Friday, February 24, 2012

Mumon's Preface

The Reading:

PREFACE (by Mumon)

Buddhism makes mind its foundation.  It makes No-gate its gate.  If it is a No-gate, how can we pass through it?  Have you not heard, "Things that come in through the gate are not treasures.   What is gained as a result of cause and effect has a beginning and an end, and will be annihilated"?  Such remarks are like raising waves when there is no wind, or gouging a wound into healthy skin.  Those who rely on words, trying to strike the moon with a stick, scratching a shoe because they have an itchy place on the foot, what concern have they with reality?

In the summer of the first Year Jotei, Ekai (Mumon) was in Ryusho in East China.  As head monk he taught the learners there using the koans of ancient masters like brickbats to batter at the gate, and leading the monks according to their special capacity.  He wrote the down and they became an unwitting collection.  From beginning to end there was no system in it.  The forty eight Cases thus written down were called Mumonkan.

If anyone is a brave chap, he will cut his way through without a thought of the danger involved, and like the Eight-armed Nata will be hindered by no one, but advance steadily.  The four sevens of the West and the two threes of the East will beg for their lives in his commanding presence.  If anyone hesitates, however, he is like a man watching a horse gallop past his window.  In the twinkling of an eye it is gone.  The verse is:

The Great Way is gateless;
there are a thousand alleys.
If once you pass the barrier
You walk alone through the universe.


I include this because Mumon is taking on more and more shape as a Zen Master.  He tells a story about himself, and about the origin of the Mumonkan.  This verse is one of my favorites of his.  What kind of thing is this Zen, a gate that you pass through to walk alone, a barrier without a barrier.

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