What is the sound of one hand clapping?

post by Kevin · 2010-09-28T12:12:44.009Z · score: -1 (2 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 15 comments

The other most famous zen koan, has a distinct and correct answer that is not mu. In the same way that the answer to "what is the sound of two hands clapping?" is to perform an action, the answer to this koan is an action. While there is an endless amount of deconstruction that you can do once you have the answer, the correct answer itself is not deconstruction, but a simple answer.

I'm surprised at how rare knowledge of the answer of this koan is when it's easy to find the answer by Googling "what is the sound of one hand clapping?". I wonder why the answer to the mu koan seems to be so much more widespread than the answer to this koan, when the one hand clapping koan is even more popular in the West than the mu koan. Please don't post answers that come from Google in this thread without spoiler warnings.

15 comments

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comment by NihilCredo · 2010-09-28T20:10:07.508Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Restate the problem while tabooing "to clap" and it disappears.

comment by Will_Newsome · 2010-09-28T22:13:43.473Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Right; it's probably because I'm not enlightened, but the correct answer just seems to be a password. My intuition is that if you properly carved reality at its joints then 'clap' would not make sense in this context; it'd be a meaningless question.

comment by NihilCredo · 2010-09-28T22:35:58.202Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The most benevolent scenario I can come up with is that the Chinese word that was in the place of "clapping" doesn't map 1:1 to English "to clap", and that there was, if not wisdom, at least some wit in the subset of its meaning that was left behind.

comment by ata · 2010-09-28T17:54:24.728Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The first time I heard this question, when I was a small child, I immediately started clapping my right hand's fingers against my palm. It sounds like normal clapping but quieter and a little bit more high-pitched. "What's the big philosophical mystery?", I thought.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-28T18:34:01.845Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

They did that on The Simpsons.

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-09-28T18:38:49.404Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I know what I've heard that the answer is: gb guehfg bar'f unaq gbjneq gur dhrfgvbare (rot13). But as with Rorschach ink blots, it's cheating to know the answer ahead of time.

comment by khafra · 2010-09-28T15:21:49.291Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

IIRC, the original form of the koan is "You have heard the sound of two hands clapping. What is the sound of one hand?" This is a bit more ambiguous.

comment by Emile · 2010-09-28T13:20:30.366Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

V whfg pync zl svatref ntnvafg gur cnyz bs zl unaq, vg znxrf na npprcgnoyr pynccvat fbhaq (Guvf qbrfa'g pbzr sebz tbbtyr). Fb gur nafjre jbhyq or "n pync, ohg abg n irel ybhq bar".

comment by CronoDAS · 2010-09-29T21:41:29.056Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Indeed, Bart Simpson's answer is a pretty good one.

comment by CronoDAS · 2010-09-29T21:40:15.187Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That was Bart Simpson's answer, too.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-09-28T15:28:38.366Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

V guvax lbh'er gnxvat vg n yvggyr gbb yvgrenyyl.

comment by AdeleneDawner · 2010-09-28T15:36:47.359Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Be abg yvgrenyyl rabhtu...

comment by Nisan · 2010-09-30T06:56:01.561Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Here is one answer.

comment by steven0461 · 2010-09-28T21:08:10.035Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

One and a half pounds of flax.

comment by Tiiba · 2010-09-28T19:26:20.935Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I always assumed that the other hand shold be relaxed. In that case... Maybe "whoosh"?