorry to ramble on but, one more question, and I promise to end it. Was this also an egotistical exercise for Man Gong?

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      • Hello Dave, welcome back. So why is the ego (I, my, me, mine) different from “universal energy”?
        Are you (physically, emotionally, spiritually) distinct from the universe? If so then where did you come from? Why would the “universe” disallow the net if it’s the end all/ be all of existence?
        You are right, it’s neither good or bad, the net just is, we’re all “in” it, this grand illusion of samsara.
        So how do we wake up to reality? It depends on the purpose of this koan. Do you want knowledge or freedom? It depends on where we’re at along the net’s edge…
        For a Zen Master, it’s no longer an egotistical exercise if they are not. ☼ Be well. ♥

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  8. Maddy, not bad. Thanks for asking.
    Yes, theoretically, you can’t cease from your existence. Some issues are just the way they are. Or can you help being not human? You are human! Fact! Unchangeable.
    (To be cont…)

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    • Hi Sandy, interesting point you brought up. If you stop “being” right now, do you still exist? Do you have a choice in “being” you? So we’re all caught up in this net, what so we do, lol?

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    • Hi Athena, yes we can surrender to the net… or resist. We can perceive ourselves trapped or not, does thinking about freedom, in reality free us from traps of life/ existence? ☼ Thx for playing!

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    • Hey Doc, how are you these days? I understand where you’re coming from, Man Gong is just a metaphor for our lives. Perhaps, you can discount this man Gong person, but can you cease to exist from your existence? You are here with me in this reality and you have no choice in the matter!
      HaHa!! Yes you can always to choose to drop out of whatever reality but you still “exist” somewhere in this “net”. The real question is, do you think you’re real? Are you consciously “content” with this life your living? Why do we wake up and continue to do the things we do? Just a few existential questions we face everyday. 😀 Cheers Doc! ☼

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      • Maddy, not bad. Thanks for asking.
        Yes, theoretically, you can’t cease from your existence. Some issues are just the way they are. Or can you help being not human? You are human! Fact! Unchangeable.
        (To be cont…)

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      • Hi Doc, that’s great… so we’re “human”. What does it mean to be human? Does that mean if we’re not human, we’re free from this trap of existence? If everything is part of the trap, how do YOU “become” free? Hahaha. Love you Doc. ♥

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      • Pardon my scattered responses.
        Was supporting you by saying human. That’d mean we are indeed “trapped” in existence.
        But I added, what if we left this existence, e.g., by way of death.
        That though would put us out of his equation. But that’d mean he only stated the obvious that we are human and existing in the net, no?

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  9. Hmmmm.. This sounds more confusing than the Epicurean Trilemma, haha.. But I’ll have a go. OK, here goes.. The net is a trap; if it is a “trap” then it looks like it is a metaphor for “a cycle of life and death”, life is a “trap”, and because everything that “you think” and “you do” is wrong, then the answer is: “Don’t do” and “don’t think”?

    Because if “you do” and “you think”, then you are trapped, you are trapped in the net, you are trapped in life, you are getting a hindrance, whereas if you “don’t do” and “don’t think” then you attain no hindrance. In other words, if you still think of “I”, “Me”, “Mine”, and “do”, then you cannot get out of the net, but if you “don’t do” and “don’t think” you’re free.

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    • Almost there Subhan! It’s like you having a foot in the door, now cross over! You are still caught in Man Gong’s crazy net. If you “don’t do” and “don’t think”, “doing nothing” – metaphorically or not, you’re still sitting in his net, haha. Literally or figuratively – the matrix still has you, so what now? ☼

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      • OK. Two answers:
        1. Pull the net down and jump. Fish are trapped in the net if the net is tightened, but they can escape if the net is lowered and then they can jump and escape, and so we can.

        2. Man Gong’s net is an idea. We have to take away the idea and kill his idea of us being trapped in his net. Then we are free without necessarily being trapped in the first place.

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      • Hi Subhan, yes I agree, Man Gong’s net is just an idea. We can set aside an idea, but can we set aside reality? If the net is a metaphor of existence, then how do we free ourselves from this “suffering” trap? Another way to look at this Koan is, “how do you escape from existence, or even yourself?” Lastly, are you really free? What does it mean to be free? You’re “close”… a Koan does not provide you with answers or solutions, it’s just a tool to help you realize something about yourself… kinda like what life is. So do you even know what FREEDOM really is? 😀
        I’m sure you have ideas and write about it. Let me know what you come up with, haha! ♥

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    • 😀 Hi Rufina, how are you?! Man Gong’s net is cast wide and far, it catches everything! … Your ideas, beliefs, concepts, actions/ non-actions. No one is immune from his spell. Yet there is a way out! Simply… ☼Thanks 4 playing☼

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      • Doing great, Maddy! Yes, I know I will be caught in the net! The only other answer I could think of was to ask Man Gong to please release the net so that we could all be released as One, but I don’t think that’s right either… I will stay tuned for the final answer. I love games like this!

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      • Not bad, getting closer. Normally we’re like fish in water, not realizing what’s beyond because we’re so deeply enmeshed in it. So how would the fish come to know what’s possible? ☼

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      • Haha, that is the way I like it, Maddy. All of us hugging in a net. 🙂
        What about don’t attach yourself to the story, the words, the thoughts. Let the whole experience wash over you like thoughts in meditation without any anchor or attachment.??

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      • Lol Kozo, we are all hanging out on the “web” aren’t we? So another aspect is acceptance, do we really want to be free from “suffering” while we’re trapped? Meditation! Meditate on this: During the colonial days, does thinking or non-thinking, attachment or not, free a slave from his bondage?
        Yes in a sense these are just thoughts and words we’re using to realize “something”. So the underlying question is, do you really feel free or trapped in life? This Koan kicks ass, huh? ♥☼♥

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♥Thanks for sharing♥

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