Koan: What Is the Sound of One Hand Clapping?


Gary Corseri – TRANSCEND Media Service

1) Nothing.  One hand cannot clap….

2) Half the sound of 2 hands clapping….

3) Air….

4) A bowl of rice….

5) A cup of tea….

6) “A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou….”

7) A crazy old man doing a jig on thin ice….

8) “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter.”

9) A snowflake in a whirlwind….

10) “The thunderous silence of the drums.”

11) It depends….

12) The Isness of Is….

13) Mysteries in mysteries, potential in potential….

Dr. Gary Steven Corseri is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. He has published and posted articles, fiction and poems at hundreds of venues, including, TMS (Transcend Media Service), The New York Times, Village Voice, Redbook Magazine and Counterpunch.  He has published 2 novels and 2 collections of poetry, and his dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta and elsewhere.  He has performed his poems at the Carter Presidential Library and Museum and has taught in universities in the US and Japan, and in US public schools and prisons.  Contact: Gary_Corseri@comcast.net.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 1 Jan 2018.

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4 Responses to “Koan: What Is the Sound of One Hand Clapping?”

  1. Björn Lindgren says:

    Hi Gary,


    So, take a deeper look into this important koan.

    Cheers, Björn Lindgren

  2. Gary Corseri. says:

    Thanks for your comment, Bjorn. To which I reply, “Yes!” This is a poem, not a koan. The solution to the koan is not to come up with one indisputable answer, but for each person to work out the answer(s) for him/her self.

    Actually, it’s a work-in-progress. My most recent version ender with a simple point # 14–which was “Zen?”

    An open question.



  3. Gary Corseri. says:

    I meant, of course, to write “ended.” (But, maybe this poem/koan never really ends….)

  4. Piet says:

    The sound one one hand slapping is the sound of one hand clapping against something or other un-named. I slap my thigh to the sound of one hand clapping.