Most Zen Koans were written or collected in 11th to 15th century China.

A famous example is the "Mumonkan", a book with 48 Koan, published by Chan master Wumen Huikai (jap. Mumon Ekai).

But there are much older Koans too, called "Miscellaneous Koans"

They train creative and intuitive problem solving.

Sounds strange. People normally use their (more or less) rational thinking to solve problems.

But in Zen only an intuitive, creative solution of Koans is accepted.

If you want to find out more about this "dogma" in Zen go to the Person that calls itself 'I'

There are six different subjects ancient Zen riddles or Koans deal with. For each Koan an answer is given to show that the Koan-questions and its answers are not logically connected.

To answer a Koan needs intuition and creativity, not logic and intellect.

That's what the ancient Zen Koans demonstrate over and over again.

1. Body and Action

2. Things

3. Roads and Mountains

4. Water Challenges

5. Animals and Plants

6. Metaphysics and Theories

**How to use this page?**

*If you can't believe the answer for a Koan is correct, or want to know more about it, click "???"
It brings you to a Koan box on another page.
Click the "show/hide" button, to see the answer and the explanation.
If a Koan has no "???" button, you may download the free e-book "Miscellaneous Koans"
* to find it.

In spirituality body parts or body actions are often used to illustrate philosophical or religious teachings. E.g. "speaking in tongues" means, influenced by the holy spirit somebody cries out holy words in a language he or she doesn't know. (Second Koan)

The Koan answer brings the spiritual symbol "tongue" down to earth: Just (use your tongue and) say something.

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

Top of Page

This type of Zen Koans challenges our common sense. They are about dealing with normal "things". Everybody knows what you can do with "things" and what you can't.

But that's the cage of logic, you have to leave in Zen.

The Koans have a creative answer, that doesn't care about common sense.

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is ...

...the answer is ...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

Top of Page

**Koan: Who am I?**

Chinese Zen monks walked long distances between monasteries, which were built on top of mountains. This practice was called "the way".

Like on a western pilgrimages after some time landscape, walking and logic melt into one another. the pilgrim is "out of the mind".

Zen Koans question this unique experiences logically.

The answer can only be found by intuitively going back to the pilgrimage on roads and mountains.

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

Top of Page

Water can be dangerous, useful, pleasant, friendly, like a living being. Human imagination uses water as religious symbol (e.g. baptism) or as a philosophical sign.

Many Zen Koans refer to these human water-fantasies.

Forget about them. Water is water. Deal with it, as simple as possible. Thinking doesn't help.

"Draw some water with your hands" is always a good reaction on water.

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

Top of Page

**Koan: Who are you?**

Humans like animals and plants are living beings. They are equals. There's basically no superiority.

To answer a Koan with animals or plants forget the Buddhist rules how to treat them.

To answer the Koan, refer to what a people normally do with animals and plants.

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

Top of Page

**Buddha wrote a Sutra
**

Most cultures are interested in the metaphysics and similar theories. Zen is not.

The Koan "How do you put on a shirt of empty sky?" raises metaphysical questions. For a long time you could ponder about them.

In Zen this kind of questions are answered randomly or literally, like a child:

Just put on a shirt.

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

...the answer is...

Go to

Go to

Return from Zen Koans to