What is a koan?
A koan is an idea borrowed from Zen Buddhism. It refers to a philosophical question or statement that appears simple, but whose answer can be deep and meaningful.
There is usually no ‘correct’ answer to a koan. Almost every answer is equally valid.
How to make a koan
To make a koan, one has to think of a simple question, example, or story in which a deeper meaning can be found.
It can be difficult to make a koan that isn’t ‘codphilosophy’ (i.e. pseudophilosophy that is more about trying to appear deep and meaningful).
|Dave said that a fox in the snow was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.|
Anna said that true beauty must exist from within. It is therefore Dave who is beautiful, and neither the fox nor the snow.
|Where does time go?|
|God created Man. And Man created God.|
|What is the meaning of life?’||Does a tree make a sound if it falls in a forest and nobody hears it?|
|What is the sound of one hand clapping?|
|What did your face look like before you were born?||Two monks were arguing about the temple flag waving in the wind.|
One said, “The flag moves.”
The other said, “The wind moves.”
They could not agree.
Hui-neng, the sixth patriarch, said: “Gentlemen! It is not the flag that moves. It is not the wind that moves. It is your mind that moves.”
|Zen Master Unmon said: “The world is vast and wide. Why do you put on your robes at the sound of a bell?”|
A translation of book of koan parables (originally written in Japanese in the 13th century) can be found here