Welcome to my koan section. Here is where I would like to showcase some koans that are interesting to me in some way. You may have heard of one of these things before and maybe didn't realize it. Maybe you heard of the koan "What is the sound of one hand clapping?".
A koan is a sort of recording of a notable conversation and/or event. Typically Zen Buddhists would use these as a sort of mental puzzle. They are meant to 'trip you up' mentally and break up your thought processes in a way to 'wake you up' or enlightenment or Kensho or Sartori or any other synonym for it. I am not an expert on these and my uneducated description may be lacking. Take this page with a grain of salt and look up better definitions if you are interested.
In this section, I want to showcase the koans that are interesting to me. I will write the koan down (many different sort of wordings are found online, I'll choose the version that is more comfortable to me). I'll then post what some have thought about these. I won't cite any as these are just random cases where "I heard people in general think this or that about the koan". Then I'll provide what I thought about it.
And also note that koans aren't really meant to have an answer even though "what we think about it or think what it means" can be looked at as a sort of answer. In other religions, you might have a question. Your spiritual leader like a pastor or priest might provide the answer. In Buddhism, we tend to flip it around. For example. You might ask something very broad like "What is my purpose in life?" or "What happens when we die?". Buddhism flips this around and asks you the question "Who wants to know?". That sounds bad, rude, or sort of snotty does it not? Well it isn't. They want you to turn that scrutiny inward. Who are you? What are you?
A thought on interpretation or trying to answer the koans: Note that these koans (stories/puzzles/parables) are mostly ancient. Some could be newer, but for the most part ancient is the word that could describe their age. I'm also assuming most of my readers are from North America. Given that, there is most likely a large divide on age, culture, and language. Some of these koans, in my opinion, assume too much. They assume you know some key piece of information that would help it make enough sense for you to solve it yourself. But again, with the large divide of time, culture, and language, we are at a disadvantage. Therefore, reading "The Gateless Gate" can help. The book tends to let you in on some of these assumed social nuances and happenings so that you might understand the koan a little better. After studying some of these, I feel the wit and hidden or double meanings in their speech is akin to Samual Clemmins' (Mark Twain) style of wit and humor. So even back then while they had serious topics to discuss, they somtimes tended to do it with double meaning and wit.
Let's look at some of these. I'll slowly add more over time so come back often.
With all of that, enjoy the following koans.
For more koans, or a more complete analysis maybe check out some of these books:
The Blue Cliff Record - Shambhala Publications
The Gateless Gate - Koun Yamada
The Three Pillars of Zen - Kapleau