Gateless Gate

(The translations of the sayings of the Zen masters are inaccurate)
General structure of cases within the koan collection:
The Case
Commentary by Mumon
Capping Verse by Mumon

Mumonkan - Case 1: Joshu's Dog [1]

A monk asked Joshu, a Chinese Zen master:
  "Has a dog Buddha-nature or not?"
Joshu answered:
  "Mu." [2]

Mumon's comments:
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 swallow 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.

[1]: see case 18 of Shoyoroku.
[2]: Mu is the negative symbol in Chinese, meaning `No-thing' or `Nay'.

Mumonkan - Case 2: 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." Then 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

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.

Mumonkan - 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 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. He said:
  "I attained my finger-Zen, 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. 

Mumonkan - Case 4: 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!

Mumonkan - Case 5: 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 the 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 wait for ages hence and ask
Maitreya, the future Buddha.

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

Mumonkan - Case 6: 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.

[other traduction of Mumon's poem:
    At the turning of a flower,
    The snake (his disguise) shows his tail.
    Maha-Kashapa smiles,
    Every monk does not know what to do. ]

Mumonkan - Case 7: 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

    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.

Mumonkan - Case 8: 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 [hub] uniting the spokes. What
   would become of the wheel? And had Keichu done this 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.

Mumonkan - Case 9: A Buddha Before History

A monk asked Seijo:
  "I understand that Daitsu Chisho 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.

Mumonkan - Case 10: Seizei Alone and Poor

A monk named Seizei asked of Sozan:
  "Seizei is alone and poor. Will you give him support?"
Sozan asked:
Seizei responded:
  "Yes, sir."
Sozan said:
  "You have Zen, the best wine in China, and already 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.

Mumonkan - Case 11: 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 saved."
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.

Mumonkan - Case 12: Zuigan Calls His Own Master

Zuigan called out to himself every day:
Then he answered himself:
  "Yes, sir."
And after that he added:
  "Become sober." [ Awake. ]
Again he answered:
  "Yes, sir."
He continued:
  "And after that, do not be deceived by others."
He answered:
  "Yes, sir; yes, sir."

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-soul is the seed of birth and death,
    And foolish people call it the true man.    [ true man = true self ]

Mumonkan - Case 13: 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
[ Ganto whispered to Tokusan what he meant. ] 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?

Mumonkan - Case 14: 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 [a word of Zen], 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
[with one word], 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.

Mumonkan - Case 15: 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."
Wondering how long Tozan would continue with such factual answers, Ummon asked:
  "When did you leave there?"
Tozan answered:
  "The twenty-fifth of August."
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 Lion teaches His deluded son these instructions --
To jump forward you should turn your body over as early as possible,
For no reason I mention again that which is at the head,
The fore arrow [wound] is lighter and the back arrow [wound] is deep.

Mumonkan - Case 16: 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.

Mumonkan - Case 17: The Three Calls of the Emperor's Teacher

Chu, called Kokushi, the teacher of the emperor, called to his attendant:
Oshin answered:
Chu repeated, to test his pupil:
Oshin repeated:
Chu called:
Oshin answered:
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 times his tongue was rotting, but when Oshin
answered three times 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.

[other traduction:
   When prison canga is iron and has no hole,
   (Chu'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. ]

Mumonkan - Case 18: Tozan's Three Pounds

A monk asked Tozan when he was weighing some flax:
  "What is Buddha?"
Tozan said:
  "Three pounds of flax."

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.

Mumonkan - Case 19: 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 [knowledge], neither does
   it belong to the non-perception world. Cognition is a delusion and
   noncognition is senseless. [Knowledge is illusion and non knowledge is
   beyond discrimination.] If you want to reach the true path beyond doubt,
   place yourself in the same freedom as sky. You name it neither good nor
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 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.

Mumonkan - Case 20: The Enlightened Man

Shogen asked:
  "Why does the enlightened man not stand on his feet and explain
   himself [stand up for Zen]?"
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 [know] 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 has no place to rest....
   Let another continue this poem.

[other traduction:
   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! ]

Mumonkan - Case 21: 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.

Mumonkan - Case 22: Kashapa's Preaching Sign

Ananda asked Kashapa:
  "Buddha gave you the golden-woven robe of successorship.
   What else did he give you?"
Kashapa said:
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.

Mumonkan - Case 23: Eno's good and not-good

When he became emancipated Eno (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. It 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.

Mumonkan - Case 24: 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.

Mumonkan - Case 25: 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 truth of Mahayana teaching is transcendent, above words and thought.
   Do you understand?" ["The truth of Mahayana is beyond any verbal
   expression! Listen, listen! "]

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 thousand miles from the

   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.

Mumonkan - Case 26: 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 through the failure of the teacher's.
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.

Mumonkan - Case 27: 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."
The monk asked:
  "What is it?"
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.

Mumonkan - Case 28: 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. Ryutan asked:
  "What have you attained?"
Tokusan said:
  "From now on, 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:

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." 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,
      the future 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.

Mumonkan - Case 29: 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

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

Mumonkan - Case 30: 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.

Mumonkan - Case 31: 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

   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.

Mumonkan - Case 32: 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,
  "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.

Mumonkan - 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. 

Mumonkan - 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. 

Mumonkan - 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? 

Mumonkan - 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. 

Mumonkan - 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.

Mumonkan - 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!

Mumonkan - Case 39: Ummon and trap into words

As soon as a monk stated,
  "The radiance of the Buddha quietly and restlessly illuminates the
   whole universe",
Ummon asked him,
  "Are these you are reciting not the words of Chosetzu Shusai?"
The monk replied,
  "Yes, they are."
Ummon 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 Ummon'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. 

Mumonkan - 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, Master 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.

Mumonkan - Case 41: Bodhidharma's peace of mind

Bodhidharma sat facing the stone wall. The Second Patriarch of Chinese C'han
(Zen), 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!"
Bodhidharma 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!

Mumonkan - Case 42: A woman comes out of meditation

The wisest Bodhisattva Manjusuri, who is supposed to be next in order to
Shakyamuni Buddha, found that the Buddha's 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 Samadhi.
   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

    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.

Mumonkan - 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 the order?? of life or death.
   Being put to either the umbrage, or the betrayal,
   Even Buddha and Patriarchs would beg for their lives. 

Mumonkan - 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. 

Mumonkan - 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.

Mumonkan - 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).

Mumonkan - 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?"
  "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?"
  "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.

Mumonkan - 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,
  "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 away ahead of their foresight.

Mumonkan - Case 49: The Epilogue by Mumon

The words and the actions left by Buddha and the patriarchs in these forty-eight
Koans 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 Koans, 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 Gensho 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 Koans 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.