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Koan's Koans

Koans are mind-bogglers, riddles with no logical answers, designed to frustrate the mind. In a world of mathematical calculations and scientific definitions, you'll find that no degree of education will help you with these.

No Beard Wakuan complained when he saw a picture of bearded Bodhidharma, "Why hasn't that fellow a beard?"

Name the Staff Shuzan held out his short staff and said, "If you call this a short staff, you oppose its reality. If you do not call it a short staff, you ignore the fact. Now what do you wish to call this?"

Moving Two monks were arguing about the temple flag waving in the wind. One said, "The flag moves." The other said, "The wind moves." They argued back and forth but 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." The two monks were struck with awe.

Buffalo It is like a water buffalo passing through a window. Its head, horns and four legs all pass through. Why can't its tail pass through, too?

No Return A monk asked Kegon, "How does an enlightened one return to the ordinary world?"
Kegon replied, "A broken mirror never reflects again; fallen flowers never go back to the old branches."

Days are Good Unmon said: "I do not ask you about fifteen days ago. But what about fifteen days hence? Come, say a word about this"
Since none of the monks answered, he answered for them: "Every day is a good day."

Falling Down One day Chao-chou fell down in the snow, and called out, "Help me up! Help me up!" A monk came and lay down beside him. Chao-chou got up and went away.

Answer the Question Master Kyogen said, "It is like a man up a tree who hangs from a branch by his mouth; his hands cannot grasp a bough, his feet cannot touch the tree. Another man comes under the tree and asks him the meaning of Bodhidharma's coming from the West. If he does not answer, he does not meet the questioner's needs. If he answers, he will lose his life. At such a time, how should he answer?"

Silent Words Goso said, "If you meet a man of Tao on the way, greet him neither with words nor with silence. Now tell me, how will you greet him?"

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