What is the sound of one hand clapping?

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What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Postby 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.
When this concentration is thus developed, thus well developed by you, then wherever you go, you will go in comfort. Wherever you stand, you will stand in comfort. Wherever you sit, you will sit in comfort. Wherever you lie down, you will lie down in comfort.
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Re: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

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

Postby 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
"When you meditate, don't send your mind outside. Don't fasten onto any knowledge at all. Whatever knowledge you've gained from books or teachers, don't bring it in to complicate things. Cut away all preoccupations, and then as you meditate let all your knowledge come from what's going on in the mind. When the mind is quiet, you'll know it for yourself. But you have to keep meditating a lot. When the time comes for things to develop, they'll develop on their own. Whatever you know, have it come from your own mind.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Postby David N. Snyder » 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?

Postby 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 :)
"When you meditate, don't send your mind outside. Don't fasten onto any knowledge at all. Whatever knowledge you've gained from books or teachers, don't bring it in to complicate things. Cut away all preoccupations, and then as you meditate let all your knowledge come from what's going on in the mind. When the mind is quiet, you'll know it for yourself. But you have to keep meditating a lot. When the time comes for things to develop, they'll develop on their own. Whatever you know, have it come from your own mind.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Postby David N. Snyder » 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?

Postby 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?

Postby 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?

Postby 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.
"When you meditate, don't send your mind outside. Don't fasten onto any knowledge at all. Whatever knowledge you've gained from books or teachers, don't bring it in to complicate things. Cut away all preoccupations, and then as you meditate let all your knowledge come from what's going on in the mind. When the mind is quiet, you'll know it for yourself. But you have to keep meditating a lot. When the time comes for things to develop, they'll develop on their own. Whatever you know, have it come from your own mind.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Postby 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".
"When you meditate, don't send your mind outside. Don't fasten onto any knowledge at all. Whatever knowledge you've gained from books or teachers, don't bring it in to complicate things. Cut away all preoccupations, and then as you meditate let all your knowledge come from what's going on in the mind. When the mind is quiet, you'll know it for yourself. But you have to keep meditating a lot. When the time comes for things to develop, they'll develop on their own. Whatever you know, have it come from your own mind.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Postby 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?

Postby 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?

Postby 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?

Postby 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?

Postby 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 :)
"When you meditate, don't send your mind outside. Don't fasten onto any knowledge at all. Whatever knowledge you've gained from books or teachers, don't bring it in to complicate things. Cut away all preoccupations, and then as you meditate let all your knowledge come from what's going on in the mind. When the mind is quiet, you'll know it for yourself. But you have to keep meditating a lot. When the time comes for things to develop, they'll develop on their own. Whatever you know, have it come from your own mind.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Postby pegembara » Thu Nov 01, 2012 5:43 am

Here is a koan by the Ajahn Chah recounted by Aj Brahmavamso.


Ajahn Chah took one look at me, saw that I'd been in a deep meditation, and he said, "Brahmavamso, why?"

I was completely surprised and confused, and replied, "I don't know."

Afterwards he said, "If anyone ever asks you that question again, the correct answer is, 'There is nothing.' Do you understand?"

"Yes," I said.

"No you don't," he replied.

So if you've been asking that question, "Why? Why? Why?," I've given you the answer now. It's straight from a great meditation master, Ajahn Chah. The answer to the question "Why?" is, "There is nothing."

http://www.midamericadharma.org/gangess ... ml#letting go
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Re: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Postby m0rl0ck » Thu Nov 01, 2012 6:20 am

pegembara wrote:Here is a koan by the Ajahn Chah recounted by Aj Brahmavamso.


Ajahn Chah took one look at me, saw that I'd been in a deep meditation, and he said, "Brahmavamso, why?"

I was completely surprised and confused, and replied, "I don't know."

Afterwards he said, "If anyone ever asks you that question again, the correct answer is, 'There is nothing.' Do you understand?"

"Yes," I said.

"No you don't," he replied.

So if you've been asking that question, "Why? Why? Why?," I've given you the answer now. It's straight from a great meditation master, Ajahn Chah. The answer to the question "Why?" is, "There is nothing."

http://www.midamericadharma.org/gangess ... ml#letting go


Yes, but its a really interesting nothing i bet.
"When you meditate, don't send your mind outside. Don't fasten onto any knowledge at all. Whatever knowledge you've gained from books or teachers, don't bring it in to complicate things. Cut away all preoccupations, and then as you meditate let all your knowledge come from what's going on in the mind. When the mind is quiet, you'll know it for yourself. But you have to keep meditating a lot. When the time comes for things to develop, they'll develop on their own. Whatever you know, have it come from your own mind.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Postby Viscid » Thu Nov 01, 2012 6:13 pm

m0rl0ck wrote:Yes, but its a really interesting nothing i bet.


It's probably an interesting nothing from the perspective of something, but not interesting in and of itself.

It's worthwhile to note that Brahm doesn't actually give his interpretation of what Chah meant. Perhaps the statement is more meaningful to people without one. Maybe Brahm isn't sure what he meant. It sure does sound profound, though.
"What holds attention determines action." - William James
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Re: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Postby beeblebrox » Thu Nov 01, 2012 7:14 pm

These koans are like mini-samsara and you have to figure out the nibbana, that's all... (without turning it into a papanca mess, please.)
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Re: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Postby Kamran » Fri Nov 02, 2012 2:22 am

Thanks for the replies. I paraphrased the quotes from dhamma talks but will have to find them on my mp3 player. Below is some additional info that I found.

"In trying to answer the Koan, the student will come to a mental "precipice", as it were, where all the methods and procedures of accepted thinking no longer function. The purpose of the Koan is to shove the student over this precipice into an area of experience that is completely new. This is the spiritual reality that the Zen master is attempting to guide the student towards."

" What is the sound of one hand?" Of course, in terms of the conventional world there can be no sound from a single hand. Sound logically needs two hands clapping. However, the question presumes that one hand clapping has already created a sound and that it can be heard. The question is not about sound or hands clapping, although this is quite conceivable within the context of Zen. The question is rather about hearing the impossible, which is only termed impossible within the framework of conventional reality. The Zen master is therefore pressing and encouraging the student to critique ordinary reality and to force the mind into other areas of understanding."

http://www.essortment.com/understanding ... 42451.html
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