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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).]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


(Buddhism) (in Zen Buddhism) a problem or riddle that admits no logical solution
[from Japanese]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(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]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
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"
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.
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During meditation, students keep their eyes semi-open, rather than closing them fully, and they can often be presented with 'koans'; a type of unusual riddle.
Several of the stories are very short, and these are the most enigmatic, as though Bullwinkel condenses several fleeting, bizarre images into impossible koans that the reader will never solve but will continually wonder over.
The housing project, dubbed, 'GJA Media Village Project, which is in partnership with Koans Building Solutions, a real estate company in Ghana, in a bid to resolve the accommodation challenges facing journalists, as well as encourage them to own houses upon retirement.
Then there are some who are given "Koans" by Zen Masters.
But the best short writing -- in the form of aphorisms, koans, haiku, for example -- has special powers to shake us out of our conceptual biases and actually rewire our neurological pathways.
Zen Master Raven: The Teachings of a Wise Old Bird is inspired by the koans of ancient Zen masters.
"Fasting the Mind" details simple meditation practices that are easy to implement in daily life, such as open-awareness meditation and contemplation of Zen koans, as well as the advanced techniques of Vipassana, a Theravadic Buddhist discipline centered on seclusion from all worldly stimuli.
For over 30 years, Zen teacher John Tarrant has been teaching people how to meditate with koans. He has developed ways to practice with koans--traditionally reserved for advanced Zen students--that beginners might find useful.
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." (329)
Inoue's synopses of educational theories, combined with his counterpoints and study questions, are like a series of Zen koans. Though he sometimes provides his own takes on the issues, Inoue often leaves the koans open to interpretation and commentary by readers.
Simmonds continues with koans, revisiting religion and sexuality.
The book concludes with a omedicine bundleo of koans to ponder for understanding and equanimity.