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A puzzling, often paradoxical statement, anecdote, question, or verbal exchange, used in Zen Buddhism as an aid to meditation and a means of gaining spiritual awakening.

[Japanese kōan : , public (from Middle Chinese kəwŋ; also the source of Mandarin gōng) + an, matter (from Middle Chinese ʔan`; also the source of Mandarin àn).]


(Buddhism) (in Zen Buddhism) a problem or riddle that admits no logical solution
[from Japanese]


(ˈkoʊ ɑn)

n., pl. -ans, -an.
a nonsensical or paradoxical question posed to a Zen student as a subject for meditation, intended to help the student break free of reason and develop intuition in order to achieve enlightenment.
[1945–50; < Japanese kōan, earlier koũ-an < Middle Chinese, < Chinese gōngàn public proposal]
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.koan - a paradoxical anecdote or a riddle that has no solution; used in Zen Buddhism to show the inadequacy of logical reasoning
problem - a question raised for consideration or solution; "our homework consisted of ten problems to solve"
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References in periodicals archive ?
Zen Master Raven: The Teachings of a Wise Old Bird is inspired by the koans of ancient Zen masters.
Aptly translated into English for a contemporary readership by Beata Grant (Professor of Chinese and Religious Studies, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Washington University), "Zen Echoes: Classic Koans with Verse Commentaries by Three Female Chan Masters" shows us that women masters in Buddhism have existed down through the centuries from antiquity to the present day.
For over 30 years, Zen teacher John Tarrant has been teaching people how to meditate with koans.
0 of Scala Exercises will launch this year and include new features such as the ability to save progress on exercises across devices, additional koans, better evaluation, and the ability to write exercises in code.
Thus, he explains that "The aesthetic of composition is the dynamic zone orkhora where the non-linearity common to poems, Zen koans, and inventive mathematics proffer limited healing and recourse to discourse rendered immobile by the erosion of its very grooves" (329); an intermedial non-place "waived or suspended by the visual resources intrinsic to poetic space.
He's as comfortable with the koans and cadence of classical Buddhist literature as he is with cerebral anatomy.
Simmonds continues with koans, revisiting religion and sexuality.
The book concludes with a omedicine bundleo of koans to ponder for understanding and equanimity.
Life Between the Tigers: Zen Wisdom in Everyday English is an anthology of brief Buddhist parables and Zen koans (brief stories of paradox that challenge the listener to reevaluate his or her understanding of daily reality) adapted especially for contemporary Western readers.
Small metal disks, of the kind used for dog tags, were stamped with words or phrases (uncle, brave horsk, by car, soup) and appeared among these objects like misplaced labels or floating koans.
Zen koans are "about hearing the impossible" where the impossible "is only termed impossible within the framework of conventional reality" (para.
In the visually arresting 2081, he is a smoldering, kohl-eyed convict, full of koans and confidence.