Many Zen koans contain references to myths and folktales of ancient India, China, and Japan. Since Westerners generally are not familiar with these stories, koan study without extensive background information is often a frustrating and exasperating process.
In this dharma discourse, Abbot John Daido Loori fashions a koan, complete with pointer and capping verse, from a classic of children's literature, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. The koan revolves around Alice's encounter with a caterpillar who explains the magical properties of a special two-sided mushroom that to Alice's eyes appears perfectly round. Alice's struggles with this dilemma make for a stimulating story that mirrors the conflicts and dualities we face in our everyday life.