But then, that’s actually part of the point.

Koans are riddles, questions or short fictitious dialogs used in Zen Buddhism. According to my (limited) understanding of Zen Buddhism one of their defining characters is that they usually evade rational thinking. They are meant to be confusing and startling. If they make sense to you, you have probably misunderstood them. Funny beasts they are.

One of the reasons (according to my understanding) for such silly things are that some people believe that enlightenment cannot be “taught”, that you cannot rationally convince someone of the path to enlightenment. Certain things need to be experienced. Another reason is that when you reason about something you’re still separated from the item of contemplation. But enlightenment (or certain interpretations of the term) entails being one with everything.

Ok. Enough metaphysical babble. Here’s some practical advise (in the form of a Koan).

A monk asked Zhaozhou to teach him.
Zhaozhou asked, “Have you eaten your meal?”
The monk replied, “Yes, I have.”
“Then go wash your bowl”, said Zhaozhou.
At that moment, the monk was enlightened.