Because my curiosity was aroused when I found some of Layman P’ang’s poetry, I decided to look up the book of his recorded sayings. This is a text that was compiled during Layman P’ang’s life between 740 and 808 AD, but it has recently been translated afresh from an edition dating back to 1637.
The book contains a series of anecdotes about the meetings between the Layman and a range of Zen masters that he encountered at that time. I will give an example, this is No. 11, That which is not spoken:
On another day, the Layman asked, “Will you not tell me something about what is clear and present?”
Ch’i-feng said, “I will, as soon as that old codger Mr. P’ang gets here.”
The Layman said, “Aren’t you up to it today?”
Ch’i-feng said, “That’s a good question, but why are you asking me?”
The Layman said, “Well done! Well done!”
Like many of the other anecdotes, it seems to be about them testing each other’s Zen by posing little riddles in each phrase, referring to an understanding of Buddhist lore. It’s vaguely amusing to puzzle out the references, but i wonder why they thought it was necessary to obscure their knowledge in this way.