pl. ko′ans·, ko′an·
in Zen Buddhism, a verbal puzzle put to a student as a means to enlightenment
Origin of koanJapanese ; from k?, public + an, (a matter for) investigation, consideration
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.
Origin of koanJapanese k&omacron;an : k&omacron;, public (from Middle Chinese k&schwa;w&njlig;; also the source of Mandarin g&omacron;ng) + an, matter (from Middle Chinese &qnodot;an`; also the source of Mandarin àn).
- (Zen Buddhism) A story about a Zen master and his student, sometimes like a riddle, other times like a fable, which has become an object of Zen study, and which, when meditated upon, may unlock mechanisms in the Zen student’s mind leading to satori.
- A riddle with no solution, used to provoke reflection on the inadequacy of logical reasoning, and to lead to enlightenment.
From Japanese 公案 (こうあん), which was from Literary Chinese 公案 (“official business”).