The Sound of One Hand

Mokurai said to the young novice Toyo, "You can hear the sound of two hands clapping. Now show me the sound of one hand."

Mokurai was the master of Kenninji Temple in Kyoto, Japan. Toyo was a novice, twelve years of age. He was too young to receive a koan, as did the older monks, but he persisted in asking until Mokurai finally gave him this one. What could the sound of one hand be? Toyo meditated and meditated. He took his Master all kinds of sounds for answers: dripping water, the music of geisha girls, wind, birds, crickets, locusts, and much else. He tried for many months until, exhausted with sounds, unable to think of any more, little Toyo entered true meditation and transcended all sounds. He said, "I could collect no more, so I reached the soundless sound." The sound of one hand is much louder than the sound of two hands. The one-hand sound vibrates throughout the world.


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