The koan is designed to make the aspiring student of Rinzai Zen ponder a problem, sometimes for years. The student may go to a teacher to discuss the koan and receive advice, but like all good things, the answer usually comes from deep inside oneself.

Below are some well known koans:

•  “Has a dog Buddha-Nature?”

•  “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

•  “What was your face before your parents were born?”

•  “After passing away, what will you need?”

•  “Where has all of yesterday’s commotion gone?”

•  “Clearly knowing the unborn nature of life, why are we stayed by life?”

•  “The buddhas of past present and future do not know it is: cats and cows know it is.”

•  “When someone who has undergone the great death then returns to life, how is it?”

•  “Do people these days need enlightenment or not?”

•  “When not a single thing is brought, then what?”

•  “The golden fish that’s passed through the net—what does it use for food?”

•  “How is it when a crane stands on a withered pine?”

•  “When not producing a single thought, is there any fault or not?”

•  “If you have a staff, I will give you one.  If you have no staff, I will take it

away from you.”

•  “Why is it that a man of great strength cannot lift up his own legs?”

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