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龐蘊居士 Pang Yun (740-808)
「龐居士」 Páng jūshì, 「龐翁」 Páng Wēng, 「襄陽龐大士」 Xiāngyáng Páng dàshì

Painting above of The Three P'angs (Layman P'ang with his wife and daughter), attributed to Yüeh-shan, who lived during the early Yüan era (1280-1368); Shinju-an, Daitoku-ji, Kyoto

龐居士語錄 Pang jushi yulu

(Rōmaji:) Hō Un koji: Hō koji goroku
(English:) The Recorded Sayings of Layman Pang
(Magyar:) Pang csüsi jülu / Feljegyzések Pang Jün upászakáról

Compiled in 808 by 于頔 Yu Di (?-818) [Jpn.: U Teki]
upászaka = világi buddhista hívő



Erőm bűvös, csodát teszek:
Vizet húzok, fát cipelek.
Terebess Gábor fordítása

Terebess Gábor haikuja egy Pang Jün anekdotához

Világi Pang versei
Maria Badeaux és Hadházi Zsolt fordítása

Pang világi hívő (740-808), aki nem akart szerzetes lenni: mester lett
Komár Lajos fordítása
Zen tükör - V. évfolyam, 1. szám (2013), 24-25. oldal

PDF: The Recorded Sayings of Layman P'ang pp. 39-98.
Translated by Ruth Fuller Sasaki, Yoshitaka Iriya & Dana R. Fraser (no page numbers online!)

HTML: Introduction by Dana R. Fraser, pp. 11-33.

PDF: The Sayings of Layman P'ang: A Zen Classic of China
Translated by James Green
foreword by Dennis Genpo Merzel; preface by Keido Fukushima;
introduction by Jeff Shore

Encounter Dialogues and Verses of Layman Pangyun
compiled by Satyavayu of Touching Earth Sangha

Poem by the Layman Pang
Translated by Sam van Schaik

Layman Pang
From Records of the Transmission of the Lamp tr. Randolph S. Whitfield


[P'ang chü-shih yü-lu]
The Recorded Sayings of Layman P'ang; a ninth-century Zen classic
[compiled by Yü Ti] Translated from the Chinese by Ruth Fuller Sasaki, Yoshitaka Iriya [and] Dana R. Fraser.
New York, Weatherhill, 1971, 109 p.

Ruth Fuller Sasaki (1883-1967)
Iriya Yoshitaka 入矢義高 (1910-1998)


P'ANG YÜN WAS BORN in China about the year A. D. 740 and died in 808. Although he was a poor and simple man who led an ordinary life, he nevertheless attained the highest level of reli­ gious enlightenment as an ardent follower of Ch'an, that branch of Buddhism that is now known in the West by its Japanese name of Zen. With zest and contentment he, his wife, and their two children lived serene amidst the tumult of revolutions and chang­ ing times. His record has inspired countless others to find for themselves the boundless Way to which he pointed in his daily life and verse. He was widely admired by the Chinese people of his day not only for the originality and vigor with which he ex­ pressed his profound religious understanding, but also for the resolve he showed in getting free of all of his posessions by load­ ing them into a boat and sinking them.

The Recorded Sayings of Layman P'ang (in Chinese, P'ang chü-shih yü-lu), here translated into English for the first time, is the record of his later years. Consisting of anecdotes about him together with his verses, it was compiled posthumously by his distinguished friend the Prefect Yü Ti. In later times these anec­ dotes fired the imaginations of Chinese and Japanese painters who composed masterpieces depicting scenes from his life. His daughter Ling- chao was also a favorite subject. Unfortunately, many of these early paintings have been lost. In the Yüan dynasty (1280-1368) an anonymous playwright composed a popular and fanciful drama based on his life. Famous Chinese Ch'an men appended commentaries and appreciative verses to later accounts of him. Even today, some Japanese Zen masters continue to quote him and use certain of the anecdotes as koans, or subjects for Zen meditation, for revealed in them is the timeless world of Zen, the same now as it was then nearly twelve hundred years ago. The Chinese text is valuable in its own right as one of the earliest sources of the colloquial language, and also for our understanding of Far Eastern thought. Before describing the life of Layman P'ang, the text, and the history of this translation, a brief review of early Chinese Buddhism may be useful for an understanding of the mid- T'ang China in which he lived.


BUDDHISM FIRST ENTERED China toward the end of the first century B. C. It was brought mainly from India and Central Asia by missionary monks who, in company with traders and merchants, braved the hazards of travel to come by sea from the south and by the overland trade routes from the west through Central Asia. They brought with them Buddhist texts in Indian and Central Asian languages. One of their first major concerns was to produce translations of these into Chinese. Since these foreign monks knew little or nothing of Chinese, and the Chinese were equally ignorant of the foreign languages, the early attempts at transla­ tion were far from satisfactory.

By the latter part of the Eastern Han dynasty (A. D. 25-220) Buddhism was slowly spreading through China, undergoing profound changes in form and content in the course of its adapta­ tion. During these early years, Buddhism remained largely an alien cult, confined to settlements of foreigners. Buddhist mon­ asteries were gradually established in scattered towns and cities along the trade routes, often with the assistance of merchants. The monasteries not only functioned as centers of religious activity, but also as hostels, warehouses, and banking centers for foreign traders. They were stoutly built and walled to resist the attacks to be expected in those turbulent times. In succeeding centuries, through the gradual expansion of their commercial activities and the acquisition of large holdings of land, Buddhist monasteries were to become important factors in the Chinese economy.

With the end of the Han, there began a period of civil strife, internal division, and weakness that lasted for almost four centu­ ries. Non-Chinese peoples of the northern and western frontiers invaded the land and set up independent kingdoms. The breakdown of the political and social structure of the empire brought untold hardship and misery to the lower classes. The aristocracy and the gentry, still entrenched in the Confucian tradition, continued to look with contempt upon the foreign religion promul­ gated by foreigners. But the Buddhist doctrine of salvation that promised a future life of happiness to the oppressed and lengthy retribution to the oppressor found ready acceptance among the hardpressed common people. Furthermore, Buddhist monks readily incorporated native folk beliefs and superstitions into the religion, and awed the people with displays of supernatural powers and miracles.

The frequent shifts of power that occurred during the troubled years of the Three Kingdoms (221-64) and the Six Dynasties (265-580) weakened Confucianism and Taoism, but provided Buddhist missionaries with wider and more favorable opportuni­ ties for propagating their religion. The alien rulers of North China welcomed as advisers the educated men from India and Central Asia, who brought with them much useful secular knowledge in addition to a new religion. The prestige of their courts was enhanced by the increasing number of works that the more scholarly monks produced in the translation bureaus established under imperial patronage, as well as by the elaborate and colorful religious ceremonies performed in the splendid temples in the capital cities.

The long and highly developed cultural tradition of China had by now begun to act upon and mold Buddhism. At the same time, it drew inspiration from the hitherto little-known culture and art of India and Central Asia, especially from the new ele­ ments of philosophy, ritual, and iconography that were being introduced along with this foreign religion. As a result, the fine arts, particularly sculpture, were infused with new spirit and vigor, which in time produced such works as the superb Buddhist-inspired images of the Yün-kang and Lung-men caves of northern China. Furthermore, by the arduous labors of foreign monks and their Chinese assistants the Indian Buddhist sutras, monastic rules, and philosophical treatises were gradually translated and retranslated, and native Buddhist scholars composed original works of exegesis. Thus an extensive body of Buddhist literature in Chinese was built up which, collected together, came to form the Chinese Tripitaka.

In order for the Chinese Buddhist monks to devote themselves to such extensive and time-consuming literary activities, and, in addition, to carry out the religious practices, meditation, and rituals prescribed in the scriptures and texts of the various schools, it became necessary for them to adopt a more sedentary way of life. They discarded the mendicancy and many of the austerities that had formerly characterized the Buddhist monk's life in India. Accorded the active support and patronage of the rulers, aristocracy, and wealthy merchants, the Buddhist clergy came in many ways to resemble a branch of the government, a clan-sponsored bureaucracy of the time. Only a minority of them opposed this tendency and continued to observe the Vinaya, or precepts for the monk's life. Most seem to have felt that their major task was to raise Buddhism to the status of a national reli­ gion devoted to the enhancement of the power and prestige of the state or the sovereign.

With such support, the various established schools of Bud­ dhism achieved dazzling cultural heights in philosophy and the arts, particularly in painting and poetry, to say nothing of material prosperity, from the Six Dynasties through the Sui dynasty (581-617), and on to the height of the T'ang dynasty (618-907). The foundations of such a high level of culture and prosperity rested not upon popular support but upon the political and economic power of the ruling classes. They were soon to be seriously weakened when that power waned.

In 755, the general named An Lu-shan revolted, defying the authority of the T'ang court and plunging the empire into bloody strife and confusion. As a result, the T'ien-t'ai, Lü, Fa-hsiang, Hua-yen, and Chen-yen sects, which had produced the crowning achievements of a rich and flourishing Chinese Buddhism, en­ tered a period of rapid decline. Centered as they were in the two T'ang capital cities of Ch'ang-an and Lo-yang, they could not help sharing the fate of the old aristocracy that had maintained them and was virtually wiped out in the following years of civil war. From this time on their priests either struggled futilely to continue a semblance of their former activities in the capitals and the provinces or, as was the case with T'ien-t'ai, withdrew to the mountain retreats associated with their earliest founders. Within the century that followed, these capital-centered, state-supported sects withered and all but faded from the pages of Chinese history. The sects that survived this period were the leaders in a movement away from the capital cities into the coun­ tryside, from the aristocracy to the common people, and from a recondite foreign teaching to one that was distinctively humani­ tarian and easily understood, and that lent a profound meaning to ordinary, everyday life. Prominent among these sects were the Mi-chiao in the north and Ch'an in the south and east, par­ ticularly in the provinces of Chiang-hsi (the present Kiangsi) and Chiang-nan (the present Anhwei and Kiangsu).

Ch'an Buddhism may be said to have been founded by the Brahmin monk known as Bodhidharma. According to tradition he arrived in southern China by sea from India about 520. Though teachers of various types of Buddhist meditation had preceded him, none had been able to establish a school or a line of disciples. Bodhidharma did, and his successors continued the practice of seated, cross-legged meditation advocated by him and also further developed his teachings. As a reform movement, Ch'an aimed to break through the aristocratic and scholastic attitudes that characterized the established schools of Buddhism and return to the spirit of Śākyamuni's original teaching and practice by which every person could himself realize Buddhahood. It held that the scriptures of Mahāyāna Buddhism were but expositions in written words, and not the Buddha-mind itself. Thus, in place of the scriptural study that had occupied so much of the time of the older schools of Buddhism, Ch'an teachers gave their own dis­ courses, and participated freely with others in lively dialogues using the everyday, colloquial language of the times. Ch'an monks rejected the subsidized life of the city temples and either returned to the earlier Buddhist practice of leading wandering and mendicant lives or, gathering around a master, settled in some remote or scarcely accessible place where master and dis­ ciples democratically lived together, cultivating the land for their daily food.

By the middle T'ang, Ch'an had developed into three schools, the Niu-t'ou or "Ox-head," the Northern, and the Southern. The Southern school emphasized the practice of meditation lead­ ing to the instantaneous perception of reality. Its practice and teaching of meditation was called "Patriarchal" because it was held to be based on and to be a continuation of that of the Indian founder Śākyamuni down through Bodhidharma and the succeed­ ing Chinese patriarchs of the school. The flourishing condition of the Southern school during this period was due in large meas­ ure to a number of monks each of whom was exceptionally capable, intelligent, and learned, and who attracted many fol­ lowers.

The three distinctive teaching lines within the Southern school were the Ho-tse, the Ch'ing-yüan, and the Nan-yüeh. It was from the latter two lines that subsequently the "Five Houses" and "Seven Schools" developed through which the flower of Ch'an burst into full bloom, was transmitted to Korea, and be­ came the Zen of Japan that in turn is becoming established today in the West. The direct Dharma heir of Ching-yüan was Ch'an Master Shih-t'ou Hsi-chen (700- 90), under whom P'ang Yün as a lay disciple first attained enlightenment. The Dharma heir of Nah-yüeh was Ch'an Master Ma-tsu Tao-i (709-88), under whom P'ang was again enlightened, and whose Dharma heir he became. Shih-t'ou and Ma-tsu were perhaps the greatest Ch'an teachers of their day. Both men were well versed in such Mahāyāna scriptures as the Diamond Sutra, Lankāvatāra Sutra, Vimalakīrti Sutra, and Lotus Sutra, with their doctrine that "the evil passions as they are are Enlightenment; birth-and-death as it is is Nirvāna," and with the Nirvāna Sutra, with its doctrine that "sentient beings all have the Buddha-nature." They took these doctrines, however, and expressed them in everyday terms that even unlearned country people could understand. The fol­ lowing statement by Kuei-feng Tsung-mi (780-841) clearly illustrates this. Tsung-mi was the fifth and last patriarch of the Hua-yen sect and also of the Ho-tse school of Ch'an. His succinct description of the Ch'an teaching of Ma-tsu and his disciples, which he terms the Hung-chou school, moreover reveals in a nutshell the significance of actions and dialogues recorded in the anecdotes of Layman P'ang. Tsung-mi said:

"The Hung-chou school asserts that our arousing the mind and moving thoughts, snapping the fingers, moving the eyes, etc., is wholly the activity of Buddha-nature itself, and not the movement of anything else. In a word, the entirety of our wanting something, getting angry at something, or arousing the passions --whether good or evil, pleasurable or painful-- is all Buddha-nature. For example, just as from wheat flour are made noodles, crackers, and various other foods, so is every single one [of these products still] the same wheat flour.

"In short, [they affirm,] there is no need to arouse the mind to stop evil thoughts, nor arouse the mind to cultivate the Way. Since the Way as it is is mind, we cannot cultivate mind with mind; since evil is also mind, we cannot cut off mind with mind. Not trying to cut off evil or trying to cultivate good, just letting things follow their own courses and being ourselves is what they call liberation of mind. Nowhere is there either any Dharma-principle that we ought to embrace, nor any Buddha that we ought to strive to obtain. Just like the empty sky that does not increase or decrease--[so with our mind--] what need could there be to augment or amend it! And why? Because outside of our mind itself, there is absolutely not the least little thing of value to be obtained."1.

1. Translated from Seizan Yanagida essay in Iriya, "Denshin hōyō," p. 159. See also Waley, Po Chü-I, pp. 99-100, for a similar statement by Wei k'uan (755-817), a Dharma heir of Ma-tsu.


THE PREFACE AND ANECDOTES OF The Recorded Sayings of Layman P'ang are the major source of the few biographical facts and dates that are known about the man. The anecdotes emphasize above all P'ang Yün's profound religious understanding. No reference is made in them to his relationship with his parents, or to the formative influences that led him early in life to become disillu­ sioned with worldly values. Nor is there any reference to the actual wars, floods, famines, heavy taxes, and rapid inflation that occurred in China during his lifetime, bringing hardships upon nearly everyone. How these and other historical events may have affected him we simply do not know. The following summary combines what is known and can be inferred of P'ang Yün and his family with a consideration of his poetry, his bio­ grapher Yü Ti, and the account of him recorded in the Chodang chip, the earliest Ch'an history. From this emerges a suggestive picture of his character and religious standpoint.

The name P'ang Yün means "Lofty Interior," and his tzu style or nickname of Tao-hsuan means "Way Mystery." The date of his birth is not recorded. We may infer that it occurred around 740 from the following evidence. We are told (page 4.1) that at the beginning of the Yüan-ho era (806-20) he returned to Hsiang province and made a home near Hsiang-yang city, his birthplace. It was there that he met Yü Ti, who was Prefect of Hsiang province and who probably lived in its capital city of Hsiang-yang during the period of his administration from 798 to October, 808. Yü Ti was present at the time of P'ang's death, which occurred one week after a solar eclipse. The only solar eclipse between 806 and 808 occurred on July 27, 808. This means that P'ang died on August 3 of that year, a few months before Yü Ti moved away to Ch'ang-an to take up his new post of Cabinet Minister. Several anecdotes of the present text refer to P'ang as being old. Since a Chinese was considered to have reached old age when he was over fifty, P'ang may well have reached an age of sixty or seventy. In this roundabout manner we may place the date of his birth as circa 740.

All we are told of P'ang Yün's father is that he was a Confu­ cian, and a minor official in Hsiang-yang until he was transferred south to be Prefect of the city of Heng-yang. Even this cannot be verified historically, for no record of his administration is extant. Of P'ang Yün's mother we know nothing at all. At any rate, P'ang Yün accompanied his father to Heng-yang, lived in the southern part of the city, and married. He had a son and a daughter. His daughter, Ling-chao (Spirit Shining), gained a deep understanding of Ch'an. She and her father seem to have had a particularly close and affectionate relationship.

Sometime after P'ang Yün moved to Heng-yang, he built a hermitage separate from his residence and there carried on his initial religious practices. These probably included the study of Buddhist sutras and the practice of seated meditation. When he was middle-aged he gave his house away to be used for a temple, and sank his possessions and money in a nearby river in order to be rid of them forever. He apparently regarded the acquisition of wealth as an impediment to the attainment of enlightenment, and did not give it away to others for fear it would be a hindrance to them also. It is easy to imagine the surprise and wonder of his neighbors at this drastic renunciation of property. Even today his name is widely known in connection with the incident. Un­ fortunately, we are not told what arrangements he subsequently made for his family--or what his wife thought about his decision. In any case, P'ang and his daughter are known to have earned what was probably a meager livelihood, at least after he threw away his possessions, by making and selling bamboo utensils, while the one view we have of P'ang's son hoeing in the fields suggests the possibility that he supported his mother by farming.

After disposing of his possessions, perhaps in 785, he traveled to the nearby mountain of Nan-yüeh to visit the great Ch'an Master Shih-t'ou, and was at once enlightened by him. He stayed with Shih-t'ou and his disciples until 786, when he journeyed east to Kiangsi province to visit Ma-tsu. On the way, he met the man who later became the Ch'an monk named Tan-hsia T'ien­ jan. T'ien-jan (Spontaneous) was an apt name for this lively person, who was to become one of P'ang's closest friends and a poet of distinction. Under Ma-tsu, P'ang experienced great enlightenment, remained afterwards for two years among the hundreds of disciples assembled there, and became a Dharma heir of that noted Master.

In subsequent years Layman P'ang seems to have divided his time between his family, presumably still in Heng-yang, and pilgrimages around central China, matching his own Ch'an understanding against all comers in the type of lively and good-humored exchanges recorded in the present text. It was during this period that he probably wrote many of the verses that have come down to us.

Layman P'ang was an amateur poet, unschooled in either the Chinese Classics or conventional rules for verse composition. His favorite themes were Buddhist teaching, practice, and en­ lightenment on the one hand, and warnings of pitfalls on the other. At his best, he combined these subjects with vivid auto­ biographical images to great effect, rhyming the end-word of every other line. The majority of his verses, however, are not of the same quality and tend to be didactic.

The T'ang has been called the golden age of Chinese poetry. Some of its greatest poets were Layman P'ang's contemporaries. But nowhere to be found in P'ang's verse are the themes of gentle nature and warm friendship sung in the poems of Wang Wei (701-61), or the exuberant travels, war themes, and frustrated ambitions in those of Tu Fu (712-59), or the wine-bibbing and Taoist alchemy in those of Li Po (701-62), or the political acumen and concern for humanity expressed in those of Po Chü-i (772-846). Of all the T'ang poets, P'ang's verse is most closely echoed by that of the semilegendary hermit Han-shan, who lived about a century later. Some of the three hundred poems attrib­ uted to Han-shan are remarkably like those of Layman P'ang. For example, compare the opening lines of Verse 9 (page 81) with this poem by Han-shan:2.

I have now a tunic
Not of sheer or figured silk.
You ask what is its color?
Not crimson, nor purple either!
In summer it's my robe, In winter it's my quilt.
Used in winter, then summer,
Thus it is year after year.

Han-shan seems also to have been a lay Buddhist who was greatly influenced by the Southern school of Ch'an. Unable to win recognit on for his scholarship and poetry, he experienced poverty and hardship. He left his family to be a hermit in the misty solitudes of Cold Mountain in the T'ien-t'ai range of eastern China. Layman P'ang, on the other hand, did not desert his family, preferred living near cities, and enjoyed visiting friends and stopping over at monasteries.

Toward the end of his life, Layman P'ang wandered northward to Hsiang-yang, accompanied by his beloved daughter Ling-chao. According to the Preface (page 41), he lived there in a rock cave twenty li --about seven miles-- south of Lung- men shan (Deer Gate Mountain), itself twelve miles southeast of Hsiang-yang city. Deer Gate Mountain was for long the home of the celebrated poet Meng Hao-jan (689-740), who in one of his poems mentions visiting there the hermitage of an earlier P'ang. 3. There is a legend of this hermit P'ang, who lived during the Later Han dynasty (25-220), that he went into the mountains to gather medicinal herbs and never came back. Whether this interesting man was a direct ancestor of Layman P'ang or not is unknown.

2. Translated from Iriya, Kanzan, pp. 134-35; cf. Watson, p. 113.
See Jenyns, p. 101 .

Layman P'ang's proximity to Hsiang-yang city gave Prefect Yü Ti the chance to visit him frequently. Until October, 808, Yü Ti was both Prefect of Hsiang-chou and Imperial Commissioner of Shan nan tung tao, an extensive region lying on both sides of the Han River, and including present Hupeh, eastern Szechuan, and southern Shensi. He seems to have admired the verses of P'ang, which he obtained early in his administration, and welcomed the chance to make the poet's acquaintance.

What kind of man was Yü Ti, that he ought out and befriended Layman P'ang? He was descended from a distinguished family of Central Asian descent. While a prefect he was outspoken and proud, a capable administrator, a successful and courageous military leader, and a strict authoritarian. On the other hand, he had an overbearing manner and ruled his territory like an absolute dictator. He ignored admonitions from Emperor Tetsung against his misdeeds, and got away with everything because the emperor was pleased with his success. YV00FC Ti on his own authority even issued an order that all mendicant Buddhist monks found in his territory were to be arrested. Those caught he tried and executed. We do not know why or for how long he carried out this persecution. It only ended after Yü Ti encountered a Ch'an monk named Tsu-yü Ho-shang (731-813), who converted him. The dramatic story of their encounter as told in an early Ch'an history4. goes generally as follows:

4. The Chodang chip (chüan 14, pp. 53-54) as described on pp. 25-26.

"Tsu-yü Ho-shang was a Dharma heir of Great Teacher Ma-tsu, and once lived in Hsiang-yang. . . . There was a time when Prefect Yü Ti of Hsiang-yang issued orders that all mendicant monks in his territory should be apprehended and sent [to the prefectural government building in Hsiang-yang]. There was not a single monk who escaped with his life--all were killed. There were numberless instances of this.

"Having heard the news, the Master [Tsu-yü] wanted to visit the Prefect, so he searched among his assembly for companions. About ten men volunteered to accompany the Master. He started out at the head of ten followers. Upon reaching the border the ten others feared to go on. The Master alone crossed the border. The [Prefect's] soldiers found the Master coming, put cangues on him, and escorted him under guard to the capital city of Hsiang-yang. When he arrived in front of the government building, still with cangues on, he donned his monk's robe and entered the courtroom.

"The Prefect, seated grandly on a chair, put a hand on the hilt of his sword and asked: 'Bah! you teacher. Don't you know that the Prefect of Hsiang-yang has the freedom to put you to the sword?' The Master said: 'Do you know a King of Dharma doesn't fear birth-and-death?' The Prefect said: 'Ho-shang, have you ears in your head?' The Master responded: My eyebrows and eyes are unhindered. When I, a poor monk, meet with the Prefect in an interview, what kind of hindrance could there be!'

"At this the Prefect threw away his sword, donned his official uniform, bowed low, and asked: 'I have heard there is a statement in the teaching that says that the black wind blows the ships, and wafts them to the land of the Rakshasas.5. What does this mean?" Yü Ti!' the Master called. The Prefect's face changed color. The Master remarked: 'The land of the Rakshasas is not far!' The Prefect again asked: 'What about Buddha?' 'Yü Ti!' the Master called again. The Prefect answered: 'Yes?' The Master said: 'Don't seek anywhere else.' At these words the Prefect attained great enlightenment, bowed low, and became his disciple."6.

5. A reference to the Kwan-yin Sutra. See Suzuki, Manual, p. 31.
6. The last part of this dialogue, from the Prefect's asking about Buddha to Tsu-yü's "Don't seek anywhere else," is Koan 45 in the eighteenth-century Japanese collection Tetteki Tōsui (Blowing the [Solid-]Iron Flute Upside-Down.) Compare our literal translation with that in Senzaki and McCandless, p. 73.

After this experience, Yü Ti studied Ch'an under several masters. In his subsequent support of Buddhism, he was typical of many other officials of the time. It was he who was present at the time of Layman P'ang's death and who compiled The Recorded Sayings of Layman P'ang as a tribute to his memory.

Layman P'ang and Ling-chao had been living in Hsiang province for about two years when the Layman made ready to die. Since no specific illness is mentioned, we may assume that in his old age he simply knew that his time had come. But Ling-chao anticipated him and stole the show by preceding him in death. The Layman himself died a week later. After his remains had been cremated and the ashes scattered in accordance with his last wish, a messenger was sent to report the news to Mrs. P'ang, who presumably was still in Heng-yang with her son. The Preface recounts the bizarre way the son chose to die, and how Mrs. P'ang subsequently went into seclusion and disappeared. One implication of all this is that each member of the family, having attained the Buddha-way, died when the time came just as each had lived, simply and contentedly, without leaving a trace behind.

The personality of P'ang Yün defies categorization. He was true to himself and lived without attachments. He seems to have had no ambition for the Chinese ideal of an administrative career, or for political agitation or social reform. Although raised in a Confucian family, he preferred to express himself using Buddhist terms. Although described as a Buddhist lay believer, he gave away his house, destroyed his possessions, and wandered about like a monk. Even so, he also declined to become a monk, did not give lectures on Buddhism, try to train disciples, or renounce the income and possibilities for travel that his occupation of making bambooware afforded. He seems to have recommended Buddhist sutras enthusiastically in his verses because he had realized their significance in his own life, and not from any sectarian bias. He had a particular preference for the Vimalakīrti Sutra, whose hero Vimalakīrti had such a profound understanding of Buddhist enlightenment that he could cheerfully pursue many activities forbidden to monks without this affecting him, and moreover best all the monks in debates on Buddhist teaching.

The accouterments of P'ang Yün may be thought of as indicating his character. In the frontispiece painting by the Chinese artist Yüeh-shan, he is shown wearing a white robe, a black gauze cap, and holding in his hand a bamboo walking staff. In common Chinese parlance, "white-robed" simply meant a commoner as distinct from a government official, or a layman as distinct from a black-robed monk. It was probably with this latter meaning that Shih-t'ou referred to P'ang as "wearing white" (see below, page 46). However, in Verse 4 (page 79), P'ang refers to himself as "white-robed." The Chinese character for white has the metaphorical connotations of simplicity, plainness, ordinariness, and purity. All these were descriptive of him. In Verse 9 (page 81), he says he is garbed in the seamless robe of Emptiness, crystalline and sparkling bright like the pure white floss unwound from the silkworm's cocoon. P'ang also knew that Vimalakīrti and other Indian lay-Buddhists customarily wore white clothes.7. The Chinese from his day to the present, however, have usually regarded white clothes as cheap and unbecoming. The bereaved wore white hemp garments to a funeral to indicate that excess of grief had robbed them of any concern for their appearance. Whether P'ang Yün actually wore a white robe or not we do not know. It is tempting to suppose that he did, for this would be yet another indication of his affinity with Vimalakīrti and the purity of his heart. The black gauze cap on his head was similar to an official's cap, as Tan-hsia remarks below (page 53). Although P'ang never held official office, he did speak and act with unquestioned authority, of which the cap may be regarded as a symbol. The walking staff is the universal companion of travelers and pilgrims. Buddhist monks carried a wooden staff with a set of interconnected metal rings hung from the top, which jangled as the staff struck the ground. From the time P'ang gave away his house and destroyed his possessions, he was continuously a pilgrim on the Way. His staff was a common piece of bamboo-- inexpensive, sturdy, and lightweight--quite in keeping with his simple tastes.

7. Vimalakīrti is described as "white-robed" early in Chapter 2 of the Vimalakīrti Sutra. There the term means a Buddhist layman or householder. Indian Buddhist laymen and laywomen also wore white robes on fast days and on pilgrimages. For some references to white- robed lay Buddhists in the Pāli canon, see Dīgha Nikāya I: 211; III: 118, 124 ff; and the Majjhima Nikāya I:491; II:23

What was P'ang Yün's relationship to the Confucian traditions of his ancestors? Although he must have been taught the precepts of Confucius as a child, these seem to have had little influence upon him in adult life. The compiler of The Recorded Sayings of Layman P'ang or its later editors hardly mention him at all in connection with Confucianism. There is an account, known only in a Korean edition dated 1245 and not mentioned by any Chinese editors, that gives more information in this regard. This is the Chodang chip, the earliest known history of Chinese Ch'an, compiled in 952 by Ch'an Master Ch'ing-hsiu and two assistants. It was lost in China and, until recently, known only in Korea. Here is the Chodang chip 's account of Layman P'ang:

"Layman P'ang succeeded [to the Dharma of] Great Teacher Ma[-tsu]. The Layman himself was born in Heng-yang.

"He had occasion to ask Great Teacher Ma: 'Who is the man who doesn't accompany the ten thousand dharmas?' Teacher Ma replied: 'Layman, wait till you've swallowed in one swig all the water of the West River, then I'll tell you.' At that the Layman attained great enlightenment; he went directly to the administrative office [of the temple], borrowed a writing brush and ink-stone, and composed a verse which says:

[People of] the ten directions are the same one assembly--
Each and every one learns wu-wei.
This is the very place to select Buddha;
Empty-minded having passed the exam, I return.

And then he stayed [at Ma-tsu's temple.]. He received further instruction [there] for one or two years. In the end, without his changing his Confucian appearance, his mind sported outside of objects; his feelings were unrestrained, but his conduct fitted with the true purport; his way of life was turbid, but he was preeminent among men. Indeed he was a Mystery-learned Confucian, a householding bodhisattva.

"He first lived at East Cliff in Hsiang-yang, and later lived in a small hut [outside and] west of the city wall. He had an only daughter, who served him and fashioned bamboo utensils. He had her sell them in the city, by which to provide for their daily needs. He daily enjoyed the Way.

"His verses number nearly three hundred, and circulate widely in the world. All [these verses] by their words fit the Ultimate Principle, and by their phrases reveal the mysterious course of things; to accomplished Confucians they are jewels and gold, to Buddhists they are cherished treasure. Except for the few given here, all the rest are omitted."

[Here the account quotes eight verses, as described below.]

"When the time came to pass on, the Layman had his daughter prepare hot water, took a bath, donned his robe, sat properly cross-legged upon his bed, and having spoken his parting words addressed her, saying: 'Watch when the sun reaches due south [at noon] and report it to me.' As he had said, she watched and reported, saying: 'The sun has just reached due south, but the sun's yang brilliance is eclipsed.' The Layman exclaimed: 'How can that be!' Then he arose and went to see it himself. Thereupon his daughter crawled upon the bed [, sat] properly, and passed away. Her father turned, and seeing this exclaimed: 'Exquisite! I spoke of it earlier, but I ['ll now have to] do it later.' Accordingly the Layman let seven days elapse and died."

The eight verses of P'ang Yün praised in such glowing terms by the compiler of the Chodang chip have all been translated in the present book. They are the two verses on page 74 beginning "When the mind's as is" and "Easy, so easy," and the six selected verses numbered 2, 5, and 22-25. 8

8. The Chodang chip version of Verse 5 omits lines 5 and 6.

The Chodang chip account of Layman P'ang differs in several particulars from that of the present text. Its assertion that he was born in Heng-yang and first lived in Hsiang-yang is contrary to all later accounts, but there is no historical proof now that such might not have been the case. Of special interest are the compiler's references to the completeness of P'ang's attainment, whether considered as Confucian, Taoist, or Buddhist. Although he attained great enlightenment and received instruction under Ma-tsu, he did not on that account become a monk, i.e., "change his Confucian appearance." He is described as "a Mystery-learned Confucian," i.e., a scholar of refinement who is also an adept (Taoist) mystic, and as a "householding bodhisattva," i.e., a man who while he lives a commoner's life enlightens and saves others by leading them to Nirvana.

The first two lines of P'ang's enlightenment verse above reveal the universality of his standpoint. He sees everyone everywhere as learning wu-wei. Wu-wei in Buddhism means "the Unconditioned," and in Taoism "non-doing," the effortless, purposeless action that flows from accord with Tao. Both meanings are probably intended. The third line refers to Ma-tsu's Ch'an temple, where P'ang has realized his Buddhahood. But in the concluding line, far from describing himself as Buddhist, he simply states that by virtue of the empty mind with which he came there he has passed Ma-tsu's examination, and now returns home. Both this verse and the one on page 46 epitomize the pure spirit and free activity that were the greatness of the man.


THE P'ang chü-shih yü-lu contains the recorded sayings and verses of Layman P'ang Yün. Prefect Yü Ti probably made the compilation after the Layman's death on August 3, 808, but before he left Hsiang-yang in October of that same year. Six Sung-dynasty book catalogues list early editions of the text that are now lost. The oldest extant version is the Ming-dynasty woodblock edition dated 1637, in three chüan or sections. A single copy of this text is preserved in the Cabinet Library, Tokyo.

The first chüan of the Ming text contains an anonymous preface, a brief statement of P'ang's early years, and his sayings in the form of anecdotes interspersed with verses. The second chüan contains about sixty verses. The third chüan continues with about one hundred more of P'ang's verses, then a section of appreciatory verses by later Ch'an men together with two koans taken from the main text, and concludes with a short colophon. In all there are far fewer verses than the three hundred he is said to have written.

Some thirty Buddhist histories, Ch'an koan collections, and secular poetry anthologies dated before the Ming dynasty and about ten subsequent compilations of the Ch'ing dynasty (1644-1912) all contain excerpts from the P'ang chü-shih yü-lu. The anecdotes, verses, and biographical details of Layman P'ang found in the earlier compilations often differ in part from those of the Ming text.

In Japan, woodblock editions of the P'ang chü-shih yü-lu were published in 1652, about 1668, and about 1692. It was also included in the Kyoto edition of the Dainihon zokuzōkyō published between 1902 and 1905. Copies of the three early editions, though rare, are still to be found in several university, temple, and private libraries in Japan. Except for the fact that they omit the Preface and contain two or three copyist's errors, all the Japanese editions are identical with the Chinese Ming edition of 1637. It is from a photographic copy of the Ming text in the Cabinet Library, Tokyo, emended on the basis of earlier accounts of Layman P'ang, that the present English translation has been made.


AFTER THE PACIFIC WAR, the longtime American Buddhist and Zen student Mrs. Ruth Fuller Sasaki returned to live in Kyoto, Japan, in 1948 with the intention of continuing her zazen practice and traditional Rinzai Zen koan study, learning more Japanese and Chinese, and publishing accurate and scholarly English translations of important Zen texts. At her residence in Ryōsenan, a Rinzai Zen temple at Daitoku-ji, she assembled a research library and began to seek the assistance of Japanese and American scholars. Professor Yoshitaka Iriya, a specialist in T'ang and Sung colloquial Chinese, agreed to assist her work and became director of Ryōsen-an's growing research staff.

To aid her study of the yü-lu (recorded sayings) type of Ch'an literature, Professor Iriya suggested that she read an article by the well-known Sinologist, the late Henri Maspero, entitled "Sur Quelques Textes Anciens de Chinois Parlé." This article, published in 1914, was a survey of the colloquial language during the Six Dynasties (222-589) and the T'ang (618-907). It contained numerous quotations from the P'ang chü-shih yü-lu. With her characteristic thoroughness, Mrs. Sasaki not only read the article but also translated it into English. She obtained the assistance of Mr. Burton Watson, then a Ford Foundation scholar in residence at Kyoto University, in rendering the French transliteration of the Chinese characters into the Wade-Giles system and supplying the characters lacking for many of the titles of works referred to by Maspero throughout the article. It then became apparent that many of Maspero's translations were open to question. With Professor Iriya and Mr. Watson, she was able to correct and thereby greatly improve the original. Their joint translation, a 124-page typescript, was completed in August, 1954, and kept at Ryōsen-an as a private paper for consultation by interested scholars. It was not intended for publication.

In the course of her study of the Maspero article, Mrs. Sasaki first came to read the complete Ming text of the P'ang chü-shih yü-lu. It appealed to her greatly, and after the Maspero article had been revised, she and Professor Iriya enthusiastically set about translating it into English. What began as a simple translation of a short Ch'an text soon developed into a project of major proportions, requiring all of her considerable ability and energy. She undertook a character-by-character comparison of the anecdotes in the Ming text with those to be found in some twenty earlier sources, and began to assemble biographical accounts of the Ch'an monks mentioned therein. By late 1955 an English translation of the anecdotes and fifteen selected verses had been prepared, together with an emended version of the Ming text and romanized Chinese and Japanese transcriptions of its pronunciation. Then the work halted. Mrs. Sasaki and the scholars turned their attention entirely to revising the English translation of the Lin-chi yü-lu (The Recorded Sayings of Lin-chi) and the research that was later published in Zen Dust. Mrs. Sasaki's untimely death on October 24, 1967, was a great loss. The Lin- chi translation as well as that of the present text was still incomplete. Professor Iriya and the others resolved to continue, but without her guiding hand progress inevitably was slowed.

In the autumn of 1968, I joined the Ryōsen-an research staff at Professor Iriya's invitation to help complete the Lin-chi revision. Student-faculty confrontations at the universities over the next two years made severe inroads on all the professors' time, and it was not until April, 1970, that the final revision of the basic Lin-chi text and notes was at last finished. Following this, Professor Iriya and I drew on the experience of our previous collaboration to revise completely the initial translation of the present text, which he and Mrs. Sasaki had left off fifteen years before. In addition, we translated new source materials for an introduction and notes, and also ten more verses of Layman P'ang. This brought the total number of selected verses to twenty-five. Professor Iriya kindly made available to me extensive notes that he had gathered in preparation for the publication of his emended Ming text. Entitled the Hō koji goroku and containing the Chinese with Japanese readings, this will appear as Volume 7 of Chikuma Shobō's new twenty-volume series Zen no goroku (Zen Recorded Sayings).

In the present translation we have emended the Ming text only when two or more earlier sources contained identical and better versions of a given anecdote. Most of the emendations are minor and consist of substitutions of a single Chinese character or the addition of an extra sentence. Since Professor Iriya has listed all these emendations in the footnotes of his Hō koji goroku, I have not felt it necessary to detail them here. Mention should, however, be made of two complete anecdotes not found in the Ming text that have been included here. They are the Tan-hsia anecdote found on page 55, taken from the Ch'an-tsung sung-ku lien-chu t'ung-chi (chüan 14, pp. 85d-86a); and the anecdote entitled "Mrs. P'ang at the Temple" (page 73), taken from the Chih-yüeh lu (chV00FCan 9, pp. 106-8).

Throughout the translation, our aim has been to express in English the literal meaning, style, and religious spirit of the original. When the Chinese is ambiguous, as in cases where the subject of a sentence is omitted and could equally well refer to two or more persons, the same ambiguity has purposely been kept in the English. When double meanings are possible, where English construction requires additional words not in the original, or where explanatory words are inserted in place of a note, these have all been supplied within brackets. In every case the sense of the original is conveyed if the bracketed words are omitted in the reading.

English meanings are as defined in Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary. In romanization of the Chinese a modification of the Wade-Giles system and in Japanese the modified Hepburn system has been used. Since the P'ang chü-shih yü-lu is a Chinese text, romanized Chinese pronunciations of proper names have been preferred, except when the Sanskrit equivalent

is likely to be better known to the Western reader. Terms with no exact English equivalent like Ch'an, ch'in , and li have been retained to indicate the Chinese flavor of the text. For the convenience of readers more familiar with the Japanese pronunciations, these will be found in the Index, together with the Chinese characters, in the case of more important Chinese names and terms.

All dates are Christian era; months and days have been converted from the Chinese lunar calendar into the Julian calendar. Anecdote titles throughout, together with the title "Selected Verses of Layman P'ang" and subsequent verse numbers, have all been supplied by the translators. Footnotes are limited to information likely to help the understanding of general readers or students of Zen, and are not intended to be scholarly. Wherever possible, references are given in the notes to existing English translations of related Zen literature and Buddhist sutras as a convenience for those who wish to do additional reading; these references are in abbreviated form, as full information may be found in the Selected Bibliography.

At present there is a great need for more and definitive English translations of complete Buddhist sutras and original Chinese Ch'an and Japanese Zen texts. The publication of The Recorded' Sayings of Layman P'ang is a step in this direction. As it stands, it contains the work of several people. Particular mention is due Ruth Fuller Sasaki, whose breadth of vision, resourcefulness, and tireless efforts first brought the translation into being. Professor Iriya, now co-chairman of the Department of Chinese Literature at Kyoto University, has from beginning to end been the indispensable guide in interpreting the Chinese. Mr. Gary Snyder, American poet and former Zen student at Daitoku-ji, made preliminary translations of biographies from which some of the notes have benefited. Mr. Kazuhiro Furuta, a graduate student of Chinese Buddhism at Ōtani University, has been of great help in locating source materials, checking my translations, and in numberless other ways. The English used throughout the book is, of course, my responsibility; I hope that any errors in it will come to light and be corrected in future editions.

Special thanks are due Esei Fukutomi Oshō, now priest of Ryōsen-an, for his permission to use its library; and to my teacher, Zen Master Kajitani Sōnin of Shōkoku-ji monastery, whose personal example of diligent study and living Zen spirit has encouraged me to persevere in bringing this work to completion.

Shōkoku-ji, Kyoto

PDF: The Recorded Sayings of Layman P'ang
compiled by Imperial Commissioner Yü Ti
pp. 39-98. (no page numbers online!):


The Anecdotes
Dialogues with Shih-t'ou ·45
Dialogues with Ma-tsu ·47
Dialogues with Yüeh-shan ·48
Dialogues with Ch'i-feng ·49
Dialogues with Tan-hsia ·51
Dialogues with Po-ling ·55
Dialogues with Ta-t'ung P'u-chi ·57
Dialogue with Ch'ang-tzu ·59
Dialogues with Sung-shan ·60
Dialogues with Pen-hsi ·63
Dialogue with Ta-mei ·65
Dialogues with Ta-yü ·65
Dialogues with Tse-ch'uan ·66
Dialogue with Lo-p'u ·68
Dialogues with Shin-lin · 68
Dialogue with Yang-shan ·70
Dialogue with the Hermit Ku-yin ·70
Layman P'ang Reads a Sutra ·71
The Layman Meets a Mendicant ·71
The Layman Meets a Herdboy ·72
The Layman and the Lecture-Master ·72
Mrs. P'ang at the Temple ·73
The Layman and His Daughter ·74
Layman P'ang's Death ·75

Selected Verses
1. Of a hut in the fields the elder ·77
2. People have a one-scroll sutra ·78
3. I've long dwelled in the mountains ·78
4. Whiterobed ·79
5. Some people despise old P'ang ·79
6. Travelling the path is easy ·79
7. It is called Wisdom ·80
8. Without no other ·80
9. I have a great robe ·81
10. Thinking, thinking · 81
11. Going out of the room ·82
12. Without any cause you lose your mind ·82
13. A resolute man ·82
14. If it's said that Bodhi is difficult ·83
15. Difficult, so difficult ·83
16. Precisely in the middle is Mind ·84
17. Ānanda took the pattra leaves ·84
18. Not old and not new ·84
19. From the Storehouse appeared a pearl ·85
20. Mind depends upon true Wisdom ·85
21. The past is already past ·85
22. Reading the sutras ·86
23. No-greed surpasses charity ·86
24. Not wanting to discard greed and anger 87
25. When the mind's as is ·87

Words of Praise from Later Generations and Two Koans
Verse by Prime Minister Chang T'ien-chüeh ·89
Verse by Ch'an Master Fo-jih Ta-hui ·90
Koan: Swallow the River ·90
Verse by Tung-Lin Kuei-lao ·90
Verse by Ch'an Master Yün-men Kaokung ·90
Verse by Po-yün Tuan Ho-shang ·91
Koan: Facing Downwards ·91
Verse by Po-yün Tuan Ho-shang ·91

Supplemental Notes ·93




Encounter Dialogues and Verses of Layman Pangyun
compiled by Satyavayu of Touching Earth Sangha
DOC: Treasury of the Forest of Ancestors

Master Pangyun was born and grew up in Xiangyang city, Hubei, the son of a government official. When his father was transferred to Hengyang in Hunan, the young man joined him, and in this new city he married and had a daughter. Disillusioned with conventional life early on, Pang resisted the bureaucratic life expected of him, and managed to avoid a government post. Instead he devoted himself to spiritual practice, building a hermitage beside his house where he could focus on meditation. As he became more committed to simplicity, and had been joined by his wife in this pursuit, they donated their house to be made into a temple, and moved into the hermitage. Then they loaded all their valuable possessions onto a raft and sank it in a nearby lake. When asked why he didn't just give them away, Pang said that they had been a source of anxiety for him, and an impediment to the way. How could he wish that on someone else?
After this the Pang family began living off a meager income from crafting and selling bamboo utensils in the street. Soon the layman, already in his forties, decided to travel to meet teachers, and he first set off for the Heng Mountains to the north. There he found his way to the practice place of Master Shitou.

Layman Pangyun once asked Master Shitou, “Who is the one who is not attached to the ten thousand things?”
Shitou immediately covered Pang's mouth with his hand. Pang had a deep realization.
The layman stayed on to practice with Master Shitou. One day the master asked him, “Since seeing me what have your daily activities been?”
Pang said, “When you ask about my daily activities I can't open my mouth.”
Shitou said, “Because I know you're like that, I'm asking you.”
Pang said, “How wondrous, how miraculous – chopping wood and carrying water.”

Later Shitou asked weather the layman would like to shave his head, dye his clothes and become a monk, but Pang said, “I want to do what I like,” and he remained a layman.

Eventually Pangyun travelled to Jiangxi to meet Master Ma. He asked his old question, “Who is the one who isn't attached to the ten thousand things?”
Master Ma said, “When you swallow all the water in the West River in one gulp, then I'll tell you.”
Hearing these words, Pang had another liberating awakening, and all his doubts were resolved. He practiced with Mazu for two years, and then continued his travels and encounters with other monks and teachers.
He stayed for awhile on Medicine Mountain with Master Shitou's disciple Master Yaoshan, and also became close friends with another of Shitou's disciples, the irreverent and free-spirited adept Danxia Tianran. Between excursions he would return to his wife and daughter in Hengyang.

【禅宗公案名画】十八世纪 <wbr>葛饰北斋作品:扇面画-丹霞烧佛图 <wbr>赏析
Danxia Tianran visits Layman Pang 丹霞天然問龐居士圖
Attributed to Li Gonglin 李公麟 (d. 1106), 13th or possibly early 14th century
Handscroll, ink and light clours on silk, 35.2 x 52.1 cm
Private collection, New York

Both his wife and daughter had also become deeply devoted to the spiritual path, and all three were eventually recognized for their clear wisdom. The layman was particularly close to his precocious daughter Lingzhao whose sharp wit could often outdo her father.

One day in his hermitage, Layman Pang asked Lingzhao, “An ancient said, 'the bright clarity of the ancestral teacher's mind is the bright clarity of the hundred grass tips.' How do you understand this?”
“Such a venerable elder and yet you talk like this!” admonished Lingzhao.
“Well, what would you say?” asked the layman.
“The bright clarity of the ancestral teacher's mind is the bright clarity of the hundred grass tips,” replied Lingzhao. The layman laughed.

Another time at the hermitage someone asked the layman if the practice of the Way was difficult or easy.
“Difficult, difficult,” said the layman, “like trying to cover a tree in sesame seeds.”
“Easy, easy,” said Pang's wife, “just like touching your feet to the ground when you get out of bed.”
“Not difficult, not easy,” said Lingzhao, “On the hundred grass tips, the ancestor's meaning.”

One day the lay practitioner Pangyun, who had studied with both Master Shitou and Master Ma, came to visit Master Yaoshan. The master asked him, “What is your understanding of the 'one vehicle'?”
“Everyday I just feed myself,” said Pang. “How should I know about the 'one vehicle'?”
Yaoshan replied, “Then I'd say you've never really seen Master Shitou. Is that true?”
Pang said, “You just drop one thing and pick up another. What kind of skill is that?”
Yaoshan said, “As abbot, I have many affairs to attend to.”
Pang got up to leave. Then Yaoshan said, “Dropping one thing and picking up another is actually quite useful.”
Pang said, “Now I see this question about the 'one vehicle' was skillful after all. I'm afraid I've blundered and it's gotten lost.”
Yaoshan agreed.

Toward the end of his life Pangyun traveled north toward his birthplace of Xiangyang with his beloved daughter Lingzhao, herself now an adept. The two found a cave south of Deer Gate Mountain in Xiang province, and there settled into retreat for the last years of Pangyun's life.


My daily activity is not unusual;
I just remain in spontaneous harmony.
Not grasping or rejecting,
nothing left to assert or oppose.
What use are fancy titles
and expensive clothes of vermilion and purple?
This entire mountain is free
of even a speck of dust.
Supernatural powers and miraculous activity:
fetching water and carrying firewood

Not willing to let go of grasping and rejecting,
In vain you labor studying the spiritual path.
You read the prescription but you don't take the medicine-
How can you be free from your sickness?
Grasp “emptiness” and it turns out to be form;
Grasping form it soon proves impermanent.
Form and emptiness – neither are my possessions;
Sitting erect, I see my native home.

The past is already past-
Don't try to regain it.
The present doesn't stay-
Don't try to grasp it over and over.
The future isn't here yet-
Don't ponder it beforehand.
When the three times are revealed as non-existent,
mind is the same as awakened nature.
To quietly function relying on emptiness-
This is manifesting profound action.
Not even the least phenomena really exists-
Whatever comes to the eye, leave it be.
No rules to be kept, no filth to be cleaned;
With empty mind truly revealed,
All things no longer have birth or death.
When you are like this
The ultimate achievement is finished.

No-greed surpasses charity.
No-delusion surpasses concentration.
No-ill will surpasses morality.
No-self-centered thinking surpasses cultivating connections.
I follow an ordinary person's affairs,
and at night sleep at ease.
In winter I use the fireplace
with the fire that's free of smoke.
I neither fear the dark spirit of misfortune,
nor seek after her sister good luck.
Trusting in the flow, what's needed comes.
We all ride together in the boat of wisdom -
if you have this understanding,
your merit has no bounds.

When the mind's left as is,
the spirit is naturally empty.
Without a need for medicine,
ills disperse of themselves.
When ills disperse,
the jewel in the lotus appears.
Don't worry over affairs,
don't rush around!
The wise, seeing wealth and craving,
know them to be empty illusions.
Food and clothes sustain body and life,
but only for awhile.-
I advise you to learn being as is.
When it's time I move my hermitage and go,
and there's nothing left behind.

Based on translations by Ruth Fuller Sasaki, Yoshitaka Iriya, and Dana Fraser, (with reference to Cheng-Chien Bhikshu [Mario Poceski]) of the records of Layman Pang, originally in the Ancestral Hall Collection (of 952) and the Jingde Era Transmission of the Lamp (of 1004).



Poem by the Layman Pang (740–808)
Translated by Sam van Schaik

My day-to-day activities are no more
Than whatever I happen to come across.
There’s nothing to acquire, nothing to abandon,
Nothing to assert, nothing to deny. 
What are marks of high rank?
Even the hills and mountains crumble to dust.
I use my mysterious spiritual powers
To carry water and haul firewood.

Here the Layman Pang elegantly demolishes any idea his students might have about the activities of an enlightened master of meditation. Yet he also communicates a state that is rather unusual, for he does not need to obtain or get rid of anything, and feels no need to assert or deny anything. Having fully taken on the impermanence of all things, he does not hanker after recognition of any kind. In this state of peaceful awareness, carrying water and hauling firewood might be totally ordinary, yet quite dif ferent as well.





Layman Pang
From Records of the Transmission of the Lamp tr. Randolph S. Whitfield
Norderstedt: BoD, 2015, vol. 2, 8.166, p.248.

Layman Pang Yun of Xiangzhou (Hubei, Xiangfan) was a native of Hengyang County in Chongzhou (Hunan), whose personal name was Daoxuan. When still young the Layman awoke to the pathos of the dusty world and aspired to seek the real truth, though for generations the family had been Confucian civil servants. At the beginning of the Zhenyuan reign period of the Tang (785-804), on a visit to the Venerable Shitou, he forgot about words and understood the essential. He also became friendly with Chan Master Danxia.
One day Shitou asked, ‘How is it going with the daily-life practice since last seeing the old monk?’
‘Although questioned about daily-life practice there is no way to open the mouth,’ replied the Layman, but submitted a gatha:

Daily-life practice is not separate
It is just my being in natural harmony
Neither grasping nor rejecting
Nowhere open or closed
Who assigns ranks of vermillion and purple?
One speck of dust sunders great mountains.
Spiritual penetration and wonderful functioning
Fetching water and carrying wood.

Shitou approved it, saying, ‘A son in white silk or in black silk?’*
‘In accord with the affections,’ replied the Layman, so he did not shave [his head] or change the colour [of his clothes].
Later in Jiangxi he visited Mazu and asked him, ‘What man is it who is no companion to the ten thousand dharmas?’
‘Wait until you can swallow all the waters of the West River, then I will tell you,’ replied Mazu. Under the impact of these words the Layman suddenly comprehended the wonderful essence and remained for two years receiving training. He composed a poem:

There is a son unmarried
There is a daughter unmarried.
The great family circle talk together
Without giving rise to a single word

*Black silk is a monk, white, a layman.

From this moment on elucidation was quick and nimble in all circumstances.

Visiting a lecture hall on his travels once, the Layman was happily following the talk on the Diamond Sūtra. When it came to the passage “No-I, no-person” he asked, ‘Lecture Master! Since there is No-I and no-person, who is lecturing, who listening?’
The lecture master had no reply so the Layman said, ‘Although a country bumpkin, I have a rough knowledge of faith.’
‘This being so,’ replied the lecture master, ‘what is the Layman’s understanding?’
The Layman replied with a verse:

No-I and no-person
Which is family, which stranger?
The advice to the esteemed Sir –
Cease from lecturing
Better directly search the Real.
The Nature of Diamond Wisdom
Excludes even a speck of dust
‘Thus have I heard’ , ‘believe’
Are all an array of deceptive words.

When the lecture master heard these lines, he sighed joyously in admiration.
Wherever the Layman lived there was much coming and going of venerable priests and exchanging of questions. According to the capacity of each he responded, as an echo, yet without being constrained by the conventional.

During the Yuanhe reign period (806-820), travelling northward in Xiang and Han, the Layman would stop here and there for a time, on Phoenix Peak or Deer Gate Mountain (both in Hubei, near Xiangchang) or even in a village shop. At first he lived by the Eastern Cliff, later in a small hut west of the city. His daughter, named Lingzhao, always followed him, making and selling bamboo baskets to provide for the morning and evening meals. He had a poem:

If the heart is like this
The place is also like this.
There is no reality, no illusion
Being is of no concern
Non-Being too is not to abide in

No saint or sage
Just an average man
Settled in his affairs.

Easy, very easy this!


The five skandhas have true wisdom
The world in the ten directions is one vehicle
How could the formless Dharmakāya be two?
If one casts the passions off to enter bodhi
The way to the Buddha-land cannot be known

The Layman, about to enter cessation, told his daughter, ‘Go outside and look at the position of the sun – when it is noon then report to me.’
Ling immediately reported it, saying, ‘It is already noon and there is an eclipse.’
When the Layman went out of the door to have a look, Lingzhao climbed onto her father’s couch and, palms together in reverence, died.
The Layman, smiling, said, ‘My daughter is sharp in victory,’ whereupon he delayed [death] for seven days.

When the Departmental Magistrate Yugong once came to inquire about his illness, the Layman said to him, ‘The only wish is that existence be regarded as empty and be careful not to take as real all that which does not exist. Have a good life; all is like shadows and echoes.’ Having said this, he pillowed his head on the magistrate’s lap and died.

His final request was for cremation and to be scattered over river and lake. Monks and laymen mourned him sorely, saying that the Chan School’s Layman Pang was a Vimalakirti.

He left the world more than three hundred poems.




The Sayings of Layman P'ang: A Zen Classic of China
Translated by James Green
Shambhala Publications, 2009, 144 p.

P'ang Yun was a simple family man who one day loaded his money and posessions into a boat and sank them in a river, thus freeing himself of material value. He went on to become one of the leading Ch'an Buddhist figures in China.

One of the great classics of Zen, the adventures of a realized layman from China - the sayings and stories contained in this book are charming, msyterious, funny, and an inspiration to spiritual practice for anyone.

Layman Pang (740-808) was a successful merchant with a family who gave up his possessions and wealth in order to study Buddhism. His family adopted the Zen life most enthusiatically, becoming well-versed in Buddhist philosophy themselves, especially his daughter, Ling Zhao, who (from the stories about her) seems to have become an even greater adept than her father. Layman P'ang is the source of one of the most famous sayings in the literature of Chan Buddhism, a joyous statement about the miracle of everyday activities: "How miraculous and wondrous! Hauling water and carrying firewood."

"P'ang the Layman is terrific at pulling the rug from underneath you just at the right time. He is one of the great, wild, exhilarating Zen figures, a pioneer in the adventure of understanding the mind. James Green is one of the very best translators we have, and this book is a classic." John Tarrant

Dennis Genpo Merzel Roshi

Layman P'ang continues to be an inspiration and a model within the Zen tradition twelve hundred years after his death, not only because of this colorfttl book you hold in your hands, but also because of what he represents. As a layperson who is regarded as both a living exemplar and a teacher of Zen, he is one of a line of outstanding human beings, men and women, renowned and obscure, stretching from the great contemporary of Shakyamuni Buddha, Virnalakirti, through Hui-neng, the pivotal Sixth Patri¬arch of Zen in China, to those who are reinvigorating Buddhism throughout the East and West in our own time. The very name by which we know him, "Layman P'ang," raises questions that are at least as old as Buddhism itself:

What does it mean to be a layperson in Zen? What is the difference between a person who is ordained and one who is not?

In Buddhism the ceremony of ordination (in Japanese, shukke tokudo) marks the passage from layperson to what we call a monk, nun, or priest, though actually those Western terms do not have the same meanings in the East. Tokudo means "ceremony," and shukke is "leaving home?' But shukke does not just signify leaving one's physical home; it is also the leaving of that comfortable place called the self, and the serving of something greater than ourselves. So one essential difference between being ordained and remaining a layperson is that the primary commitment of the ordained is really to serve others, which entails giving up their own personal comforts. As laypersons we can still commit ourselves to serving others. We can serve our community and the world at large without giving up our physical home or family or vocation. Actually, I think this is a more difficult practice than going off to a monastery and truly living as a monk.

In the West not too many of us so-called monks or priests actually live in monasteries. Most of us trained in Zen centers as residents and had children, families, and, in some cases, a job outside the centers, Most Zen teachers in the West-I wouldn't say all of us-trained and practiced, even as we were ordained, while raising families. That's why way back a long time ago Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, one of the early Japanese pioneers who brought Zen to America, said neither are we priests nor are we laypeople exactly. That's how I myself have felt for the thirty-five years since I received shukke tokudo. I'm not quite a priest, nor am I really a layperson. We are some perhaps indefinable thing that bridges these two worlds. Sometimes i've felt more aligned with the lay aspect and some¬times more with the monastic.

For the last fifteen years or so, I've realized the importance of having not only an ordained lineage but also a lay lineage and laypeople and lay practice-and that if we're going to make any difference in the world, it's going to be as laypeople. And personally, even though I've been ordained for many years now, I feel more like a layperson. I live a lay life. I've had children, I have a mortgage, I have a job, many jobs, and I think that people like Layman P'ang and Vimalakirti are wonderful examples of living as householders and having a practice too.

Layman P'ang himself seems to have spent some time in monasteries studying under great teachers. In the conversations with his ordained friends recorded in this book, even when the subject of ordainment is discussed, he treats the matter lightly and never gives explicit reasons for his choice to remain a layman. From the little we know about his life, it seems fair to say that he found, as we do today, that there are many obstacles in the world that make it difficult to pursue a path, but just because it's difficult doesn't make it impossible, and actually all the difficulties just become grist for the mill. Living a normal lay life while being a practitioner is a beautiful way to practice.

Layman P'ang's example accords with my experience. In my own life the distinction between monk and layperson is really not that relevant. Ever since I first entered the path in 1971, it's always been about clarifying the Way for myself in order to be able to offer clearer teachings and instructions to others, in order to be able to empower others. For the sake of others you feel a responsibility to be as clear as humanly possible. Even though I have given the Buddhist precepts to several hundred people and shukke tokudo to over a hundred, my primary goal is not to create Buddhists. Rather, I believe that we honor and sustain the legacy of our great forebears, lay and ordained alike, by spreading the essence of the buddhadharma to the world, even outside Buddhism. Layman P'ang's example, reflected in this classic book, inspires all of us in helping people to wake up and raise their level of consciousness, and in becoming better and more decent human beings who live and act with wisdom and compassion, rather than out of ignorance and greed and hatred.

March 2008
Kanzeon Zen Center
Salt Lake City, Utah



Világi Pang versei
Maria Badeaux és Hadházi Zsolt fordítása

Az étel és a ruha fenntartja
A testet és az életet,
Azt tanácsolom neked, hogy tanulj meg
Lenni úgy, ahogy vagy.
Mikor itt az ideje
Költöztetem remetelakomat és elmegyek,
Nincs semmi,
Amit hátrahagyhatnék.


A múlt már úgyis múlt.
Ne próbáld visszanyerni.
A jelen nem marad.
Ne próbáld megérinteni.

Pillanatról pillanatra.
A jövő még nem jött el.
Ne gondolkodj róla

Bármi ami megragadja tekinteted
Hagyd meg önmagának.
Nincsenek parancsolatok
Amiket meg kell tartani;
Nincs megtisztítando szenny.

Üres tudattal valóban
Átlátott, a dharmáknak
Nincs életük.

Ha képes vagy ilyennek lenni,
A végső megvalósítást.


Jól ismerve a Buddha utat
A nem-Úton járok
Anélkül, hogy elhagynám
Mindennapi teendőimet.

A feltételekhez kötött és
A név-és-forma,
Mind csupán virágok az égen.

Névtelen és formátlan,
Elhagyom a születést-és-halált.


A mindennapi tevékenységeim nem szokatlanok,
Egyszerűen természetes harmóniában élek velük.
Semmit se megragadva, semmit se elutasítva...
Természetfeletti erő és bámulatos tettek -
Vizet meríteni és tüzifát hordani.


Mikor a tudat békés,
a világ is békés.
Semmi valódi, semmi hiányzó.
Nem ragaszkodva a valósághoz,
nem beleragadva az ürességbe,
nem vagy sem szent, sem bölcs, csak
egy egyszerű ember, ki befejezte munkáját.


Mikor a tudat olyan,
a körülmény is olyan;
Nincs sem valós,
sem valótlan.

Nem törődve létezéssel,
És kötetlenül nemléthez:
Se szent, se bölcs
nem vagy,
Egy köznapi ember,
ki elrendezte ügyeit.

Könnyű, oly könnyű!
Igazi bölcsesség ez az öt halmaz.
A világ tíz iránya ugyanaz
az Egy Jármű.
Alaktalan Tantest
hogy is lehetne kettő!
Ha eldobod a vágyakat,
hogy belépj a Bódhiba,
Hol lesz bármilyen buddha-föld is?

Hogy életed megőrzid,
el kell pusztítanod;
Teljesen elpusztítva
könnyedségben élsz.
Mikor eléred ennek legbelső jelentését,
A vas csónak úszik a vízen.

Az Öreg Pangnak semmi se kell a világból:
Minden üresség benne, még az ülése is, amilye nincsen,
Mert a végső Üresség uralkodik házában;
Mily üres is kincsek nélkül!
Mikor a nap felkelt, Ürességen keresztül sétál,
Mikor a nap lemegy, Ürességben alszik;
Ürességben ülve üres dalait énekli,
És üres dalai az Ürességen át visszhangzanak;
Ne lepődj meg, hogy mily teljesen üres az Üresség,
Mert az Üresség minden Buddha székhelye;
És az Ürességet nem érti meg a világ embere,
De az Üresség az igazi kincs;
Ha azt mondod, nincsen Üresség,
Hatalmas káromlást követsz el a Buddhák ellen.

(Ruth Fuller Sasaki, Yoshitaka Iriya és Dana R. Fraser fordítása alapján)



Terebess Gábor haikuja egy Pang Jün anekdotához
2014. március - XVI. évfolyam 2. szám, 19. oldal

 vihar dúl vagy sem
a saját helyére hull
minden hópehely

 Jao-san Vej-jen mester [745-828] elbúcsúztatta Pang Jünt [740-808], és tíz tanítványát küldte, hogy kísérjék a kapuig.
Ott Pang Jün megállt a sűrű hóesésben:
– Csodás egy hóhullás! – mondta. – Épp a helyére hull mindegyik pehely.
Egy Csüan nevű tanítvány megkérdezte:
– Mutasd, hová hullanak!
Pang Jün az arcába csapott.