The Sound of the One Hand: 281 Zen Koans with Answers
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The Sound of One Hand Clapping, which revealed the answers to hundreds of Zen koans, sparked controversy when it was first published in 1975. It is one of the most important documents pertaining to Eastern Religion and is now reappearing after going out of print almost four decades ago.
When The Sound of One Hand Clapping came out in Japan in 1916 it caused a scandal. Zen was a secretive practice, its wisdom relayed from master to novice in strictest privacy. That a handbook existed recording not only the riddling koans that are central to Zen teaching but also detailing the answers to them seemed to mark Zen as rote, not revelatory. Certainly the nameless Zen renegade who smuggled the book out to the world was bent on exposing the monasteries of his day as factories for making monks rather than centers of No-Mind. A century later, things look very different. The Sound of One Hand Clapping, which includes koans that go back to to the master who first brought the koan-teaching method from Japan to China in the eighteenth century, does indeed open the door on Zen, offering, in the words of the translator Yoel Hoffmann, "the clearest, most detailed, and most correct picture of Zen" that can be found. What we have here is an extraordinary introduction to Zen thought as lived thought, a treasury of problems, paradoxes, and performance that will appeal to artists, writers, and philosophers as well as Buddhists and students of religion. Hoffmann, a student of Zen who is also a celebrated novelist, offers an extensive commentary that elucidates the philosophical and psychological context of the koans. His fellow novelist Dror Burstein offers a new introduction that may be considered yet another writer's response to the multiplying questions with which this strange and marvellous book abounds.