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What is the sound of one hand clapping?

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"What is the sound of one hand clapping?" is a traditional zen koan -- a question posed by a Zen master to a student.

It is meant to be pondered from within the routine of daily life until the answer opens the true heart of the question. All koans must be answered from within the realm of one's own personal experience, and thus be encountered in the journey of living rather than in the rationalizations of logical thought.

Accordingly, each koan has many answers, answers that will vary both in words and in the stirring of one's mind and emotions.

Even the wisest Zen teacher cannot tell you your own answer. You must find it for yourself, and not in your mind, and not in the comfort of a rational response. Once experienced, the answer is often a life changing experience, and needs no confirmation from anyone else.

Here are responses to the question from a variety of WikiAnswer users:

  • What is the sound of one hand clapping? To know, you must experience those aspects of your own life that create this very soundless sound (emotion) within your own being. People who have truly lived with a koan for an extended period of time come to experience the answer. In my own travels down this path with this particular question, there eventually came to be a certain opening of awareness, and a manifestation of the heart of compassion became tangible within. In my experience, the sound of one hand clapping is the emotion of loneliness deeply felt in an increasingly self centered pursuit of enlightenment Experiencing this "answer" turned me away from relative isolation and the self-centered desire to "know," and towards the world and the practice of metta.
  • The simpler answer- It depends on what the hand is clapping against! The yin and yang of it. The Gestalt. The figure and the ground. The container and the contents.
  • What is the sound of one hand clapping in your own life?
  • The sound of one hand clapping is silence. The silence refers to the essence of being which is nothingness.
  • What is the sound of one hand clapping? Who are you when your thinking is silenced? .
  • Our true nature is stillness. That stillness is the same everywhere in everything. But like he up there... concepts won't teach you anything.
  • The sound of one hand clapping is a tiny sound that can be barley heard by humans.
  • the hand is the human heart and the clapping is emotions the other hand represents the one that makes us whole thus the clapping of both hands is the power of two people's emotions and the hands touching each other is the connection between the two people
  • The sound of one hand clapping is a conversation with someone that never connects with them so you try again and again before realizing you are only talking to yourself - they don't get it. If you never realize that, you are just insane by definition and you will continue to be the one hand that connects with nothingness.
  • Using a sound recording device, clap with one hand. Play back the result
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In Physics

What makes clapping sound?

Just like a balloon popping, a clap creates a mini sonic boom as air is forced out a of a small space between the hands, thus creating the loud "clap".