Osho ~ If you have heard about Zen masters... they go on telling their disciples to go and meditate, meditate on the sound of one hand clapping. We can create a sound by clapping two hands. Zen masters say to their disciples, ”Go and find out that sound which comes out of only one hand: the clapping of one hand, not with anything else.”
We know this is absurd. A sound can come only with conflict, with two things clashing. Two hands can create sound, not one hand. Zen masters also know that, but still they have been giving this meditation for centuries. From Buddha up to now, Zen masters go on giving it. They know, their disciples know, that this is absurd. Then what is the significance? One has to watch, meditate, and move towards a sound which is already there, which is not created. That is the meaning of the sound of one hand.
I have heard a story. A small boy, just ten or twelve years of age, lived in a Zen monastery. Every day he would see many seekers coming to the master to ask for help, methods, techniques, guidance. He also became attracted, so one day he also came in the morning in the same way a seeker comes to a Zen master. With deep reverence he bowed down seven times. The master started laughing:
”What has happened to this boy?”
And then he sat in the way seekers should sit before a Zen master. Then he waited, as seekers should wait, for the master to ask, ”Why have you come?”
The master asked, ”Toyo” – Toyo was the name of the boy – ”why have you come?”
So Toyo bowed down and said, ”Master, I have come in search of truth. What shall I do? How should I practice?”
The master knew that this boy was simply imitating, because everybody he heard came and asked the same questions, so just jokingly the master said, ”Toyo, you go and meditate. Two hands clapping can create a sound. What is the sound of one hand clapping?” Toyo bowed down seven times again, went back to his room, started meditating. He heard a geisha girl singing, so he said, ”Right, this is the thing.”
He came immediately, bowed down. The master was laughing. He said, ”Did you meditate, Toyo?”
He said, ”Yes sir, and I have found it: it is like a geisha girl singing.”
The master said, ”No, this is wrong. Go again, meditate.”
So he went again, meditated for three days. Then he heard the sound of water dripping, so he said, ”Right now, this is the thing – I have got it.” He came again, the master asked... he said, ”The sound of the water dripping.”
The master said, ”Toyo, that too is not it. You go and meditate.”
So he meditated for three months. Then he heard locusts in the trees, so he said, ”Yes, I have got it.” He came again.
The master said, ”No, this too is not right.”
And so on and on. One year passed. Then for one year continuously he was not seen. The master became anxious: ”What happened to the boy? He has not come.” So he went to find him. He was sitting under a tree, silent, his body vibrating to some unknown sound; his body dancing, a very gentle dance, as if just moving with the breeze.
The master didn’t like to disturb the boy, so he sat there waiting. Hours and hours passed. When the sun was setting and it was evening, the master said, ”Toyo?” The boy opened his eyes and he said, ”This is it.”
The master said, ”Yes, you have got it!”
This aum is that sound. When all sounds disappear from the mind, then you hear a sound. The Upanishads have made that sound the symbol of the whole, because whenever the whole happens to the part, it happens in that music of aum, in that harmony of aum.
Source: from book “Vedanta: Seven Steps to Samadhi” by Osho