When one studies Zen one need not follow sound or color or form. Even though some have attained insight when hearing a voice or seeing a color or a form, this is a very common way. It is not true Zen. The real Zen student controls sound, color, form, and actualizes the truth in his everyday life.
Sound comes to the ear, the ear goes to 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.
20. The Enlightened Man
Shogen asked: “Why does the enlightened man not stand on his feet and explain himself?” And he also said: “It is not necessary for speech to come from the tongue.”
Mumon’s comment: Shogen spoke plainly enough, but how many will understand? If anyone comprehends, he should come to my place and test out my big stick. Why, look here, to test real gold you 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.
24. Without Words, Without Silence
“A monk asked Fuketsu: ‘Without speaking, without silence, how can you express the truth?
Fuketsu observed: “I always remember springtime in southern China. The birds sing among innumerable kinds of fragrant flowers.”
Mumon’s comments: Fuketsu used to have lightning Zen. Whenever he had the opportunity, 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 embarrassed.
9. Reaching the Source
Too many steps have been taken returning to the root and the source.
Better to have been blind and deaf from the beginning!
Dwelling in one’s true abode, unconcerned with that without-
The river flows tranquilly on and the flowers are red.
Comment: From the beginning, truth is clear. Poised in silence, I observe the forms of integration and disintegration. One who is not attached to “form” need not be “reformed.” The water is emerald, the mountain is indigo, and I see that which is creating and that which is destroying.
32. A Philosopher Asks Buddha
A philosopher asked Buddha: “Without words, without the wordless, will you tell me the truth?
The Buddha kept silent.
The philosopher bowed and thanked the Buddha, saying: “With your loving kindness I have cleared away my delusions and entered the true path.”
After the philosopher had gone, Ananda asked the Buddha what he had attained.
The Buddha replied: “A good horse runs even at the shadow of the whip.”
Mumon’s comment: Ananda was the disciple of the Buddha. even so, his opinion did not surpass that of outsiders. I want to ask you monks: How much difference is there between disciples and outsiders?
To tread the sharp edge of a sword,
To run on smooth-frozen ice,
One needs no footsteps to follow.
Walk over the cliffs with hands free.
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 patriarch happened to be passing by.
He told them: “Not the wind, not the flag, mind is moving.”
Mumon’s comment: The sixth patriarch 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 monnks there trying to buy iron and gaining gold. The sixth patriarch could not bear to see those two dull heads, so he made such a bargain.
Wind, flag, mind moves,
The same understanding.
When the mouth opens
All are wrong.
71. Learning To Be Silent
The pupils of the Tendai school used to study meditation before Zen entered Japan. Four of them who were intimate friends promised one another to observe seven days of silence.
On the first day all were silent. Their meditation had begun auspiciously, but when night came and the oil lamps were growing dim one of the pupils could not help exclaiming to a servant: “Fix those lamps.”
The second pupil was surprised to hear the first one talk. “We are not supposed to say a word,” he remarked.
“You two are stupid. Why did you talk?” asked the third.
“I am the only one who has not talked,” concluded the fourth pupil.
-Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings” compiled by Paul Reps