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"If you don't have anything in your mind, throw it out."?

What does this koan mean: “If you don’t have anything in your mind, throw it out.” ?
We’ve just started learning about Koans and Meditation in my Zen and Emerson class and were assigned different koans to kind of ‘decode’ what they mean. Mine is: “If you don’t have anything in your mind, throw it out.”
I need to write about at least 20 different interpretations on what others think this koan means, so please respond and help me out.
Thanks so much!


  1. “If you don’t think about anything important, and your not being a good person, throw it out.”

  2. i think it means you need to stop trying to find what your looking for this this crap and fallow the Lord God almighty. God is great!

  3. I have no clue what a Koan is, but it is an interesting quote.
    Possibly, it means that a mind is not worth having if it is not going to be used. Maybe it means to do something with your mind and contribute to the world?

  4. it’s probably like a trick saying, maybe the nothing is really something and you need to get that something off of your mind. that’s what it would make me think because no one can literally have nothing on their mind, they’d have to be thinking about the fact that nothing is on their mind so that would be something….please tell me that you kind of understand that.

  5. There are a couple things going on here.
    Zen is all about being immediately, nakedly, and matter-of-factly present with things as they are — not as we think of and conceive them to be, but just as they are. So there’s a lot of letting go of thoughts and concepts, in what ends up being a practice of a kind of unadorned honesty … but as soon as we make an IDEA of being honest or “not having anything in our mind”, that, too, needs to get “thrown out.”
    On the other hand, we also don’t want to get caught up in thinking we have to have a “blank mind.” That’s just as contrived and unnatural as entertaining a bunch of intellectual concepts. (Zen will say in that regard, “Don’t get stuck in a ghost cave.”) So, if you find yourself at all attached to “having nothing in your mind”, let go of that attachment.
    In sum, it’s like saying be utterly natural and honest — and just don’t make an unnatural or dishonest big deal about it.


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