re: #38 Cannadian Club Akbar
I wouldn’t want to ruin the book for anyone, but basically the book is about the (Zen) Buddhist struggle with desire—specifically, a Zen monk’s obsession with the Temple of the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto. The story revolves around beauty as an object of desire. And of course, desire is a bad thing in Buddhism.
The koan’s interpreted many ways by different characters throughout the book, but basically I think it goes like this: When confronted with something that creates desire, there are 2 options: destroy the object of desire, as Nansen did, or simply remove one’s ability to desire it.
In many Eastern cultures, shoes are seen as extremely filthy and unclean (both literally and in a religious sense). Joshu put his shoes on his head as a demonstration that he has no concept of selfishness and thus no desires. Had the other monks been more like him, they wouldn’t have desired the kitten in the first place, and it wouldn’t have been killed by Nansen.