THE ZEN EXPERIENCE
What Is A Koan?
koan is a multi-level structural device that is used in
Zen practice to help a person expand their awareness. Koans
can be long or short, verbal or non-verbal. Probably the
most famous Zen koan in the West is: "The sound of
one hand clapping."
At first glance a koan often appears to be a meaningless
phrase. What great insights can be gained by thinking about
the sound of one hand clapping? However when you focus intently
on a koan for extended periods of time, the nature of reality
can be revealed to you.
Koans often juxtapose two or more incongruous concepts.
Normally we think that it takes two hands to clap. How can
one hand clap? What does it clap against? Your finite mind
can think about this, analyze it and get frustrated.
Unlike your finite mind, your infinite mind is not bound
by the rules of time and space. It has ten thousand states
of mind to view and examine experience through. With the
use of your infinite mind you can understand the clapping
of one hand and many other things that would seem incomprehensible
to your finite mind.
Reprinted from "The Zen Experience"
© 1987 Rama Seminars Inc.