A koan / quan / kwan is a riddle that Zen Buddhists use during meditation to help them unravel greater truths about the world and about themselves.
Zen masters have been testing their students with these stories, questions, or phrases for centuries. Many koans can be traced back to the collections of sayings amassed by Chinese priests in the 12th and 13th centuries.
Koans may seem like paradoxes at first glance. It is up to the Zen student to tease out their meaning. Often, after a prolonged and exhausting intellectual struggle, the student realises that the koan is actually meant to be understood by the spirit and by intuition.
Is it the wind that moves, the flag that moves, or the mind that moves?
What is the sound of one hand clapping?
What was your original face before you were born?
When you can do nothing, what can you do?
When the many are reduced to one, to what is the one reduced?
What is the colour of wind?