story, dialogue, question, or statement used in Zen practice
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 Edit

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 Edit

  • "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 Edit

  • 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 Edit

  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 Edit