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For other uses, see Koan

The kōan (Chinese: 公案;[1] Korean: 공안, romanized: kong'an) are groupings of related questions and answers which are a paradox.[2] The kōan may be a story which cannot be understood or explained easily.

The kōan can be a special kind of metaphor with a hidden meaning,[3] such as "the sound of one hand clapping".[4]

History[change | change source]

Kōans originate in the sayings and events in the lives of wise men and legendary figures.

A kōan can refer to a story selected from Buddhist historical records and sutras.

The kōan is a fundamental part of the history and practice of Zen Buddhism.[5]

Select examples[change | change source]

  • "Firewood becomes ash and it does not become firewood again".[6]
  • "The verbal and the nonverbal are like vines clinging to a tree".[7]

Classical kōan collections[change | change source]

  • Blue Cliff Record or Account of the Blue Montains Chinese: 碧巖錄; Japanese: Hekigan-roku,[2] is a collection of 100 kōans compiled in 1125 by Yuanwu Keqin (圜悟克勤 1063–1135).
  • The Book of Equanimity or Book of Serenity Chinese: 從容録; Japanese: 従容録, romanizedShōyōroku[8] is a collection of 100 Kōans compiled in the 12th century by Hongzhi Zhengjue (宏智正覺 1091–1157)[9]
  • The Gateless Gate or the Gate with no Entrance Chinese: 無門關; Japanese: Mumonkan[2] is a collection of 48 kōans and commentaries published in 1228 by Chinese monk Wumen (無門 1183–1260). The title may be more accurately rendered as Gateless Barrier or Gateless Checkpoint.

References[change | change source]

  1. The English word comes from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese characters.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric. (2005). "Kōan" in Japan Encyclopedia, p. 535.
  3. Loori, John Daido. (2005). Sitting with Koans: Essential Writings on the Zen Practice of Koan Study, p. 128[permanent dead link]; Wu, Kuang-Ming. (2001). On Metaphoring: A Cultural Hermeneutic, p. 656.
  4. Crowley, Richard J. and Joyce C. Mills. (2001). Therapeutic Metaphors for Children and the Child Within, p. 8.
  5. Nussbaum, "Zen-shū" at pp. 1072-1073.
  6. Dogen, Eihei. (2011). Dogen's Genjo Koan: Three Commentaries, p. 68[permanent dead link].
  7. Heine, Steven and Dale S. Wright. (2000). The Kōan: Texts and Contexts in Zen Buddhism, p. 186.
  8. ["Shōyōroku (in English)". Archived from the original on 2006-05-21. Retrieved 2012-01-09. Shōyōroku (in English)]
  9. Hongzhi Zhengjue is also known as Wanshi Shōgaku

Other websites[change | change source]