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Zen koan in Mumonkan (Gateless Gate)

misecmisc1misecmisc1 I am a HinduIndia Veteran
edited October 2013 in Buddhism Basics
while browsing internet, i came across the below koan in Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) case 13 :

Deshan went to the dining room from the meditation hall holding his bowl. Xuefeng was on duty cooking. When he met Deshan he said: "The dinner drum is not yet beaten. Where are you going with your bowl?"

Deshan turned around and went back to his room.

Xuefeng told Yantou about this. Yantou said: "Old Deshan does not understand the last word of the truth."

Deshan heard of this remark and asked Yantou to come to him. "I have heard," he said, "you are not approving my Zen." Yantou whispered something into Deshan’s ear. Deshan said nothing.

The next day Deshan delivered an entirely different kind of lecture to the monks. Yantou laughed and clapped his hands, saying, "I see our old man finally understands the last word of the truth. None in China can surpass him."


can someone explain this koan, please. thanks in advance.

Comments

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited October 2013



    can someone explain this koan, please. thanks in advance.

    I don't think this sort of thing can be explained. If it could, then it would not be a koan to begin with!

    :)
    riverflowzenffInvincible_summer
  • Said Ummon to his disciples, "However wonderful a thing is, it may be that it is better not to have it at all."
    You could if you must, ask in the 'ask a Zen Mistress' here:
    http://www.zenforuminternational.org/

    I will warn you that, koans are . . . never mind . . .

    Rabbi Koan from Japan is in court as one of the witnesses to a burglary. Because he’s an elderly person, they’re treating him gently. "So you say you saw my client commit this burglary?" the defence lawyer asks Rabbi Kohan.
    "Yes," replies Rabbi, "I saw him take the goods as clear as can be."
    "But Rabbi Cohan," says the defence lawyer, "this burglary took place at night. Are you really sure you saw my client commit this crime?"
    "Yes," says Rabbi Cohen, "I definitely saw him do it."
    "Rabbi," continues the defence lawyer, "you’re 80 years old and your eyes are probably not as good as they once were. Just how far can you see at night?"
    "I can see the moon, how far is that?" replies Rabbi Koan.



    riverflowpegembara
  • The last word of the truth.

  • can someone explain this koan, please. thanks in advance.

    I think it would be polite if you gave us an opening.
    Why does this particular koan interest you?
    What do you make of it?
    What is your main question about it?

    Koan practice requires that we get personally involved, I think.
    riverflowInvincible_summer
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited October 2013
    padmasambavha said 'my mind is as vast as a sky but my respect of causation is like finely divided grains' IN the gateless gate transcendence is ordinary.
  • The koans' purpose is to pull the rug from under our feet so that we have no ground to stand on. That is why it is often meaningless.
    Life is an empty container in which meaning and purpose reside.

    Surrender is surrender to this moment, not to a story through which we interpret this moment and then try to resign ourself to it.

    Can we accept the "isness" of this moment and not confuse it with a story the mind has created around it?

    Throughout history, there have been women and men who, in the face of great loss, illness, imprisonment, or impending death, accepted the seemingly unacceptable and thus found “the peace that passeth all understanding.”

    Acceptance of the unacceptable is the greatest source of grace in this world.
    "Ananda, whatever contemplatives and priests who in the past entered & remained in an emptiness that was pure, superior, & unsurpassed, they all entered & remained in this very same emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed. Whatever contemplatives and priests who in the future will enter & remain in an emptiness that will be pure, superior, & unsurpassed, they all will enter & remain in this very same emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed. Whatever contemplatives and priests who at present enter & remain in an emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed, they all enter & remain in this very same emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed.

    "Therefore, Ananda, you should train yourselves: 'We will enter & remain in the emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed.'"

    That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, Ven. Ananda delighted in the Blessed One's words.

    Cula-suññata Sutta: The Lesser Discourse on Emptiness

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.121.than.html
    misecmisc1
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited October 2013
    This particular koan is used in the Kwan Um zen schools as one of the "main gates". According to how Zen Master Seung Sahn taught it, he had "12 gates" of koans. Mu (Dog buddha nature) is the first gate. This koan is the 8th gate. Students don't get this one until they have passed the 7 gates before it. There is a series of questions regarding it that the teachers ask you, and a little bit of commentary. :)

    1. What was the last word?

    2. What did Am Du (Yantou) whisper in the Master’s ear?

    3. How was the Master’s speech different from before?

    4. If you were Duk Sahn(Deshan), and Seol Bong asked you, “Where are you going, carrying your bowls?” how would you answer?

    Commentary: Three dogs chase each other’s tails in a circle, following the smell, looking for food.
  • misecmisc1misecmisc1 I am a Hindu India Veteran
    edited October 2013
    actually i have read a web-page which has the commentary on this koan. so if i now try to answer the above questions, it will be cheating.

    as far as my meditation is concerned, these days i just sit and try to just relax and be aware of what is going on in present moment - though i am not able to do it, but still trying to just sit.

    as far as my meditation is concerned, two questions:

    1. one major problem which i am facing is - i am not able to sit in any sitting position for a long time, my body starts to ache and then i move my body and then at end of sitting duration, what i find is most of the time i am just trying to keep my back in its normal position with slight curve - i do not sleep, but somehow i always keep on trying to keep my back in its normal position with slight curve.

    2. if i try to be aware, then a tension arises in my face muscles. if i relax, then somehow i feel that i am not totally aware, rather somewhat dull. so what to do - is trying to be aware not another way of 'doing' rather than 'being'. but when i relax, it seems somehow i become dull and time passes by, so in a way not properly aware - but when i try to be aware, i find myself trying to grasp what is going on in present moment, trying to know what is special in present moment, trying to feel the present moment - which i think is also not a correct approach as it is 'doing', rather than 'being'. So what to do in this case?

    please suggest. thanks in advance.
  • please suggest
    Stop pretending you don't know how to sit in a chair without falling asleep.
    Stop sitting like it is part of a ritual.
    Be a bit more gentle on yourself :)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shikantaza

    howmisecmisc1riverflow
  • howhow Veteran
    @misecmisc1
    some interesting statements and questions!

    1. Find a posture that allows you to sit attentively, doesn't create too much physical distraction but don't confuse that meditative posture for the meditation.

    2. An unusual tension in your body while meditating is just a teacher pointing out the results of you not being able to accept something.... but.. some tension is natural and required for your muscles to hold just about any posture. This is one of those lessons about effective lute strings working best when not being too tight or too loose.

    Awareness is just not being controlled by distractions. Pushing too hard to become aware can be it's own distraction. There is a difference between concentration and meditation. Concentration is focused mentality and one of reasons why all of the 8FP spokes (including concentration) are preceded with right or correct is because none of them on there own are what meditation is. The tricky part is determining if your development of any of them is really strengthening or softening your attachments to any of them. Concentration can be difficult in this way because the mental markers of it's development are easy to incorrectly mistake for the meditation.
    Once again, the same lute string teaching apply again.

    Meditation is just relaxing into being an audience member of life's show,
    instead of acting as if our existence depends on producing & directing it.
    misecmisc1lobsterriverflow
  • pegembarapegembara Veteran
    edited October 2013
    It is the mind that is important and the body's posture is only to support the mind.

    “I remember when I was living as a monk in England and I would sometimes go visit Ajahn Sumedho in his room and on the wall he had a picture of an old man sitting inside his little brick cottage on a rainy day, and he was sitting just inside the window, looking out, and in his hand he held a cup of coffee. And I remember Ajahn Sumedho saying, for him this was the essence of meditation. It was really nothing more than just relaxing, and watching the happening of existence. Nothing needed to be explained. Nothing needed to be worked out. There’s just the event of existence presenting itself. Everything we are is simply presented. Whatever words come out, come out, but they’re not important; they’re simply the movement or the non-movement of whatever this happening is and it’s happening all by itself.”
    — Darryl Bailey
    misecmisc1lobsterzenffriverflow
  • image

    Sutra or koan meditation?
    . . . or a Christian nun in her new award winning church . . . ?

    Never mind the view. Find the peace.
    http://www.dezeen.com/2013/06/19/bishop-edward-king-chapel-by-niall-mclaughlin-architects/
  • CinorjerCinorjer Veteran
    edited October 2013
    Oh, "Tokusan carries his bowl"? An interesting koan and perhaps the perfect example of the "masters acting strange" flavor of koan.

    Every koan contains a mind trap. In this case, we have a weird little drama involving an ancient master whose mind is perhaps wandering a bit and two younger monks. The mind hook is this reference to "the last word of zen" and sometimes translated as "the ultimate word of zen". You are asked what this last word or ultimate word might be? It must be difficult to comprehend if the most famous zen monk of his time failed to learn it until he'd just about reached the end of his life, and powerful enough to transform the same enlightened monk's very teachings.

    So what is this final, last, ultimate word of zen? Ignore the bowl, the whispered secret, the gleeful boasting that the old man now "got it". Stop trying to figure out what that old monk back then claimed was the last word. What do you say is the last word of zen?

    Hint. What makes you think there's such a thing as the "last or ultimate word of zen?"

    Having said this, if you comprehend the koan you understand. If not, your mind is still hooked by the koan and you are still splashing around in the story.


  • misecmisc1misecmisc1 I am a Hindu India Veteran
    edited October 2013
    @Cinorjer: thanks for your above explanation.

    i have read a web-page which had the commentary containing the explanation of the above koan, so what i say now can be considered cheating, but i was just thinking about this last word of truth and the below analysis came to my mind, so typing it below. please see if my below analysis seems somewhat ok, or total non-sense.

    my theoretical analysis about the last word of truth says : let us assume there are few words of truth - which can imply there is a first word and a last word of truth - now if this assumption is correct, then those words should be understandable as they are, without any need of thinking to know their meaning - but since each word is comprised of alphabets or symbols of a language, which is a convention created by human beings(which are conditioned) to talk, which implies that language is conditioned, implying words are conditioned - which contradicts our starting assumption that there are words of truth, because a word which is in itself conditioned cannot express ultimate truth, because ultimate truth should be something, which should be prior to creation of language at first place, as ultimate truth should be something which should be true always without any causes for it to be true.

    so the above implies that even if there is something which can be considered ultimate truth, then also that ultimate truth cannot be expressed in words - so there can neither be a group of words, nor a single word, nor a single alphabet, nor a single symbol , which can express ultimate truth.

    so there is no last word of truth and no first word of truth - so there is no word of truth. so trying to think, understand, say, listen to something can be fingers pointing to moon, but they are not moon.

    moreover, if there is something like ultimate truth or ultimate reality, then since it should be always true, so it should be true in every moment, so the ultimate truth should always be available in present moment, so the ultimate truth should always be available in wherever we are and whatever we are doing.
    lobsterCinorjer
  • Jesus wept.
  • @Cinorjer: thanks for your above explanation.

    i have read a web-page which had the commentary containing the explanation of the above koan, so what i say now can be considered cheating, but i was just thinking about this last word of truth and the below analysis came to my mind, so typing it below. please see if my below analysis seems somewhat ok, or total non-sense.

    my theoretical analysis about the last word of truth says : let us assume there are few words of truth - which can imply there is a first word and a last word of truth - now if this assumption is correct, then those words should be understandable as they are, without any need of thinking to know their meaning - but since each word is comprised of alphabets or symbols of a language, which is a convention created by human beings(which are conditioned) to talk, which implies that language is conditioned, implying words are conditioned - which contradicts our starting assumption that there are words of truth, because a word which is in itself conditioned cannot express ultimate truth, because ultimate truth should be something, which should be prior to creation of language at first place, as ultimate truth should be something which should be true always without any causes for it to be true.

    so the above implies that even if there is something which can be considered ultimate truth, then also that ultimate truth cannot be expressed in words - so there can neither be a group of words, nor a single word, nor a single alphabet, nor a single symbol , which can express ultimate truth.

    so there is no last word of truth and no first word of truth - so there is no word of truth. so trying to think, understand, say, listen to something can be fingers pointing to moon, but they are not moon.

    moreover, if there is something like ultimate truth or ultimate reality, then since it should be always true, so it should be true in every moment, so the ultimate truth should always be available in present moment, so the ultimate truth should always be available in wherever we are and whatever we are doing.

    Or as Panda would say, "There is no big secret. There's only you."

  • Id really like to get into a koan .Read about them 40 years ago and still havent tried one seriously .I guess maybe just sitting meditating watching stuff come and go up is a kind of koan .I mean where does it all come from and why ?
    ?
  • klmeer said:

    Id really like to get into a koan .Read about them 40 years ago and still havent tried one seriously .I guess maybe just sitting meditating watching stuff come and go up is a kind of koan .I mean where does it all come from and why ?
    ?

    In Korea, only one koan is usually used and that's to sit and ask yourself either "What is this?" or "What am I?" You might try that.

This discussion has been closed.