I ran across this word while reading – koan. I jotted it down for later. I know I have seen it used before, but really didn’t know exactly what it meant. Even knowing the definition, it can still be confusing. Some words are like that.
Merriam-Webster dictionary: a paradox to be meditated upon that is used to train Zen Buddhist monks to abandon ultimate dependence on reason and to force them into gaining sudden intuitive enlightenment.
- Dictionary.com: a nonsensical or paradoxical question to a student for which an answer is demanded, the stress of meditation on the question often being illuminating.
- Oxford dictionary: a paradoxical anecdote or riddle without a solution, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and provoke enlightenment.
Japanese, literally ‘matter for public thought’, from Chinese gōngàn ‘official business’
In Zen Buddhism, a brief paradoxical statement or question used as a discipline in mediation. The effort to solve a koan is designed to exhaust the analytic intellect and the will, leaving the mind open for response on an intuitive level. There are about 1,700 traditional koans, which are based on anecdotes from ancient Zen masters. They include the well-known example “When both hands are clapped a sound is produced; listen to the sound of one hand clapping.”
Wow. Very deep. Very thought-provoking, which is the intention of the word, right? Is this a word you knew? Do you know any good koans? The one that pops into my head is ‘if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a noise?’. Please share any koans you can think of below.
- Hakuin: The sight of one hand clapping (japantimes.co.jp)