Manjusri Riding a Blue Lion on Mt. Wutai

One day Manjushri stood outside the gate when Buddha called to him. “Manjushri, Manjushri, why do you not enter?”

"You'd better come on in my kitchen, 'cause it's goin' to be raining outdoors." -Robert Johnson

"I do not see a thing outside the gate. Why should I enter?" Manjushri replied.

Autumn withered the grass, and the rain fell, but Mt. Wutai still glowed red at sunset.


Lord Min-wang built a monastery for Lo-shan and asked him to make the first speech in the lecture hall.

Buddhas of moth-eaten wood. Put them in the fire!

As master of the institution, Lo-shan sat on a chair, but spoke no word except, "Farewell," before returning to his own room.

The last fly leaves the compost pile. Is it autumn? I felt a distinct chill, but I haven't seen a yellow leaf yet.

Lord Min-wang approached him saying, "Even Buddha’s teaching at Gradharkuta Mountain must have been the same as yours of today."

Money talks, bullshit walks.

Lo-shan answered, "I thought you were a stranger to the teaching, but now I discover you know something of Zen."

Outrageous flattery! Lo-shan should have picked up his walking stick and gone straight to the mountains.


Upasaka Liu-kêng said to Nan-ch‘üan, "In my house there is a stone which sits up or lies down. I intend to carve it as a Buddha. Can I do it?"

Why ask permission? Go on and do what you like.

Nan-ch‘üan answered, "Yes, you can."

Rain all night, it keeps waking you up but then it also puts you to sleep.

Upasaka Liu-kêng asked again, "Can I not do it?"

Twisting the knife.

Nan-ch‘üan answered, "No, you cannot do it."

A stone lizard with a blue tongue enjoys the magnificent desert sunrise.

GENRO: I see one stone which the layman carried to the monastery. I also see another stone which Nan-ch‘üan kept in his meditation hall. All the hammers in China cannot crush these two stones.

Use chopsticks!


Pai-ling and Upasaka P‘ang-yün were studying under Ma-tsu, the successor of Nan-yüeh.

I've seen better exposition on TV news. Let's pick up the pace!

One day as they met on the road,

Two traveling clowns from a bankrupt circus!

Pai-ling remarked, "Our grandfather of Zen said, ‘If one asserts that it is something, one misses it altogether.’ I wonder if he ever showed it to anyone."

Watch out, Upasaka P‘ang-yün! They say a rattler won't strike you, as long as you stay motionless.

Upasaka P‘ang-yün answered, "Yes, he did."

Round one: an official draw.

"To whom?" asked the monk.

This monk isn't satisfied with a straight answer.

The layman then pointed his finger to himself and said, "To this fellow."

Gods laugh, mortals weep.

"Your attainment," said Pai-ling, "is so beautiful and so profound even Manjushri and Subhuti cannot praise you adequately."

The killing kung-fu blow. Yet the opponent still stands.

[Not speaking of attainment,
nor of non-attainment.
The lovely shape of the mouth of this tea bowl.]

Then the layman said to the monk, "I wonder if there is anyone who knows what our grandfather in Zen meant."

Scissors used as a knife.

The monk did not reply, but put on his straw hat and walked away.

It's what he does best.

"Watch your step," Upasaka P‘ang-yün called to him, but Pai-ling walked on without turning his head.

Don't be shocked if a beautiful girl ignores you when you call out to her on the street.

A cloud rests at the mouth of the cave
Doing nothing all day.
The moonlight penetrates the waves throughout the night,
But leaves no trace in the water.

A whole family planting rice.
Sweating all day.
The white clouds, motionless.
A muddy ox chews grass on the bank.


A monk once asked Shao-shan, "Is there any phrase which is neither right nor wrong?"

Go wash your elephant in the river.

Shao-shan answered, "A piece of white cloud does not show any ugliness."

Not right, not wrong.
I gave you a phrase;
Keep it for thirty years,
But show it to no one.

Right, then wrong, then right again.
I'll just keep my mouth shut.
Sit facing a wall for thirty seconds at least
before saying a word of Zen to anybody.


A certain Buddhist family in the capital invited T‘ou-tzu to dinner. The head of the family set a tray full of grass in front of the monk.

Grass-fed priest! The witty head of the family was drunk that night. Everybody else got served succulent meat dumplings.

T‘ou-tzu put his fists on his forehead and raised his thumbs like horns.

Two-thumbed Zen! [A half-filled book of S&H Green Stamps at the bottom of an old box in the attic.] On a windy mountaintop, sweating drops of ice. [At a highway rest stop diner, eating the blue plate special washed down with a "bottomless cup" of excellent house coffee kindly included in the price of the meal.] Thunder without lightning or rain. [Hitch-hiking dead sober to Reno, no shower in three days.]

He was then brought the regular dinner.

Abashed, the servants kept their faces turned away. That night, the head of the family cut open his own belly. T'ou-tzu wore his best robes to the memorial service and chanted the sutra in a dignified voice.

Later a monk asked T‘ou-tzu to explain the reason of his strange action.

My oh my, how quickly news of a scandal gets around!

"Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva," answered T‘ou-tzu.

Maybe! A beautiful thought anyway. Yet old T'ou-tzu liked to cheat by always answering every question with those same words.


One day as Yün-mên gave a lecture to his monks, he asked them, "Do you want to be acquainted with the old patriarchs?"

A shabby old man tempts the street urchins with a handful of candy. Don't fall for it!

Before anyone could answer, he pointed his cane above the monks, saying, "The old patriarchs are jumping on your heads."

All the monks glance up at once. Disappointment.

Then he asked, "Do you wish to see the eyes of the old patriarchs?"

Do they blaze like yours?

He pointed to the ground beneath the monks’ feet and answered himself, "They are all under your feet."

None of the monks looked down, but one smiled.

After a moment’s pause he spoke as though to himself, "I made a feast in the joss house, but the hungry gods are never satisfied."

The hungry gods will eat all the joss you can spare, and still crave more!

GENRO: We have only the blue sky above our heads. Where are the old patriarchs? We have only the good earth beneath our feet. Where are the eyes of the old patriarchs? Yün-mên’s feast was a mere shadow, no wonder the gods could not appease their hunger. Do you want to know how I make a feast in the joss house? I shut the door and lie down on the floor, stretch my arms and legs and take a nap. Why? Because there is a saying, “A cup brim-full cannot hold any more tea. The good earth never produced a hungry man.”

Do you want to know how I make a feast in the joss house? I sit up all night chanting Namo Amitabha! Because there is a saying, "Even if one runs out of tea leaves, one can still find nettles or pine needles to put in the hot water."

The blue sky above my head.
The hard earth beneath my feet.
The buzzing of a fly,
the croaking of a tree frog,
the soft conversation of ravens in the dusk.
The cold rain clattering on pines at dawn.
the rose-tinted clouds at twilight.


Goso said to his monks, "Seijõ's soul separated from her being. Which was the real Seijõ?"

As you read this, your mind separated into the one thinking about Seijo and the one watching you think about Seijo. Which one is the real you? [Seijo was a woman who, while sick in bed, traveled in spirit to the capital city, where she got married and had children. This sort of thing happens all the time. It's happening to you right now.]

When you realize what the real is, you will see that we pass from one husk to another like travelers stopping for a night's lodging.

Like cicadas leaving the husk behind to scream in the treetops.

But if you do not realize it yet, I earnestly advise you not to rush about wildly.

What is it right now before any thinking?

When earth, water, fire, and air suddenly separate, you will be like a crab struggling in boiling water with its seven or eight arms and legs.

Or a screaming Maori warrior doll swiping a knife under a door! Lock it in a suitcase and throw it out!

When that happens, don't say I didn't warn you!

Mumon says, "I never say 'I told you so' and I don't like people who do. (Pause.) I told you so." Witty! He could also make rain fall by praying for it.

The moon above the clouds is ever the same;
Valleys and mountains are separate from each other.
All are blessed, all are blessed;
Are they one or are they two?

One moon shining in a puddle makes two.
The two moons shining in your eyes make four.
Two mountains make one valley, one valley two mountains.
If it's not a blessing, it's a real curse. Which do you choose?


Yün-chü, a Soto master of Chinese Zen, had many disciples. One monk, who came from Korea, said to him, "I have realized something within me which I cannot describe at all."

Why is it that when people get satori, the first thing they want to do is talk? Keep your damned mouth shut, until you can stand on your head & see the North Star!

"Why is that so?" asked Yün-chü, "it cannot be difficult."

 Nothing could possibly be easier than being a white cloud adrift in space.

"Then you must do it for me," the monk replied.

Carry your own kit. Don't ask me to shoulder it for you. There's a pure stream higher up. Can't you already hear the trickling water?

Yün-chü said, "Korea! Korea!" and closed the dialogue.

The Yalu river is brown down below, yet from a jet it looks blue.

Later a teacher of the Oryu school of Zen criticized the incident by saing: "Yün-chü could not understand the monk at all. There was a great sea between them, even though they lived in the same monastery."

Hit the gong and a Yellow Dragon spits fire.

GENRO: The Oryu monk could not understand Yün-chü. There was a great mountain between them even though they were contemporaries.
It is not difficult to open the mouth;
It is not difficult to describe the thing.
The monk from Korea was a wandering mendicant,
Who had not returned home as yet.

Ten years later, this same dispirited Korean monk 
built a small thatch-roof hut on the mountainside.
By day he watched the long grasses ripple in gusts of wind,
And on moonless nights he played his bamboo flute for the grazing deer.

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