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In clapping both hands a sound is heard: what is the sound of the one hand?
December 3, 2003 1:44 PM   Subscribe

What is the sound of one hand clapping? An interesting excerpt from The Sound of the One Hand: 281 Zen Koans With Answers that involves a dialogue between the master and the student that answers this koan. (I suppose this could technically be considered a spoiler.)
posted by antifreez_ (30 comments total)

 
sounds like "cl", or maybe "ap". That's my guess.
posted by tiamat at 1:52 PM on December 3, 2003


"Without a word, the pupil slaps his master's face."

This is what I've always understood to be the answer.
posted by Dean King at 1:57 PM on December 3, 2003


oh. I guess I am dumb, I just figured it was the sound you get it if you quickly bend your fingers and clap against the palm of the same hand.
posted by jann at 2:00 PM on December 3, 2003


Koans appear to be deep and mystical, until you realize that they're (ironically) a rather fashionable style of interview question used by some modern employee recruitment strategies, and are actually about as revealing as Cosmo personality tests.
posted by yesster at 2:03 PM on December 3, 2003


i like that the excerpt comes from a "SAQ" (seldom asked questions).

great collection of zen stories to tell your neighbors here
posted by jcruelty at 2:04 PM on December 3, 2003


The answers? Don't give away the answers!!! How will you ever reach enlightenment if you can simply read the answers? Sheesh. Now someone's gonna have to go and write brand new koans.
posted by VulcanMike at 2:09 PM on December 3, 2003


*snaps fingers*
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:10 PM on December 3, 2003


Damn that's eerie. As I was reading this link, a Simpsons re-run started playing on the local UPN affiliate. Of course, it was "Dead Putting Society", where Lisa helps Bart in a putt-putt golf competition with the very same koan....
posted by jbrjake at 2:12 PM on December 3, 2003


J.D. Salinger, the first page of the first story of his collexion. The character's lighting a smoke, reaching the phone and waving her fingernail polish dry.

(On preview, jbrjake, I was thinking that, too.)
posted by philfromhavelock at 2:14 PM on December 3, 2003


(Sorry. Salinger included this koan on the intro sheet of his collection. Someone interpreted this character as answering the koan.)
posted by philfromhavelock at 2:16 PM on December 3, 2003


Unless I'm mistaken, the "joke" is that there is no answer. The quasi-reasonable form of the question leads you to ponder if there might not be a semi-reasonable answer - and you are already off on the wrong track. This koan, like most others, is intended to train you to open your mind, to look beyond the habitual paths your mind has been trained to peer down. The linked articles imply that there's this "obscure book" with the "right answers" in it - I would venture the opinion that's not the case. There are a plethora of books offering to explain the koans to you, but there are no right answers to be found in any book...
posted by JollyWanker at 2:21 PM on December 3, 2003


sounds like interview between Bush and reporter--at one point Bush is said to have told the cook in Iraq (making turkey to serve troops) that "anyone can carve a turkey if the turkey has no bones."
posted by Postroad at 2:36 PM on December 3, 2003


~Perigee thrusts one hand forward~
Get used to that one, folks... I think I've just discovered the answer to every one of next year's political threads...
posted by Perigee at 2:38 PM on December 3, 2003


One can gain as much enlightenment from reading this so-called answer as one can gain from watching The Matrix: Reloaded. The answer is not in the answer it is in the answering.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:24 PM on December 3, 2003


What is the sound of one hand clapping?

I think we'll get our answer during the lingerie bowl.

*rimshot*
posted by The God Complex at 3:30 PM on December 3, 2003


Well, that clears that up. Now what about that tree thing?
posted by Samsonov14 at 3:49 PM on December 3, 2003


second degree Via Memepool? Or is the web just a very small place?


Given the title of the book I was almost certain it'd be a spoof.. The things people do..
posted by fvw at 3:59 PM on December 3, 2003


::Flaps hand in air, silently::
posted by moonbiter at 4:49 PM on December 3, 2003


*fap, fap, fap*
posted by Eloquence at 5:26 PM on December 3, 2003


What is the sound of one hand clapping?

One hand can't clap, by definition. The question is therefore a load of arse, as are dialogues of supposed responses. Spend three years contemplating something useful instead.
posted by raygirvan at 7:12 PM on December 3, 2003


One hand can't clap, by definition. The question is therefore a load of arse, as are dialogues of supposed responses.

I think the point, as with the tree, is that all sensory experiences are relationships, that if a tree falls and no one is there to receive the sounds waves, the sounds itself doesn't happen, the sound as we experience it by definition requires our reception of the data, and the data on its own is not actually sound. One hand can't clap because both halves have to be involved for the action to take place as defined.

It reminds us of the nature of phenomenal experience, that we're actively a part of all we know. I agree it doesn't have an answer, but I disagree that it's pointless to make ourselves aware of our integration in nature and experience.
posted by mdn at 7:27 PM on December 3, 2003


good one :D thanks!
posted by kliuless at 7:45 PM on December 3, 2003


*smiles*
posted by sgt.serenity at 11:23 PM on December 3, 2003


The sound of one hand clapping is clearly a fish. If you people haven't figured that out by now, then I wash my hand of you.
posted by taz at 1:01 AM on December 4, 2003


Gutei's Finger!

Whenever anyone asked him about Zen, the great master Gutei would quietly raise one finger into the air. A boy in the village began to imitate this behavior. Whenever he heard people talking about Gutei's teachings, he would interrupt the discussion and raise his finger. Gutei heard about the boy's mischief. When he saw him in the street, he seized him and cut off his finger. The boy cried and began to run off, but Gutei called out to him. When the boy turned to look, Gutei raised his finger into the air. At that moment the boy became enlightened.
posted by roboto at 2:03 AM on December 4, 2003


Don't miss the parent page, which offers a lot of obscure and fascinating info about Japan.
posted by pyramid termite at 3:12 AM on December 4, 2003


Gutei was close upon it.

When the question is asked, "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" we must accept that there is an answer. Every question has only one answer.

The answer is not "no answer", and the answer is not "an answer".

In any case, answering the question in your own mind is requisite. If you choose not to answer the question by pretending an answer of physics or perception, or by ignoring the question, you have not approached zen.
posted by ewkpates at 4:17 AM on December 4, 2003


Unca Cecil weighs in ...
posted by RavinDave at 4:43 AM on December 4, 2003


I've always been more fascinated with the whole immovable object versus irrestable(sp?) force one.
posted by Yossarian at 5:51 AM on December 4, 2003


Every question has only one answer

Sure, and every answer has only one question.

you have not approached zen.

I try to stay away from zen, but it's so damn cute, and it seems to follow me everywhere. How can I make it leave me alone?
posted by sfenders at 7:14 AM on December 4, 2003


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