A. Koans are used to express what cannot be explained in words, which is why people who struggle to solve koans with words in the same way they solve academic questions are likely to regard koans as unanswerable.
Every koan has an exact answer. The answer can be expressed in countless ways, just as ‘two plus three is five’ can be expressed in numerous ways such as ‘six minus one’, ‘seven minus two’, ‘ten divided by two’ and so on.
Koans are also used to check whether we have clear-cut understanding of the Buddha’s teaching. If we cannot answer koans correctly, it testifies that we have only superficial understanding of Buddhism and still have not grasped the core of Buddhism. Koans look unanswerable not because they are really unanswerable but because we have not grasped Buddhist teaching.
The key point is that you don’t know the answer to such questions whilst you are answering them perfectly.
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