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What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Although no longer an active student of Zen, I was recently meditating of the riddle of one hand clapping when I got an answer that might be useful to share.

The sound of one hand clapping is the same as the sound of two hands clapping.

How could that be, you ask (for the sake of this article I am assuming that you do ask)? It’s simple, I reply. The concept of clapping implies that a sound is being produced by two surfaces coming into contact, even if only one of them is actually moving. No sound, no clapping; no second surface, no sound. Yet, the riddle definitely states that there is a sound and that there is clapping. Therefore, my answer follows logically. Yes, I know, the answer to a koan is supposed to be beyond logic, but rest assured that the answer came intuitively. The logic came after.

Before you dismiss this as simply a bit of cleverness or a waste of time, let me tell you about the rest of the meditation. After the revelation that the sound of one hand clapping must be the same as the sound of two hands clapping, it struck me that this was a nice metaphor for two of the corollaries of the Second Principle of Huna. The basic principle states that there are no limits, which implies that everything is in a relationship to everything else. And that implies that if you change one side of a relationship you change both sides. Even if only one hand changes its position relative to another, unmoving hand , a clapping sound will be produced. We don’t have to wait for both sides of a relationship to participate before bringing about beneficial change. Change one side of that relationship and the other side has to change because the relationship has changed.