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1.
The sound of one hand clapping is the sound of one hand closing quickly.
The sound of one hand clapping is supposed to be a question with no answer. It is a clasic Zen koan given to students to aid in enlightenment by leading the mind into a cul-de-sac with no way out but enlightenment. How enlightened could the person who came up with this koan be, considering it has such an obvious and simple answer?
by fred ressler August 16, 2007
40 11
 
2.
Fundamental lore of Zen Buddhism; know as the Kōan traditional. In the west formally termed onanism or colloquially: ‘throttling the purple headed yogurt slinger’. This is the sound of skin slamming skin as “mediation” reaches the point of enlightenment.
“Ekaku what are you doing in the bathroom”

“Nothing”

“If you’re doing nothing, why can half the building hear the sound of one hand clapping? I swear if you’ve ruined another one of my Grattan catalogues with your man milk I promise you this is the last time Madame palmer's five daughters are coming 'round to play.”
by Filthclub July 09, 2010
11 5
 
3.
A reference to a zen koan, worn threadbare and meaningless by endless repetition in the media. It has no 'answer' unless, as in definition (1) above, the answerer redefines the term 'clapping', thus entirely missing the point.
Teacher: "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"

Student: "Um, the snapping of fingers?"

Teacher: (whacks student with computer keyboard)
by RunningBulldog October 10, 2012
4 2