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.
In Zen Buddhism, a verbal puzzle put to a student as a means to enlightenment.
Other Word Forms
Origin of koan
- Japanese kōan kō public (from Middle Chinese kəwŋ) (also the source of Mandarin gōng) an matter (from Middle Chinese ʔan`) (also the source of Mandarin àn)
From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition
- From Japanese 公案 (こうあん), which was from Literary Chinese 公案 (“official business”).