The Nature of Insight: The Lotus Puzzle, a Zen Koan Exercise

The following exercise is meant to confer a firsthand experience of ordinary insight. In Zen meditation traditions, these types of puzzles and intractable statements are known as Koans.

Take a moment to focus your mind and try the following exercise, contemplating the problem until you experience a flash of insight that conveys the answer.

A Zen Koan

Suppose you plant one lotus plant in your small pond on the first day of spring. Assume that it multiplies as it grows, such that every seven days the total leaf area of all plants will have doubled in size. By the end of 12 weeks, your pond is entirely covered. How many weeks did it take for the pond to be half-covered?

– Selfless Insight, Zen and the Meditative Transformation of Consciousness, James Austin, M.D.

Did you arrive at the answer? If so, what was the nature of your insight? Did it arrive suddenly, in a flash? Let us know in the comments below!

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