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The Gateless Gate


The Gateless Gate or The Gateless Barrier (Chin. Wu-wen kuan; Jap. Mumonkan)

The author is Chinese Ch'an master Wu-men Hui-hai (無門慧開 Mumon Ekai, 1183-1260).


English Translation

By late Zen master Katsuki Sekida (Two Zen Classics 26-137)


Original Chinese Text

The original Chinese text is taken from the following Japanese web site:




The Chinese and Japanese texts in this web site are taken from the book titled Mumonkan, published in Japan by Iwanami Bunkõ.


Chinese Characters

Unfortunately a few Chinese characters were not given in this site. Luckily these characters are less than 1% of the text. Where there was a definition about these ideograms, they are entered them using Chinese system (Big 5). There are also ideograms that appear as mere black boxes, without any explanations. These are replaced with dummy characters (empty square boxes).



The Gateless Gate 無門

Wu-wen kuan (Mumonkan)



Mumon's Preface



Buddhism makes mind its foundation and no-gate its gate.


Now, how do you pass through this no-gate?


It is said that things coming in through the gate can never be your own treasures. What is gained from external circumstances will perish in the end.


However, such a saying is already raising waves when there is no wind. It is cutting unblemished skin.

何況滯言句覓解會。 掉棒打月、隔靴爬痒、有甚交渉。

As for those who try to understand through other people's words, they are striking at the moon with a stick; scratching a shoe, whereas it is the foot that itches. What concern have they with the truth?



In the summer of the first year of Jõtei, Ekai was in Ryûshõ Temple and as head monk worked with the monks, using the cases of the ancient masters as brickbats to batter the gate and lead them on according to their respective capacities.


The text was written down not according to any scheme, but just to make a collection of forty-eight cases.


It is called Mumonkan, "The Gateless Gate."



A man of determination will unflinchingly push his way straight forward, regardless of all dangers.


Then even the eight-armed Nata cannot hinder him.


Even the four sevens of the West and the two threes of the East would beg for their lives.


If one has no determination, then it will be like catching a glimpse of a horse galloping past the window: in the twinkling of an eye it will be gone.


Verse 頌曰

大道無門      The Great Way is gateless,

千差有路      Approached in a thousand ways.

透得此關      Once past this checkpoint

乾坤獨歩      You stride through the universe.


Case 1 Jõshû's "Mu"                        一 趙州狗子



A monk asked Jõshû, "Has a dog the Buddha Nature?" Jõshû answered, "Mu."


Mumon's Comment


In order to master Zen, you must pass the barrier of the patriarchs. To attain this subtle realization, you must completely cut off the way of thinking.


If you do not pass the barrier, and do not cut off the way of thinking, then you will be like a ghost clinging to the bushes and weeds.


Now, I want to ask you, what is the barrier of the patriarchs?


Why, it is this single word "Mu." That is the front gate to Zen.


Therefore it is called the "Mumonkan of Zen."


If you pass through it, you will not only see Jõshû face to face, but you will also go hand in hand with the successive patriarchs, entangling your eyebrows with theirs, seeing with the same eyes, hearing with the same ears.


Isn't that a delightful prospect?


Wouldn't you like to pass this barrier?



Arouse your entire body with its three hundred and sixty bones and joints and its eighty-four thousand pores of the skin; summon up a spirit of great doubt and concentrate on this word "Mu."


Carry it continuously day and night. Do not form a nihilistic conception of vacancy, or a relative conception of "has" or "has not."


It will be just as if you swallow a red-hot iron ball, which you cannot spit out even if you try.

蕩盡從 前惡知惡覚、久久純熟自然内外打成—片、如唖子得夢、只許自知。

All the illusory ideas and delusive thoughts accumulated up to the present will be exterminated, and when the time comes, internal and external will be spontaneously united. You will know this, but for yourself only, like a dumb man who has had a dream.

驀然打發、驚天 動地。

Then all of a sudden an explosive conversion will occur, and you will astonish the heavens and shake the earth.



It will be as if you snatch away the great sword of the valiant general Kan'u and hold it in your hand. When you meet the Buddha, you kill him; when you meet the patriarchs, you kill them. On the brink of life and death, you command perfect freedom; among the sixfold worlds and four modes of existence, you enjoy a merry and playful samadhi.



Now, I want to ask you again, "How will you carry it out?"


Employ every ounce of your energy to work on this "Mu."


If you hold on without interruption, behold: a single spark, and the holy candle is lit!


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

狗子佛性      The dog, the Buddha Nature,

全提正令      The pronouncement, perfect and final.

纔渉有無      Before you say it has or has not,

喪身失命      You are a dead man on the spot.


Case 2 Hyakujõ's Fox                     二 百丈野狐



When Hyakujõ Oshõ delivered a certain series of sermons, an old man always followed the monks to the main hall and listened to him.


When the monks left the hall, the old man would also leave.


One day, however, he remained behind, and Hyakujõ asked him, "Who are you, standing here before me?"


The old man replied.


"I am not a human being.


In the old days of Kashyapa Buddha, I was a head monk, living here on this mountain.


One day a student asked me, 'Does a man of enlightenment fall under the yoke of causation or not?'


I answered, 'No, he does not.'


Since then I have been doomed to undergo five hundred rebirths as a fox.


I beg you now to give the turning word to release me from my life as a fox.


Tell me, does a man of enlightenment fall under the yoke of causation or not?"


Hyakujõ answered, "He does not ignore causation."


No sooner had the old man heard these words than he was enlightened.


Making his bows, he said, "I am emancipated from my life as a fox. I shall remain on this mountain.

敢告和尚。 乞、依亡僧事例。

I have a favor to ask of you: would you please bury my body as that of a dead monk."



Hyakujõ had the director of the monks strike with the gavel and inform everyone that after the midday meal there would be a funeral service for a dead monk.


The monks wondered at this, saying, "Everyone is in good health; nobody is in the sick ward. What does this mean?"


After the meal Hyakujõ led the monks to the foot of a rock on the far side of the mountain and with his staff poked out the dead body of a fox and performed the ceremony of cremation.


That evening he ascended the rostrum and told the monks the whole story.


Õbaku thereupon asked him, "The old man gave the wrong answer and was doomed to be a fox for five hundred rebirths. Now, suppose he had given the right answer, what would have happened then?"


Hyakujõ said, "You come here to me, and I will tell you."


Õbaku went up to Hyakujõ and boxed his ears.

師拍手笑云、將謂、胡鬚赤。 更有赤鬚胡。

Hyakujõ clapped his hands with a laugh and exclaimed, "I was thinking that the barbarian had a red beard, but now I see before me the red-bearded barbarian himself."


Mumon's Comment


Not falling under causation: how could this make the monk a fox?


Not ignoring causation: how could this make the old man emancipated?


If you come to understand this, you will realize how old Hyakujõ would have enjoyed five hundred rebirths as a fox.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

不落不昧      Not falling, not ignoring:

兩采一賽      Two faces of one die.

不昧不落      Not ignoring, not falling:

千錯萬錯      A thousand errors, a million mistakes.


Case 3 Gutei Raises a Finger                    三 倶胝堅指



Whenever Gutei Oshõ was asked about Zen, he simply raised his finger.


Once a visitor asked Gutei's boy attendant, "What does your master teach?"


The boy too raised his finger.


Hearing of this, Gutei cut off the boy's finger with a knife.


The boy, screaming with pain, began to run away.

胝復召之。 童子廻首。 胝却 堅起指。

Gutei called to him, and when he turned around, Gutei raised his finger.


The boy suddenly became enlightened.



When Gutei was about to pass away, he said to his assembled monks, "I obtained one-finger Zen from Tenryû and used it all my life but still did not exhaust it."


When he had finished saying this, he entered into eternal Nirvana.


Mumon's Comment


The enlightenment of Gutei and of the boy does not depend on the finger.


If you understand this, Tenryû, Gutei, the boy, and you yourself are all run through with one skewer.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

倶胝鈍置老天龍    Gutei made a fool of old Tenryû,

利刃單提勘小童    Emancipating the boy with a single slice,

巨靈擡手無多子    Just as Kyorei cleaved Mount Kasan

分破華山千万重    To let the Yellow River run through.


Case 4 The Western Barbarian with No Beard                          四 胡子無髭



Wakuan said, "Why has the Western Barbarian no beard?"


Mumon's Comment


Study should be real study, enlightenment should be real enlightenment.


You should once meet this barbarian directly to be really intimate with him.


But saying you are really intimate with him already divides you into two.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

癡人面前      Don't discuss your dream

不可説夢      Before a fool.

胡子髭無      Barbarian with no beard

惺惺添      Obscures the clarity.


Case 5 Kyõgen's "Man up in a Tree"                   五 香嚴上樹



Kyõgen Oshõ said, "It is like a man up in a tree hanging from a branch with his mouth; his hands grasp no bough, his feet rest on no limb.


Someone appears under the tree and asks him, 'What is the meaning of Bodhidharma's coming from the West?' If he does not answer, he fails to respond to the question. If he does answer, he will lose his life.


What would you do in such a situation?"


Mumon's Comment


Even if your eloquence flows like a river, it is of no avail.


Though you can expound the whole of Buddhist literature, it is of no use.


If you solve this problem, you will give life to the way that has been dead until this moment and destroy the way that has been alive up to now.


Otherwise you must wait for Maitreya Buddha and ask him.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

香嚴眞杜撰 Kyõgen is truly thoughtless;

惡毒無盡限 His vice and poison are endless.

唖却納僧口 He stops up the mouths of the monks,

通身迸鬼眼 And devil's eyes sprout from their bodies.


Case 6 The Buddha Holds Out a Flower                        六 世尊拈花



When Shakyamuni Buddha was at Mount Grdhrakuta, he held out a flower to his listeners.


Everyone was silent.


Only Mahakashyapa broke into a broad smile.


The Buddha said, "I have the True Dharma Eye, the Marvelous Mind of Nirvana, the True Form of the Formless, and the Subtle Dharma Gate, independent of words and transmitted beyond doctrine. This I have entrusted to Mahakashyapa."


Mumon's Comment


Golden-faced Gautama really disregarded his listeners.


He made the good look bad and sold dog's meat labeled as mutton.


He himself thought it was wonderful.


If, however, everyone in the audience had laughed, how could he have transmitted his True Eye?


And again, if Mahakashyapa had not smiled, how could the Buddha have transmitted it?


If you say the True Dharma Eye can be transmitted, then the golden-faced old man would be a city slicker who cheats the country bumpkin.


If you say it cannot be transmitted, then why did the Buddha approve of Mahakashyapa?


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

拈起花來      Holding out a flower,

尾巴已露      The Buddha betrayed his curly tail.

迦葉破顔      Heaven and earth were bewildered,

人天罔措      At Mahakashyapa's smile.


Case 7 Jõshû's "Wash Your Bowl"                      七 趙州洗鉢



A monk said to Jõshû, "I have just entered this monastery.


Please teach me."


"Have you eaten your rice porridge?" asked Jõshû.


"Yes, I have," replied the monk.


"Then you had better wash your bowl," said Jõshû.


With this the monk gained insight.


Mumon's Comment


When he opens his mouth, Jõshû shows his gallbladder. He displays his heart and liver.


I wonder if this monk really did hear the truth. I hope he did not mistake the bell for a jar.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

只爲分明極 Endeavoring to interpret clearly,

翻令所得遲 You retard your attainment.

早知燈是火 Don't you know that flame is fire?

飯熟已多時 Your rice has long been cooked.


Case 8 Keichû the Wheelmaker               八 奚仲造車



Gettan Oshõ said, "Keichû, the first wheelmaker, made a cart whose wheels had a hundred spokes.


Now, suppose you took a cart and removed both the wheels and the axle. What would you have?"


Mumon's Comment


If anyone can directly master this topic, his eye will be like a shooting star, his spirit like a flash of lightning.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

機輪轉處      When the spiritual wheels turn,

達者猶迷      Even the master fails to follow them.

四維上下      They travel in all directions, above and below,

南北東西      North, south, east, and west.


Case 9 Daitsû Chishõ Buddha                  九 大通智勝



A monk asked Kõyõ Seijõ, "Daitsû Chishõ Buddha sat in zazen for ten kalpas and could not attain Buddhahood. He did not become a Buddha. How could this be?"


Seijõ said, "Your question is quite self-explanatory."


The monk asked, "He meditated so long; why could he not attain Buddhahood?"


Seijõ said, "Because he did not become a Buddha."


Mumon's Comment


I allow the barbarian's realization, but I do not allow his understanding.


When an ignorant man realizes it, he is a sage.


When a sage understands it, he is ignorant.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

了身何似了心休    Better emancipate your mind than your body;

了得心身不愁    When the mind is emancipated, the body is free,

若也身心倶了了    When both body and mind are emancipated,

神仙何必更封候    Even gods and spirits ignore worldly power.


Case 10 Seizei Is Utterly Destitude                     十 清税弧貧



Seizei said to Sõzan, "Seizei is utterly destitude.


Will you give him support?"


Sõzan called out, "Seizei!"


Seizei responded, "Yes, sir!"


Sõzan said, "You have finished three cups of the finest wine in China, and still you say you have not yet moistened your lips!"


Mumon's Comment


Seizei pretended to retreat. What was his scheme?


Sõzan had the eye of Buddha and saw through his opponent's motive.


However, I want to ask you, at what point did Seizei drink wine?


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

貧似范丹      Poverty like Hantan's,

氣如項羽      Mind like Kõu's;

活計雖無      With no means of livelihood,

敢與鬪富      He dares to rival the richest.


Case 11 Jõshû Sees the Hermits              十一 州勘庵主



Jõshû went to a hermit's cottage and asked, "Is the master in? Is the master in?"


The hermit raised his fist.

州云、水淺不是泊處。 便行。

Jõshû said, "The water is too shallow to anchor here," and he went away.


Coming to another hermit's cottage, he asked again, "Is the master in? Is the master in?"


This hermit, too, raised his fist.


Jõshû said, "Free to give, free to take, free to kill, free to save," and he made a deep bow.


Mumon's Comment


Both raised their fists; why was the one accepted and the other rejected?


Tell me, what is the difficulty here?


If you can give a turning word to clarify this problem, you will realize that Jõshû's tongue has no bone in it, now helping others up, now knocking them down, with perfect freedom.


However, I must remind you: the two hermits could also see through Jõshû.


If you say there is anything to choose between the two hermits, you have no eye of realization.

若道無優劣、亦未具參 學眼。

If you say there is no choice between the two, you have no eye of realization.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

眼流星           The eye like a shooting star,

機掣電           The spirit like a lighting;

殺人刀           A death-dealing blade,

活人劍           A life-giving sword.


Case 12 Zuigan Calls His Master                         十二 巖喚主人



Zuigan Gen Oshõ called to himself every day, "Master!" and answered, "Yes, sir!"


Then he would say, "Be wide awake!" and answer, "Yes, sir!"


"Henceforward, never be deceived by others!" "No, I won't!"


Mumon's Comment


Old Zuigan buys and sells himself. He takes out a lot of god-masks and devil-masks and puts them on and plays with them.


What for, eh?

。一箇喚底、一箇應底。 一箇惺惺底、一箇不受人瞞底。

One calling and the other answering; one wide awake, the other saying he will never be deceived.


If you stick to any of them, you will be a failure.


If you imitate Zuigan, you will play the fox.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

學道之人不識眞    Clinging to the deluded way of consciousness,

只爲從前認識神    Students of the Way do not realize truth.

無量劫來生死本    The seed of birth and death through endless eons:

癡人喚作本來人    The fool calls it the true original self.


Case 13 Tokusan Holds His Bowls                     十三 徳山托鉢



One day Tokusan went down toward the dining room, holding his bowls.


Seppõ met him and asked, "Where are you off to with your bowls? The bell has not rung, and the drum has not sounded." Tokusan turned and went back to his room.

峰擧似巖頭。 頭云、大小徳山未會末後句。

Seppõ mentioned this to Gantõ, who remarked, "Tokusan is renowned, but he does not know the last word."


Tokusan heard about this remark and sent his attendant to fetch Gantõ. "You do not approve of me?" he asked.


Gantõ whispered his meaning.


Tokusan said nothing at the time, but the next day he ascended the rostrum, and behold! he was very different from usual!


Gantõ, going toward the front of the hall, clapped his hands and laughed loudly, saying, "Congratulations! Our old man has got hold of the last word!


From now on, nobody in this whole country can outdo him!"


Mumon's Comment


As for the last word, neither Gantõ nor Tokusan has ever dreamed of it!


When you look into the matter, you find they are like puppets on the shelf!


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

識得最初句 If you realize the first,

便會末後句 You master the last.

末後與最初 The first and the last

不是者一句 Are not one word.


Case 14 Nansen Cuts the Cat in Two                 十四 南泉斬猫



Nansen Oshõ saw monks of the Eastern and Western halls quarreling over a cat.


He held up the cat and said, "If you can give an answer, you will save the cat. If not, I will kill it."


No one could answer, and Nansen cut the cat in two.

晩趙州外歸。 泉擧似州。

That evening Jõshû returned, and Nansen told him of the incident.


Jõshû took off his sandal, placed it on his head, and walked out.


"If you had been there, you would have saved the cat," Nansen remarked.


Mumon's Comment


Tell me, what did Jõshû mean when he put the sandal on his head?


If you can give a turning word on this, you will see that Nansen's decree was carried out with good reason.


If not, "Danger!"


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

趙州若在      Had Jõshû been there,

倒行此令      He would have done the opposite;

奪却刀子      When the sword is snatched away,

南泉乞命      Even Nansen begs for his life.


Case 15 Tõzan's Sixty Blows                    十五 洞山三頓



Tõzan came to study with Unmon. Unmon asked, "Where are you from?"


"From Sato," Tõzan replied.


"Where were you during the summer?"


"Well, I was at the monastery of Hõzu, south of the lake."


"When did you leave there," Unmon asked.


"On August 25" was Tõzan's reply.


"I spare you sixty blows," Unmon said.



The next day Tõzan came to Unmon and said, "Yesterday you said you spared me sixty blows.


I beg to ask you, where was I at fault?"


"Oh, you rice bag!" shouted Unmon. "What makes you wander about, now west of the river, now south of the lake?"


Tõzan thereupon came to a mighty enlightenment experience.


Mumon's Comment


If Unmon had given Tõzan the true food of Zen and encouraged him to develop an active Zen spirit, his school would not have declined as it did.


Tõzan had an agonizing struggle through the whole night, lost in the sea of right and wrong. He reached a complete impasse. After waiting for the dawn, he again went to Unmon, and Unmon again made him a picture book of Zen.


Even though he was directly enlightened, Tõzan could not be called brilliant.


Now, I want to ask you, should Tõzan have been given sixty blows or not?


If you say yes, you admit that all the universe should be beaten.


If you say no, then you accuse Unmon of telling a lie.


If you really understand the secret, you will be able to breathe out Zen spirit with the very mouth of Tõzan.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

獅子教兒迷子訣    The lion had a secret to puzzle his cub;

擬前跳躑早翻身    The cub crouched, leaped, and dashed forward.

無端再敍當頭著    The second time, a casual move led to checkmate.

前箭猶輕後箭深    The first arrow was light, but the second went deep.


Case 16 When the Bell Sounds                十六 鐘聲七條



Unmon said, "The world is vast and wide.


Why do you put on your seven-piece robe at the sound of the bell?"


Mumon's Comment


In studying Zen, you should not be swayed by sounds and forms.


Even though you attain insight when hearing a voice or seeing a form, this is simply the ordinary way of things.


Don't you know that the real Zen student commands sounds, controls forms, is clear-sighted at every event and free on every occasion?

然雖如是。 且道、聲來耳畔、耳往聲邊。

Granted you are free, just tell me: Does the sound come to the ear or does the ear go to the sound?


If both sound and silence die away, at such a juncture how could you talk of Zen?


While listening with you ear, you cannot tell. When hearing with your eye, you are truly intimate.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

會則事同一家         With realization, things make one family;

不會萬別千差         Without realization, things are separated in a thousand ways.

不會事同一家         Without realization, things make one family;

會則萬別千差         With realization, things are separated in a thousand ways.


Case 17 Chû the National Teacher Gives Three Calls                         十七 國師三喚



The National Teacher called his attendant three times, and three times the attendant responded.


The National Teacher said, "I long feared that I was betraying you, but really it was you who were betraying me."


Mumon's Comment


The National Teacher called three times, and his tongue fell to the ground.


The attendant responded three times, and he gave his answer with brilliance.


The National Teacher was old and lonely; he held the cow's head and forced it to eat grass.


The attendant would have none of it;


delicious food has little attraction for a man who is satiated. Tell me, at what point was the betrayal?


When the country is flourishing, talent is prized. When the home is wealthy, the children are proud.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

鉄枷無孔要人擔    He carried and iron yoke with no hole

累及兒孫不等閑    And left a curse to trouble his descendants.

欲得門并    If you want to hold up the gate and the doors,

更須赤脚上刀山    You must climb a mountain of swords with bare feet.


Case 18 Tõzan's "Masagin"                        十八 洞山三斤



A monk asked Tõzan, "What is Buddha?"


Tõzan replied, "Masagin!" [three pounds of flax].


Mumon's Comment


Old Tõzan attained the poor Zen of a clam. He opened the two halves of the shell a little and exposed all the liver and intestines inside.


But tell me, how do you see Tõzan?


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

突出麻三斤 "Three pounds of flax" came sweeping along;

言親意更親 Close were the words, but closer was the meaning.

來説是非者 Those who argue about right and wrong

便是是非人 Are those enslaved by right and wrong.


Case 19 Nansen's "Ordinary Mind Is the Way"                          十九 平常是道



Jõshû asked Nansen, "What is the Way?"


"Ordinary mind is the Way," Nansen replied.


"Shall I try to seek after it?" Jõshû asked.


"If you try for it, you will become separated from it," responded Nansen.


"How can I know the Way unless I try for it?" persisted Jõshû.


Nansen said, "The Way is not a matter of knowing or not knowing.


Knowing is delusion; not knowing is confusion.


When you have really reached the true Way beyond doubt, you will find it as vast and boundless as outer space.


How can it be talked about on the level of right and wrong?"


With these words, Jõshû came to a sudden realization.


Mumon's Comment


Nansen dissolved and melted away before Jõshû's question, and could not offer a plausible explanation.


Even though Jõshû comes to a realization, he must delve into it for another thirty years before he can fully understand it.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

春有百花秋有月    The spring flowers, the autumn moon;

夏有涼風冬有雪    Summer breezes, winter snow.

若無閑事挂心頭    If useless things do not clutter your mind,

更是人間好時節    You have the best days of your life.


Case 20 The Man of Great Strength                    二十 大力量人



Shõgen Oshõ asked, "Why is it that a man of great strength does not lift his legs?"


And he also said, "It is not the tongue he speaks with."


Mumon's Comment


It must be said that Shõgen shows us all his stomach and intestines.


But alas, no one can appreciate him!


And even if someone could appreciate him, let him come to me, and I'll beat him severely.




If you want to find pure gold, you must see it through fire.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

擡脚踏翻香水海    Lifting his leg, he kicks up the Scented Ocean;

低頭俯視四禪天    Lowering his head, he looks down on the fourth Dhyana heaven.

一箇渾身無處著請            There is no space vast enough for his body—

續一句                         Now, somebody write the last line here.


Case 21 Unmon's "Kanshiketsu"                          二十一 雲門屎



A monk asked Unmon, "What is Buddha?"


Unmon replied, "Kanshiketsu!" [A dry shit-stick.]


Mumon's Comment


Unmon was too poor to prepare plain food, too busy to speak from notes.


He hurriedly took up shiketsu to support the Way.


The decline of Buddhism was thus foreshadowed.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

閃電光           Lightning flashing,

撃石化           Sparks shooting;

貶得眼           A moment's blinking,

巳蹉過           Missed forever.


Case 22 Kashyapa's "Knock Down the Flagpole"                    二十二 迦葉刹竿



Ananda asked Kashyapa, "The World-honored One gave you the golden robe; did he give you anything else?"


"Ananda!" cried Kashyapa.


"Yes, sir!" answered Ananda.


"Knock down the flagpole at the gate," said Kashyapa.


Mumon's Comment


If you can give a turning word at this point, you will see that the meeting at Mount Grdhrakuta is still solemnly continuing.


If not, then this is what Vipasyin Buddha worried about from remote ages; up to now he has still not acquired the essence.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

問處何如答處親  Tell me—question or answer—which was more intimate?

幾人於此眼生筋  Many have knit their brows over this;

兄呼弟鷹揚家醜  Elder brother calls, younger brother answers, and they betray the family secret.

不屬陰陽別是春  They had a special spring, not one of yin and yang.


Case 23 Think Neither Good Nor Evil              二十三 不思善惡



The Sixth Patriarch was pursued by the monk Myõ as far as Taiyu Mountain.

祖見明至、即擲衣鉢於石上云、此衣表信。 可力爭耶、任君將去。

The patriarch, seeing Myõ coming, laid the robe and bowl on a rock and said, "This robe represents the faith; it should not be fought over. If you want to take it away, take it now."

明遂擧之如山不動、踟悚慄。 明白、我來 求法、非爲衣也。

Myõ tried to move it, but it was as heavy as a mountain and would not budge. Faltering and trembling, he cried out, "I came for the Dharma, not for the robe.


I beg you, please give me your instruction."


The patriarch said, "Think neither good nor evil. At this very moment, what is the original self of the monk Myõ?"


At these words, Myõ was directly illuminated. His whole body was covered with sweat.

泣涙作禮、問曰、上來密語密意外、還更 有意旨否。

He wept and bowed, saying, "Besides the secret words and the secret meaning you have just now revealed to me, is there anything else, deeper still?"


The patriarch said, "What I have told you is no secret at all.


When you look into your own true self, whatever is deeper is found right there."


Myõ said, "I was with the monks under Õbai for many years but I could not realize my true self.


But now, receiving your instruction, I know it is like a man drinking water and knowing whether it is cold or warm.


My lay brother, you are now my teacher."


The patriarch said, "If you say so, but let us both call Õbai our teacher.


Be mindful to treasure and hold fast to what you have attained."


Mumon's Comment


The Sixth Patriarch was, so to speak, hurried into helping a man in an emergency, and he displayed a grandmotherly kindness.


It is as though he peeled a fresh lichi, removed the seed, put it in your mouth, and asked you to swallow it down.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

描不成兮畫不就    You cannot describe it; you cannot picture it;

贊不及兮休生受    You cannot admire it; don't try to eat it raw.

本來面目没處藏    Your true self has nowhere to hide;

世界壞時渠不朽    When the world is destroyed, it is not destroyed.


Case 24 Fuketsu's Speech and Silence               二十四 離却語言



A monk asked Fuketsu, "Both speech and silence are faulty in being ri [ inward action of mind] or bi [ outward action of mind]. How can we escape these faults?"


Fuketsu said,

              "I always remember the spring in Kõnan,

              Where the partridges sing;

              How fragrant the countless flowers!"


Mumon's Comment


Fuketsu's Zen spirit was like lightning and opened a clear passage.


However, he was entangled in the monk's words and could not cut them off.


If you can really grasp the problem, you can readily find the way out.


Now, putting language samadhi aside, say it in your own words.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

不露風骨句 He does not use a refined phrase;

未語先分付 Before speaking, he has already handed it over.

進歩口喃喃 If you chatter on and on,

知君大罔措 You will find you have lost your way.


Case 25 Kyõzan's Dream               二十五 三座説法



In a dream Kyõzan Oshõ went to Maitreya's place and was led in to sit in the third seat.


A senior monk struck with a gavel and said, "Today the one in the third seat will speak."


Kyõzan rose and, striking with the gavel, said, "The truth of Mahayana is beyond the four propositions and transcends the hundred negations.


Taichõ! Taichõ!" [Hear the truth!]


Mumon's Comment


Now tell me, did Kyõzan preach or did he not not? If he opens his mouth, he is lost; if he seals his mouth, he is lost.


Even if he neither opens nor shuts his mouth, he is a hundred and eight thousand [miles away from the truth].


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

白日晴天      In broad daylight, under the blue sky,

夢中説夢      He forges a dream in a dream;

捏怪捏怪      He makes up a monstrous story

一衆      And tries to deceive the whole crowd.


Case 26 Two Monks Roll Up the Blinds                        二十六 二僧卷簾


清涼大法眼、因僧齋前上參。 眼以手指簾。

When the monks assembled before the midday meal to listen to his lecture, the great Hõgen of Seiryõ pointed at the bamboo blinds.


Two monks simultaneously went and rolled them up.


Hõgen said, "One gain, one loss."


Mumon's Comment


Tell me, who gained and who lost?


If you have an eye to penetrate the secret, you will see where Seiryõ Kokushi failed.


However, I warn you strongly against discussing gain and loss.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

卷起明明徹太空    Rolling up the blinds, the great sky is open,

太空猶末合吾宗    But the great sky does not come up to Zen.

爭似從空都放下    Why don't you throw them all down from the sky,

綿綿密密不通風    And keep your practice so close that no air can escape?


Case 27 Nansen's "Not Mind, Not Buddha, Not Things"                   二十七 不是心佛



A monk asked Nansen, "Is there any Dharma that has not been preached to the people?"


Nansen answered, "There is."


"What is the truth that has not been taught?" asked the monk.


Nansen said, "It is not mind; it is not Buddha; it is not things."


Mumon's Comment


At this question, Nansen used up all his treasure and was not a little confused.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

叮嚀損君徳 Talking too much spoils your virtue;

無言眞有功 Silence is truly unequaled.

任從滄海變 Let the mountains become the sea;

終不爲君通 I'll give you no comment.


Case 28 Ryûtan Blows Out the Candle                           二十八 久嚮龍潭



Tokusan asked Ryûtan about Zen far into the night.


At last Ryûtan said, "The night is late.


Why don't you retire?"

山遂珍重掲簾而出。 見外面黒却回云、外面黒。

Tokusan made his bows and lifted the blinds to withdraw, but he was met by darkness. Turning back to Ryûtan, he said, "It is dark outside."


Ryûtan lit a paper candle and handed it to him.


Tokusan was about to take it when Ryûtan blew it out.

山於此忽然有省。 便作禮。

At this, all of a sudden, Tokusan went through a deep experience and made bows.


Ryûtan said, "What sort of realization do you have?"


"From now on," said Tokusan, "I will not doubt the words of an old oshõ who is renowned everywhere under the sun."


The next day Ryûtan ascended the rostrum and said, "I see a fellow among you. His fangs are like the sword tree. His mouth is like a blood bowl.


Strike him with a stick, and he won't turn his head to look at you.


Someday or other, he will climb the highest of the peaks and establish our Way there."


Tokusan brought his notes on the Diamond Sutra to the front of the hall, pointed to them with a torch, and said, "Even though you have exhausted the abtruse doctrines, it is like placing a hair in a vast space. Even though you have learned all the secrets of the world, it is like a drop of water dripped on the great ocean."


And he burned all his notes.


Then, making bows, he took his leave of his teacher.


Mumon's Comment


Before Tokusan crossed the barrier from his native place, his mind burned and his mouth uttered bitterness. He went soutward, intending to stamp out the doctrines of special transmission outside the sutras.


When he reached the road to Reishû, he asked an old woman to let him have lunch to "refresh the mind."


"Your worship, what sort of literature do you carry in your pack?" the old woman asked.


"Commentaries on the Diamond Sutra," replied Tokusan.


The old woman said, "I hear it is said in that sutra, 'The past mind cannot be held, the present mind cannot be held, the future mind cannot be held.'


Now, I would like to ask you, what mind are you going to have refreshed?"


At this question Tokusan was dumbfounded.


However, he did not remain inert under her words but asked, "Do you know of any good teacher around here?"


The old woman said, "Five miles from here you will find Ryûtan Oshõ."


Coming to Ryûtan, Tokusan got the worst of it.


His former words were inconsistent with his later ones.


As for Ryûtan, he seemed to have lost all sense of shame in his compassion toward his son.


Finding a bit of live coal in the other, enough to start a fire, he hurriedly poured on muddy water to annihilate everything at once.


A little cool reflection tells us it was all a farce.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

聞名不如見面         Hearing the name cannot surpass seeing the face;

見面不如聞名         Seeing the face cannot surpass hearing the name.

雖然救得鼻孔         He may have saved his nose,

爭奈瞎却眼晴         But alas! he lost his eyes.


Case 29 The Sixth Patriarch's "Your Mind Moves"                 二十九 非風非幡



The wind was flapping a temple flag, and two monks started an argument.


One said the flag moved, the other said the wind moved;


they argued back and forth but could not reach a conclusion.


The Sixth Patriarch said, "It is not the wind that moves, it is not the flag that moves; it is your mind that moves."


The two monks were awe-struck.


Mumon's Comment


It is not the wind that moves; it is not the flag that moves; it is not the mind that moves. How do you see the patriarch?


If you come to understand this matter deeply, you will see that the two monks got gold when buying iron.


The patriarch could not withhold his compassion and courted disgrace.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

風幡心動      Wind, flag, mind, moving,

一状領過      All equally to blame.

只知開口      Only knowing how to open his mouth,

不覺話墮      Unaware of his fault in talking.


Case 30 Baso's "This Very Mind Is the Buddha"                      三十 即心即佛



Daibai asked Baso, "What is the Buddha?"


Baso answered, "This very mind is the Buddha."


Mumon's Comment


If you directly grasp Baso's meaning, you wear the Buddha's clothes, eat the Buddha's food, speak the Buddha's words, do the Buddha's deeds—that is, you are a Buddha himself.


However, alas! Daibai misled not a few people into taking the mark on the balance for the weight itself.


How could he realize that even mentioning the word "Buddha" should make us rinse out our mouths for three days?


If a man of understanding hears anyone say, "This very mind is the Buddha," he will cover his ears and rush away.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

青天白日      The blue sky and bright day,

切忌尋覓      No more searching around!

更問如何      "What is the Buddha?" you ask:

抱贓叫屈      With loot in your pocket, you declare yourself innocent.


Case 31 Jõshû Investigates an Old Woman                   三十一 趙州勘婆



A monk asked an old woman, "What is the way to Taisan?"


The old woman said, "Go straight on."

僧纔行三五歩。 婆云、好箇師僧、又恁麼去。

When the monk had proceeded a few steps, she said, "A good, respectable monk, but he too goes that way."


Afterward someone told Jõshû about this.


Jõshû said, "Wait a bit, I will go and investigate the old woman for you."

明日便去亦如是問。 婆亦如是答。

The next day he went and asked the same question, and the old woman gave the same answer.


On returning, Jõshû said to his disciples, "I have investigated the old woman of Taisan for you."


Mumon's Comment


The old woman only knew how to sit still in her tent and plan the campaign; she did not know when she was shadowed by a spy.


Though old Jõshû showed himself clever enough to take a camp and overwhelm a fortress, he displayed no trace of being a great commander.


If we look at them, they both have their faults.


But tell me, what did Jõshû see in the old woman?


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

問既一般      The question was like the others,

答亦相似      The answer was the same.

飯裏有砂      Sand in the rice,

泥中有刺      Thorns in the mud.


Case 32 A Non-Buddhist Philosopher Questions the Buddha                       三十二 外道問佛



A non-Buddhist philosopher said to the Buddha, "I do not ask for words; I don not ask for non-words."


The Buddha just sat there.


The philosopher said admiringly, "The World-honored One, with his great mercy, has blown away the clouds of my illusion and enabled me to enter the Way."


And after making bows, he took his leave.


Then Ananda asked the Buddha, "What did he realize, to admire you so much?"


The World-honored One replied, "A fine horse runs even at the shadow of the whip."


Mumon's Comment


Ananda was the Buddha's disciple, but his understanding was not equal to that of the non-Buddhist. I want to ask you, what difference is there between the Buddha's disciple and the non-Buddhist?


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

劍刃上行      On the edge of a sword,

氷綾上走      Over the ridge of an iceberg,

不渉階梯      With no steps, no ladders,

懸崖撒手      Climbing the cliffs without hands.


Case 33 Baso's "No Mind, No Buddha"                         三十三 非心非佛



A monk asked Baso, "What is the Buddha?"


Baso answered, "No mind, no Buddha."


Mumon's Comment


If you understand this, you have finished studying Zen.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

路逢劍客須呈         Present a sword if you meet a swordsman;

不遇詩人莫獻         Don't offer a poem unless you meet a poet.

逢人且説三分         When talking, tell one-third of it;

未可全施一片         Don't divulge the whole at once.


Case 34 Nansen's "Reason Is Not the Way"                  三十四 智不是道



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


Mumon's Comment


Nansen, growing old, had no shame.


Just opening his stinking mouth, he let slip the family secrets.


Yet there are very few who are grateful for his kindness.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

天晴日頭出 The sky clears, the sun shines bright,

雨下地上濕 The rain comes, the earth gets wet.

盡情都説了 He opens his heart and expounds the whole secret,

只恐信不及 But I fear he is little appreciated.


Case 35 Seijõ's Soul Separated                三十五 倩女離魂



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


Mumon's Comment


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.


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


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.


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


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

雲月是同      The moon above the clouds is ever the same;

渓山各異      Valleys and mountains are separate from each other.

萬福萬福      All are blessed, all are blessed;

是一是二      Are they one or are they two?


Case 36 When You Meet a Man of the Way                 三十六 路逢達道



Goso said, "When you meet a man of the Way on the path, do not meet him with words or in silence. Tell me, how will you meet him?"


Mumon's Comment


In such a case, if you can manage an intimate meeting with him it will certainly be gratifying.


But if you cannot, you must be watchful in every way.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

路逢達道人              Meeting a man of the Way on the road,

不將語默對              Meet him with neither words nor silence.

腮劈面拳         A punch on the jaw:

直下會便會              Understand, if you can directly understand.


Case 37 Jõshû's Oak Tree                           三十七 庭前栢樹



A monk asked Jõshû, "What is the meaning of Bodhidharma's coming to China?"


Jõshû said, "The oak tree in the garden."


Mumon's Comment


If you understand Jõshû's answer intimately, there is no Shakya before you, no Maitreya to come.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

言無展事      Words cannot express things;

語不投機      Speech does not convey the spirit.

承言者喪      Swayed by words, one is lost;

滯句者迷      Blocked by phrases, one is belwildered.


Case 38 A Buffalo Passes the Window                           三十八 牛過窓櫺



Goso said, "A buffalo passes by the window. His head, horns, and four legs all go past. But why can't the tail pass too?"


Mumon's Comment

無門曰、若 向者裏顛倒、著得一隻眼、下得一轉語、可以上報四恩下資三有。

If you make a complete about-face, open your eye, and give a turning word on this point, you will be able to repay the four kinds of love that have favored you and help the sentient beings in the three realms who follow you.


If you are still unable to do this, return to this tail and reflect upon it, and then for the first time you will realize something.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

過去墮抗         Passing by, it falls into a ditch;

回來却被壞              Coming back, all the worse, it is lost.

者些尾巴子              This tiny little tail,

直是甚奇怪              What a strange thing it is!


Case 39 A Mistake in Speaking                三十九 雲門話墮



A monk said to Unmon, "The brilliance of the Buddha silently illuminates the whole universe. . ."


But before the could finish the verse, Unmon said, "Aren't those the words of Chõetsu the Genius?"


"Yes, they are," answered the monk.


"You have slipped up in your speaking," Unmon said.


Afterward, Shishin Zenji brought up the matter and said, "Tell me, at what point did the monk err in his speaking?"


Mumon's Comment


If you clearly understand this and realize how exacting Unmon was in his method, and what made the monk err in his speaking, you are qualified to be a teacher of heaven and earth.


If you are not yet clear about it, you are far from saving yourself.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

急流垂釣      A line cast in the rapids,

貪餌者著      The greedy will be caught.

口縫纔開      Before you start to open your mouth,

性命喪却      Your life is already lost!


Case 40 Tipping Over a Water Bottle                 四十 倒淨瓶



When Isan Oshõ was with Hyakujõ, he was tenzo [典座 head cook] of the monastery.

百丈、將選大主人。 乃請同 首座對衆下語、出格者可往。

Hyakujõ wanted to choose a master for Mount Tai-i, so he called together all the monks and told them that anyone who could answer his question in an outstanding manner would be chosen.


Then he took a water bottle and stood it on the floor, and said, "You may not call this a water bottle. What do you call it?"


The head monk said, "It cannot be called a stump."


Hyakujõ asked Isan his opinion.


Isan tipped over the water bottle with his feet and went out.

百丈笑云、第一座 輸却山子也。

Hyakujõ laughed and said, "The head monk loses."


And Isan was named as the founder of the new monastery.


Mumon's Comment


Isan displayed great spirit in his action, but he could not cut himself free from Hyakujõ's apron strings. He preferred the heavier task to lighter one.


Why was he like that, eh?


He took off his headband to bear the iron yoke.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

下笊籬并木杓            Tossing bamboo baskets and ladles away,

當陽一突絶周遮    He made a glorious dash and swept all before him.

百丈重關欄不住    Hyakujõ's barrier cannot stop his advance;

脚尖出佛如麻    Thousands of Buddhas come forth from the tips of his feet.


Case 41 Bodhidharma's Mind-Pacifying                         四十一 達磨安心



Bodhidharma sat facing the wall.


The Second Patriarch stood in the snow.


He cut off his arm and presented it to Bodhidharma, crying, "My mind has no peace as yet! I beg you, master, please pacify my mind!"


"Bring your mind here and I will pacify it for you," replied Bodhidharma.


"I have searched for my mind, and I cannot take hold of it," said the Second Patriarch.


"Now your mind is pacified," said Bodhidharma.


Mumon's Comment


The broken-toothed old Hindu came so importantly, thousands of miles over the sea.


This was raising waves where there was no wind.


In his last years he induced enlightenment in his disciple, who, to make matters worse, was defective in the six roots.


Why, Shasanro did not know for ideographs.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

西來直指      Coming east, directly pointing,

事因囑起      You entrusted the Dharma, and trouble arose;

撓聒叢林      The clamor of the monasteries

元來是      Is all because of you.


Case 42 The Girl Comes out of Samadhi                       四十二 女子出定



Once, in the old days, in the time of the World-honored One, Manjusri went to the assembly of the Buddhas and found that everyone had departed to his original dwelling place.


Only a girl remained, sitting in samadhi close to the Buddha's throne.


Manjusri asked Shakyamuni Buddha, "Why can the girl get near the Buddha's throne, while I cannot?"


Shakyamuni Buddha said, "Bring her out of her samadhi and ask her yourself."


Manjusri walked around the girl three times, snapped his fingers once, took her to the Brahma heaven, and exerted all his miraculous powers to bring her out of her meditation, but in vain.



The World-honored One said, "Even a hundred thousand Manjusris cannot make her wake up.


But down below, past twelve hundred million lands as innumerable as the sands of Ganges, there is a Bodhisattva Mõmyõ.


He will be able to rouse her from her samadhi."


Instantly the Bodhisattva Mõmyõ emerged from the earth and made a bow to the World-honored One, who gave him his imperial order.


The Bodhisattva went over to the girl and snapped his fingers once.


At this she came out of her samadhi.


Mumon's Comment


Old Shakyamuni put a petty drama on the stage and failed to enlighten the masses.

且道、文殊是七佛之師、因甚出 女人定不得。

I want to ask you: Manjusri is the teacher of the Seven Buddhas; why couldn't he arouse the girl from her samadhi?


How was it that Mõmyõ, a Bodhisattva at the beginner's stage, could do it?


If you understand this intimately, you will enjoy Nagya's grand samadhi in the busiest activity of consciousness.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

出得出不得 One was successful, the other was not;

渠儂得自由 Both secured freedom of mind.

神頭并鬼面 One in a god-mask, the other in a devil-mask;

敗闕當風流 Even in defeat, a beautiful performance.


Case 43 Shuzan's Shippei              四十三 首山竹篦



Shuzan Oshõ held up his shippei [staff of office] before his disciples and said, "You monks! If you call this a shippei, you oppose its reality.


If you do not call it a shippei, you ignore the fact.


Tell me, you monks, what will you call it?"


Mumon's Comment


If you call it a shippei, you oppose its reality.


If you do not call it a shippei, you ignore the fact.


Words are not available; silence is not available.


Now, tell me quickly, what is it?


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

拈起竹篦      Holding up the shippei,

行殺活令      He takes life, he gives life.

背觸交馳      Opposing and ignoring interweave.

佛祖乞命      Even Buddhas and patriarchs beg for their lives.


Case 44 Bashõ's Staff                     四十四 芭蕉


芭蕉和尚示衆云、杖子、我興 杖子。

Bashõ Osho said to his disciples, "If you have a staff, I will give you a staff.

杖子、我奪 杖子。

If you have no staff, I will take it from you."


Mumon's Comment


It helps me wade across a river when the bridge is down. It accompanies me to the village on a moonless night.


If you call it a staff, you will enter hell like an arrow.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

諸方深與淺               The depths and shallows of the world

都在掌握中               Are all in its grasp.

         It supports the heaven and sustains the earth.

隨處振宗風               Everywhere, it enhances the doctrine.


Case 45 Hõen's "Who Is He?"                  四十五 他是阿誰



Hõen of Tõzan said, "Even Shakya and Maitreya are servants of another.


I want to ask you, who is he?"


Mumon's Comment


If you can really see this "another" with perfect clarity, it is like encountering your own father at a crossroads. Why should you ask whether you recognize him or not?


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

他弓莫挽      Don't draw another's bow,

他馬莫騎      Don't ride another's horse,

他非莫辨      Don't discuss another's faults,

他事莫知      Don't explore another's affairs.


Case 46 Proceed On from the Top of the Pole                          四十六 竿頭進歩



Sekisõ Oshõ asked, "How can you proceed on further from the top of a hundred-foot pole?"


Another eminent teacher of old said, "You, who sit on the top of a hundred-foot pole, although you have entered the Way you are not yet genuine.


Proceed on from the top of the pole, and you will show your whole body in the ten directions."


Mumon's Comment


If you go on further and turn your body about, no place is left where you are not the master.


But even so, tell me, how will you go on further from the top of a hundred-foot pole? Eh?"


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

瞎却頂門眼 He darkens the third eye of insight

錯認定盤星 And clings to the first mark on the scale.

拌身能捨命 Even though he may sacrifice his life,

一盲引衆盲 He is only a blind man leading the blind.


Case 47 Tosotsu's Three Barriers                         四十七 兜率三關



Tosotsu Etsu Oshõ set up three barriers for his disciples:


1. You leave no stone unturned to explore profundity, simply to see into your true nature.


Now, I want to ask you, just at this moment, where is your true nature?


2. If you realize your true nature, you are free from life and death.


Tell me, when your eyesight deserts you at the last moment, how can you be free from life and death?


3. When you set yourself free from life and death, you should know your ultimate destination. So when the four elements separate, where will you go?


Mumon's Comment


If you can put turning words to these three questions, you are the master wherever you may stand and command Zen whatever circumstances you may be in.


If otherwise, listen: gulping down your meal will fill you easily, but chewing it well can sustain you.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

一念普觀無量劫    This moment's thoughts sees through eternal time;

無量劫事即如今    Eternal time is just this moment.

如今破箇一念    If you see through this moment's thought,

破如今底人    You see through the man who sees through this moment.


Case 48 Kempõ's One Road                      四十八 乾峰一路



A monk asked Kempõ Oshõ, "It is written, 'Bhagavats in the ten directions. One straight road to Nirvana.'


I still wonder where the road can be."


Kempõ lifted his staff, drew a line, and said, "Here it is."


Later the monks asked the same question to Unmon,

門拈起扇子云、扇子跳上三 十三天、築著帝釋鼻孔。

who held up his fan and said, "This fan jumps up to the thirty-third heaven and hits the nose of the deity Sakra Devanam Indra.


When you strike the carp of the eastern sea, the rain comes down in torrents."


Mumon's Comment


One, going to the bottom of the sea, lifts up clouds of dust; the other, on the top of the highest mountain, rises towering waves to wash the sky.


One holding fast, the other letting go, each stretches out his hand to support the profound teaching.


They are just like two riders starting from opposite ends of the course and meeting in the middle.


But none on earth can be absolutely direct.


When examined with a true eye, neither of these two great masters knows the road.


Mumon's Verse 頌曰

未擧歩時先已到    Before a step is taken, the goal is reached;

未動舌時先説了    Before the tongue is moved, the speech is finished.

直饒著著在機先    Though each move is ahead of the next,

更須知有向上竅    There is still a transcendent secret.


Mumon's Postscript                       後序



The sayings and doings of the Buddha and the patriarchs have been set down in their original form.


Nothing superfluous has been added by the author, who has taken the lid off his head and exposed his eyeballs.


Your direct realization is demanded; it should not be sought through others.

若是通方上士。 纔聞擧著、便知落處。

If you are a man of realization, you will immediately grasp the point at the slightest mention of it.


There is no gate for you to go through; there are no stairs for you to ascend.


You pass the checkpoint, squaring your shoulders, without asking permission of the keeper.



Remember Gensha's saying, "No-gate is the gate of emancipation; no-meaning is the meaning of the man of the Way."


And Hakuun says, "Clearly you know how to talk of it, but why can't you pass this simple, specific thing?"



However, all this kind of talk is like making a mud pie with milk and butter.


If you have passed the Mumonkan, you can make a fool of Mumon.


If not, you are betraying yourself.


It is easy to know the Nirvana mind but difficult to attain the wisdom of differentiation.


When you have realized this wisdom, peace and order will reign over your land.



時紹定改元 解制前五日

The change of era to Jõtei [1228], five days before the end of summer session

楊岐八世孫 無門比丘慧開 謹識。

Respectfully inscribed by Mumon Ekai Bhikkhu, eighth in succession from Yõgi


無門關 巻終

Wu-wen kuan (Mumonkan)          End of the book





English translation by late Zen master Katsuki Sekida (Two Zen Classics 26-137)