A Zen koan: Leave this room

Some Zen koans are entirely dependent on you being aware of some long-ago foreign culture, like the one about putting sandals on your head (which apparently was an Asian ritual after a funeral ~2,000 years ago). Other ones, like those from Zen Master Seung Sahn, can be dependent on you knowing his style of teaching.

For this one you need to know almost nothing:

Just as a student sits down for his private face-to-face meeting with a Zen Master in the interview room, the Master yells, “Leave this room!”

So the confused student gets up to leave through the door he came in.

“Not through the door,” the Master yells.

The student looks around, sees a window as his only other means to escape, and heads for it.

“Not through the window,” the Master shouts.

The student looks at the walls, ceiling, and floor, trying to find a way out.

“None of those,” the master shouts.

The student is stuck.

One last time the Master yells, “Leave this room! Now!”


And then the koan is, “If you were the student, what would you do?”

But if you’re already trying to “think” of an answer, you’re too late.