Zen Riddles

How do you get through a gateless gate?” That’s a Zen riddle.

What it really means is, ‘how do you accomplish the impossible – a paradigm shift?’


Well, you start by defining the problem creatively and shifting paradigms, by listing many ideas, and by combining them innovatively into creative trigger-ideas and workable solutions. Committed action plans and the real work follow.

What is the sound of one hand clapping?” Another Zen riddle.


Most people don’t know the answer. Some answer the “sound is silence,” a breakthrough in realizing that the answer does not have to be clever.

When I ask children this question they look puzzled. Sometimes they wave one hand through the air listening for the answer. Actually, the waving of one hand is one answer to the question. This is hard for some people to understand.

In some Zen training, this riddle of the “sound of one hand clapping” is given to novices starting to master Zen. The novice meditates on the meaning of the riddle, and makes daily visits to the Zen master for many years while absorbing the riddle’s teachings.


The Zen answer has many nuances that we need not pursue. Suffice to say that many years of meditating on the “sound of one hand clapping” produces a paradigm shift in the novice’s view of reality.


Paradigm shifts help creative thinking. A paradigm is a belief structure within which you think and act. The paradigms within which you operate affect your creativity. Usually they box you in and produce tunnel vision.

A paradigm shift is a change in your belief structure that changes your perspective and allows you to see things differently. My purpose in using the riddle about the “sound of one hand clapping” is to produce a quick paradigm shift to help creative thinking and active listening.

I want to jolt people into realizing that the way we perceive a problem limits our thinking that also blocks our creative thinking. Hopefully, this discovery will prompt a change in perception of creativity, and help people to see the value in being spontaneous and intuitive, as well as rational.

All this is triggered by a Zen riddle. This article is also like a Zen riddle in that it is intended to change your perceptions, produce paradigm shifts, and enhance your creative thinking.


It’s like the sound of our brain thinking creatively (a paradigm shift); like silent explosion in the universe.

Apply this to your workplace; and explore the paradigms that shackle your creativity and box you in. Find and shift one inhibiting paradigm each day. Devise new answers to the two Zen riddles presented above.

In addition, list creativity-spoiling habits of others that stifle your creativity. Resolve not to do them to other people. Assert to people who interfere with your creativity.

Make action plans to do these things on a systematic basis each week.


Dr Surya M Ganduri, PhD. PMP. is the Founder & President of eMBC, Inc., an international firm specializing in strategic and executive leadership development processes that Help People Succeed in an Evolving World. Dr Surya has over 28 years of business experience in management consulting, leadership development, executive coaching, process improvements, organizational development and youth leadership. For more information visit www.eMBCinc.com or contact eMBC, Inc., directly at (630) 445-1321.

About Dr. Surya

Using Quantum Physics and business research, Dr. Surya explores the correlation between the science of consciousness and patterns in the business world, to suggest innovative ways of using this wisdom to lead and succeed in a business environment that is constantly evolving at a rapid pace.

Self-awareness is the awareness of the self as separate from the thoughts that are occurring at any point in time. Without self-awareness the self perceives and believes the thoughts that are occurring to be who the self is. Self-awareness gives one the option or choice to choose thoughts being thought rather than simply thinking the thoughts that are stimulated from the accumulative events leading up to the circumstances of the moment.

Along with his work as an Author, Writer, Blogger and popular Internet Radio Talk Show Host, Dr. Surya is in-demand as a public speaker. Clients include small to large corporations and individuals.

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