The Leonard Koan

These words of wisdom from Leonard Cohen form what is called the Leonard Koan!

Not much has to be said about the amazing singer musician Leonard Cohen. He is pretty famous in all circles. He is now turning 80 on September 21, 2014.

Many people don’t know the other side of Leonard Cohen. He was a strong practitioner of Zen meditation.

In fact, Leonard Cohen did a five year retreat at the Mt. Baldy Zen Center near Los Angeles just 10 years ago.

He is also an ordained Zen Monk in the Zen tradition of Rinzai (Linji or Lin Chi in Chinese). Linji, who died in 866 is also the patriarch of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, my revered teacher.

Some of Leonard Cohen’s finest songs have references to Zen.

A koan, according to Wikipedia, is a story, dialogue, question, or statement, which is used in Zen practice to provoke the “great doubt” and test a student’s progress in Zen practice.

As for as I know the Soto Zen sect in which I was originally trained at the San Francisco Zen Center does not do koan practice. So koan practice is not an integral part of all Zen traditions.

Complete Engagement | July 8, 2014

Only one thing
made him happy
and now that
it was gone
made him happy.
—Leonard Cohen, “Leonard Koan”


This poem teaches us that when we eliminate our attachments, the things that apparently make us happy, then we can be truly happy. What we think makes us happy only adds to our attachment. We crave for things that we like and are adverse to things we don’t like.

It is our attachments that bind us to unhappiness.

My question for you is do you like the Leonard Koan? What does it remind you of?

A Broken Hallelujah: Rock and Roll, Redemption, and the Life of Leonard Cohen

Liel Leibovitz

Brings to life a passionate poet-turned-musician and what compels him and his work.

Why is it that Leonard Cohen receives the sort of reverence we reserve for a precious few living artists? Why are his songs, three or four decades after their original release, suddenly gracin… [Read More…]

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