noun, plural koans, koan. Zen.
a nonsensical or paradoxical question to a student for which an answer is demanded, the stress of meditation on the question often being illuminating.
Compare mondo.

1945–50; < Japanese kōan, earlier koũ-an < Middle Chinese, equivalent to Chinese gōngàn public proposal

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World English Dictionary
koan (ˈkəʊæn)
(in Zen Buddhism) a problem or riddle that admits no logical solution
[from Japanese]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

Zen paradox, 1946, from Jap. ko "public" + an "matter for thought."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang Dictionary


/koh'an/ n. A Zen teaching riddle. Classically, koans are attractive paradoxes to be meditated on; their purpose is to help one to enlightenment by temporarily jamming normal cognitive processing so that something more interesting can happen (this practice is associated with Rinzei Zen Buddhism). Hackers are very fond of the koan form and compose their own koans for humororous and/or enlightening effect. See Some AI Koans, has the X nature, hacker humor.
Example sentences
The lack of variety in the landscape here is our koan.
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