Zen kōans: unsolvable enigmas designed to break your brain - Puqun Li

This is cute and enjoyable. The flag koan is actually part of the story of the 6th Patriarch, and how he came to teach the dharma after transmission.


What is Yantou’s death shout?


“Let go of the search for the true answer”

“Abolish binary thinking”



Truth is now, so any movement of searching away from now, is a lie … :wink:

I love koans in the morning! …, they smell like … Victory!!

Have a day! :slight_smile:


Fascinating, but are koans a kind of celebration…or a repudiation of the intellect?

the echo of his birth cry …


And then, Hakuin’s teacher suggested he go deeper. 🧹…



My understanding is that koans are like the denouement of a story told of a master teacher. The teacher has an encounter with a student. The student has an awakening moment based on something the teacher said, and that phrase gets passed down through the ages in an effort to produce an awakening moment in others. There’s a great deal of romanticizing of the koan, but I wouldn’t really call it celebration or repudiation.


Some of the most challenging koans deal with the deaths of master teachers. For example, Yantou’s shout was the one he gave as the bandit killed him. It was not an ordinary shout but a shout that resounded through the ages, even touching Hakuin, a later Zen master. Koans have many levels of inquiry. With Yantou’s shout, we immediately come face to face with the question of how we would die as the bandit’s sword descends. Most of us would be paralyzed with mute horror. But Yantou gave a great shout. What did he shout? Why did he shout? How did he shout? To whom did he shout?

And the layers continue with Hakuin, who struggled with this under the guidance of his own teacher. Why was Hakuin’s teacher unhappy with his first answer? What on earth did the broom do to Hakuin? What did Hakuin do while being beaten by the broom?

Deep in meditation, insight appears and crystallizes into an answer. We approach the roshi with our answer. And then we get promptly skewered and shot down. Next student!


inside the koan clear mind

by Ikkyu (Ikkyu Sojun)

English version by Stephen Berg
Original Language Japanese

inside the koan clear mind
gashes the great darkness