Zen Riddles are Strange

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Zen Riddle #1 - bell:
How do you stop a temple bell 100 miles away?
Here's the answer....(Show/Hide)

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...but easy to solve.

The box on the right gives you a nice example.

Zen riddles are complicated questions about everything.
Forget about logic and jump out of the riddle. That's it!

The answer of the riddles doesn't matter: say something creative, the mad the better. Done.

Just in case you want to know more ....

Buddha history
Buddhist Koan

"Cut a tree five hundred miles away from you. Cut it right now!!"

Sounds impossible?

Right. Zen koans ask for the impossible to be done on the spot!

The solution has to be as mad and paradoxical as the riddle is.

Let's try a mad reaction to the cutting tree riddle: "Great job. Let's have a beer!"

That's a multi-purpose reaction to many Zen koans.

Unfortunately some people, especially Zen masters, may not want to have a beer with you. That's sad, but that's how they are.

Buddha history
What gives life meaning

Okay, to satisfy those guys who can't accept your creativity there is a "way of the rules".
  • First rule to solve Zen koans: Look for THINGS, mentioned in the riddle.

  • Second rule: Look for ACTION mentioned in the riddle.

  • Third rule: Look for the uttering of HOLY actors.
There's no holiness in the riddle above, but tree, saw or axe are "things" and cutting is "action".

Produce a combination of the first and second rules:

Move your hand with the saw back and forth and hum while cutting the tree.

This time the Zen master smiles thinly and nods.

Now you've a good chance to go for the next Koan or for some Zen practice at Meditation Hall.

Besides madness and rule-driven solutions there other more simple Koan answers. On the cutting the distant tree riddle just say: "Yes, a tree is green" or move your arms like branches of a tree.

Enough of cutting trees.
Let's try another Koan, a dog riddle: Why did your dog bark throughout the night?

the way of Zen
Koan Practice

Stupid question. Who knows why a dog barks? They bark, that's all.

But Zen riddles are not about explaining, but about the madness of everything.


"Let's have a beer", is again a good solution to the barking dog riddle. But as I said, not everybody appreciates creativity. Bark yourself, walk on hands and knees, lift one leg and piss, that may be more acceptable.

Why? Remember the rules? Let's try: What are the "things" of the riddle? Yes, the dog and the night. What is the action? Barking. Right? Combine them and there's another answer: Bow wow.

the way of Zen

Zen Koans

Other creative answers: "The moon is shining." Or: sniff and say: "Here's a stinking dog around."

Or just walk carefully: Step, step, step. Why? Don't ask. It just came in my mind.

In normal life this kind of reactions on a question or a problem would be seen as childish or mad. In Zen it's a sign of maturity.

For explanations of the rules on a personal level goto Zen Koans.

Finding out how to answer a riddle or koan can be time consuming, even if you follow my wonderful instructions.

You may look for help by Zen books that comment on koans, one 's smarter then the other.

Don't hope for solutions, you'll only be showered with vain and confusing Zen-talk.

Traditional Zen-people insist on the secrecy of riddle and koan solutions.
They believe in decoding hundreds of koans by somebody leads to enlightenment. Ok. Fine.

Here is an alternative for you, the quick

Free Riddle and Koan Service.

Good luck.

Do you want more Koans and background stories? Here they are.

go to Zen Koans

see the 48 Koans of Mommonkan

visite the Person that calls itself 'I'

explore Zen's World

go to Buddhist Koans

return to Home Page from Zen Riddles