Two tips on understanding Zen koans

A couple of stray Zen thoughts this morning:

If you’re interested in Zen koans, sometimes you need to know the back story of a koan to even have a chance at understanding it. For instance, there’s a koan about a cat that died, and when a monk hears about it, without saying anything, he puts his sandals on his head and walks away. I never understood that (intellectually) until I read that it was a custom at that time to walk with your sandals on your head during a funeral procession.

Another thing to know about koans is that when they say someone was enlightened, there are different forms of enlightenment. For example, one form of enlightenment is an initial enlightenment, and another is the big kahuna.