Koans: An introduction

What is a Koan?

A Koan can be a story, question, dialogue or statement .It is found in the sayings and doing of sages who are authorized to teach the principles of Buddhism.

About Koans:

  • It may not be possible to understanding the meaning of a koan using our rational understanding.
  • The faculty of intuition helps us in grasping the essence of a koan.
  • Koans are the products of an enlightened state of mind.
  • The Zen teachers teach koans as recitation and the students practicing it concentrate on it during the meditation to come out with an answer to it.
  • The Zen teacher probes the understanding of the student about the koan by asking him checking questions.
  • The answers giving by the students to koans vary depending upon the circumstances also including actions or gestures in place of words.
  • But the masters look for an answer that convinces them that the disciple has indeed realized the essence of the koan.
  • Koans can be taught only by extremely qualified master who have an eye to measure the disciple’s progress and relate to him according in various stages of his learning.
  • Objectively, koans try to change the prevalent perception we have about a subject, often in a subtle manner.

An Example:

A Philosopher asks Buddha:`Without words, without the wordless, will you tell me truth?’

The Buddha kept silence.

The philosopher bowed and thanked the Buddha, saying: `With your loving kindness I have cleared away my delusions and entered the true path.’

After the philosopher had gone, Ananda asked the Buddha what he had attained.

The Buddha replied, `A good horse runs even at the shadow of the whip.”
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