Jun 22, 2010

Philosophical Phun - Koans

A “koan” is a question, story, or statement that can’t be understood logically. Zen Buddhist monks meditate on koans as a way to abandon dependence on reason in their pursuit of enlightenment.

A koan can’t be grasped by logic, or explained in words.

The most famous koan is probably: “Two hands clap and there is a sound. What is the sound of one hand?”

"...in the beginning a monk first thinks a kôan is an inert object upon which to focus attention; after a long period of consecutive repetition, one realizes that the kôan is also a dynamic activity, the very activity of seeking an answer to the kôan. The kôan is both the object being sought and the relentless seeking itself. In a kôan, the self sees the self not directly but under the guise of the kôan...When one realizes ("makes real") this identity, then two hands have become one. The practitioner becomes the kôan that he or she is trying to understand. That is the sound of one hand." — G. Victor Sogen Hori, Translating the Zen Phrase Book

I find the concept of Koans refreshing and very thought provoking.  Here is my first effort: "Can a passing thought be profound?"


  1. ...with one of my favourite at hand...

    I think you did very well on your first try. I have been looking for something to mediate on, and I think that trying to think of a koan could be helpful.

    Oh, and the one that I have been studying the past few weeks:

    Keeping on and on,
    a traveler gets farther, farther away;
    dust without cease
    follows a horse through the world

    Chia Tao

  2. the sound of one hand is a snap? but i think that's wayyyyyyy overthinking the sitch which is exactly what i should be meditating away from.


  3. When I first read about koans I didn't understand them at all. It was only later that I thought "exactly". I'd grasped it without knowing I had.

  4. I have never heard of Koan before. And my brain is way too tired and befuddled right now to try to come up with an answer to yours. :)


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