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THE GATELESS GATE
Translated by Eiichi Shimomissé
Slightly edited version of
http://www.csudh.edu/phenom_studies/mumonkan/mumonkan.htm

 

PREFACE
by Mumon

Our teaching makes our mind the principle and the gateless gate its very gate. Since it is the gateless gate, how can one pass through it?
Are you not aware of the insight that purports,"Those who have entered the gate are no family treasures. What is gained as a result of cause and effect has beginning and end, and thus will become nothing." Such remarks are like raising up waves in the windless ocean, or gouging a wound into healthy skin.Those who cling onto words are fools who believe that they can catch the moon with a stick or can scratch their itchy foot through a leather shoe. How can they "see" reality as it actually is?
In the Summer of the first year of Jotei (1228) Ekai (Mumon) was lecturing on koan of the ancient masters to the monks at the monastery of Ryusho temple in East China. He intended to use the koan as bricks for battering the gate in order to inspire the pursuer of Zen according to his ability. His notes were unwittingly collected. There is no order as to the beginning or the end. In total there are 48 cases, now called "The Gateless Gate."

If anyone, like eight-armed Nata who bravely goes straight forward, ventures into Zen practice, no delusion will disturb him. The Indian and Chinese patriarchs will beg for their lives in his commanding presence. If, however, he hesitates even a moment, he is just a person that watches from a narrow window for a speedy horseman to pass by and misses everything in a wink.

"The Great Way has no gate,
A thousand roads enter it.
When one passes through this gateless gate,
He freely walks between heaven and earth."

 

 

CASE 1. JOSHU'S DOG

A monk asked Joshu, "Has the dog the Buddha nature?"
Joshu replied, "Mu (nothing)!"



Mumon's Comment:

For the pursuit of Zen, you must pass through the barriers (gates) set up by the Zen masters. To attain his mysterious awareness one must completely uproot all the normal workings of one's mind. If you do not pass through the barriers, nor uproot the normal workings of your mind, whatever you do and whatever you think is a tangle of ghost. Now what are the barriers? This one word "Mu" is the sole barrier. This is why it is called the Gateless Gate of Zen. The one who passes through this barrier shall meet with Joshu face to face and also see with the same eyes, hear with the same ears and walk together in the long train of the patriarchs. Wouldn't that be pleasant?
Would you like to pass through this barrier? Then concentrate your whole body, with its 360 bones and joints, and 84,000 hair follicles, into this question of what "Mu" is; day and night, without ceasing, hold it before you. It is neither nothingness, nor its relative "not" of "is" and "is not." It must be like gulping a hot iron ball that you can neither swallow nor spit out.
T hen, all the useless knowledge you have diligently learned till now is thrown away. As a fruit ripening in season, your internality and externality spontaneously become one. As with a mute man who had had a dream, you know it for sure and yet cannot say it. Indeed your ego-shell suddenly is crushed, you can shake heaven and earth. Just as with getting ahold of a great sword of a general, when you meet Buddha you will kill Buddha. A master of Zen? You will kill him, too. As you stand on the brink of life and death, you are absolutely free. You can enter any world as if it were your own playground. How do you concentrate on this Mu? Pour every ounce of your entire energy into it and do not give up, then a torch of truth will illuminate the entire universe.

Has a dog the Buddha nature?
This is a matter of life and death.
If you wonder whether a dog has it or not,
You certainly lose your body and life!



CASE 2. HYAKUJO'S FOX

Whenever Hyakujo delivered a Zen lecture, an old man was always there with the monks listening to it; and when they left the Hall, so did he. One day, however, he remained behind, and Hyakujo asked,"Who are you?"
The old man replied,"Yes, I am not a human being, but in the far distant past, when the Kashapa Buddha (the Sixth Buddha of the Seven Ancient Buddhas) preached in this world, I was the head monk in this mountain area. On one occasion a monk asked me whether an enlightened man could fall again under the law of karma (cause and effect), and I answered that he could not. Thus I became a fox for 500 rebirths and am still a fox. I beg you to release me from this condition through your Zen words."
Then he asked Hyakujo,"Is an enlightened man subject to the law of karma?" Hyakujo answered, "No one is free from the law of Karma."
At the words of Hyakujo the old man was enlightened, and said with a bow, "I am now released from rebirth as a fox and my body will be found on the other side of the mountain. May I request that you bury me as a dead monk?"
The next day Hyakujo had the Karmadana, or deacon, beat the clapper and he informed the monks that after the midday meal there would be a funeral service for a dead monk. "No one was sick or died," wondered the monks. "What does our Roshi mean?" After they had eaten, Hyakujo led them to the foot of a rock on the furthest side of the mountain, and with his staff poked the dead body of a fox and had it ritually cremated.
In the evening Hyakujo gave a talk to the monks and told them this story of the law of Karma. Upon hearing the story, Obaku asked Hyakujo, "You said that because a long time ago an old Zen master gave a wrong answer he became a fox for 500 rebirths. But suppose every time he answered he had not made a mistake, what would have happened then?" Hyakujo replied, "Just come here to me, and I will tell you the answer!" Obaku then went up to Hyakujo--and slapped the teacher's face. Hyakujo, clapping his hands and laughing, exclaimed, "I thought the Persian had a red beard, but here is another one with a red beard!"



Mumon's Comment:

"The enlightened man is not subject to Karma." How can this answer make the monk a fox? "The enlightened man is not free from the law of karma." How can this answer release him from his fox's life? If you have one eye in regard to this, then you understand Hyakujo's (the old man's) dramatic 500 rebirths.

Free from karma or subject to it,
They are two sides of the same die.
Subject to karma or free from it,
Both are irredeemable errors.

 


CASE 3. GUTEI'S FINGER

Gutei raised his finger whenever he was asked a question about Zen. A boy attendant began to imitate him in this way. When a visitor asked the boy what his master had preached about, the boy raised his finger.
Gutei heard about the boy's mischief, seized him and cut off his finger with a knife. As the boy screamed and ran out of the room, Gutei called to him. When the boy turned his head to Gutei, Gutei raised up his own finger. In that instant the boy was enlightened.
When Gutei was about to die, he said to the assembled monks,"I received this one-finger Zen from Tenryu. I used it all my life and yet could not exhaust it" and then he passed away.



Mumon's Comment:

Where Gutei and the boy attained enlightenment is not at the tip of the finger itself. If this simple truth is not comprehended, Tenryu, Gutei, the boy and you also will be bound together once and for all.

Gutei made a fool of old Tenryu,
With the sharp blade he did simply harm the boy.
That's nothing compared to the Mountain Spirit when he raised his hand
And split Kasan (the great mountain) in two.

 

 

CASE 4. WAKU'AN'S "WHY NO BEARD?"

Waku'an (looking at Bodhidharma's picture) complained, "Why has that Barbarian no beard?"

 

Mumon's Comment:

If you study Zen, you must study it with all your heart. When you attain enlightenment, it must be true enlightenment. When you really meet Bodhidharma face to face, then you finally have gotten it right. However when you start explaining it with words, you have fallen into duality.

Do not explain your dream
Before a fool.
The barbarian has no beard,
How could you add obscurity to clarity?

 

 

CASE 5. KYOGEN'S MAN HANGING IN THE TREE

Kyogen said, "It (Zen) is like a man (monk) hanging by his teeth in a tree over a precipice. His hands grasp no branch, his feet rest on no limb, and under the tree another man asks him, 'Why did Bodhidharma come to China from the West (India)?' If the man in the tree does not answer, he misses the question, and if he answers, he falls and loses his life. Now what shall he do?"

 

Mumon's Comment:

(In such a predicament) though your eloquence flows like a river, it is all to no avail. Even if you can explain all of the Buddhist sutras, that also is useless. If you can rightly answer the question, you walk the road of killing the living and reviving the dead. But if you cannot answer, you should wait for ages and ask Maitreya, the future Buddha.

Kyogen had really bad taste,
And spreads the poison everywhere,
He stuffs with it the monks' mouths,
And lets their tears stream from their dead eyes.

 

 

CASE 6. THE BUDDHA'S FLOWER

Once upon a time when Buddha was in Grdhrakuta mountain, he twirled a flower in his finger and held it before his congregation. Everyone was silent. Only Maha Kashapa wholeheartedly smiled. Buddha said, "I have the eye of the true teaching, the heart of Nirvana, the formless form, the mysterious gate of Dharma. Beyond the words and beyond all teachings to be transmitted, I now pass this on to Maha Kashapa."

 

Mumon's Comment:

Golden-faced Gautama impudently forced the good people into depravity. He sold dog meat under the name of mutton. And he thought he made it! What if all the audience had laughed together? How could he have handed the eye of the true teaching or if Kashapa had not smiled, how could he have transmitted the teaching? If you say it could be transmitted, he is like a golden-faced old huckster swindling at the city gate, and if you say it cannot be transmitted, how does he hand it on to Maha Kashapa?

At the turning of a flower,
The snake (his disguise) shows his tail.
Maha Kashapa smiles,
Every monk does not know what to do.


 

CASE 7. JOSHU'S WASHING THE BOWL

A monk told Joshu, "I have just entered this monastery. I beg you to teach me." Joshu asked, "Have you eaten your rice porridge?" The monk replied, "I have." "Then," said Joshu, "Go and wash your bowl."
At that moment the monk was enlightened.

 

Mumon's Comment:

Joshu opened his mouth, showed his gall-bladder (true mind) and the depth of his heart. If this monk did not really listen to and grasp the truth, he indeed mistook the bell for a pitcher.

He made it so simple and clear,
It might take a long time to catch the point,
If one realizes that it's stupid to search for fire with a lantern light,
The rice would not take so long to be done.


 

CASE 8. KEICHU'S WHEEL

Gettan asked a monk, "If Keichu (the ancient mythological wheel maker) made one hundred carts, and if we took off the wheels and removed the hub uniting the spokes, what would then become apparent?

 

Mumon's Comment:

If anyone can answer this question instantly, his eyes will be like a meteor and his mind like a flash of lightning.

When the hubless wheel turns,
Even the master would be at a loss what to do,
It turns above heaven and beneath earth,
South, north, east, and west.


 

CASE 9. DAITSU CHISHO BUDDHA

A monk asked Seijo, "Daitsu Chisho Buddha did zazen (meditated) for ten kalpas in a Meditation Hall, could not realize the highest truth, and so could not become fully emancipated. Why was this?" Seijo said, "Your question is a very appropriate one!" The monk asked again, "Why did he not attain Buddhahood by doing zazen in the Meditation Hall?" Seijo replied, "Because he did not."

 

Mumon's Comment:

You may know the Old Indian, but you are not allowed to have an understanding of Him. If an ordinary man attains enlightenment, he is a sage. When the sage is concerned about an understanding, he is only an ordinary man.

Rather than putting the body to rest, let the heart rest.
When the mind is realized, then one need not worry about the body.
If the mind and the body have completely become one,
This is the perfect life of sage, and praise is utterly meaningless.


 

CASE 10. SOZAN AND POOR SEIZAI

A monk named Seizai said to Sozan, "I am alone and poor. I beg my teacher to bestow upon me the alms of salvation." Sozan said, "Acarya Seizai!" "Yes, Sir?" replied Seizai. Sozan said, "Someone has drunk three bowls of the wine of Haku of Seigen, but says that he has not yet even moistened his lips."

 

Mumon's Comment:

Seizai overplayed his hand. Then what is his real state of mind? Sozan with his one eye sees through the recesses of his mind and comprehends what he really meant. However this may be so, where did Acarya Seizai drink the wine?

The poorest like Hanzen,
His spirit like that of Kou.
He could barely make his living,
And yet wishes to rival the wealthiest.


 

CASE 11. JOSHU'S HERMIT

Joshu went to a hermit's and asked, "What's up? What's up?"(="Have you any Zen?") The hermit lifted up his fist. Joshu said, "The water is too shallow to anchor here," and went away. Joshu visited the hermit once again a few days later and said, "What's up? What's up?" The hermit raised his fist again. Then Joshu said, "Well given, well taken, well killed, well saved." And he bowed to the hermit.

 

Mumon's Comment:

The raised fist was the same both times. Why was one accepted, the other rejected? Just say, where is the confusion between the two?

If you can answer this by a word of true comprehension, then you realize that Joshu's tongue has no bone and that he can absolutely freely use it. Even though this is so, the hermit might have seen through Joshu both times. If you wonder whether the first hermit be superior (or inferior) to the second, then you have no one eye.

His eye is a meteor,
Zen's movement is like lightning.
The sword that kills the man,
is the sword that saves the man.


 

CASE 12. ZUIGAN CALLS HIMSELF "MASTER"

Every day Zuigan used to call out to himself, "Master!" and then he answered himself, "Yes, Sir!" And he added, "Awake, Awake!" and then answered, "Yes, Sir! Yes, Sir!"
"From now onwards, do not be deceived by others!" "No, Sir! I will not, Sir!"

 

Mumon's Comment:

The master, Zuigan, sells out and buys himself. He has a lot of puppets of gods and devils that he plays with. Why is this so? With one mask he asked, and with another he answered. With another mask he said, "Awake!" and another, "Don't be cheated by others!"
If you adhere to any one of these, you are totally mistaken. If, however, you imitate Zuigan, then all these are no other than the fox's disguises.

Some who search the Way of Zen do not realize true self,
For they recognize only the ego-soul.
This ego-soul is the seed of birth and death,
Foolish people take it for the true original self.


 

CASE 13. TOKUSAN'S BOWL

One day Tokusan came to the dining room from the Meditation Hall, holding his bowl. Seppo saw him coming and asked, "The dinner drum is not yet beaten. Where are you going with your bowl?
Tokusan went back at once to his room. Seppo told about this incident to Ganto, who said, "Tokusan as he is, has not penetrated into the ultimate truth of Zen."
Tokusan heard of this and sent an acolyte to ask Ganto to come to him. "I have heard," told Tokusan, "you are not approving my Zen." Ganto whispered to Tokusan what he meant. Tokusan said nothing, leaving Ganto there.
Next day, ascending the rostrum, Tokusan delivered an entirely different sermon to the monks. Ganto went forward in the Hall, clapped his hands, laughed and said, "What a happy thing! The old man has got hold of the ultimate truth of Zen. From now on, no one in heaven and on earth can surpass him."



Mumon's Comment:

As for the ultimate truth of Zen, neither Tokusan nor Ganto even dreamt of such a thing. When you look into the matter, they are only a set of dummies how about puppets- dummies sounds like stupid..

Whoever understands the first truth
Understands the ultimate truth.
The last and the first
Are they not one and the same?


 

CASE 14. NANSEN CUTS THE CAT IN TWO

Nansen saw the monks of the eastern and western halls fighting over a baby cat. He seized the cat and said, "If (any of) you can say (a word of Zen), you can spare the cat. Otherwise I will kill it." No one could answer. So Nansen cut the cat in two .
That evening Joshu returned and Nansen told him what had happened. Joshu thereupon took off his sandals and, placing them on his head, walked away. Nansen said, "If only you had been there, you could have saved the cat."



Mumon's Comment:

Why did Joshu put his sandals on his head? If you can answer this question with one word, you understand Nansen's efforts. If not, you are utterly in danger.

Had Joshu been there,
The opposite would have been done.
Joshu would have snatched the knife,
And Nansen would have begged for his life.


 

CASE 15. TOZAN'S SIXTY BLOWS

Tozan went to Un-mon and Un-mon asked him where he had come from. Tozan answered, "From Sato!" Then Un-mon asked, "Where were you then during the Summer?" Tozan answered, "At Hoji Temple in Konan Province." Un-mon further asked Tozan, "When did you leave there?" Tozan replied, "I left on August 25." Un-mon told Tozan, "You deserve 60 blows, but I will forgive you today!"
The next day Tozan knelt and deeply bowed to Un-mon and said, "Yesterday you forgave me the 60 blows, but I still do not understand in what respect I was wrong." Then Un mon told Tozan, "You are really a good-for-nothing rice eater! No wonder you wandered around Konan and Kosei for nothing!" At this very moment, Tozan was awakened.



Mumon's Comment:

Un-mon had Tozan feed on the genuine fodder of Zen, showed him the one way of living activity, and helped him from becoming extinct. All night long Tozan swam in the waves of Yes and No until he got nowhere. When the dawn broke, again Tozan went to Un mon to be awakened. After all Tozan was not so seasoned.
Now I will ask you: Did Tozan deserve 60 blows? If you say Yes, then not only Tozan, but everyone also deserves 60 blows! If you say No, Un-mon is a swindler. If therefore you understand this clearly, Tozan and you breathe the same air!

The lion roughly teaches her cubs,
She kicks them away and the cubs jump.
Un-mon's thrown words hit right on Tozan's heart,
While Un-mon's first arrow is light, the second arrow hits deep.


 

CASE 16. UN-MON'S SEVEN-FOLD ROBE

Un-mon said, "The world is vast and wide; for what is it you put on your seven-piece robe at the sound of the bell?"

 

Mumon's Comment:

When one meditates and studies Zen, one extinguishes the attachment to sound and color. Even though some have attained enlightenment by hearing a sound, or an awakening by seeing a color, these are ordinary matters. Those who intend to master Zen freely master sounds or colors, see clearly the nature of things and every activity of mind. Even though this is so, now tell me: Does the sound come to the ear, or does the ear go to the sound? But when both sound and silence are forgotten, what would you call this state? If you listen with your ear, it is hard to hear truly, but if you listen with your eye, then you begin to hear properly.

If you are awakened, all things are one and the same,
If you are not awakened, all things are varied and distinguished.
If you are not awakened, all things are one and the same,
If you are awakened, all things are varied and distinguished.


 

CASE 17. ECHU'S THREE CALLS

Echu, called Kokushi, the teacher of the emperor, called his attendant, Oshin, three times and three times Oshin answered, "Yes!" Kokushi said, "I thought that I had offended you, but in reality you offended me!"

 

Mumon's Comment:

Kokushi called Oshin three times. His tongue fell to the ground (from talking too much). Oshin answered three times and revealed his harmony with the Tao. Echu, getting old and lonely, attempted even to hold the cow's head down to feed on the grass. Oshin did not trouble to show his Zen, for his satisfied stomach had no desire to eat. When the nation is prosperous, everyone is too proud (to eat plain food), now just say who offended which one?

When prison canga is iron and has no hole,
(Echu's) followers have neither peace nor rest.
When you intend to uphold the teaching of Zen,
You must climb a mountain of swords with bare feet.


 

CASE 18. TOZAN'S THREE POUNDS OF FLAX

A monk asked Tozan, "What is the Buddha?"
Tozan answered, "Three pounds of flax!"

 

Mumon's Comment:

Tozan's Zen is like a clam. When the two halves of the shell open, you can see the whole inside. However, now tell me, "What is Tozan's real insides?"

Just "Three pounds of flax!" pops up,
His words are close, and yet his heart is closer.
Anyone who explains this or that, yes and no,
is himself the man of yes and no.

 

 

CASE 19. NANSEN'S ORDINARY MIND

Joshu asked Nansen, "What is the Way?" Nansen answered, "Your ordinary mind--that is the Way." Joshu said, "Can it be grasped (for study)?" Nansen replied, "The more you pursue, the more does it slip away." Joshu asked once more, "How can you know it is the Way?" Nansen responded, "The Way does not belong to knowledge, nor does it belong to non knowledge. Knowledge is illusion. Non knowledge is beyond discrimination. When you get to this Way without doubt, you are free like the vastness of space, an unfathomable void, so how can you explain it by yes or no?" Upon hearing this, Joshu was awakened.

 

Mumon's Comment:

The question Joshu asked Nansen was dissolved by a stroke. After being enlightened, Joshu must further his pursuit 30 more years to exhaust that meaning.

Hundred flowers in Spring, the moon in Autumn,
The cool wind in Summer and Winter's snow.
If your mind is not clouded with things,
You are happy at any time.


 

CASE 20. SHOGEN'S STRONG MAN

Shogen said,"Why is it that a man of strength cannot lift up his own legs and stand up (for Zen)?" And again, "It is not with our tongue that we speak."

 

Mumon's Comments:

Shogen said it by turning his heart inside out, and no one was there to receive it. If anyone should comprehend Shogen, then come to me and receive my blows. To know the genuine gold, you must see it through fire.

Raising my foot I turn upside down the Scented Ocean,
Bowing my head I look down on the Four Dhyana Heavens.
Such a body of full strength has no place to rest,
Please finish this verse yourself!


 

CASE 21. UN-MON'S DRIED DUNG

A monk asked Un-mon,"What is Buddha?" Un-mon answered him, "Dried dung."

 

Mumon's Comments

We must say that being so poor, Un-mon cannot appreciate plain food, or he is so busy that he cannot even scribble properly. He is disposed to support his school with dry dung. Look at how devastated the Buddhist teaching has been!

Lightning flashes,
Sparks of striking flint.
In a blink of your eyes,
You have passed by (and missed it).


 

CASE 22. KASHAPA'S FLAG POLE

Ananda asked Maha Kashapa, "Buddha gave you the golden woven robe of successorship. What else did he give you?"
Kashapa said, "Ananda!"
"Yes!" answered Ananda.
"Knock down the flagpole at the gate!" said Kashapa.

 

Mumon's Comments:

If you can give a "turning word" (a momentous word for awakening), you will see the meeting at Mount Grdhrahuta? still in session. If not, no matter how much you make struggles to study from the age of Vipasyin, you cannot attain enlightenment.

How is Ananda's question, compared to Kashapa's answer of heart.
How many people have since then opened their eyes.
Elder brother calls and younger brother answers--the family disgrace.
This spring does not belong to Yin and Yang.


 

CASE 23. ENO'S GOOD AND EVIL

Eno, the sixth patriarch, was pursued by Monk Emyo up to Daiyurei. The patriarch, seeing Emyo coming, laid the robe and the bowl on a rock, and said to him, "This robe represents the faith. Is it to be fought for by force? You may take them now." Emyo went to move the bowl and the robe and yet they were as heavy as mountains. He could not move them. Hesitating and trembling, Emyo asked the patriarch, "I come for the teaching, not for the robe. Please enlighten me!" The patriarch said, "What is primordially Emyo (i.e., your true self), if you do not think this is good nor do you think this is evil?" At that moment Emyo was greatly awakened. His whole body was covered with sweat. Emyo cried, bowed, and said, "Is there or is there not any other (deep) significance (in Zen) than your secret words and teachings a minute ago?" The patriarch answered, "What I have told you is no secret at all. Once you have realized your own true self, the depth (in Zen) rather belongs to you!" Emyo said, "When I was at Obai with the other monks, I never realized what my true self was. Now you have dispersed the clouds of my ignorance to realize it, just like a man capable of discerning warm and cold by tasting water. From now on you are my teacher!" The patriarch said, "We both have Obai for our teacher. Guard your own self!"

 

Mumon's Comments:

We should say that the sixth patriarch was in an emergency. This revelation of his, however, resembles the deed of an overly protective grandmother, who peeled a fresh lichi (a dessert fruit), removed its stone and put it to her grandchild's mouth ready for him to swallow.

You describe it in vain, you picture it to no avail,
Praising it is useless, cease to worry about it at all.
It is your true self, it has nowhere to hide,
Even if the universe is annihilated, it is not destroyed.


 

CASE. 24 FUKETSU'S SILENCE AND WORDS

A monk asked Fuketsu, "Without words or without silence transgressing, how can one be unmistakably one with the universe?"
Fuketsu said, "I often think of March in Konan (Southern China). The birds sing among hundreds of flagrant flowers."

 

Mumon's Comments:

Fuketsu's mind was quick as lightning, snatching the road and walking on it. Regrettably Fuketsu was not able to sit on the words of the "ancestors." If anyone should penetrate into this, he would be absolutely free. Without words, without phrases, now say what Zen is.

Fuketsu did not say such a fine phrase,
Without uttering words, he already let it be known.
If Fuketsu had become talkative,
You do not know what to do.


 

CASE 25. KYOZAN'S SERMON FROM THE THIRD SEAT

In a dream Kyozan went to Maitreya's Pure Land and sat in the third seat. A monk there beat the gavel and said, "Today the one in the third seat will give a sermon." Kyozan arose, hit the gavel and said,"The truth of Mahayana is beyond any verbal expression! Listen, listen!"

 

Mumon's Comments:

You tell me, did Kyozan preach, or did he not? If he opens his mouth, he is lost. If he seals his mouth, he is lost, too. Whether he opens or seals his mouth, Kyozan is 108 thousand miles away from truth.

In the bright daylight,
And yet in a dream he talks a dream.
Indeed a possessed word, a possessed word,
He is deceiving the entire crowd.


 

CASE 26. TWO MONKS ROLL UP THE BLINDS

Hogen of Seiryo came to the hall to speak to the monks before the midday meal. He pointed with his finger to the bamboo blinds. At this moment two monks rose and rolled the blinds up. Hogen observed, "One has it, the other hasn't it."

 

Mumon's Comments:

Now tell me, which one has it and which one has not? If any one of you has one eye, he will see through the failure on Hogen of Seiryo. However, never be concerned about the gain or the loss.

When the blinds are rolled up, the great sky is bright and clear,
The great sky is not yet in accord with Zen.
It's better to throw everything away from the sky,
And make sure to have not even a draft blow through.


 

CASE 27. NANSEN'S NO MIND, NO BUDDHA

A monk asked Nansen, "Is there any teaching no master has ever preached before?"
Nansen replied, "Yes, there is." "What is it?" asked the monk. Nansen answered, "It is not mind, it is not Buddha, it is not things."

 

Mumon's Comments:

Being asked a question, Nansen gave away his entire treasure (words) and suffered a run of bad luck.

Nansen was too kind and lost his treasure,
Verily words have no power.
Even if a mountain may become a blue ocean,
Nansen will never make it comprehensible to you.


 

CASE 28. RYUTAN'S CANDLE

One night Tokusan went to Ryutan to ask for his teaching. After Tokusan's many questions, Ryutan said to Tokusan at last, "It is late. Why don't you retire?" So Tokusan bowed, lifted the screen and was ready to go out, observing, "It is very dark outside." Ryutan lit a candle and offered it to Tokusan. Just as Tokusan received it, Ryutan blew it out. At that moment the mind of Tokusan was opened. "What have you realized?" asked Ryutan to Tokusan, who replied, "From now on I will not doubt what you have said."
The next day Ryutan ascended the rostrum and declared to the monks, "Among you there is one monk whose teeth are like the sword tree, his mouth is like the blood bowl. Strike him with a stick, he won't turn his head to look at you. Some day he will climb the highest peaks and carry out my teaching there."
On that day, in front of the lecture hall, Tokusan burned to ashes his commentaries on the sutras and declared, "In comparison to this awareness, all the most profound teachings are like a single hair in vast space. However deep the complicated knowledge of the world, compared to this enlightenment it is like one drop of water in the ocean." Then he left the monastery.



Mumon's Comments:

Before Tokusan passed through the barrier, his mind was eager, his mouth was anxious, with a purpose in his mind, he went south, to refute the doctrine of "A special transmission outside the sutras." When he got on the road to Reishu (near Ryutan's monastery) he asked an old woman to let him have something to "point his mind" (literally a snack, then something to put the mind at ease at the same time).The old woman asked Tokusan, "What is all that writing you are carrying?" Tokusan replied, "That's the manuscript of my notes and commentary on the Diamond Sutra." Then the old woman said, "That Sutra says, the past mind cannot be held, the present mind cannot be held, the future mind cannot be held. All of them are but unreal and illusory. You wish to have some refreshments. Well then, with which of your minds do you want to have the refreshments?" Tokusan found himself quite dumb. Finally he asked the woman, "Do you know of any Zen master around here?" "About five li away lives Ryutan," said she. Tokusan arrived at Ryutan's monastery with all humility, quite different from when he had started his journey. Ryutan in turn was so kind he forgot his own dignity. It was like pouring muddy water over a drunken man to sober him. After all, it was an unnecessary comedy.

Rather than hearing the name, seeing the face is better,
Rather than seeing the face, hearing the name is better.
But how much you help the nostrils,
Look what you have done to the eyes!


 

CASE 29. ENO'S FLAG

The wind was flapping a temple flag, and two monks were arguing about the flag. One said, "The flag is moving." The other said, "the wind is moving." They could not agree, no matter how hard they debated. The sixth patriarch, Eno, happened to come by and said, "Not the wind, not the flag. It is the mind that is moving!" The two monks were struck with awe.

 

Mumon's Comments:

It is not the wind that moves, it is not the flag that moves, it is not the mind that moves. How shall we understand the sixth patriarch? If you gain an intimate grasp of its meaning, you will see how the two monks, intending to buy iron, got gold. The patriarch could not repress his compassion for the two monks, and so we have this disgraceful scene.

Wind, flag, and mind moves,
All confirmed as guilty of error.
Only we know our mouth is opened,
we do not know our speech went wrong.


 

CASE 30. BASO'S VERY MIND

Daibai asked Baso, What is the Buddha?"
Baso answered, "The mind is the Buddha."

 

Mumon's Comments:

If you fully understand Baso's meaning, you are wearing Buddha's clothes, eating Buddha's food, speaking Buddha's words, doing Buddha's deeds, that is to say, you are Buddha himself. But Baso misled not a few people into erroring the principles of Zen. He does not realize that if we explain the word "Buddha" we must rinse our mouths for three days afterwards. If he is a man of understanding, he would cover his ears and run away hearing Baso say, "The mind is the Buddha!"

Under blue sky, in bright sunlight,
One need not search around,
Asking around what Buddha is,
is liking the stolen goods in one's pocket and declaring oneself innocent.


 

CASE 31. JOSHU INVESTIGATES AN OLD WOMAN

A (travelling) monk asked an old woman the way to Taizan. The old woman said, "Go straight ahead." When the monk proceeded a few steps, she said to herself, "This monk with such spirit also goes off like that!" Afterwards, another monk told Joshu about this, and Joshu said, "Wait until I go and investigate the old woman." The next day off Joshu went and asked the same question and the old woman gave the same answer. Upon his return, Joshu told the congregation of monks, "I have investigated the old woman of Taizan."

 

Mumon's Comments:

The old woman sat in the tent and planned the campaign, but she did not know that there was the famous bandit who knew how to take the enemy commander prisoner. Old Joshu sneaked into her tent and menaced her fortress, but he wasn't a real general. Indeed both had their faults. Now I would like to ask you: "What was the point of Joshu's investigating the old woman?"

The question was the same,
The answer was the same.
Sand in the rice,
Thorns in the mud.


 

CASE 32. A "PAGAN" ASKS BUDDHA

A "pagan" asked Buddha, "With words, with silence, will you tell me (the Way)?" Buddha silently kept meditating. The "pagan" bowed and thanked the Buddha, saying, "With the compassion you have cleared away the clouds of my mind and have made me enter into the awakening." After he left, Ananda asked the Buddha what he had attained. The Buddha said, "A good horse runs even a shadow of the whip."

 

Mumon's Comments:

Ananda was Buddha's disciple but his understanding was not like that pagan. Now tell me, "How afar are the disciple and the non-disciple?"

Treading on the sharp edge of a sword,
Running over jagged ice.
Not climbing on the ladder,
Letting your hands off the cliff.


 

CASE 33. NEITHER MIND NOR BUDDHA

A monk asked Baso, "What is the Buddha?" Baso replied, "Not mind, not Buddha."

 

Mumon's Comments

If anyone understands what Baso said, he has mastered Zen.

If you meet a sword master on the road, give him the sword.
Unless you meet a poet on the road, do not offer a poem.
If you meet a man, tell him the three quarters of the Way,
and never tell him the rest.


 

CASE 34. NANSEN'S NO WAY

Nansen said, "Mind is not Buddha. Knowledge is not the Way."

 

Mumon's Comments:

Growing old, Nansen forgot to be ashamed. With his stinking mouth open he spread the scandal of his own house (such as knowledge is not the Way) to others. However, few appreciate their indebtedness to him.

When the sky is clear the sun appears,
when rain falls, the earth becomes moistened.
How wholeheartedly he explains,
how few have faith in him and his words.


 

CASE 35. TWO SOULS

Goso asked a monk, "Sei, the Chinese girl, who was separated from her soul. Which was the real Sei?"

 

Mumon's Comments:

If you obtain genuine awareness of reality, you will know that the soul passes from one husk to another as travellers lodged in an inn. But if you have not obtained the awareness, you should not run around in confusion when the four elements are suddenly ready to become separated (i.e., to die), like a crab with its seven arms and eight legs thrown into the boiling water. Never say that I did not warn you.

The moon in the clouds is one and the same,
Valleys and mountains are various.
Fortunes above fortunes,
Is it one, or is it two?


 

CASE 36. GOSO'S NO WORDS, NO SILENCE

Goso said, "When you meet a Man of the Way on the road, greet him not with words, nor with silence. Tell me, how will you greet him?"

 

Mumon's Comments:

If you can answer Goso exactly, it will be extremely heartening. If you cannot answer properly yet, then you must do your best to watch out everything.

Meeting the man of the Way on the road,
Greeting him not with words, nor with silence.
Give him an uppercut,
Then he will understand you at once.


 

CASE 37. JOSHU'S OAK TREE IN THE GARDEN

A monk asked Joshu, "With what intention did Bodhidharma come to China?" Joshu answered, "The oak tree in the front garden."

 

Mumon's Comments:

If you grasp Joshu's answer precisely, there is no Shakyamuni Buddha before you and no Maitreya Buddha after you.

Words do not express fact,
Phrases do not reveal the delicate motion of mind.
He who accepts words is lost,
He who adheres to phrases is deluded.


 

CASE 38. GOSO'S BUFFALO

Goso asked, "A water buffalo goes out of his "enclosure." The head, the horns, and the four legs go through, but why doesn't the tail, too?"

 

Mumon's Comments:

If you can open your one eye (to the question) and say an awakening word, you will be able to repay the Four Obligations and help the Three Bhava being saved. If you still have not gotten it, take a close look on the tail and awake yourself.

If the buffalo goes through, he will fall into the abyss,
If he retreats into the enclosure, he will be butchered.
This little bit of a tail,
that is a strange thing indeed!


 

CASE 39. UN-MON AND TRAP INTO WORDS

As soon as a monk stated Un-mon, "The radiance of the Buddha quietly and restlessly illuminates the whole universe", Un-mon asked him, "Are these you are reciting not the words of Chosetzu Shusai?" The monk replied, "Yes, they are." Un-mon said, "You are trapped in words!" Afterwards Shishin brought up the matter once more and said, "Tell me, how was the monk trapped in words?"

 

Mumon's Comments:

If you are able to grasp Un-mon's unapproachable accomplishments and follow through the monk's corruption (of being trapped into words), you will be the leader of humans and Devas. If not, you cannot even save yourself.

A fish meets the fishhook in a rapid stream,
Being too greedy for the bait, the fish wants to bite.
Once his mouth widely opens,
His life is already lost.

 

 

CASE 40. KICKING THE DRINKING WATER JAR

During his stay under Master Hyakujo, Isan was a cooking monk. As Master Hyakujo wished to send a monk to found the new monastery called the Great Mount I, Maser Hyakujo told the chief monk and all other monks that he would choose the one who would demonstrate himself as the best among them. Then Master Hyakujo brought out a drinking water jar, put it down and said, "You cannot call it a water jar. Then, what will you call it?" The chief monk said, "One cannot call it a wooden stick." Then, when Master Hyakujo turned to Isan, Isan kicked the jar and walked away. Master Hyakujo laughed and said, "The chief monk lost it to Isan." He made Isan the founder of the Great I-san Monastery.

 

Mumon's comments:

Master Isan had indeed rare courage, but he could not jump out of Master Hyakujo's trap. After examination of the outcome, Isan took over the heavier burden for the easier job. Why? Look, Isan took off the cook's headband and put himself in steel cuffs (of the founder of the monastery).

Throwing away strainers and cooking spoon,
Isan kicks the jar and settles the disputes.
Unhindered by the multiple hurdles,
He gives a kick on the toe,
Even Buddha becomes pieces.

 

 

CASE 41. BODHIDHARMA'S PEACE OF MIND

Boddhidharma sit facing the stone wall. The Second Patriarch, Suika, stood long in the thick snow. Finally, he severed his own arm and presented it to Bodhidharma. He said, "Your student cannot pacify his mind. You, the First Patriarch, please, give me peace of mind!" The First Patriarch replied, "Bring that mind, I will calm it down!" The Second Patriarch said, "I search for it everywhere, but I cannot find it!" Boddhidharma replied, "I have already pacified it for you!"

 

Mumon's Comments:

That toothless old chap from India proudly travelled ten thousand li over the ocean (to China). This was indeed as if he deliberately raised waves where there was no wave. At last, he got only one disciple, who was maimed by cutting off his own arm. Alas, he was a fool indeed.

The First Patriarch from India taught straight forward,
A series of all the troubles has initiated from him.
The one who disturbed the calm world,
Is Boddhidharma, you indeed!

 

 

CASE 42. A WOMAN COMES OUT OF MEDITATION

When the wisest Boddhisattva Manjusuri, who is supposed to be next in order to Shakyamuni Buddha, found that the Buddha' gathering was adjourned and each was going back to his/her land. Observing one woman still deep in meditation near Shakyamuni, Manjusuri properly bowed and asked Shakyamuni Buddha, "That woman has been able to reach that state of enlightenment and why have I not?"
Shakyamuni replied, "Bring her from the samadhi and ask her yourself!"
Manjusuri went round the woman three times and snapped his fingers and yet she was undisturbed in meditation. So Manjusuri held her high up in his hand and brought her to the first of three meditative heavens (totally detached from any lust) and exhausted all his mystical powers in vain (to awaken her). Observing this, Shakyamuni said, "Even a hundred thousand Manjusris could not awaken her from samadi. There resides Mo-myo (Avidya) Boddhisattva, the lowest of all, below this place past twelve hundred million lands. He alone can raise her from her deep meditation." No sooner had the Shakyamuni spoken than that Boddhisattva sprang up out of the earth, bowed and paid his homage to Shakyamuni. By Shakyamuni order, Mo-myo Boddhisattva snapped his fingers. Instantly the woman came out of meditation and stood up.

 

Mumon's Comments:

The old chap, Shakyamuni, is extraordinary indeed, able to produce such a village theatre stage. Now then, tell me:
"Why was Manjusri, the highest and wisest of the seven Boddhisattva, unable to bring her out of meditation? Why was Mo-myo Boddhisattva, the lowest of all, able to do so? Should you obtain and live this complete understanding of it, you will attain the great samadi within this mundane world of delusion and attachment."

Whether the one who could bring her out of meditation, or the other who could not,
Both of them obtained freedom.
The one wore the mask of god, the other, a devil's mask in that theatre,
Even the failure is artistic indeed.

 

 

CASE 43. SHUZAN'S BAMBOO SPATULA

Master Shuzan held out his bamboo spatula and asked, "If you call this a bamboo spatula, you give umbrage (to the principle of Zen). If you call this no bamboo spatula, you violate the law (of common-sense). What will all of you call this?"

 

Mumon's Comments:

Should you call this a bamboo spatula, you would give umbrage. Should you call this no bamboo spatula, you would betray the law. Both to speak out will not do, and no word will be of any use either. Quickly say, quickly say!"

Bringing out the bamboo spatula,
Shuzan demanded a life or death order.
Being put to either the umbrage, or the betrayal,
Even Buddha and Patriarchs would beg for their lives.

 

 

CASE 44. BASHO'S STAFF

Master Basho said to his disciples, "If you have the staff, I will give it to you. If you have no staff, I will take it away from you!"

 

Mumon's Comments:

This staff helps you to cross the river with the shattered bridge. The staff leads you back to your village in the moonless dark night.
If you call it the staff, then you will go right into hell like an arrow.

Whether one is deep or shallow,
It lies in the palm of the hand which holds the staff.
The staff supports the heaven and maintains the earth,
Wherever the staff freely goes,
It will propagate the true teaching.


 

CASE 45. WHO IS HE?

To Tozan, Master Hoen the Fifth Patriarch said, "Shakyamuni and Maitreya Boddhisattva, both are His slaves. Well, tell me: Who is He?"

 

Mumon's Comments:

Should you be able to clearly realize who he is, it would be as if you met your own father at the crossroads, as you do not have to ask your own father who he is.

Do not use another's bow and arrow.
Do not ride somebody else's horse.
Do not discuss someone else's faults.

Do not try to know some other person's business.


 

CASE 46. PROCEED BEYOND THE TOP OF THE 100 FOOT HIGH POLE

Master Sekiso said, "You are at the top of the 100 foot high pole. How will you make a step further?" Another Zen Master of Ancient Times said, "One who sits on top of the 100 foot pole has not quite attained true enlightenment. Make another step forward from the top of the pole and throw one's own body into the 100,000 universes."

 

Mumon's Comments:

Should there be any who is able to step forward from the top of the 100 foot pole and hurl one's whole body into the entire universe, this person may call oneself a Buddha. Nevertheless, how can one step forward from the top of the 100 foot pole? Know thyself!

Should one be content and settle on top of the 100,000 foot pole,
One will harm the third eye,
And will even misread the marks on the scale.
Should one throw oneself and be able to renounce one's life,
Like one blind person leading all other blind persons,
One will be in absolute freedom (unattached from the eyes).

 

 

CASE 47. TOSOTSU'S THREE BARRIERS

Master Tosotsu, setting up the three barriers, always tried the pursuer of the Way:
"To search for the Way, the Zen student tries to grasp one's own nature and be enlightened."
"Now where is your true nature?"
Secondly,
"Once having grasped one's own nature, one is free from birth and death. If then, one's eyeballs have dropped dead, how can one be free from life?"
Thirdly,
"Being free from birth and death, one instantly knows where to go after death."
"Being dead and the body dispersed into the four elements, where then does one go?"

 

Mumon's Comments:

Whoever can pass these three barriers will be a master anywhere. Whatever happens, this person should be able to become the founder of Zen. Should one be not yet capable of answering these three questions, this person must diligently chew them well to finally comprehend them. Humble meals fill one's stomach, and chewing them well, one will never starve.

To instantly realize is to see endless time.
Endless time is this very moment.
If one sees through the thought of this very moment,
At this very moment, one can see through the one who sees through.

 

 

CASE 48. THE ONE ROAD OF KEMPO

A student monk asked Master Kempo, "I understand that all Buddha of the whole universe enter the one road into Nirvana. Where is this one road?
Kempo raised his walking stick, drew the figure "one" and said, "Here it is."
Later, this monk went to Umon to ask the question. Umon, turning around his fan, said, "This fan will reach the thirty-third heaven and hit the nose of Sakra Devendra, the highest deity in these heavens. It is like the giant carp of the Eastern Sea tipping over with its tail a rain cloud to have the rain pour down."

 

Mumon's Comments:

The one master walks on the deep ocean and raises dust. The other, standing on the tip of the high mountain, fills the heaven with white waves. The one holds the point, while the other liberates everything, together each supports the profound teaching with one hand. Kempo and Umon are dangerous, like two equally powerful camels colliding. No one in the world equals them. Seen from the truth, however, even Kempo and Mumon did not know where this one road really is.

They reach the goal before taking the first step.
They complete the speech before their tongue moves.
Even if they have had foresight long before,
The origin of the road lies way ahead of their foresight.

 

 

THE EPILOGUE BY MUMON

The words and the actions left by Buddha and the patriarchs in these forty-eight Ko-ans are as precise as laws and judgements, and therein nothing superfluous is contained. They turn the student monk's brain upside down and hollow out his eyeballs. They are here in order that each one of you will immediately grasp truth and must not try to obtain it vicariously from others. Should there be anyone who thoroughly appropriates everything, the person would seize the true meaning of all forty-eight Ko-ans, as listening to a small portion of them. To such a person, there is no gate to enlightenment, nor steps to the search. He may go through the gate with no concern of the gatekeepers, as Gensha said, "It is the gateless that is every entrance to realization, and to be aimless is the genuine aim of the master." Haku-un also said, "Why can one not go through this very gate, although it is so obvious?" Such stories are indeed as meaningless as mixing milk with red clay. If you can pass these forty-eight Ko-ans through the Gateless Gate, you will step on me Mumon under your foot. If you cannot pass through the Gateless Gate, you will betray yourself. As often said, it is easy to illuminate the realization that everything is empty, but it is difficult indeed to elucidate the knowledge of distinctions. If you are able to edify the wisdom of differences, the universe will be well at peace.

 

 

ACUPUNCTURE (ADMONITIONS) FOR ZEN

Anyone rigorously following the laws and regulations is tieing oneself without ropes.
Whoever licenses oneself to do anything, following one's desire, is a heretic and a member of the devil's army.
Anyone who tries to maintain the mind serene alone is the wrong Zen through remaining merely silent (without the use of Ko-an).
Whoever does anything that is desired and forgets the world is to fall into a deep hole.
Anyone who tries to be clear about everything and will not allow to deceive oneself deliberately chains oneself with the pillory.
Whoever incessantly worries about good and evil has fallen into hell (the world of duality).
Anyone who adheres to Buddhahood and Dharma is poisoned in the two Tetsusan, wondering around the peripheries of the universe.
Any clever meditator, who, when attacked by delusion, insists that it is primarily empty, is one who plays with ghosts.
Whoever, out of the blue, exclusively studies Zen meditation lives the monster's life (against Soto Zen).
Anyone who advances loses sight of Zen's principles, while anyone who retreats betrays Zen's teaching.
Whoever neither advances nor retreats is a dead person merely breathing.
Say how one ought to proceed and practice the way of Zen.
While one's lifetime, one must solve this cardinal problem.
Do not suffer the eternal returns of the chain of causality.

 

 

OO-RYO-ENAN'S THREE BARRIERS

Which is the hand, my hand or Buddha's hand?
Searching for it behind my back, I laugh wholeheartedly.
My entire body was indeed that hand.

Which is the leg, my leg or the donkey's?
It has already made a step even before lifting its leg.
To walk all over the world,
One must walk around, riding on Master Yogi's three legs (his Zen).

Everyone has parents, and yet sees through to the tip of their previous life by themself.
Prince Nada removed one of his bones and returned it to his father (preaching for his father from his independent stand).
According to an anecdote of Master Gunin, the Fifth Patriarch, he needed no karmic relation to his father. (For in his previous life, he was the old Taoist Saisho. Gunin went into a woman's womb to be born in this life in order to study under the Fourth Patriarch Doshin.)

As mentioned before, Buddha's hand, the donkey's leg and karmic relations are themselves neither Buddha, nor the way, nor Zen.
Do not be afraid of the steep and dangerous Gateless Gate.
Do not blame me for having planted a deep grudge in the student monks' minds.

Recently, Master Mumon specially came to the Zuigan Monastery of Mount Shimei.
Appraised the old and new Ko-ans, seated on a straw cushion,
And cut off both mediocre men and enlightened persons' roads.
Well then, how many dragons will rise with a roar?

I would like to express my gratitude by writing a few lines in memory of Master Mumon's special lectures to the general audience. (Master Soju)

 


MOKO'S POSTSCRIPT

Boddhidharma came from the West (India) and taught awakening to one's own nature to become a Buddha, not using the word, but directly pointing it out. It is already cumbersome to directly point out one's nature and to become a Buddha is due to senility. Why are there barriers, being it is gateless? Mumon became notorious for being too kind, like an old woman's mind. As I, Muan, wrote my postscript, there ended up being forty nine cases. Even the slightest deceit or lie should not be overlooked.

 


AMBAN'S EPILOGUE

Master Mumon, the old Zen master, told forty-eight cases and criticized the old and the new Ko-ans. He is just like a famous old donut seller who told the buyer to open his mouth and stacked the donuts in his mouth, so the customer neither could spit them out nor swallow them. Mumon thus annoyed everyone enough, so I, Amban, will fry for Master Mumon another donut in the hot sizzling oil by making the Gateless Gate the forty-nine cases and will show it to the world by following in Master Mumon's footsteps. I wonder how Master Mumon will eat it? Should he be able to swallow it at once, a miracle will occur, like when the Shakyamuni gave a sermon, there will be full of light and the earth moves. Should he fail to chew and swallow it, all these forty-eight Ko-ans will turn into the fiery sands. Now, quickly answer it, quickly answer it.

 

 

CASE 49.

According to a sutra, Buddha said, "Stop, stop. Do not speak. The ultimate truth is to not even think.


Amban's Comments:

Where did the so-called teaching come from? What is it that is unthinkable? How is it that one cannot even think of it? Not only was Bukan talkative. So had Buddha himself been a chatterbox. This old chap created dubious things, made the descendants of one thousand one hundred generations completely caught in the entangled ropes and unable to raise their heads. So later appeared Mumon and made those wonderful forty eight Ko ans, which cannot be scooped up by a spoon, nor can they ever be steamed for eating. How many people have mistook them for tasty meals? A bystander asked me, "What is the ultimate conclusion?" Putting his hands flat together, Amban said, "Stop, stop. Do not speak. The ultimate truth is to not even think!" And hurriedly Amban added on the top of " to not even think" one circle. Then, he showed it to the others, that everything including all the sutras and Yuima's only gate is within this circle.

When anyone tells you fire is light, pay no attention.
When a thief meets another on the street, they understand each other,
and respond to a single word.

END.

 

 

The Gateless Gate
by Ekai, called Mumon
Transcribed by Nyogen Senzaki and Paul Reps


1. Joshu's Dog
2. Hyakujo's Fox
3. Gutei's Finger
4. A Beardless Foreigner
5. Kyogen Mounts the Tree
6. Buddha Twirls a Flower
7. Joshu Washes the Bowl
8. Keichu's Wheel
9. A Buddha Before History
10. Seizei Alone and Poor
11. Joshu Examines a Monk in Meditation
12. Zuigan Calls His Own Master
13. Tokusan Holds His Bowl
14. Nansen Cuts the Cat in Two
15. Tozan's Three Blows
16. Bells and Robes
17. The Three Calls of the Emperor's Teacher
18. Tozan's Three Pounds
19. Everyday Life is the Path
20. The Enlightened Man
21. Dried Dung
22. Kashapa's Preaching Sign
23. Do Not Think Good, Do Not Think Not-Good
24. Without Words, Without Silence
25. Preaching from the Third Seat
26. Two Monks Rolls Up the Screen
27. It is Not Mind, It is Not Buddha, It is Not Things
28. Blow Out the Candle
29. Not the Wind, Not the Flag
30. This Mind is Buddha
31. Joshu Investigates
32. A Philosopher Asks Buddha

 

Joshu's Dog

A monk asked Joshu, a Chinese Zen master: `Has a dog Buddha-nature or not?'

Joshu answered: `Mu.' [Mu is the negative symbol in Chinese, meaning `No-thing' or `Nay'.]

Mumon's comment: To realize Zen one has to pass through the barrier of the patriachs. Enlightenment always comes after the road of thinking is blocked. If you do not pass the barrier of the patriachs or if your thinking road is not blocked, whatever you think, whatever you do, is like a tangling ghost. You may ask: What is a barrier of a patriach? This one word, Mu, is it.

This is the barrier of Zen. If you pass through it you will see Joshu face to face. Then you can work hand in hand with the whole line of patriachs. Is this not a pleasant thing to do?

If you want to pass this barrier, you must work through every bone in your body, through ever pore in your skin, filled with this question: What is Mu? and carry it day and night. Do not believe it is the common negative symbol meaning nothing. It is not nothingness, the opposite of existence. If you really want to pass this barrier, you should feel like drinking a hot iron ball that you can neither swallor nor spit out.

Then your previous lesser knowledge disappears. As a fruit ripening in season, your subjectivity and objectivity naturally become one. It is like a dumb man who has had a dream. He knows about it but cannot tell it.

When he enters this condition his ego-shell is crushed and he can shake the heaven and move the earth. He is like a great warrior with a sharp sword. If a Buddha stands in his way, he will cut him down; if a patriach offers him any obstacle, he will kill him; and he will be free in this way of birth and death. He can enter any world as if it were his own playground. I will tell you how to do this with this koan:

Just concentrate your whole energy into this Mu, and do not allow any discontinuation. When you enter this Mu and there is no discontinuation, your attainment will be as a candle burning and illuminating the whole universe.

Has a dog Buddha-nature?
This is the most serious question of all.
If you say yes or no,
You lose your own Buddha-nature.
 

Hyakujo's Fox

Once when Hyakujo delivered some Zen lectures an old man attended them, unseen by the monks. At the end of each talk when the monks left so did he. But one day he remained after the had gone, and Hyakujo asked him: `Who are you?'

The old man replied: `I am not a human being, but I was a human being when the Kashapa Buddha preached in this world. I was a Zen master and lived on this mountain. At that time one of my students asked me whether the enlightened man is subject to the law of causation. I answered him: "The enlightened man is not subject to the law of causation." For this answer evidencing a clinging to absoluteness I became a fox for five hundred rebirths, and I am still a fox. Will you save me from this condition with your Zen words and let me get out of a fox's body? Now may I ask you: Is the enlightened man subject to the law of causation?'

Hyakujo said: `The enlightened man is one with the law of causation.'

At the words of Hyakujo the old man was enlightened. `I am emancipated,' he said, paying homage with a deep bow. `I am no more a fox, but I have to leave my body in my dwelling place behind this mountain. Please perform my funeral as a monk.' The he disappeared.

The next day Hyakujo gave an order through the chief monk to prepare to attend the funeral of a monk. `No one was sick in the infirmary,' wondered the monks. `What does our teacher mean?'

After dinner Hyakujo led the monks out and around the mountain. In a cave, with his staff he poked out the corpse of an old fox and then performed the ceremony of cremation.

That evening Hyakujo gave a talk to the monks and told this story about the law of causation.

Obaku, upon hearing this story, asked Hyakujo: `I understand that a long time ago because a certain person gave a wrong Zen answer he became a fox for five hundred rebirths. Now I was to ask: If some modern master is asked many questions, and he always gives the right answer, what will become of him?'

Hyakujo said: `You come here near me and I will tell you.'

Obaku went near Hyakujo and slapped the teacher's face with this hand, for he knew this was the answer his teacher intended to give him.

Hyakujo clapped his hands and laughed at the discernment. `I thought a Persian had a red beard,' he said, `and now I know a Persian who has a red beard.'

Mumon's comment: `The enlightened man is not subject.' How can this answer make the monk a fox?

`The enlightened man is at one with the law of causation.' How can this answer make the fox emancipated?

To understand clearly one has to have just one eye.

Controlled or not controlled?
The same dice shows two faces.
Not controlled or controlled,
Both are a grievous error.
 

Gutei's Finger

Gutei raised his finger whenever he was asked a question about Zen. A boy attendant began to imitate him in this way. When anyone asked the boy what his master had preached about, the boy would raise his finger.

Gutei heard about the boy's mischief. He seized him and cut off his finger. The boy cried and ran away. Gutei called and stopped him. When the boy turned his head to Gutei, Gutei raised up his own finger. In that instant the boy was enlightened.

When Gutei was about to pass from this world he gathered his monks around him. `I attained my finger-Zen,' he said, `from my teacher Tenryu, and in my whole life I could not exhaust it.' Then he passed away.

Mumon's comment: Enlightenment, which Gutei and the boy attained, has nothing to do with a finger. If anyone clings to a finger, Tenyru will be so disappointed that he will annihilate Gutei, the boy and the clinger all together.

Gutei cheapens the teaching of Tenyru,
Emancipating the boy with a knife.
Compared to the Chinese god who pushed aside a mountain with one hand
Old Gutei is a poor imitator.
 

A Beardless Foreigner

Wakun complained when he saw a picture of the bearded Bodhidharma: `Why hasn't that fellow a beard?'

Mumon's comment: If you want to study Zen, you must it with your heart. When you attain realization, it must be true realization. You yourself must have the face of the great Bodhidharma to see him. Just once such glimpse will be enough. But if you say you met him, you never saw him at all.

One should not discuss a dream
In front of a simpleton.
Why has Bodhidharma no beard?
What an absurd question!
 

Kyogen Mounts the Tree

Kyogen said: `Zen is like a man hanging in a tree by his teeth over a precipice. His hands grasp no branch, his feet rest on no limb, and under the three another person asks him: `Why does Bodhidharma come to China from India?'

`If the man in tree does not answer, he fails; and if he does answer, he falls and loses his life. Now what shall he do?'

Mumon's Comment: In such a predicament the most talented eloquence is no use. If you have memorized all the sutras, you cannot use them. When you can give the right answer, even though your past road was one of death, you open up a new road of life. But if you cannot answer, you should ages hence and the future Buddha, Maitreya.

Kyogen is truly a fool
Spreading that ego-killing poison
That closes his pupils' mouths
And lets their tears stream from their dead eyes.
 

Buddha Twirls a Flower

When Buddha was in Grdhrakuta mountain he turned a flower in his fingers and held in before his listeners. Every one was silent. Only Maha-Kashapa smiled at this revelation, although he tried to control the lines of his face.

Buddha said: `I have the eye of the true teaching, the heart of Nirvana, the true aspect of non-form, and the ineffable stride of Dharma. It is not expressed by words, but especially transmitted beyond teaching. This teaching I have given to Maha-Kashapa.'

Mumon's Comment: Golden-faced Guatama thought he could cheat anyone. He made the good listeners as bad, and sold dog meat under the sign of mutton. And he himself thought it was wonderful. What if all the audience had laughed together? How could he have transmitted the teaching? And again, if Maha-Kashapa had not smiled, how could he have transmitted the teaching? If he says that realization can be transmitted, he is like the city slicker that cheats the country dub, and if he says it cannot be transmitted, why does he approve of Maha-Kashapa?

At the turning of a flower
His diguise was exposed.
No one is heaven or earth can surpass
Maha-Kashapa's wrinkled face.
 

Joshu Washes the Bowl

A monk told Joshu: `I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.'

Joshu asked: `Have you eaten your rice porridge?'

The monk replied: `I have eaten.'

Joshu said: `Then you had better wash your bowl.'

At that moment the monk was enlightened.

Mumon's Comment: Joshu is the man who opens his mouth and shows his heart. I doubt if this monk really saw Joshu's heart. I hope he did not mistake the bell for a pitcher.

It is too clear and so it is hard to see.
A dunce once searched for fire with a lighted lantern.
Had he known what fire was,
He could have cooked his rice much sooner.
 

Keichu's Wheel

Getsuan said to this students: `Keichu, the first wheel-maker of China, made two wheels of fifty spokes each. Now, suppose you removed the nave uniting the spokes. What would become of the wheel? And had Keichu done thism could he be called the master wheel-maker?'

Mumon's Comment: If anyone can answer this question instantly, his eyes will be like a comet and his mind like a flash of lightning.

When the hubless wheel turns,
Master or no master can stop it.
It turns above heaven and below earth,
South, north, east and west.
 

A Buddha Before History

A monk asked Seijo: `I understand that a Buddha who lived before recorded history sat in meditation for ten cycles of existence and could not realize the highest truth, and so could not become fully emancipated. Why was this so?'

Seijo replied: `Your question is self-explanatory.'

The monk asked: `Since the Buddha was meditating, why could he not fulfill Buddahood?'

Seijo said: `He was not a Buddha.'

Mumon's Comment: I will allow his realization, but I will not admit his understanding. When one ignorant attains realization he is a saint. When a saint begins to understand he is an ignorant.

It is better to realize mind than body.
When the mind is realized one need not worry about body.
When mind and body become one
The man is free. Then he desires no praising.
 

Seizei Alone and Poor

A monk named Seizei asked of Sozan: `Seizei is alone and poor. Will you give him support?'

Sozan asked: `Seizei?'

Seizei responded: `Yes, sir.'

Sozan said: `You have Zen, the best wine in China, and alrady have finished three cups, and still you are saying that they did not even wet your lips.'

Mumon's Comment: Seizei overplayed his hand. Why was it so? Because Sozan had eyes and knew whom to deal. Even so, I want to ask: At what point did Seizei drink wine?

The poorest man in China,
The bravest man in China,
He barely sustains himself,
Yet wishes to rival the wealthiest.
 

Joshu Examines a Monk in Meditation

Joshu went to a place were a monk had retired to meditate and asked him: `What is, is what?'

The monk raised his fist.

Joshu replied: `Ships cannot remain where the water is too shallow.' And he left.

A few days later Joshu went again to visit the monk and asked the same question.

The monk answered the same way.

Joshu said: `Well given, well taken, well killed, well save.' And he bowed to the monk.

Mumon's Comment: The raised fist was the same both times. Why is it Joshu did not admit the first and approved the second one? Where is the fault?

Whoever answers this knows that Joshu's tongue has no bone so he can use it freely. Yet perhaps Joshu is wrong. Or, through that monk, he may have discovered his mistake.

If anyone thinks that the one's insight exceeds the other's, he has no eyes.

The light of the eyes is as a comet,
And Zen's activity is as lightning.
The sword that kills the man
Is the sword that saves the man.
 

Zuigan Calls His Own Master

Zuigan called out to himself every day: `Master.'

Then he answered himself: `Yes, sir.'

And after that he added: `Become sober.'

Again he answered: `Yes, sir.'

`And after that,' he continued, `do not be deceived by others.'

`Yes, sir; yes, sir,' he answered.

Mumon's Comment: Old Zuigan sells out and buys himself. He is opening a puppet show. He uses one mask to call `Master' and another that answers the master. Another mask says `Sober up' and another, `Don't be cheated by others.' If anyone clings to any of his masks, he is mistaken, yet if he imitates Zuigan, he will make himself fox-like.

Some Zen students do not realize the true man in a mask
Because they recognize ego-soul.
Ego-sould is the seed of birth and death,
And foolish people call it the true man.
 

Tokusan Holds His Bowl

Tokusan went to the dining room from the meditation hall holding his bowl. Seppo was on duty cooking. When he met Tokusan he said: `The dinner drum is not yet beaten. Where are you going with your bowl?'

So Tokusan returned to his room.

Seppo told Ganto about this. Ganto said: `Old Tokusan did not understand the ultimate truth.'

Tokusan heard of this remark and asked Ganto to come to him. `I have heard,' he said, `you are not approving my Zen.' Ganto admitted this indirectly. Tokusan said nothing.

The next day Tokusan delivered an entirely different kind of lecture to the monks. Ganto laughed and clapped his hands, saying: `I see our old man understands the ultimate truth indeed. None in China can surpass him.'

Mumon's Comment: Speaking about ultimate truth, both Ganto and Tokusan did not even dream it. After all, they are dummies.

Whoever understands the first truth
Should understand the ultimate truth.
The last and first,
Are they not the same?
 

Nansen Cuts the Cat in Two

Nansen saw the monks of the eastern and western halls fighting over a cat. He seized the cat and told the monks: `If any of you say a good word, you can save the cat.'

No one answered. So Nansen boldly cut the cat in two pieces.

That evening Joshu returned and Nansen told him about this. Joshu removed his sandals and, placing them on his head, walked out.

Nansen said: `If you had been there, you could have saved the cat.'

Mumon's Comment: Why did Joshu put his sandals on his head? If anyone answers this question, he will understand exactly how Nansen enforced the edict. If not, he should watch his own head.

Had Joshu been there,
He would have enforced the edict oppositely.
Joshua snatches the sword
And Nansen begs for his life.
 

Tozan's Three Blows

Tozan went to Ummon. Ummon asked him where he had come from.

Tozan said: `From Sato village.'

Ummon asked: `In what temple did you remain for the summer?'

Tozan replied: `The temple of Hoji, south of the lake.'

`When did you leave there?' asked Ummon, wondering how long Tozan would continue with such factual answers.

`The twenty-fifth of August,' answered Tozan.

Ummon said: `I should give you three blows with a stick, but today I forgive you.'

The next day Tozan bowed to Ummon and asked: `Yesterday you forgave me three blows. I do not know why you thought me wrong.'

Ummon, rebuking Tozan's spiritless responses, said: `You are good for nothing. You simply wander from one monastery to another.'

Before Ummon's words were ended Tozan was enlightened.

Mumon's Comment: Ummon fed Tozan good Zen food. If Tozan can digest it, Ummon may add another member to his family.

In the evening Tozan swam around in a sea of good and bad, but at dawn Ummon crushed his nut shell. After all, he wasn't so smart.

Now, I want to ask: Did Tozan deserve the three blows? If you say yes, not only Tozan but every one of you deserves them. If you say no, Ummon is speaking a lie. If you answer this question clearly, you can eat the same food as Tozan.

The lioness teaches her cubs roughly;
The cubs jump and she knocks them down.
When Ummon saw Tozan his first arrow was light;
His second arrow shot deep.
 

Bells and Robes

Ummon asked: `The world is such a wide world, why do you answer a bell and don ceremonial robes?'

Mumon's Comment: When one studies Zen one need not follow sound or colour or form. Even though some have attained insight when hearing a voice or seeing a colour or a form, this is a very common way. It is not true Zen. The real Zen student controls sound, colour, form, and actualizes the truth in his everyday life.

Sound comes to the ear, the ear goes to the sound. When you blot out sound and sense, what do you understand? While listening with ears one never can understand. To understand intimately one should see sound.

When you understand, you belong to the family;
When you do not understand, you are a stranger.
Those who do not understand belong to the family,
And when they understand they are strangers.
 

The Three Calls of the Emperor's Teacher

Chu, called Kokushi, the teacher of the emperor, called to his attendant: `Oshin.'

Oshin answered: `Yes.'

Chu repeated, to test his pupil: `Oshin.'

Oshin repeated: `Yes.'

Chu called: `Oshin.'

Oshin answered: `Yes.'

Chu said `I ought to apologize for you for all this calling, but really you ought to apologize to me.'

Mumon's Comment: When Old Chu called Oshin three tiems his tongue was rotting, but when Oshin answered three tiems his words were brilliant. Chu was getting decrepit and lonesome, and his method of teaching was like holding a cow's head to feed it clover.

Oshin did not trouble to show his Zen either. His satisfied stomach had no desire to feast. When the country is prosperous everyone is indolent; when the home is wealthy the children are spoilt.

Now I want to ask you: Which one should apologize?

When prison stocks are iron and have no place for the head, the prisoner is doubly in trouble.
When there is no place for Zen in the head of our generation, it is in grievous trouble.
If you try to hold up the gate and door of a falling house,
You also will be in trouble.
 

Tozan's Three Pounds

A monk asked Tozan when he was weighing some flax: `What is Buddha?'

Tozan said: `This flax weighs three pounds.'

Mumon's Comment: Old Tozan's Zen is like a clam. The minute the shell opens you see the whole inside. However, I want to ask you: Do you see the real Tozan?

Three pounds of flax in front of your nose,
Close enough, and mind is still closer.
Whoever talks about affirmation and negation
Lives in the right and wrong region.
 

Everyday Life is the Path

Joshu asked Nansen: `What is the path?'

Nansen said: `Everyday life is the path.'

Joshu asked: `Can it be studied?'

Nansen said: `If you try to study, you will be far away from it.'

Joshu asked: `If I do not study, how can I know it is the path?'

Nansen said: `The path does not belong to the perception world, neither does it belong to the nonperception world. Cognition is a delusion and noncognition is senseless. If you want to reach the true path beyond doubt, place yourself in the same freedom as sky. You name it neither good nor not-good.'

At these words Joshu was enlightened.

Mumon's Comment: Nansen could met Joshu's frozen doubts at once when Joshu asked his questions. I doubt that if Joshu reached the point that Nansen did. He needed thirty more years of study.

In spring, hundreds of flowers; in autumn, a harvest moon;
In the summer, a refreshing breeze; in winter snow will accompany your.
If useless things do not hang in your mind,
Any season is a good season for you.
 

The Enlightened Man

Shogen asked: `Why does the enlightened man not stand on his feet and explain himself?' And he also said: `It is not necessary for speech to come from the tongue.'

Mumon's Comment: Shogen spoke plainly enough, but how many will understand? If anyone comprehends, he should come to my place and test out my big stick. Why, look here, to test real gold you must see it through fire.

If the feet of enlightenment moved, the great ocean would overflow;
If that head bowed, it would look down upon the heavens.
Such a body hsa no place to rest....
Let another continue this poem.
 

Dried Dung

A monk asked Ummon: `What is Buddha?' Ummon answered him: `Dried dung.'

Mumon's Comment: It seems to me Ummon is so poor he cannot distinguish the taste of one food from another, or else he is too busy to write readable letters. Well, he tried to hold his school with dried dung. And his teaching was just as useless.

Lightning flashes,
Sparks shower.
In one blink of your eyes
You have missed seeing.
 

Kashapa's Preaching Sign

Anada asked Kashapa: `Buddha gave you the golden-woven robe of successorship. What else did he give you?'

Kashapa said: `Ananda.'

Ananda answered: `Yes, brother.'

Said Kashapa: `Now you can take down my preaching sign and put up your own.'

Mumon's Comment: If one understands this, he will see the old brotherhood still gathering, but if not, even though he has studied the truth from ages before the Buddhas, he will not attain enlightenment.

The point of the question is dull but the answer is intimate.
How many persons hearing it will open their eyes?
Elder brother calls and younger brother answers,
This spring does not belong to the ordinary season.
 

Do Not Think Good, Do Not Think Not-Good

When he became emancipated the sixth patriach received from the fifth patriach the bowl and robe given from the Buddha to his successors, generation after generation.

A monk named E-myo out of envy pursued the patriach to take this great treasure away from him. The sixth patriach placed the bowl and robe on a stone in the road and told E-myo: `These objects just symbolize the faith. There is no use fighting over them. If you desire to take them, take them now.'

When E-myo went to move the bowl and robe they were as heavy as mountains. He could not budge them. Trembling for shame he said: `I came wanting the teaching, not the material treasures. Please teach me.'

The sixth patriach said: `When you do not think good and when you do not think not-good, what is your true self?'

At these words E-myo was illumined. Perspiration broke out all over his body. He cried and bowed, saying: `You have given me the secret words and meanings. Is there yet a deeper part of the teaching?'

The sixth patriach replied: `What I have told you is no secret at all. When you realize your true self the secret belongs to you.'

E-myo said: `I was under the fifth patriach for many years but could not realize my true self until now. Through your teaching I find the source. A person drinks water and knows himself whether it is cold or warm. May I call you my teacher?'

The sixth patriach replied: `We studied together under the fifth patriach. Call him your teacher, but just treasure what you have attained.'

Mumon's Comment: The sixth patriach certainly was kind in such an emergency. If was as if he removed the skin and seeds from the fruit and then, opening the pupil's mouth, let him eat.

You cannot describe it, you cannot picture it,
You cannot admire it, you cannot sense it.
It is your true self, it has nowhere to hide.
When the world is destroyed, it will no be destroyed.
 

Without Words, Without Silence

A monk asked Fuketsu: `Without speaking, without silence, how can you express the truth?'

Fuketsu observed: `I always remember spring-time in southern China. The birds sing among innumerable kinds of fragrant flowers.'

Mumon's Comment: Fuketsu used to have lightning Zen. Whenever he had the oppurtunity, he flashed it. But this time he failed to do so and only borrowed from an old Chinese poem. Never mind Fuketsu's Zen. If you want to express the truth, throw out your words, throw out your silence, and tell me about your own Zen.

Without revealing his own penetration,
He offered another's words, not his to give.
Had he chattered on and on,
Even his listeners would have been embarassed.
 

Preaching from the Third Seat

In a dream Kyozen went to Maitreya's Pure Land. He recognized himself seated in the third seat in the abode of Maitreya. Someone announced: `Today the one who sits in the third seat will preach.'

Kyozen arose and, hitting the gavel, said: `The truthof Mahayana teaching is transcendent, above words and thought. Do you understand?'

Mumon's Comment: I want to ask you monks: Did he preach or did he not?

When he opens his mouth he is lost. When he seals his mouth he is lost. If he does not open it, if he does not seal it, he is 108,000 miles from the truth.

In the light of day,
Yet in a dream he talks of a dream.
A monster among monsters,
He intended to deceive the whole crowd.
 

Two Monks Rolls Up the Screen

Hogen of Seiryo monastery was about to lecture before dinner when he noticed that the bamboo screen lowered for meditation had not been rolled up. He pointed to it. Two monks arose from the audience and rolled it up.

Hogen, observing the physical moment, said: `The state of the first monk is good, not that of the other.'

Mumon's Comment: I want to ask you: Which of those two monks gained and which lost? If any of you has one eye, he will see the failure on the teacher's part. However, I am not discussing gain and loss.

When the screen is rolled up the great sky opens,
Yet the sky is not attuned to Zen.
It is best to forget the great sky
And to retire from every wind.
 

It is Not Mind, It is Not Buddha, It is Not Things

A monk asked Nansen: `Is there a teaching no master ever preached before?'

Nansen said: `Yes, there is.'

`What is it?' asked the monk.

Nansen replied: `It is not mind, it is not Buddha, it is not things.'

Mumon's Comment: Old Nansen gave away his treasure-words. He must have been greatly upset.

Nansen was too kind and lost his treasure.
Truly, words have no power.
Even though the mountain becomes the sea,
Words cannot open another's mind.
 

Blow Out the Candle

Tokusan was studying Zen under Ryutan. One night he came to Ryutan and asked many questions. The teacher said: `The night is getting old. Why don't you retire?'

So Tukusan bowed and opened the screen to go out, observing: `It is very dark outside.'

Ryutan offered Tokusan a lighted candle to find his way. Just as Tokusan received it, Ryutan blew it out. At that moment the mind of Tokusan was opened.

`What have you attained?' asked Ryutan.

`From now on,' said Tokusan, `I will not doubt the teacher's words.'

The next day Ryutan told the monks at his lecture: `I see one monk among you. His teeth are like the sword tree, his mouth is like the blood bowl. If you hit him hard with a big stick, he will not even so much as look back at you. Someday he will mount the highest peak and carry my teaching there.'

On that day, in front of the lecture hall, Tokusan burned to ashes his commentaries on the sutras. He said: `However abstruse the teachings are, in comparison with this enlightenment they are like a single hair to the great sky. However profound the complicated knowledge of the world, compared to this enlightenment it is like one drop of water to the great ocean.' Then he left the monastry.

Mumon's Comment: When Tokusan was in his own country he was not satisfied with Zen although he had heard about it. He thought: `Those Southern monks say they can teach Dharma outside of the sutras. They are all wrong. I must teach them.' So he travelled south. He happened to stop near Ryutan's monastery for refreshments. An old woman who was there asked him: `What are you carrying so heavily?'

Tokusan replied: `This is a commentary I have made on the Diamond Sutra after many years of work.'

The old woman said: `I read that sutra which says: "The past mind cannot be held, the present mind cannot be held." You wish some tea and refreshments. Which mind do you propose to use for them?'

Tokusan was as though dumb. Finally he asked the woman: `Do you know of any good teacher around here?'

The old woman referred him to Ryutan, not more than five miles away. So he went to Ryutan in all humility, quite different from when he had started his journey. Ryutan in turn was so kind he forgot his own dignity. It was like pouring muddy water over a drunken man to sober him. After all, it was an unnecessary comedy.

A hundred hearings cannot surpass one seeing,
But after you see the teacher, that once glance cannot surpass a hundred hearings.
His nose was very high
But he was blind after all.
 

Not the Wind, Not the Flag

Two monks were arguing about a flag. One said: `The flag is moving.'

The other said: `The wind is moving.'

The sixth patriach happened to be passing by. He told them: `Not the wind, not the flag; mind is moving.'

Mumon's Comment: The sixth patriach said: `The wind is not moving, the flag is not moving. Mind is moving.' What did he mean? If you understand this intimately, you will see the two monks there trying to buy iron and gaining gold. The sixth patriach could not bear to see those two dull heads, so he made such a bargain.

Wind, flag, mind moves.
The same understanding.
When the mouth opens
All are wrong.
 

This Mind is Buddha

Daibai asked Baso: `What is Buddha?'

Baso said: `This mind is Buddha.'

Mumon's Comment: If anyone wholly understands this, he is wearing Buddha's clothing, he is eating Buddha's food, he is speaking Buddha's words, he is behaving as Buddha, he is Buddha.

This anecdote, however, has given many pupil the sickness of formality. If one truly understands, he will wash out his mouth for three days after saying the word Buddha, and he will close his ears and flee after hearing `This mind is Buddha.'

Under blue sky, in bright sunlight,
One need not search around.
Asking what Buddha is
Is like hiding loot in one's pocket and declaring oneself innocent.
 

Joshu Investigates

A travelling monk asked an old woman the road to Taizan, a popular temple supposed to give wisdom to the one who worships there. The old woman said: `Go straight ahead.' When the monk proceeded a few steps, she said to herself: `He also is a common church-goer.'

Someone told this incident to Joshu, who said: `Wait until I investigate.' The next day he went and asked the same question, and the old woman gave the same answer.

Joshu remarked: `I have investigated that old woman.'

Mumon's Comment: The old woman understood how war is planned, but she did not know how spies sneak in behind her tent. Old Joshu played the spy's work and turned the tables on her, but he was not an able general. Both had their faults. Now I want to ask you: What was the point of Joshu's investigating the old woman?

When the question is common
The answer is also common.
When the question is sand in a bowl of boiled rice
The answer is a stick in the soft mud.

 

A Philosopher Asks Buddha

A philosopher asked Buddha: `Without words, without the wordless, will you you tell me truth?'

The Buddha kept silence.

The philosopher bowed and thanked the Buddha, saying: `With your loving kindness I have cleared away my delusions and entered the true path.'

After the philosopher had gone, Ananda asked the Buddha what he had attained.

The Buddha replied, `A good horse runs even at the shadow of the whip.'

Mumon's Comment: Ananda was the disciple of the Buddha. Even so, his opinion did not surpass that of outsiders. I want to ask you monks: How much difference is there between disciples and outsiders?

To tread the sharp edge of a sword
To run on smooth-frozen ice,
One needs no footsteps to follow.
Walk over the cliffs with hands free.