Kanako Iiyama

“Water is the face of fire.”

By definition, a Zen koan is  paradoxical anecdote or riddle used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to provoke enlightenment. Some koans are well-known: What was your original face before your mother and father were born? What is the sound of one hand clapping? A simple everyday question can be a powerful koan: Who are you?

“Water is the face of fire” is a family motto given to Kanako by a family elder when she was seven. The family dates back to antiquity. The motto essentially is a koan. As with koans generally, there are many ways to interpret it; some conflicting, some supplementary, some complementary. Each interpretation is a spark of insight. Taken together, they form a blinding light on the road to enlightenment.