What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Kamran
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What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Post by Kamran » Thu Nov 01, 2012 1:55 am

Thanissaro Bikhu says that maybe this famous koan is referring to sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that clap against the mind and cause it to clap back. Is the koan referring to the mind that does not clap back and does not react to the senses but just observes them ? That is the mind that we are after.

Ajahn Sumedho thinks the sound of one hand clapping is the sound of silence, also called the nada, which is a pleasant whistling noise from within the ear that meditators often hear and that can be used as a meditation aid.

I am interested to know what others think of this koan.

Thanks.
"Silence gives answers"

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

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Re: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Post by mikenz66 » Thu Nov 01, 2012 2:13 am

Hi Kamran,

Do you have references to these statements, or could you give some actual quotes? They sound interesting, but it would be useful to see the context.

:anjali:
Mike

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m0rl0ck
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Re: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Post by m0rl0ck » Thu Nov 01, 2012 2:22 am

The original koan was "You know the sound of two hands clapping; tell me, what is the sound of one hand?" Notice that the word "clapping" does not appear after the phrase "one hand".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hakuin_Ekaku" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
“The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.” ― Robert M. Pirsig

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Re: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Post by DNS » Thu Nov 01, 2012 3:27 am

It is a Zen teaching of course, not Theravada. If the bhantes did respond as what is written in the OP, I imagine a Zen master would respond something like:

"You have the philosopher's disease! Always wanting to analyze everything!" And then the Zen master would fill a tea cup so that it overflows and then says, "this is your mind, nothing further can enter, it is overflowing; you need to empty your cup."

This kind of anti-intellectualism is not my cup of tea, but I am sure some find it useful and helpful.

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Re: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Post by m0rl0ck » Thu Nov 01, 2012 3:46 am

David N. Snyder wrote:And then the Zen master would fill a tea cup so that it overflows and then says, "this is your mind, nothing further can enter, it is overflowing; you need to empty your cup."

This kind of anti-intellectualism is not my cup of tea, but I am sure some find it useful and helpful.
That anecdote is not about anti-intellectualism, if you want to approach zen intellectually you can find reams and reams and shelves and shelves of books to help you do that. The anecdote i think is more about set beliefs about oneself and the world, for example the belief that zen is anti-intellectual :)
“The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.” ― Robert M. Pirsig

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Re: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Post by DNS » Thu Nov 01, 2012 3:56 am

m0rl0ck wrote:The anecdote i think is more about set beliefs about oneself and the world, for example the belief that zen is anti-intellectual :)
Or about the set beliefs that one thinks one knows another has. :)

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Re: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Post by whynotme » Thu Nov 01, 2012 4:07 am

I am not a fan of zen tradition but zen isn't for understanding, zen is for seeing.

Zen koan is just a way to point to something, i.e look at this direction you will see this. But human mind is busy with reasons and thoughts and habits so it is not easy to tell the mind that, hey, mind, look at this you will see this. Instead they use a trick to force the mind to see what they want the mind to see

IMO, zen method is dangerous because it can be explained in many different ways, especially in our current situation with cyber space where information is counted in terabytes and gigabytes per second. Everyone can read it then explain the zen story to fit his theory.

And I laughed at Thanissaro Bihhikhu and Ajahn Sumedho's explanations if that was true. Well, I respect them but zen is just full of tricks, there isn't something like 'maybe' or 'thought' in zen. It is just a trick, if you know it you know it, if you don't know it every explanation is wrong.

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Re: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Post by whynotme » Thu Nov 01, 2012 4:11 am

To explain the zen koan, I think some member here know it, e.g ground even he is/ isn't from zen tradition
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Re: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Post by m0rl0ck » Thu Nov 01, 2012 4:12 am

Kamran wrote: I am interested to know what others think of this koan.

Thanks.
My guess is that the original koan was an invitation to follow the sound of "one hand", to its source. To really investigate it.
“The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.” ― Robert M. Pirsig

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Re: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Post by m0rl0ck » Thu Nov 01, 2012 4:15 am

whynotme wrote: And I laughed at Thanissaro Bihhikhu and Ajahn Sumedho's explanations if that was true. Well, I respect them but zen is just full of tricks, there isn't something like 'maybe' or 'thought' in zen. It is just a trick, if you know it you know it, if you don't know it every explanation is wrong.

Regards
Zen is not a trick. Zen is a way of understanding self and the ground of existence. Its best done with a teacher lest one fall into misconceptions like "its merely a trick".
“The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.” ― Robert M. Pirsig

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Re: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Post by whynotme » Thu Nov 01, 2012 4:18 am

m0rl0ck wrote:
whynotme wrote: And I laughed at Thanissaro Bihhikhu and Ajahn Sumedho's explanations if that was true. Well, I respect them but zen is just full of tricks, there isn't something like 'maybe' or 'thought' in zen. It is just a trick, if you know it you know it, if you don't know it every explanation is wrong.

Regards
Zen is not a trick. Zen is a way of understanding self and the ground of existence. Its best done with a teacher lest one fall into misconceptions like "its merely a trick".
Sorry my bad. I meant zen is a tricky way to understand self and existence. It can lead to insight but it has disadvantages as well

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Re: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Post by pegembara » Thu Nov 01, 2012 4:25 am

This question is nonsense. There is no answer or perhaps the "answer" is silence.

In a similar vein, I can ask an unmarried person, "How is your husband/wife doing?"
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

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Re: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Post by whynotme » Thu Nov 01, 2012 4:43 am

pegembara wrote:This question is nonsense. There is no answer or perhaps the "answer" is silence.

In a similar vein, I can ask an unmarried person, "How is your husband/wife doing?"
Well, that is the normal logical answer, and it is not the goal of zen koan. It a trick similar to the story the Buddha let his brother Nanda see the nymphs and promise he will get 500 of them if he practices the dhamma. Then Nanda reached arahantship

Zen is like that, it needs the deep understanding between teacher and student, e.g the teacher knows the personality of his student, what things he is inclined in so he could create a koan in his mind. Then the student has serious concentration because of that koan. This concentration can lead to some insight. This is the purpose of zen, create a natural concentration: sila -> concentration -> panna

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Re: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Post by pegembara » Thu Nov 01, 2012 5:04 am

whynotme wrote:
pegembara wrote:This question is nonsense. There is no answer or perhaps the "answer" is silence.

In a similar vein, I can ask an unmarried person, "How is your husband/wife doing?"
Well, that is the normal logical answer, and it is not the goal of zen koan. It a trick similar to the story the Buddha let his brother Nanda see the nymphs and promise he will get 500 of them if he practices the dhamma. Then Nanda reached arahantship

Zen is like that, it needs the deep understanding between teacher and student, e.g the teacher knows the personality of his student, what things he is inclined in so he could create a koan in his mind. Then the student has serious concentration because of that koan. This concentration can lead to some insight. This is the purpose of zen, create a natural concentration: sila -> concentration -> panna

Regards

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

"After hearing this, Ananda and all those present were completely bewildered."

So am I right in thinking that the purpose of koan is to produce concentration without discursive thoughts. Mind is bewildered into silence similar to samadhi state from which wisdom can arise.
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

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Re: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Post by m0rl0ck » Thu Nov 01, 2012 5:17 am

pegembara wrote: "After hearing this, Ananda and all those present were completely bewildered."
Thats just my sig :) i didnt really mean for it to be part of the discussion, tho i suppose to some degree it may seem to apply. I just picked it out of the cited sutra because, often when im attempting to wade through a sutra i get bewildered, and i found the quote funny for that reason :)
“The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.” ― Robert M. Pirsig

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